BREAKING: Game-Changer: Laila Harré accepts the Internet Party leadership

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FROM THE MOMENT he was appointed CEO of the Internet Party, Vikram Kumar’s quiet competence told me two things. The first was that Kim Dotcom, for all his ebullient playfulness, was perfectly capable of recognising and bringing on board extremely talented individuals. Clearly, he had not acquired his considerable fortune by chance. Beneath all the video games and the vanity recordings, the flash cars and statuary, there beat the calculating heart of an astute German businessman.

Which brought me to the second thing. If Kumar was Dotcom’s choice for CEO, then he was clearly very serious about the political venture he was launching. The same strategic and tactical skills which he had brought to the creation of Megaupload (Dotcom’s billion-dollar file-hosting enterprise that struck such fear into Hollywood moviemakers that they were willing to call in some of their most valuable political markers to have it and him destroyed) were now being brought to bear on the problem of how to bring about the downfall of those responsible for destroying his business and instigating the armed Police raid on his home – the Prime Minister and Government of New Zealand.

Those who characterise the Internet Party’s strategic alliance with the Mana Party as an unlikely pairing fail to grasp the sheer, unwavering strength of Dotcom’s purpose. John Key’s government was never going to be brought low by the forces of the Right. That left only the forces of the Left as his potential allies.

It would not have taken Dotcom long to determine that Labour and the Greens were too rigid, too locked into the political and electoral status-quo to serve his purpose. Above all else, the Internet Party he was building needed to be flexible – a political force capable of adapting instantly to the constantly changing circumstances of the modern election campaign. If it was to align itself with any party at all, it could only be with the smallest and most nimble left-wing party in Parliament. The party with the least to lose and the most to gain by allowing the Internet Party to exploit the “coat-tail” provisions of the MMP electoral system. Mana. That Hone Harawira shared many of Dotcom’s swashbuckling character traits made the prospect of such an alliance even more attractive.

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The final stage in the Internet Party’s formative process involved finding the right person to lead it. The successful candidate would have to be credible, experienced, electable and, most importantly, ideologically compatible with both Hone Harawira and his Mana Party comrades as well as the broader progressive community. He or she must also be capable of fulfilling Dotcom’s mission if the US Government’s efforts to extradite him for copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering proved successful. Considerable financial resources were being poured into the Internet Party, Dotcom had to be satisfied that its leader possessed the management skills required to use his money wisely and to the best political effect.

Incredibly, there was a person available who fulfilled every one of Dotcom’s criteria. Laila Harré  had been working for the Greens, but when the time came to draw up the latter’s Party List no one in the Green hierarchy considered Harré  worthy of a winnable slot. Harré  was then snapped up by the CTU to direct its “Get Out the Vote” campaign. It was from that position that Dotcom’s representatives wooed and won the former Alliance MP, Cabinet Minister, party and union leader and local government manager. Often described as the best MP Labour never had, Harré ’s appointment was critical to the success of the Internet-Mana alliance announced yesterday.

When they learned of Dotcom’s decision, the Greens are said to have been incandescent with rage. Their fury is understandable, with Dotcom’s resources behind them, the Harawira-Harré  pairing is certain to generate considerable excitement. To complement the launch of the Internet Mana Party (which very appropriately shortens itself to IMP) Dotcom himself is said to be preparing to launch his own version of “Rock-the-Vote”. In its American form, this is a concert-based exercise in persuading young people (especially young people of colour) to enrol and vote. Of all the parties on the Left, it’s the Greens that have the most to lose if IMP and Dotcom are successful in mobilising the 18-25 years demographic.

But the Greens problems pale into insignificance when placed alongside those of the National Party. The appointment of Harré  as Internet Party Leader changes the electoral equation significantly. No matter how hard they try to characterise it as such, IMP is no longer a “dotty” addition to the electoral mix – not with Harré  in charge. John Key and his advisers must now recalibrate their predictions to accommodate a left-wing challenger that could take as much as 4-6 percent of the Party Vote.

