If Laila Harre is going to lead the Internet Party, what does that mean? Good? Bad? Happy? Sad?

The NBR's scoop (paywall) that Laila Harre will tomorrow be announced as leader of the Internet Party (and thus will be #2 on the Internet-MANA Party list) has been up for over an hour now, and no-one on Twitter has yet shot it down. This is as close as you get to confirmation of a truth universal in today's age. So now the legend has become fact, I'm printing the legend.

The news suddenly makes the whole Internet-MANA link up make a lot more sense. Harre's background in the Alliance and her pretty unimpeachable left-wing credentials make her an easy person for them to trust and work with. What is more, she's smart and competent, and is bloody good at the job of politics. In fact, if Harre wasn't leading the Internet Party, she's just the kind of person that the MANA Movement would want to be sending into Parliament anyway.

Which makes me wonder if the whole "Dotcom's bought MANA off" meme has got things completely the wrong way around. Harre's appointment instead makes it look a lot like the Internet Party and Dotcom's money has been appropriated by a group of fairly savvy left-wing political operatives of long standing, who've fashioned it into something that its founder/funder/"visionary" may not have anticipated. We're used to thinking of Dotcom as some kind of super Bond-villian who we assume is playing a very clever long-game that we can't really understand. But maybe, just maybe, he's a bit of a political naïf who is shit-scared of being sent to the US, has lots of legal and personal problems that are consuming his time, doesn't really get how to go about organising a political party, and so actually has ended up serving the agendas of others around him.

It probably is not coincidental, therefore, that the Internet Party's secretary is Anna Sutherland, who worked for the Alliance back in the day when Lailla Harre was an MP. And now, with Harre at the helm and the Internet-MANA deal stitched up, the practical effect is that the first 4 MPs it will put into Parliament are pretty staunch left-of-center political activists of long standing.

Who, then, are the big losers from all of this? The Greens will be pretty horrified about what has just happened. Not only was Harre working for them until recently, but put her in a bundle with a party espousing hip techno-freedom policies, stauncher left-of-center fighters for social justice (when was the last time you saw Green Party banners protesting outside the PM's visit to a school?) and strong advocates for Maori empowerment and you've got a major competitor pushing into their voter base. So it will be interesting to see what the Greens do here - do they protect their flank, or do they instead try to move further into Labour's turf by playing up their responsible economic credentials?

The Maori Party also will be pretty concerned about this linkup. Te Ururoa Flavell's attack on the linkup - that it will "utilise [the Maori seats] to bring somebody in who is questionable about their knowledge about things Maori and indeed Te Tai Tokerau, is a bit of a slap in the face for Maori voters" - sets out the line that the Maori Party will run from now till election day. The MANA Movement isn't a Maori party anymore - it's a shell for Pakeha (and foreign Pakeha, at that) interests. Whether that charge resonates, given Laila Harre's background in the union movement and familiarity with Maori concerns, we'll just have to see.

But the most interesting reaction of all will be that of the National Party. The announcement of Harre's leadership role means that there's precisely zero chance that the new party will take any votes off National directly. But there's every chance that come September 20 this Internet-Mana Party linkup is going to add one or two seats (and maybe more ... ipredict presently is favouring the Internet-Mana Party getting 3% of the vote, or 4 MPs) to the "not National" side of the political balance beam. If those seats come at the expense of the Maori Party (in Waiariki, say), or if they come out of previous non-voters getting into the game, then that will hurt National's chances of being able to pull together a governing majority.

So - what is National now going to do about the Conservatives? How are they going to accomodate a party whose 2.65% at the last election will likely only get bigger this time around? Because I just don't think that they can afford to hope the Conservatives get to 5%, and I also don't think that they can afford to let those votes go to waste.

So, here's my prediction. There'll be very little criticism from National over the Internet-MANA Party's decision to use the electorate lifeboat rule to get over the representation threshold. (Not least because that rule still only exists because National vetoed the recommendation to remove it.) And at some point in the next month or so, Murray McCully will fall on his sword and accept his future in Parliament is on the National Party list. Whereupon the good voters of East Coast Bays will be informed of their duty to elect Colin Craig.

Comments (2)

by Andrew Osborn on May 29, 2014
Andrew Osborn

It's not hard to see two seats going to Mana. Hone's plus enough angry youth to get Laila past the post.

As for Laila's impeccable Class Warrior credentials, isn't she just another trust-bunny?

Funded originally by the 'Jandal Millions':




by George Hendry on May 31, 2014
George Hendry

I see quite frequently that the Greens will either be the biggest losers from this, or not the biggest losers, but losers anyway. Why? Well, if the 'received wisdom' is from paid National spindoctor M. Hosking, it would hardly say otherwise.

A clue to what's rather more likely to happen lies in a description given some time ago of the typical Green voter, ie lives in large urban centre and has a good enough standard of living to look around and spare a thought for the planet. For years now, thanks to MMP, Greens have had a voice in parliament and are nothing if not accustomed to the idea that principled stands can make it harder to get into government. That the Greens never get mentioned as possible kingmakers seems to have been entirely due to their principled stand, especially when compared with Mr Peters.

Where the IMP vote is far more likely to come from is the more than a million eligible voters who up till now had no one to represent their concerns and now just might believe they have. Some or many of the huge number that Crosby and Textor succeeded in discouraging from voting last time, far more than the total Green vote, will turn into IMP votes once they understand that this is the cheapest way to get rid of the government that has served them so poorly and replace it with one far more likely to be better than 'the devils they know'.

This is statistically so much more likely than that ' the Greens will be horrified' that I would wonder at its not having been mentioned yet unless I knew, as I now do, that calculated discouragement of voters wanting change, of which the above statement is a good example, has been going on as long as it has. Having for a while felt depressed about and powerless to change so many things so obviously wrong (starving kids in a food exporting country being only the most glaring example), I now realised I was feeling that way because Crosby and Textor had planned and acted accordingly.

And yes, their tentacles have reached well into Pundit, but not a problem any more. It may have taken nearly 6 years for the public to wake up, but now blogposts aimed at 'shaping' opinion according to 'The Plan' are increasingly likely to trail a thread deliciously full of raspberries.

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