Internet Mana gives National a cast of villians to parade before voters

The Internet Mana party does not, in any real sense, exist. Nor, while we're at it, does United Future; ACT once existed as a neo-liberal nostalgia project, but no more.

Yet whereas the latter pair are struggling to evade their past, it's possible that the Internet Mana party may still be willed into existence.

For one thing, Kim Dotcom chose his leader wisely. In Laila Harre, he has found a public face capable of remaining heroically straight while reciting lines like “I’m looking forward to the debate within the party”, as she did last week about cannabis decriminalisation. This is not to say drug policy isn’t a legitimate area of public policy contention — as it happens, I'm something of a doctrinaire libertarian on the subject — but rather to point out that the Internet Mana Party in its current form hardly seems equipped to adjudicate on this or any other subject in any serious, let alone remotely democratic way.

However sincere her motives or non-ironic her delivery, the facts behind Harre’s reemergence in the public arena are troubling. She has not been elected leader of a political party as much as cast in that role by a German fugitive millionaire with a track record of using his fortune to purchase political influence and, not coincidentally, avoid extradition. Perhaps lured by the prospect of abundant resources, a policy blank slate and, to be fair, in the absence of many better options, Harre, along with Hone Harawira and John Minto, have opted to hitch New Zealand’s Perennially Dissatisfied Left to Dotcom’s careering bandwagon. It’s hard not to admire the audacity at play here, especially given the hair-trigger propensity of this coterie to accuse political enemies of cynical opportunism at the merest hint of a dropped hat.

In pursuit of political legitimacy, Dotcom’s millions won’t amount to much unless the media plays along — and coverage of Harre’s cannabis stance, as well as the NZ Idol-style list selection over the weekend, suggests Internet Mana’s shiny newness is too much for an otherwise bored press gallery to ignore.

John Key, meanwhile, could hardly script a more favourable turn of events, or conjure a better cast of villains: "That's what you're going to see from the far left of politics,” he warned voters last month, "you'll be led by Russel Norman, Kim Dotcom, Mana, David Cunliffe”. By refusing to close the door on Internet Mana, and even talking up Laila Harre’s political pedigree, Cunliffe risks giving credence to exactly that ungainly prospect. This stance, understandable if somewhat timid and ambiguous, was cast in unflattering light by the forthright rejection of Internet Mana as a “scam” by Kelvin Davis, Labour’s candidate in Te Tai Tokerau.

The speed and ferocity of the reaction to Davis’ statement was revealing in itself. On the left-wing blogosphere and for commentators like Chris Trotter, Davis’ determination to topple Harawira is borderline apostasy. To Trotter, it exposed Davis as an "aggressive hard-man bereft of all strategic and tactical understanding”, “an assimilationist on Maori development” and an “authoritarian" who should be told (by Cunliffe or his chief of staff Matt McCarten) to “pull his head in”. The message is clear, if baffling: anyone who dares question the legitimacy of Internet Mana or seeks to undermine its electoral strategy, is a no good, sell out, right wing cad.

As for whether voters themselves will take part in the Internet Mana thought experiment, only time and opinion polls will tell. It would be nice to think not.

This much seems clear: if Dotcom and Laila Harre continue to dominate the headlines eight weeks from now, the National Party will be heading to fifty percent in a canter.

Comments (14)

by Ross on June 10, 2014
Ross
German fugitive millionaire According to my online dictionary, a fugitive is "a person who has escaped from captivity or is in hiding". That counts out Dotcom. As for National heading for 50%, that is wishful thinking in the extreme. Of course, with MMP no party requires that level of support nor has any party received that level of support.
by william blake on June 10, 2014
william blake

Viz: thats what you are going to see from the far right of politics , he warned, you'll be led by Colin Craig, Allan Gibbs and Jon Key.

by Nick Gibbs on June 10, 2014
Nick Gibbs

A well written piece that can't be refuted. How can IMP have a policy on anything, their candiates were all select on the basis of a stage performance, not principle or belief. 

