Laila Harre

Internet Mana : the divorce

So the Internet Mana Party is no more. As 3News reports, a letter has been sent to the Electoral Commission to confirm that the relationship has been terminated.

It’s hardly surprising. Given Kim Dotcom’s post-election acceptance that he’d poisoned the public mood against Internet Mana, it was only a matter of time before the Mana Movement and the Internet Party parted ways.

Admittedly, just before I headed to Melbourne last weekend, disappearing off the social media grid and ignoring the existence of news from the homeland, there were strange reports of the Internet Mana Party intending to soldier on through in unity to 2017, of Dotcom intending to continue his role as Internet Party puppet master, and of Dotcom preparing to export his failed Internet Party experiment to the United States.

Nonetheless, Dotcom had previously been bewailing his supposed technical insolvency. Given that the lure of the Internet Party for Hone Harawira had essentially been Dotcom’s money and public profile, a Dotcom who is broke and poisonously unpopular is a Dotcom with nothing of value to offer Mana.

In the wash-up, Dotcom was a cancer to everything he touched, politically. His Moment of Truth, rather than finishing John Key, almost resulted in National governing alone.

Laila Harre went from being a principled doyen of the Left to just another hypocritical sellout. And her theft of the Greens’ intellectual copyright as she left to follow the money means that no other party will be touching her for the foreseeable future.

In Waiariki, Mana’s Annette Sykes was supposed to take out Te Ururoa Flavell, finishing the Maori Party for good. She came third. Meanwhile, Flavell romped home, bringing with him Marama Fox.

And of course Hone Harawira lost his seat of Te Tai Tokerau. With no Parliamentary budget, no Dotcom gravy train, and a much-reduced public platform to keep him in the headlines, Harawira will struggle to re-take his old seat. If Kelvin Davis is smart, he’ll be spending the next three years touring every square metre of his electorate (with his travel funded by Parliament, of course), ensuring that Harawira doesn’t get a look-in in 2017.

Harawira staked everything on Dotcom, and the gamble proved disastrous. With the Internet Mana split now confirmed, the two component parties can now fade off into political oblivion.


The small picture: Dotcom blows it

For what seems like the longest time, Kim Dotcom has sworn black and blue that he has documentary evidence that categorically proves John Key a liar. John Key has repeated time and again that he had no knowledge of Dotcom prior to the Police raid on Dotcom’s mansion; Dotcom said he would prove Key lied.

Warning signs should have been evident when Dotcom offered a $5 million reward for anyone who supplied him with additional proof. If you’ve got conclusive documentary proof, why offer to blow another $5 mill?

When I read the leaked Warner Brothers email late yesterday afternoon, ahead of Dotcom’s Moment of Truth, I laughed. It was far too pat; almost a check-list of all the things Dotcom could possibly want in an incriminating email. If you don’t mind the writer of your incriminating email talking in a series of cliches.

The email – supposedly from Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Brothers chair and chief executive, to Michael Ellis, a senior executive at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – says:

Hi Mike,

We had a really good meeting with the Prime Minister. He’s a fan and we’re getting what we came for. Your groundwork in New Zealand is paying off. I see strong support for our anti-piracy effort. John Key told me in private that they are granting Dotcom residency despite pushback from officials about his criminal past. His AG will do everything in his power to assist us with our case. VIP treatment and then a one-way ticket to Virginia.

This is a game changer. The DOJ is against the Hong Kong option. No confidence in the Chinese. Great job.


Kim Dotcom's "proof" that John Key lied; strangely not discussed at the Moment of Truth

Kim Dotcom’s “proof” that John Key lied; strangely not discussed at the Moment of Truth

I thought that the email must be just a teaser, one part of a collection, with details to be revealed that evening. Otherwise it was simply going to look like a fake. Warner Brothers and the MPAA have certainly already labelled it a fake.

Well, as it turned out, there was no email chain to be revealed. There were no details of a chain of custody or how the email ended up in Dotcom’s hands. In fact, the email simply didn’t feature in the Moment of Truth show.

At the finale press conference, Dotcom and Laila Harre refused to answer questions on the email, claiming it was sub judice as the email had been referred by Hone Harawira to the Privileges Committee. That’s a lie. The House has risen. There is no Privileges Committee.

Dotcom’s credibility is now shot. John Key can now safely bat away questions about spy agencies, playing with semantics, safe in the knowledge that a quip or two about Dotcom’s “proof” will be enough to get most New Zealanders to switch their brains off about the big issues that Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald raised last night.