In a fight which Key himself has acknowledged to be very close, that 4-6 percent will not only be a game-changer, it will be a government changer. Whether he is still here in New Zealand, or languishing in a US prison cell, the taste of revenge on Kim Dotcom’s tongue will be very, very sweet.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Out of interest, how many electorates has she Harre ever won? didnt she lead the Alliance to like 1% of the vote in 2002? For a game changer she hasnt seem to have had much of an impact on any elections or is there something I missing?

    • ” – is there something I missing? ” Yep, an apostrophe and an m, in ‘I’m missing’.

    • Your snide retort is typical. People should not vote just to be on the winning side. 50% of voters have vote in the last 6 years for a party that believes in nothing and may the the most corrupt government in decades. What does that say about NZ voters? At the election I shall vote for the Democrats for Social Credit. Their usual vote is as low as the Alliance but I accept that because their main economic policy is to stop private banks from creating money from nothing as interest bearing debt. Do only 1% of the public believe that is a good idea? Not quite, among those who share our belief are the former Governor of the Bank of England ; research economists at the IMF;Martin Wolfe, lead economics writer of the Financial Times, and some pretty good economists~ Steve Keen, Herman Daly, and Mike Hudson.
      The fact that only a few voters agree says more about our voters than about us. You get the politicians you deserve.

  2. The jigsaw puzzle got broken. There’s a new one now. Those that liked the old one are very snippy about this new one and maybe their pieces don’t fit quite so well or aren’t as big as in the old one or they just can’t get their heads around it.
    For the rest of us, it’s looking pretty exciting. How’s it going to shape up? I suggest looking to the future will be a better guide than looking to the past.

  3. “When they learned of Dotcom’s decision, the Greens are said to have been incandescent with rage.”

    Said by whom, and of which Greens? I am a Green Party member who is rather pleased by this Harre’s enlistment by the IMP. As are others I have heard from, so if you mean all Greens then that is demonstrably false.

    Turei hardly sounds that incandescent in saying:

    “Harre was “a trustworthy person” who had “every democratic right to be part of another party and to lead it if she wants to”.”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10095255/Harre-confirmed-as-Internet-Party-leader

    • I agree – Please get your assumptions correct Chris trotter – as another Green member I have not at all witnessed rage in the green party over it – most members seem happy about it and look forward to working with Mana/IP – it’s the policies that Greens want in parliament 1st (not themselves 1st, like most other parties). If you look at all the Green MP social media and official party statements during this period of IP/Mana courtship there has not been one grumpy overtone about it, which is a real indication of where the members mostly are in my view. Certainly many of us are concerned about the .Com business-like deal behind it all, but we have much more to focus on and an election for us all on the left to beat national over – there’s plenty room for us so long as we don’t take off each others’ voters.

  4. as a Green member of long standing, I am not ‘incandescent with rage.’ The folk on the left look thoughtful and capable of working with others. This move will do no harm to the left long-term. Let the right have conniptions about pairings that they couldn’t envisage; it was always the way…

  5. Greens incandescent with rage? Really?

    Otherwise the article reads as a I-have-known-forever-about-this article. I don’t recall earlier comments re how cunning KDC was in employing Kumar or the party leader’s requirements. But I am sure you are not just re-writing history to look good.

  6. The most important question is whether the thematic and personnel configuration of IMP will be able to break into new demographic and institutional structures dominated by National, and similar actors, thinkers and agents.

    The internet technology and the related social, economic and cultural consequences are not simply a subject for a younger population (the term “internet generation” is misleading); such narrow perspective is severely missing the capacity, the opportunity and the threats coming from this technology (and, naturally, from those who have the power over it).

    Somehow re-assembling the world of the former Alliance may not be sufficient in this context, it will probably only help to take votes away from Labour and the Greens.

    Further strategic focusing – including better analyses of the target groups – is required for IMP, especially for the Internet part of it.

  7. If Mana Dot Harre get to 4-6% it will merely decrease the Labour/Green vote.

    I don’t see too many National or New Zealand First voters suddenly voting Mana Dot Harre because of this.

    Hence the use of the term “Game Changer” is a gross over exaggeration, much like when it was used to describe Labour’s new monetary policy tool. A tool that Labour can’t tell us when or how it will be used and what the impact might be.

    Nothing has changed from this. I’ll go on the record as saying Mana Dot Harre will get between 1.4 and 1.6 percent.

