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’’.

Cof­fey steams.

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.

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