Kim Dotcom just did the country a huge disservice.


So Hone Harawira did in fact attempt to file the Warner Brothers email with the Privileges Committee that has been dismissed. Below is the email to Harawira from Speaker David Carter, confirming the Speaker won’t be taking action. Which of course means that Dotcom and Harre are free to discuss the contents and provenance of the email all they like… But will they? It is the conclusive documentary proof after all…

The Speaker responds to Hone Harawira.

The Speaker responds to Hone Harawira.

Internet Mana losing its mojo

Internet Mana had been the minor party with momentum. As the Party Party / Internet Mana Roadshow worked its way around the country, the coverage was positive – crowds of hundreds flocking at each venue to see Dotcom, Harre, Harawira and the local candidates; mixtures of young, middle-aged and old; the anti-authority message hitting the headlines on a regular basis. Since mid-July, Internet Mana was consistently hitting at least 2% in the polls, even hitting the heady heights of 3.9% in the mid-August 3News Reid Research poll.

And then the wheels seemed to fall off. The “Fuck John Key” saga may not have had an immediate effect, but it hinted at a nasty, darker side to the party’s leadership. And although the party may not have had anything to do with the effigy burning and Kill the PM song that followed, it seems that Internet Mana had become, in the public consciousness, tied to that fundamentally negative side of left wing politics.

Things weren’t helped by Pam Corkery and Kim Dotcom turning the campaign launch into a farce, with Corkery’s “Puffed up little shit” soundbite and Dotcom’s run from journalists leading the headlines. In fact, since the launch, television media coverage of Internet Mana has almost inevitably involved a replay or two of Corkery’s least finest hour. Unfortunately for Internet Mana, Pam Corkery swearing at journalists doesn’t look badass or anti-authoritarian; it simply looks like a mad woman who lost control. Nobody likes supporting an embarrassment…

And of course the latest debacle was Mana Party candidate Georgina Beyer lambasting Kim Dotcom and his motives:

”I just have a sense that he’s using his power and position to seek retribution on people who have done him wrong. Should our political system really be manipulated in this way? The most telling thing was spending three hours on the ferry crossing with him. Really, I found him to be a distant person who was always utterly consumed in his iPad.”

In terms of the most recent polls, there’s been a sudden slump. None of the last three major polls had Internet Mana above 2%: 1.6% in the Colmar Brunton, 1% in yesterday’s Roy Morgan, and 1.7% in last night’s Reid Research.

Meanwhile, there was further bad news in the Waiariki electorate. After so much talk about Annette Sykes level-pegging with Te Ururoa Flavell and being in a strong position to win, Monday’s Maori TV poll of the electorate showed Flavell holding a 29% lead, with Flavell on 50%, Sykes on just 21% and the Labour candidate Rawiri Waititi not far behind on 17%.

With just 16 days to the election, it’s a bad time for the mojo to be lost…

A tale of two campaign launches

After a week and a half of being relentlessly hammered, day in, day out, by their political opponents and the media over the Dirty Politics allegations, National was relying on yesterday’s campaign opening to change the media narrative.

National’s line was made clear, with John Key refusing to answer Dirty Politics questions, batting them away with two brush-off sentences – “We’re moving on from that. That’s last week’s story”. Key is betting that the public have now well and truly zoned out. Questions over who spoke to whom and when before releasing some SIS briefing notes? That’s for those who write or read political blogs. At the end of the day, Middle New Zealand wants policy.

Complicating matters is the hacker, Whaledump. National have no idea what else might be released via Twitter, ready to be pored over by the media and excitedly rehashed on the six o’clock news. Nonetheless, Key can be relatively comfortable that any future releases will be embarrassing for underlings, rather than Key himself. If there was a firm link between Key, Cameron Slater and the underhand activities described in Dirty Politics, it would have already ended up in Nicky Hager’s book. The source emails now being drip fed to the Twitterati are embarrassing for the people who wrote them, portraying them in a very different light to their public personae, but Key is banking on there being little more to come in the way of solid accusations.

For National, yesterday’s campaign launch was about hitting the reset button. The All Blacks are back to being victorious, there’s policy to sell (I’ll discuss National’s housing policy in a separate post), it’s Situation Normal. The media (and Whaledump) may have other ideas though…

Speaking of campaign launches, the lead item on 3News last night (and presumably One News too) was Pam Corkery’s quite astonishing meltdown at reporters outside the Internet Mana Party’s launch. Calling a reporter a “puffed up little shit” and then having Kim Dotcom flee from reporters probably wasn’t, in retrospect, a great way to get the media discussing party policy.

