Ron’s a top Mark – and Maori
When you look back on the political scene over the past 10 years or so, you don’t come to the conclusion that New Zealand First is leading the struggle for Maori rights.
In fact, Winston Peters won much of his support from the blue rinse brigade and beyond by presenting himself as a bold, brave opponent of Maori rights campaigners.
He knew, just as Don Brash quickly came to understand, that there can be a huge electoral advantage in putting the boot into Maori when many Pakeha voters suspect – for no good reason at all – that Maori lead a privileged life.
So you don’t turn to Winston’s New Zealand First team expecting to see an MP who’s proud and unflinching about his Maori heritage. But that’s what you get with Ron Mark.
He’s a long way short of deserving the label of Mr Tino Rangatiratanga.
You don’t hear him pushing Maori rights as keenly as Tariana Turia or Hone Harawira do in the Maori Party, or even as others such as Metiria Turei in the Greens and Georgina te Heuheu among the Nats.
Ron has been more inclined to catch our attention when he’s been making a fuss about the need for a harder line on law and order.
And, although his persistence on that kaupapa has been understandable, he’s been inclined to go over the top with his idea of jailing criminal kids as young as 12, outlawing gangs and using terrorism laws where they probably have no place.
But Ron isn’t the sort of bloke to hide his Maori identity, even though it wasn’t a part of his early life.
And that was a tough life.
He was a ward of the state and might easily have gone off the rails. A brother, in fact, did just that and became a prominent gang member.
These days, though, Ron is a solid, reliable parliamentarian. Confi and experienced too. Loyal to Winston, but comfortable on Maori issues, either as an advocate or as a critic.
And one consequence of his record is that he might very well nail the Rimutaka seat for New Zealand First. If so, that would be a significant step in New Zealand politics.
Voters in general seats have never shown much interest in Maori candidates unless they downplay their Maori heritage.
But don’t be surprised if the Rimutaka voters opt for Ron.
Listen to Willie Jackson on Monday at 10am on Radio Waatea 603AM