Politics is hard. Smart, ambitious, dedicated people spend years and years of their lives building up the unique set of skills it takes to run a successful political party. That’s why I’ve always been skeptical of the Internet Party project. Who on earth was going to lead Dotcom’s party for him? A c-list celebrity? Some social media evangelist? A crazy mayor?
Turns out Laila Harre is going to do it. In many ways she’s the perfect choice. Former party leader and former Cabinet Minister, Harre can hit the ground running and immediately perform at the same level – or higher – as the rest of our political leaders. She solves the compatibility problem between the Internet Party and Mana Party. Why are they in a coalition together? Because, as of Harre’s appointment, the Internet Party is now a left-wing party (and that political space is starting to look crowded).
Sue Bradford’s simultaneous resignation from Mana gives us a really interesting case-study in comparative morality. Bradford thought it was wrong for a left-wing political party to be funded by an ostentatious multi-millionaire. Harre – presumably – believes that if someone wants to pay millions of dollars to get rid of a National government, reform our intelligence services, withdraw from the TPP etc then she’ll enable them no matter who they are.
What do the people who downloaded the Internet Party app and joined that party think of the appointment of a left-wing activist and former Alliance MP? I have no idea, and I kind of doubt the Internet Party really knows either.
I don’t want to over-sell the significance of this. 2014 has seen a number of political appointments that various political elites have celebrated as ‘game-changing’. Matt McCarten as Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff. Richard Prebble as ACT’s campaign manager. Shane Jones’ defection from Labour. But none of these appointments seem to have had any substantive impact in the polls. Political junkies know who these people are and get excited when they pop up in the news, but no one outside elite circles has heard of them. The Internet Party’s voter base is supposed to be disaffected tech-savvy youth, and I doubt they have a special affinity for former Alliance Party MPs.
This could also be a disaster. Rumour has it that Dotcom has spent millions on this party and will, not unreasonably, consider it HIS party, while everything I’ve heard about Harre indicates will now consider it HER party.
She’s also at a huge disadvantage in organisational terms. It’s less than four months out from the actual election, and her primary rivals – Labour and the Greens – have been ramping up their campaigns since the start of the year. I can’t see Internet/Mana taking many votes off either of them.