Lot of talk about an interesting column Colin Espiner has written regarding the Internet MANA Party. Some of it is very good, but Espiner’s conclusion is devoid of any context with which this entire event is playing out in, and for that, it has to be challenged.
Say what you like about the sacrifice of conscience for cash – a great big German spanner has just been flung into the machinery of this year’s election campaign.
I personally love the naked terror of the right at facing a Left wing party that’s better resourced than they are.
I wasn’t going to write about Kim Dotcom’s vanity party again this week. It has had far more publicity in its short life than it deserves.
Now that’s unfair, this is the most interesting political development on the Left since the Alliance, and seeing as it could decide who the Government will be, it deserves the attention.
Plus, it seems that everywhere you look Dotcom is there. Giving evidence in the John Banks trial. Breaking up with his wife, Mona (on Twitter, of course). Fighting Hollywood over access to his millions. Calling on Prime Minister John Key to resign (again).
Shortly, it will be Dotcom in the dock as he fights extradition to the United States on fraud and racketeering charges. Forget Banks and buckets of mud – that hearing is going to be the trial of the year. So a bit of Dot-gone seemed like no bad thing.
And then suddenly, there he was in a civil union with the beneficent ghost from socialist Christmases past: Laila Harre.
The media was expecting Dotcom’s Internet Party would announce a flake as its new leader. Or a complete moron. Either would have done just fine. We could have ridiculed them, and moved on to more important matters.
But Harre isn’t a flake. And she’s certainly no moron. She’s one of the most driven, persuasive and intelligent politicians I’ve met. I don’t know how Dotcom managed to put a ring on the darling of the Left but on the face of it, it’s a major coup.
Finally some credit, it’s like pulling teeth with Colin. Yes, appointing Laila makes the entire venture a real challenge to the status quo, hence the dire predictions of the end of western civilisation by some on the right.
The question, though, is for who?
Harre is an old-school socialist. She’s from a trades union background. She’s a former member of the Labour Party, of New Labour, and of the Alliance Party. She’s most recently worked for the Green Party.
She’s mates with most of New Zealand’s remaining old hard Lefties, including Matt McCarten (now Labour leader David Cunliffe’s chief of staff), rent-a-protester John Minto (also in the Internet Party tent), ex Green MP and now ex Mana candidate Sue Bradford, broadcaster and former Alliance MP Willie Jackson (who’s flying a kite about standing for the Internet Party himself) and radical Maori separatist Annette Sykes (president of Mana and number two on its list).
Harre was one of Jim Anderton’s stars when the Alliance Party won 10 per cent of the vote and entered government with Labour in 1999. She quickly rose to Cabinet rank, and was a capable minister.
But when the Alliance imploded three years later, Anderton and Harre fell out. He went on to form the Progressive Party, returning to Parliament on the back of his safe Wigram seat. Harre took over as leader of the Alliance, and lost, badly, in the 2002 election.
On the face of it, then, Harre is likely to appeal to older Lefties who admire her feminist principles and strong trade union credentials.
It’s hard to see her appeal to young, internet-savvy geeks though. Last time Harre was in Parliament the internet was barely out of short pants. And the people she’s trying to persuade to vote for her weren’t born and certainly wouldn’t know her from a 33K dial-up modem.
Youth are not going to turn off because Laila can’t write code, they are going to turn on because she articulates their concerns on issues like the cost of education via a medium they use all the time. Her performance during the interviews this week was flawless and it is that which will generate the interest and attention.
But does it matter? Probably not. As long as Harre gets votes, neither the Internet Party nor Mana will care where they come from. And she’s got $3 million of Dotcom’s money to spend – that’s more than any other party contesting the election, including Colin Craig’s Conservatives.
It will be the first time ever in NZ political history that a Left wing Party will have as much resource as the Right wing. The gnashing of teeth and fury that’s generating is hilarious. I suddenly understand the whole ‘envy politics’ that right wingers so often accuse the left of indulging in. Seeing as the National Party slogan for this years election will be ““we aren’t going to grow the pie, we’re just going to make our forks longer”, Internet MANA decided their response would be “We are over waiting for you to share the pie and have gone and bought our own bakery”.
On the face of it, the Left has engineered a spectacular reverse takeover of Dotcom’s party. It’s like a reunion of every failed candidate from every disappeared political party of the past 20 years, funded by an avowed capitalist whose fundamental philosophy – the freedom of movement of capital and people – runs counter to everything his candidates stand for.
But remember, Dotcom doesn’t really care. His political aims are pragmatic, not philosophical.
Cue scary music.
In my opinion, there are two reasons why Dotcom is manipulating the political process. First, he wants rid of Prime Minister John Key. Second, he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a United States penitentiary. If the Internet-Mana party is elected with more than a couple of MPs, then Dotcom is likely to achieve the first objective.
There is no possibility the party could side with National. So a vote for Internet-Mana is a vote for a Labour-Green-Internet-Mana-and-possibly-New Zealand First-Government.
Kim Dotcom had 70 armed paramilitary cops kick his doors down, terrify his family, beat him up, seize all his stuff while illegally spying on him. That experience radicalises a person, he wants his pound of flesh and he’s going to get it, that’s fairly obvious. But it misses the truth behind Kim’s vision which is that the Internet is its own electorate and that it will and can generate its own political and generational vision.
On the second objective, it’s possible Dotcom could delay any extradition ruling against him long enough for a change of government to take place. The new multi-tentacled administration could overturn a court ruling. It would be foolish and contrary to the rule of law, but it could.
It’s never been discussed and it’s never been on the table because it doesn’t need to. The decision to extradite Kim lies with the Minister, it is a political decision regardless and there are enough question marks over this Government’s collusion with the United States to entrap Kim here in the first place that his extradition shouldn’t go through. We shouldn’t hand over NZ residents and citizens to the United States, ever. Their penal system is racist and corrupt, it allows for the death penalty and they have human rights abuses within torture prisons. NZ should never send citizens or residents there for punishment.
The Internet-Mana party may also either confuse or scare the bejesus out voters and strengthen National’s hand. Blue-collar, socially conservative, Labour-leaning voters – who’d only just got their heads around the idea of dealing with the Greens – may not countenance their vote ushering in a potential coalition led by far-Left feminist and Maori radicals.
It could also rally that disenchanted left vote in a way that has never happened before and something that often gets forgotten and ignored when pundits are warning of mass fear opposition to Internet MANA is that Kim’s campaign for Orcon earned that company phenomenal success. Kim’s folk hero status makes re-creating him into a bogeyman difficult. The only Labour Party supporters I’ve seen critiquing this online are the Anyone But Cunliffe gang, the great majority of progressives finally see a way of Labour winning.
In her acceptance speech of the Internet Party leadership last week, Harre admitted her party was gaming the MMP system in a bid to get into Parliament. But she said it was “time for New Zealanders to take back MMP”.
It was a nice line, with a ring of socialist rhetoric to it. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Internet-Mana party may be successful or it may fall flat on its face.
But it is Dotcom who is attempting to take over MMP. And it is for no-one but himself.
And here we get to a conclusion spectacularly out of synch with the context. Kim Dotcom wouldn’t be involved in politics if the Government hadn’t co-conspired with the US to entrap him in NZ with these trumped up charges. That’s the context, that he responds and fights back is what seems so shocking to the mainstream media punditry.
The idea the left will be as well resourced as the Right have always been, using MMP tactics the Right have always used but with policy that will benefit youth and the vulnerable utilising social media in a way the Right can’t is having the establishment dreaming in black and white and waking frightened in the middle of the night.