Cru­cial de­ci­sion for Labour

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Like one of those big, old depart­ment stores, Labour tends to think of it­self as a one-stop shop for the cen­tre-left. It has never felt en­tirely com­fort­able with an MMP re­al­ity where cen­tre-left vot­ers are just as likely to sup­port a bou­tique out­fit like the Greens, or to shop on­line at In­ter­net Mana.

Labour now faces a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion. Should it try hard to win the Te Tai Tok­erau seat from Hone Harawira?

Ar­guably, this could re­sult in a pyrrhic vic­tory that could cost the cen­tre-left far more than it would ever achieve from send­ing Kelvin Davis, Labour’s able Te Tai Tok­erau can­di­date, to Par­lia­ment.

That’s the prob­lem. Should Labour be treat­ing In­ter­net Mana as a po­ten­tial ally whose suc­cess is in Labour’s own best in­ter­est, or as a ri­val it should op­pose?

Un­til re­cently, the choice was sim­ple.

The In­ter­net Party could eas­ily be writ­ten off as a chaotic play­thing of Kim Dot­com.

How­ever, Laila Harre’s ap­point­ment as party leader changes the land­scape.

Come elec­tion time, Mana and the In­ter­net Party will share a joint party list.

Mana will sup­ply the bulk of the so­cial pol­icy agenda, and Harre and Harawira should be able to project it very cred­i­bly to­gether.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence with par­lia­men­tary coali­tion pol­i­tics, with trade unions, with Auck­land lo­cal body pol­i­tics – not to men­tion a fem­i­nism that pre­vi­ously led her to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our paid parental leave leg­is­la­tion – will all be use­ful as­sets on the cam­paign trail.

Un­der Harre, the In­ter­net Party seems likely to evolve from be­ing just an in­ter­net-based oa­sis with a few lib­eral trim­mings on the side into a full­blown so­cial jus­tice party with a defin­ing fo­cus on in­ter­net free­doms and de­liv­ery.

For all the talk about Dot­com’s money – and of course, it will be use­ful – other fac­tors have been driv­ing this ar­range­ment.

To his credit, Harawira saw that Mana needed to tran­scend the vir­tu­ous niche to which it had con­signed it­self. (The cen­tre-left is very good at rail­ing, and fail­ing, self-righ­teously.)

It needed a cir­cuit breaker if it was ever go­ing to re­place the Maori Party and get its own pri­or­i­ties onto the Cab­i­net agenda.

The en­gage­ment with Dot­com will lend Harawira the re­sources and the na­tional pro­file to trans­form Mana from be­ing a mere re­gional player on the side­lines of par­lia­men­tary pol­i­tics.

The Greens will be shaken up by the new sit­u­a­tion.

For years, the Greens have been ac­cus­tomed to see­ing their vote rise when Labour’s for­tunes go down, and vice versa.

Now, cen­tre- left vot­ers will have a gen­uine third op­tion, which could put some tal­ented can­di­dates (eg, Greens MP Holly Walker) in dan­ger of extinction.

Labour’s re­sponse, as men­tioned, will be cru­cial.

If Labour wins in Te Tai Tok­erau the In­ter­net Mana project will fail, and as much as 4 per cent of the cen­tre-left vote na­tion­wide would then van­ish into the dust­bin, as wasted votes.

Mean­while, ev­ery­one else will be play­ing MMP pol­i­tics.

Na­tional will be do­ing so in Ep­som, in Ohariu and with Colin Craig’s Con­ser­va­tives.

Doubt­less, it will also be en­cour­ag­ing the 1814 Te Tai Tok­erau vot­ers who ticked Na­tional on the party list in 2011 to vote tac­ti­cally for Davis this year, to get rid of Harawira.

How­ever, Labour seems flum­moxed about whether to em­brace In­ter­net Mana, or try to sink it.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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