MP wins the battle but may lose the war
It’s a quick flash across a familiar face, blink and you’d miss it and gone almost as soon as it arrived, but it’s real anger.
Ta¯mati Coffey, the newly minted Labour MP for Waiariki, is talking to us in a busy Rotorua cafe just down the road from the famous Whakarewarewa Forest. A steady stream of mountain bikers file past outside, and a mix of tourists and locals, even a local writing group, file into the cafe.
Coffey looks relaxed, if a little tired, sporting a black t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘‘Ma¯ori Labour’’.
It’s his very familiarity - and genuine likeability - that makes the uncharacteristic anger so remarkable, when the topic of Ma¯ori Party co-leader Marama Fox’s post election remarks about Labour arises. Ma¯ori voters were, she said, like a beaten wife returning to an abuser, one who had ‘‘abused our people over and over again’’.
He knows Fox was hurting in the immediate aftermath of the election, he says, but the remarks were out of line and a show of disrespect to the Waiariki voters who overwhelmingly cast their party votes to Labour. Labour picked up 57.9 per cent of the Waiariki party vote, against the Ma¯ori Party’s 19.9 per cent.
Coffey believes the comments reflect a wider problem in the Ma¯ori Party at the election: a sense of entitlement to the Ma¯ori vote. ‘‘Yes they’re Ma¯ori, but we’re Ma¯ori too. I thought that was very telling that she was saying stuff like that,’’ he says.
‘‘I think that will ensure we don’t see her in politics again.’’
It may be true that the political careers of the Ma¯ori Party coleaders are over. But Coffey knows there are some who blame him for that. He’s been told as much repeatedly.
The 38-year-old orders a soy milk mocha – we’re ready to talk, and not just about this election.
Tamati Coffey says he’s worked hard to get where is today.