Trotter, Bradbury, Harre the're all sell outs to KDC's cash. The left is a hideous mess.

by Katharine Moody on June 11, 2014
Katharine Moody

Classic case of playing the man, rather than the ball. It's the policies that matter. So far, I'm impressed with the evidence-based approach that is taken by the Internet Party. But then, best thing is for you to actually read them yourself, Phil, and come back to us on your opinion having read them;

https://internet.org.nz/

(Those developed so far are posted at the bottom of the page).

My understanding of the MOU, is that once both individual parties have developed their separate policies - a joint set of agreed policies by the IMP joint entity will be announced.

by Nick Gibbs on June 11, 2014
Nick Gibbs

So having selected it's candidates IMP now selects it's policies. Let me guess. Number one, and the only policy the're interested in - get rid of John Key. Economics, justice, education, health... will all be filed under miscellaneous.

by Lee Churchman on June 11, 2014
Lee Churchman

This much seems clear: if Dotcom and Laila Harre continue to dominate the headlines eight weeks from now, the National Party will be heading to fifty percent in a canter.

That was going to happen anyway. Why all this fuss about an election that was likely decided somewhere in the middle of last year, if not even before that?

by Ross on June 11, 2014
Ross

Number one, and the only policy the're interested in - get rid of John Key.

 

What was the reason Bob Jones set up his party? To get rid of Muldoon? Jones was very effective in doing so. I don't recall any negative comment at the time.

by Nick Gibbs on June 11, 2014
Nick Gibbs

Was there an internet to comment on back then? In any case I'm sure he drew lots of flack way back in the day.

by Stuart on June 11, 2014
Stuart

Reading this article makes me concerned about pundit. I thought this was a place for non-partisan political analysis? Please correct me if I'm wrong :-/

Would anyone refute the claim, that this article is simple cotton-mouthed slander of IMP, dressed up as an opinion piece?

The main feature is emotive, gut-feeling-touching rhetoric, which I think is intended to make one draw political lines around characters, and not policy. This is not beffitting of pundit.

by Pete George on June 11, 2014
Pete George

It's not just the policies that matter, character and competence are at least as important.

John Banks' political demise didn't seem to have be brought about by his policies.

How many people know or care about what all the NZ First policies are? Mana's? I don't hear people saying anything like "I think the leader is an untrustworthy prat but I'll vote for their policies".

Most voters have vague notions of party policies at best.

by Lee Churchman on June 11, 2014
Lee Churchman

It's not just the policies that matter, character and competence are at least as important.

Of course, Pete. Nobody displaying both character and competence, or even one of the two, has any hope of political success in New Zealand.

by Nick Gibbs on June 11, 2014
Nick Gibbs

Candidate idol might have unearthed some gems with plenty of character but competence?

by Tim Watkin on June 11, 2014
Tim Watkin

Stuart you are not wrong. The non-partisan nature of the site remains and I would certrainly refute that suggestion that it is slander. Phil (who I don't know) can speak for himself, but obviously he is not a fan of the Internet Mana alliance, largely due to concern that it will hurt the chance of a change of government. Indeed others have pointed to the Roy Morgan poll last week immediately after Internet Mana were in the news and suggested National's rise could be due to concern in the centre at what's going on on the left. For me, that's a large leap of logic from one poll.

There's another school of thought that Internet Mana could be the difference that achieves such a change. Perhaps the lack of wasted vote gets Labour over the line. Perhaps it forces National to align with the Conservatives and that's a reason for swing voters to turn off National. It's all speculation and informed debate... But it's a legitimate debate either way. And it's honest opinion based on reasonable analysis.

For me what happens on the margins is all academic unless Labour get its act together, but again, that's just a viewpoint. Please feel free to argue back against Phil's points.

by Lee Churchman on June 12, 2014
Lee Churchman

Candidate idol might have unearthed some gems with plenty of character but competence?

Sorry. I should have been clearer. I meant moral character (as in Aristotelian arete). There are of course many other types of "character" in politics

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