I was re-watching Sundays edition of Q + A on TVNZ's Ondemand service this morning. I'd missed a fair chunk of Hone Harawira's interview with Paul Holmes and was keen to see the rest after it had begun with Paul giving Hone a roasting over the "White Mo'fo's" incident. If you missed it, it is here.
I don't agree with Hone a great deal of the time. Some of the things he has said and done in the past have been outrageous. Do I think that he's racist? Some of the time, he comes pretty close to it - an obdurate hypocrisy when measured against what he stands for.
But one thing that has never failed to impress me about Hone is his mana - or respect. Holmes gave him a thrashing in a way reminiscent of his roasting of Denis Conors many years ago. Holmes pressed for answers on the question: Does Hone think that all white people are Mo'fo's? To which Hone (eventually) replied "no". But Holmes kept battering on, trying to trip Harawira up. Hone was having none of it. He gave answers and stood by them. The answers weren't in flowery, political lingo. They were honest, to-the-point and heartfelt.
This was in contrast to Phil Goff's performance earlier in the program where he ducked and dived like any other politician - the time honoured tricks of repeating the question back to the interviewer but in different language, not answering a direct question and instead talking about something different coming to the fore. And the panel of experts, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Therese Arseneau and Mike Moore - actually congratulated Phil on a more "polished performance".
And the contrast struck me as being peculiar in that what was valued was a smooth tongue over honesty and integrity - something Hone had in spades over Mr Goff.
Some will say that I'm being simplistic. That the leader of a major party has to more urbane while an MP from a minor party can afford more blunt language. That this is just politics and, perhaps, Hone is slightly irrelevent himself.
I don't think so. As I said I don't agree with a lot of what he says. But I listen when he says it. He speaks with an honesty and earnestness that seems to be right at home in New Zealand. It hearkens back to when we were known as a blunt spoken, practical people who meant what they said and often let actions speak more eloquently than words ever could. He has Mana. He earns respect by speaking then standing by what he says. And those are the sort of people that I would have thought we want leading our country.
No one in New Zealand will deny that race is an issue in New Zealand. But bridging the gulf that exists won't be done with a silver tongue and empty promises. It will be done with honesty, integrity and a willingness to change.