    • If Mana Dot Harre get to 4-6% it will merely decrease the Labour/Green vote.

      You are completely ignoring any outcome of increased participation by the current “non vote” that IMP and Harre may generate.

      Strange that you chose to do that given that the subject was mentioned several times in Chris’s essay.

    • Are you basing your prediction on the past or your assessment of what will happen between now and Sept 20?

      Were you anywhere in the ballpark of predicting a IP and MANA alliance a couple of months ago? And, were you close on who the IP leader might be?
      If I’m going to take your prediction on board I need to know how well you’ve been doing recently.

  8. Herr Trottsky writes:

    “It would not have taken Dotcom long to determine that Labour and the Greens were too rigid, too locked into the political and electoral status-quo to serve his purpose.”

    With all respect, did you seriously consider that Greens and Labour would have opened themselves up to being “bought” by a wealthy donor and supporter?

    As for the rest, we are the bit more informed now, and how Mana and Hone did negotiate rather smartly. It must be said though, the desperate one must be Herr Dotcom, who is facing challenges to his business creation (of still questionably legality), the end of his marriage, his former wife having a controlling stake in MEGA, and extradition to the US.

    No wonder then he signed at the dotted line with MANA, who were with Hone and a few willing to take him serious, and to also work with him.

    This is all about smart pragmatic political opportunism, and Laila Harre will fall into the same category, probably having become a bit disillusioned with the Greens, who she worked for until late last year.

    It is all a very risky alliance and agenda though, and we will have to see, whether those 800,000 non voters will in significant numbers get excited by Laila and some other candidates of the IP, and how the agenda of IP and Mana will fit together and be made to work.

    At this stage it looks intriguing and exciting, but as a careful person, I rather follow from the sideline and keep my own political support cards well stacked, also ready to support another progressive party, that so far has a reasonably good track record.

    That is not Labour, of course, and they must be more worried than the Greens now, as to what the end result may be on 20 September. The arrogance of wanting to get over 40 per cent of the vote will now have been turned into serious enough concern, and sobre reconsiderations.

  9. Ummm he asked her perhaps, because everyone else he approached said no.
    She was not first choice or 2nd choice. She was not even third choice.

  10. Chris – well written.

    Thoughh I can’t imagine the Greens being “incandescent”, unless it’s solar powered; carbon neutral; and the light bulbs are recyclable.

    On a more serious note – this is indeed a potential government changer as Laila has given Mana-Internet real credibility. Plus, she is quite capable of keeping the Internet Party on-track and not carry out some kind of NZ First-style flip-flop, as in 1996.

    I am optimistic that post 20 September, we will see the back of Dear Leader.

    After that, the real work starts.

    • “I am optimistic that post 20 September, we will see the back of Dear Leader.”

      Oh I sooooooooo hope you are right. But John Key is such a slick operator, and he has the MSM 95% (CampbellLive excepted) on his side (did you watch the end of 7Sharp on the Internet Mana alliance announcement? Hoskins was just brutal reading out the “alternative names” for the party).

      • Excellent, aggression and vituperation from the MSM will wake up the disaffected as they realise that this movement isn’t more of the same old same old.

  11. OMG ! This is all too delightful ! I can’t believe my luck ? I feel an apology coming on . I hope Kim Dotcom kicks jonky’s balls into next week .
    @ Frank . As perky as ever . What you said about RJS 131 ? Poetry . Hahahaah !

  12. As a Labour Party member I am thrilled by today’s news as I too agree it will be a government changer moment – getting out 10 or 20 % or more of the 800,000 non voters to vote ABC (Anything But Conservative – National, act, united future etc) will do the job – National will be shitting themselves – a and watch now for real Dirty Tricks

  13. If you are right Chris we will have a Labour/Green/Mana/Internet Parties government with NZFirst abstaining on confidence and supply.
    I can see how you might find that exciting!

  14. VERY pleased with Laila Harré’s appointment as IP leader. Excellent. national had a chance to get rid of coat tailing but refused the electoral commission’s recommendations because national needed it for themselves, and this timely union between Mana and the Internet Party is playing the nats at their own game, and its going to bite the nats of their greedy self serving back sides. GOOD JOB !!!

