Mana and Dotcom can do business

TALKING POLITICS BY GORDON CAMPBELL
Last updated 11:57 03/04/2014

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The Wellingtonian

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OPINION: To survive, as even the Hunger Games books and films have pointed out, you need to be able to compromise, and to collaborate.

No-one said it was easy, though.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom happen to be two of the largest, loudest and most polarising figures on the political scene.

Unsurprisingly, they've found it difficult to work constructively together.

To date, though, Harawira has deserved a lot of credit for the disciplined way he has conducted his discussions with the Internet Party.

Harawira has (a) explored whether a basis for co-operation exists, (b) sought a bottom line agreement in ruling out working with National post-election, and (c) suspended further action until the Internet Party has put its house in order.

True, some senior figures within Mana have voiced their opposition to working with the Internet Party, on principle.

It is easy to see why those critics would prefer Mana to continue on its current path, and avoid any alliance that might sully its brand.

Well, Mana has already fought one election on those pristine terms, and it ended up with only one MP in Parliament.

Unfortunately for the purists, Mana can deliver for its constituents only if there is a change of government - and arguably, a Mana/Internet arrangement might deliver that outcome, if it could produce a bigger bloc of centre-left MPs.

At that point, the compromises that have cost the Maori Party so dearly would kick in for Mana as well.

Frankly, if Mana cannot safeguard its principles in a pre- election arrangement with the Internet Party, how on earth do Sue Bradford and Co expect Mana to deal successfully with Labour in government?

If Mana wants to deliver for its constituents, it has to be confident that it can protect its turf, against anyone. Fortunately for Mana, Harawira seems likely to be no pushover - for Kim Dotcom, or David Cunliffe.

Ultimately, it will come down to what a deal with the Internet Party might deliver for Mana, and the country.

The Internet Party can realistically hope to reach up to 4 per cent at this year's election.

Some of that support would be at the expense of the Greens and Labour, but the aim will be to motivate previous non-voters, and especially the under-30s.

That is Mana's rationale for talking to Dotcom: it's not about money, but outreach.

Whether the Mana veterans like it or not, joint action with Kim Dotcom and his music industry friends could reach and motivate the Maori and Polynesian urban underclass in ways that Mana's (and Labour's) traditional forms of messaging have not, and cannot.

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For the Internet Party, the next fortnight is crunch time.

In short order, it has to complete the basics of getting its membership numbers up, creating a structure of leaders and candidates and sorting out its policy priorities.

If it can do that - and since January, it has made a hash of it - then it could still be a factor in the election.

To repeat: the appeal of any Mana/Internet alliance would be not so much among Dotcom's geek constituency, but among the sceptical, media-savvy younger people of south Auckland.

That's an election battleground where Harawira and Dotcom can both bring some useful credentials to bear as political outsiders.

- The Wellingtonian

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