Internet-Mana move may be peak absurdity

22:06, Jun 16 2014
Internet Mana Party
ABSURD? The Internet Mana Party has launched a campaign to abolish the very electoral loophole that will catapult it into Parliament. Breath-taking hypocrisy or a canny move?

It's possible we've reached peak absurdity in this election year.

The moment came yesterday at 5.06pm when Internet Mana (IMP) formally announced its opposition to "coat-tailing."

That's right - IMP said it wanted to abolish the very electoral loophole that could catapult them into Parliament.

The nascent Internet Party and Hone Harawira's Mana movement combined forces last month for one reason: to exploit the coat-tailing clause.

Leader Laila Harre needs Harawira to win the Maori seat Te Tai Tokerau to "coat-tail" her into Parliament. Together, both parties are polling just over 1 per cent - nowhere near the 5 per cent threshold necessary to qualify for list MPs. (IMP also want to lower the threshold).

Breath-taking hypocrisy or a canny move?

Harre argues that she is just playing the rules as they are set, levelling the field with her political opponents.

It's a convenient, but unconvincing argument. True conviction, surely, would see them refuse to participate in deal-making shenanigans, as the Greens and Labour have.

The public stance, cleverly timed to hit the top-rating Sunday evening news, is hardly born out of conviction. It is instead a useful sop to those appalled at the alliance's exploitation of the controversial MMP quirk.

A showy online petition is more attention-grabbing than merely announcing a policy to vote for coat-tailing's abolition,as Labour did last week.

It may be designed to appeal to the young demographic that IMP is hoping to mobilise. Nevertheless, Harre is taking a risky approach. Her "do as we say, not as we do" approach to MMP is as likely to turn off the already-cynical as to motivate them.

Labour announced last week it would introduce legislation to abolish coat-tailing within 100 days of taking office. That is farcical when you consider they are unlikely to be able to form that Government without IMP, who need coat-tailing to get them into Parliament.

But there's a twist.

With Labour refusing a deal, list MP Kelvin Davis could feasibly beat Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau - potentially scuppering their own chances of getting the numbers, unless IMP can win Waiariki.

Of course, the Right are also performing contortions of logic to justify their continued manipulation of electoral accommodations.

Prime Minister John Key has vowed to be much more transparent about deals after the 2011 "cup of tea" publicity stunt with ACT turned sour. It's assumed National will again endorse ACT in the Auckland electorate of Epsom, and allow Peter Dunne to keep his 30-year grip on Ohariu.

But giving Colin Craig's Conservative party a leg up will prove a challenge, even for Key's dexterous salesmanship.

It's not helped by Craig's vacillating positions - one day he needs a deal, the next he doesn't. Sometimes he believes the party could easily get to 5 per cent, other times he couldn't beat a sitting National MP.

Craig and Key are dancing around each other like teenagers at a high-school social. The flirtation will continue until the Conservatives start polling up above 4 per cent.

Until then, expect candidates to leave logic behind.