  15. Laila’s bubble can easily be deflated by unreasonable policies. Not all young people are moved by the hype so I would try and be a bit more realistic.

    She needs solid policies that can quantify young people’s lives in the age of Technology. May be she should propose to make it easier for all young people to take Technology as a core subject in schools and carving up a path for Maori and Pacific students. It is the future!

    Remember, Dot Kom is more attractive because of his impartial approach to Technology, it is the right wing media that is smearing him with poison.

    I suggest to maintain this good looking stand without prejudice, not even against the PM in spite of his (PM) US influence to bring down Dot Kom.

    • She’s started with free tertiary education, that is a winnerr for sure. It is outrageous that many of them sitting in parliament had free tertiary education and they want to screw the young and make it harder for them to get well educated.

    • The thing with the Internet Party policies everyone who is a member has input into them. A totally democratic process and they have people like your children and mine working on them. You really need to have a wonder around their site because this party aint like anything we’ve known before. Yaaaahhhh!!!!

  16. Just to be clear Chris, Laila never showed the slightest interest in becoming a Green MP.. You should at least pick up the phone before speculating.

    • This is simply not true. Laila wanted a high placing on the list. This is not how we Greens work, we all have a say in the list, although I think she might have jumped over a number who are currently MPs and look set to be again. Truth is she has huge experience and is extremely intelligent and capable of doing a great deal, a loss to the Greens in my view. I am delighted altho I have real reservations about Dotcom himself.

  17. Chris, you need to correct the following statement that you make in this article… “when the time came to draw up the latter’s Party List no one in the Green hierarchy considered Harré worthy of a winnable slot” – that’s completely incorrect. While I am not a spokes person for the Greens I need to correct you on this. All candidates have to apply to be candidates, it’s not down to being nominated as you imply (and this is before the process of membership consensus decides on the candidate). Leila was asked to become a candidate (I know because I personally suggested to her to put her name forward as a Green candidate for the next election around the time of the Green Party anti-Sky Casino expansion campaign) and she said to me no, she was tired of parliamentary politics. Lots and lots of Greens in high positions and general members expressed a desire for her to put her name forward, but she resisted that sentiment (and perhaps now we see why…). I just hope she doesn’t tire of her current role too quickly and leave Mana high and dry, as she’s not stayed in her previous positions for very long. Also, I ask you to get your facts straight before making incorrect statements about issues such as what I quote of you here, this will potentially bias readers and in doing this your writing loses credit plus becomes just as contrived and dangerous as does right-wing main-stream media. Please be more responsible in your writing.

    • Absolutely. Note, Metiria has mentioned in the press that Laila resigned from the Greens in December, so I suspect a few people in the party must have suspected something like this was coming up… I asked her a couple of weeks ago why she wasn’t on the Green list (a process which requires a considerable amount of lobbying), and the gist of her reply was that she was tired of sucking up to people. She’s her own boss now. Anyone who knows her will have no fear of Dotcom pulling the strings, she’ll be running the show.

  18. If you are right Chris and the Mana/Internet party were to pick up 4 – 6% of the party vote, the question is, where does that 4 – 6% come from?

    My best guess is that it will come proportionally from current voters who support leftist parties – predominantly the Greens (so, a redistribution of existing left learning votes), and from potential new young voters.

    To actually have an impact on the MMP arithmetic you’d need practically all of that 4 -6% to be new young voters. That doesn’t seem realistic to me.

    In addition it assumes no other shifts in voting patterns.

    • Oca, if the vote to IMP does come from the Greens then what does that tell the Greens?
      Personally, the Greens lost me when they didn’t support a raise in the legal drinking age to 20 and for lowering the priority of addressing climate change. For a party that claims to operate under principles of harm reduction (which I fully support) this smacked of political expediency around perceptions of losing the youth vote. Eschewing political expediency is supposedly a core value for the Greens.
      How could they attract me back? By becoming a one-issue party. There is only one issue that’s critical – the others are deckchairs. If that isn’t sorted and bloody quickly then the rest is just babble.

      So why am I enamoured by IMP? Because it reeks of maverick. It is screwing with and redefining the political categories. We’re all familiar with the so-called “loony left” but WTF is a cashed-up, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy left that has a leader with serious political chops? That’s an paradoxical oxymoron wrapped up in an enigma. Are they going to tackle the big issue? Probably not directly but they may have a go obliquely. A few fissures will be created and maybe that will prompt the Greens to return to core business.

