Does anyone remember how John Key rejected suggestions that he should go into coalition with Winston Peters because he was sick of all the ‘side shows’? Key avoided working with Peters and his party because Peters was often distracted from what is the real role of an MP, which is to look after his constituents (or voters) and try to make their lives a little better.

Fast forward to 2021 and the sideshows from Maori politicians have started in earnest, but this time it is not from NZ First. Rather, it is the Maori Party, brought back from the dead in the 2020 election, who insist on disgracing themselves with issues that simply don’t matter, while the people who voted for them continue to live with poverty, homelessness and family violence.

But some things are just so much more important, and wearing a tie to work is clearly one of them.

Let’s be clear on this. Nobody cares. The tie has been going out of favour for a decade or so. Male MPs in Britain are no longer required to wear them in the House, although many still do. It really is a big stoush over nothing. James Shaw raised the question late last year, and the Speaker decided to keep the rule that male MPs should wear ties. That was that… or so it should have been.

But Rawiri Waititi decided to make it a big issue. He was thrown out of parliament on Tuesday for not wearing a tie, allowed to speak on Wednesday even though he still wasn’t wearing one, and now the decision has been made to allow male MPs not to wear ties in future, if they so wish.

What an absolutely, disgraceful show of contempt this has been.

Waititi, however, thinks this is a ‘huge win’ for himself and his people, throwing off the ‘colonial noose’ that a tie supposedly is.

So Kelvin Davis, Winston Peters, Shane Jones, Tamati Coffey, Simon Bridges and Willie Jackson – to name but a few – have been wearing the ‘colonial noose’ unhappily and were just waiting for Waititi to enter parliament so that he could solve the problem for them?

I don’t think so.

Tamati Coffey, hardly a favourite MP of mine, deserves some credit though for pointing out Waititi’s grandstanding and letting him know what he thinks of it:

Labour MP Tamati Coffey has taken a swing at Maori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi over his tie-strike in Parliament, questioning his multitasking skills.

Coffey criticised his former Waiariki electorate opponent in a Facebook post, rubbishing Waititi’s stance as self-serving.

Coffey says he can wear a tie and pounamu and pass legislation at the same time.

“You are not there to fight with the speaker about ties. That kind of politics serves no one but yourself.”


Coffey is right (I need a lie down), and it needed another Maori MP to say it. While Waititi grandstands, and now believes he has won a ‘huge’ victory for his party and his ‘mokopuna’, he has done nothing of the sort. He has just engaged in the sort of sideshows that Winston Peters used to enjoy, creating a lot of clamour but achieving absolutely nothing for the people he is supposed to serve.

Tie. The BFD. Cartoon credit BoomSlang

So now he is a household name, but for all the wrong reasons. He has even made news around the world, which is probably a big thrill to him, but it makes New Zealand look like a country full of savages who want to return to wearing grass skirts. He is recognised as a troublemaker, a stirrer, a grandstander and a self-serving politician. Nothing more.

I wonder how the people who brought back the Maori Party, in the hope that they would achieve some good for their people, feel about Waititi’s first few weeks in parliament?

They say it is always best to be inside the tent, because you can achieve nothing from the outside. Waititi has been brought inside the tent, but he seems intend on separatism, hatred and division. This will achieve nothing for Maori people.

Ardern says she thinks it is time for a Maori prime minister. Judging by this kind of behaviour, they still have a long way to go, but that is unfair on the hardworking MPs who, whether you agree with them or not, are trying to do the job they were elected to do.

Like a lot of newly-minted MPs before him, Waititi thinks he will be the one to change the way that things are done. He will soon realise that winning a stoush over a tie, which nobody cares about anyway, is not the start of radical change. He will be just another one term MP, full of hot air, but of no real substance, who fails to grasp the importance and enormousness of the task he has been entrusted with. No doubt he won’t be the last.

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