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.
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.