    • An Internet Party campaign to enrol and get out the vote does not mean that all those people are going to automatically vote IMP. Let’s imagine a wildly successful operation that increases the overall vote by 5%; that would benefit the Greens and Labour as well (plus some scattershot extra votes for the other parties.)
      Also, remember the “Get out and vote” campaign that Laila has been setting up for the Trade Unions (and will be handing over to someone else, I guess). That is non-partisan, and in practice, will work in synergy with that of IMP.

  19. One thing is clear all the main political party’s just sat up and took notice.

    The Left Bloc have little choice if they don’t want blood on the floor. They must now call a joint summit and nut a deal and go public with the resolution, in plenty of time for that to sink in to the Left voters.

    It’s all about concessions to get in the most powerful governing position.

  20. The volume of National’s attempted putdowns and the level of hyperbole involved should tell us how worried they are. So far so good I’d say.

  21. Well Chris, I can see the young turning up to the concerts but when it comes to enrolling and then voting on the day, I think that is something else altogether. I can’t see a grey haired fairly mature lady having great appeal to the younger demographic. On one of the TV clips I saw from the Langham I heard Hone say it was his party, Laila say it was her party, when in reality I’m sure KDC thinks it’s his party. Three egos at work here. Each of the three obviously have their own agendas to push so I will be watching over the next few months with some interest. I think to say it is a game changer is far too simplistic a conclusion to reach so early in the piece. The reaction that the left have had to IMP and leader announcements reflects, quite rightly, how desperate they are to get rid of probably the most popular PM in the country’s history.

  22. I reckon this is Kim’s last roll of the dice to avoid departing from these fair shores in an FBI plane whilst wearing an orange jumpsuit.

    He’s gambling that he can get a couple of MPs into parliament and maybe be part of a future coalition. His calculation:

    The positive:

    1/Harre is a known face and will attract some votes.

    2/Hone will likely get back in because his iwi will vote for him again

    3/Could they motivate a half million drop-kick under 25’s to vote for them? I dunno.

    The negative:

    1/So far it’s National’s to lose. Labour are so inept they’re giving it away

    2/Most votes they’ll attact will surely be from Labour & Greens. A zero sum game.

    3/To get the numbers, any coalition will involve Winston. How’s that going to work?

    4/Kim needs to remember his allies could just as easily kick him into touch once they’re elected. It would create a massive constitutional precedent if politicians were seen to be influencing the justice system.

    5/ Kim’s case might be all over by September

    • “2/Most votes they’ll attact will surely be from Labour & Greens. A zero sum game.”

      Nope. All parties on the left are campaigning for the lost votes (the 800,000 that didn’t vote last time). But they won’t all be going for the same lost votes (although I expect there will be significant overlaps). I expect IMP and the GP to pick up some right wing voters who are fucked off with the corruption in the Key govt. And Labour will be after the swing votes. Plenty of votes to go around.

      • That was my point 3 at the top silly-billy.

        The assumptions here include:

        > The missing half million are Left voters? Prove that if you will. They could just as easily be lazy ACT voters for all you know.

        > You can motivate a drop-kick to get out of bed to vote

  23. The Internet Party would, in any other country or context, be called the Pirate Party (I can understand why Kim would be wary of that name though). Pirate parties have been around for more than five years now in Europe, they have raised some important issues that touch a nerve with a lot of people, mostly young, and have sent MPs to various parliaments, including that of the European Union. However they have mostly failed to broaden their horizons and find a coherent overall political stance, and the tendency is for them to fade away in the next electoral round.

    This is why Laila’s nomination is so brilliant : she can lay the foundations for a long-lasting party, which covers the “internet” issues, which are numerous and important, but doesn’t stop there. And she makes the alliance with Mana look perfectly natural : she wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Mana list. AND she can work well with both Labour and the Greens, better than anyone in Mana can.

  24. Harre wasn’t rejected. She never applied to be on the list. When party members asked her to consider standing she said she was over being directly involved in politics. Good on the internet party for getting her to change her mind.

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