Over the weekend, Auckland’s ‘Q’ Theatre has seen (and is presumably still seeing) twenty-two candidates battling it out for fifteen places. It’s been dubbed ‘Political Idol’ or ‘Internet Idol’, which should perhaps leave a chill down the spin. Apparently, it’s been live-streamed (because they have the technology…), but given that I spent yesterday afternoon wielding a chainsaw (and, frankly, had many other better things to do, had I not been chainsawing), the only coverage I have seen was on 3News last night.
It wasn’t pretty, which was something the Internet Party should probably have expected. It’s all very well to go for transparency, in allowing cameras in to your giant selection meeting, but there’s a downside – the news media like comedy. You see it every year at the Green Party conference – the cameramen are sent off in search of the Morris Dancers, the most David Bain-esque cardigan and the Most Feral Beard. It stood to reason therefore that 3News wouldn’t be trying to show the prospective Internet Party candidates in their best light. We got a clip of an impromptu speech about paper cuts. We got a large, late-middle-aged lady trying to be impassioned (what was that about turning out the disillusioned youth vote?). We got Laila Harre showing us once again that she knows social justice, but not the internet. It was somewhat embarrassing.
Just check out the short list of twenty-two (link here). First up, you have Roshni Sami, aged 33, who’s been working in real estate for the past three years. I trust real estate agents slightly less than journalists. Next, there’s Raymond Calver, 36, social worker in lower decile schools – not a word in his bio about internet issues.
Sure, there are a few hopeful candidates with tech backgrounds, although they seem relatively few and far between. Frankly, most seem a little tragic, in a comic-gold sort of way. Take a look at Turi Te Kamonga, 42, whose “growing knowledge of crypto currencies offers a fresh outlook of monetary and fiscal policies”. “Together with a noticeable Political ambition, he shows promise for the requirements of a responsible candidate.” Good God.
There’s the Internet Party’s Social Media Engagement Manager, Callum Valentine, 26. Every candidate describes themselves at the start of their bio with three words. Mr Valentine’s are “Digital – Poliitcal – Citrus”. Citrus? WTF?
Speaking of strange choices for one’s three descriptive words, look no further than Timothy Kibblewhite, 22, who enigmatically wrote “Three is not…” An International Man of Mystery then…
At least Mr Kibblewhite could string three words together. Eli Weir, 39, missed the memo, using just two words – “Change Agent”. He’s one of those frightening sort of chaps who like ‘business speak’. He actually used the words “shifting paradigms” and “leveraging technology” in his bio…
And finally, there’s Bill Urale, better known as King Kapisi. His three words? “Tall – Samoan – Musician”. Inspiring stuff… If there’s one thing his presence on this list tells me, it’s that his music career is obviously no longer what it was.
The problem smaller parties face, especially smaller parties that are abruptly forming just prior to an election, is that the talent pool can be very small. Leaving aside the dedicated activists who put their hands up for parties like the Greens and Mana, small parties seem to end up with a ragtag collection of slightly deranged political opportunists. Just look at previous party lists for NZ First and United Future.
Anyhow, reading the candidate bios and watching the news footage felt like just another nail in the coffin of the Internet Mana Party’s intention to tap into that shadowy group of non-voters – the “Missing Million”.