Thursday 29 May 2014

Problems with the Internet-Mana Party

I'm a little late to the party, having been engaged with the discussion on Twitter when the Internet-Mana Party (IMP) alliance was being announced (because I was in class), but ran out of time to get my thoughts down into a blog post. A later discussion with a friend gave me an opportunity to figure out my thoughts without 140-character constraints; these are the biggest issues I have with the #Internana alliance:

A) The Internet Party and Mana Party have formed an alliance together in a marriage of convenience (with a prenup as Claire Trevett covers here), not one of ideological unity. The reasons why this is a smart move are purely tactical and practical, not because these two parties are a good fit with each other, but simply because one has the money and the other has the power. While the Internet Party potentially has a left-leaning leader that puts them to the left of the Greens, the reason that I feel that more Mana Party supporters will leave than Internet Party supporters as a result of the alliance is because the Mana Party has a clear ideological stance and their members are principled in that respect - the Internet Party, quite frankly, has no ideology (yet). One friend who previously supported the Mana party has said that she's siding with Sue Bradford, and will probably end up voting for the Greens at this stage.

B) It further perpetuates the notion of buying elections and buying electoral seats. Given that Hone Harawira is likely to win the Te Tai Tokerau seat, the Internet Party has essentially used their money to try and buy their way into Parliament. Additionally, the fact that the Mana Party were either willing or forced to give up a #2 list spot means that they were essentially willing to sacrifice a potential seat for cash. As Cabinet Club and other cash-for-access accusations fly around, this makes it particularly difficult for the Mana Party to be able to say anything about rich people paying for influence when it's clear that they have been influenced by money themselves.

C) I fully agree with Te Ururoa Flavell here that this alliance undermines the Maori electorate seats. This relationship allows the Internet Party to take advantage of the seats in a way that was never intended. To be fair, it would have been pretty difficult to predict a German multimillionaire accused of facilitating and endorsing copyright infringement starting a political party that would try to coat-tail in on the back of a Maori electorate seat, but in this case it is clear the seat is not appropriately serving the Maori people. As Flavell says: "Those seats were set up for our people, our people have come through hard times to get those seats, and to utilise them 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."

D) Ultimately I believe that this move will weaken the left and weaken their chances of removing National from government. Unless the IMP can get more than about 1.8% of the party vote, then it will lead to a wasted party vote that Labour or the Greens would have really really really appreciated. iPredict has the IMP at 3% at the moment, but I believe that this is probably over-valued (just a gut feeling) as it seems to be mostly based on the existing polling levels for the Internet Party and the Mana Party combined. As the esteemed Thomas Lumley says here, the fact that the percentages are low mean that it's very difficult to say with certainty just how many seats the IMP are likely to get at the election, particularly because there is no historical data available to help correct polling biases (as opposed to the biases that consistently appear for the other parties, covered here). Overall, I get the feeling that the IMP compromises the opposition's stated objective of preventing the National Party from getting a third term.

To be fair, Hone and the Mana Movement aren't necessarily about winning seats (although it helps) - the way that Hone has used his existing seat in Parliament shows that they're often more about raising awareness of issues at a national level rather than changing laws (although the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill which was partway through its first reading last night is a notable exception). David Farrar calls Harawira "a failure as a Member of Parliament", but I largely disagree. He doesn't play politics in the same way as everyone else, but that doesn't mean he isn't very effective at disproportionately getting his voice heard and putting important issues on the national agenda. I still don't know what happens when the Internet Party gets into Parliament (what are they going to do there?), but at least this strategy might help the Mana Movement be more effective in getting their message ever further and to more people.

A friend asked "What's Kim Dotcom's endgame?" and I think that's a good question that no one really knows the real answer to. The media varies from "he just doesn't want to get extradited" to "he sincerely wants to change New Zealand for the better", both of which I don't think are true. Just to put it on the list, I would not be surprised if "overthrow a government" is on his bucket list and this is the best way for him to achieve it without hiring an army. Another friend pointed out that spending $250,000 on a political party is far, far cheaper than the legal fees from fighting extradition, but I don't see that as a particularly effective investment. It's difficult to see just what incentive he has to bankroll this party, and also difficult to see what he must have said or been able to offer (other than money) to convince others like Vikram Kumar and Anna Sutherland to actually run the party. "Maybe it's all just a laugh to him" says a friend. Perhaps, but a pretty expensive, emotionally and psychologically taxing laugh.

Mana to win Te Tai Tokerau crashed from around 86% to as low as 55% after the IMP announcement on iPredict (currently stable around 71%), indicating that some people did think that the alliance hurts Hone's chances of winning his electorate. Perhaps the best outcome would be that proposed by @matthewjpb: "if Sykes does win [in Waiariki, where she is currently at 43% against the Maori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell at 53%], KDC could end up funding the whole mana campaign and getting no seats for his candidates." Essentially, if the IMP win enough party vote for two seats, but those two seats are taken up by #1 Harawira and #3 Sykes in their respective electorate seats, then there's no seat for #2 Internet Party Leader. The fallout from that would certainly be interesting to watch.

In slightly (not at all) unrelated news, I have committed to party voting for the IMP if the Internet Party Leader is announced to be Grumpy Cat (or to be fair, any other cat, as long as it goes on a campaign tour and there is an opportunity for pats).

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