Admittedly, some of the 3News reporting was a little dishonest. The fact that Dotcom had, almost twenty years ago, hacked into a database and reduced the German Chancellor’s credit rating to zero was not something that Dotcom had suddenly revealed. It’s been a widely told story, utilised over and over again by Dotcom since he was first trying to woo Hone Harawira and the Mana Party into bed.

Nonetheless, if Dotcom didn’t want to answer questions about hacking, it probably wasn’t wise to include the comments in his campaign launch speech, especially given that his reference to John Key as “another Prime Minister I don’t like” provided the media with a great platform to once again ask whether Dotcom had had any involvement with the theft of Cameron Slater’s emails.

As to what else happened at the Internet Mana launch, well, who knows? It certainly didn’t get reported, and for that Laila Harre needs to deliver some strong words to her Press Secretary and her Party Visionary.

Fuck John Key, but don’t burn him…

Now let me get this straight. The Internet Mana Party is happy to put together a video showing a crowd of students chanting “Fuck John Key” in unison, and to broadcast that via their official party website. However, when a separate group of students burn an effigy of John Key, and John Key assumes that it’s something to with Internet Mana, Laila Harre gets offended and threatens to sue?

With the “Fuck John Key” video, Internet Mana made it pretty clear that they’re going for the anti-establishment youth vote. It’s not really an appeal based on coherent policy debate… So can anyone blame Mr Key for assuming that when a ‘burn the Prime Minister’s effigy’ video surfaces, days after the ‘Fuck John Key’ video, that there was an Internet Mana connection? After all, it seems that he’d just been shown the video for the first time by Rawdon Christie on TVNZ’s Breakfast show.

Frankly, from what’s been reported it seems like TVNZ did no background research into the clip, and simply showed it to Key in circumstances that suggested that Internet Mana were involved. The Internet Mana Party therefore have reason to be aggrieved at TVNZ. It’s terrible, presumably biased, reporting, and I’d be interested to hear their explanation as to why they either didn’t bother to check the provenance of the clip, or didn’t feel it necessary to explain the provence of the clip to John Key. One hopes they didn’t simply take the clip from Whaleoil and do no further research…

Regardless, Laila Harre again shows herself to be a hypocrite. One day she’s lambasting Key for labelling Kim Dotcom her “sugar daddy”, the next she’s justifying the “Fuck John Key” video, and the next she’s threatening legal action over Key associating her party’s supporters with the burning of Key’s effigy.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.


Internet Mana – killing the Left’s hopes of victory?

The Internet Mana Party has released video footage of its supporters chanting “Fuck John Key” at a Christchurch rally. Which immediately resulted in Twitter being Godwinned, as Matthew Hooton compared the footage to a Hitler rally:

Feels a bit like a Munich Beer Hall in the 1920s.

While Mr Hooton may have been putting on a show of overly-righteous indignation, the footage was certainly in terrible taste, and raises some thorny issues for the Left.

It remains to be seen what the effect of the footage is on the Internet Mana Party. It’s certainly a little hard for Laila Harre to remain on her high moral horse regarding John Key’s “sugar daddy” comment, when her party’s supporters are being incited to yell “Fuck John Key” at each stop on the Party Party roadshow. Sure, Ms Harre says it was “spontaneous”, but there been allegations  made by callers to Radio Live this afternoon that the chant was in fact started by paid Internet Party staffers in the audience, and that the same chant “spontaneously” occurred in Wellington too. If those allegations are borne out (and they’re only allegations at this stage), then that paints a rather nasty picture of the Internet Mana Party organisation.

However, Internet Mana isn’t trying to get mainstream votes. They’re after the disaffected Left, who don’t feel that Labour or even the Greens have anything to offer them. In reality, the Internet Mana policy platform is really just a mixture of the Green Party manifesto with some old school Alliance Party socialism thrown in, courtesy of Ms Harre. The party’s policy platform isn’t what’s winning it support – the support flows from Dotcom and Harawira’s anti-authority rhetoric. Having the party stick both middle fingers up at the Prime Minister with a “Fuck John Key” chant might just lure a few more of those voters towards Internet Mana. Whether those voters actually reach the ballot box is perhaps another story.

The next question is what effect the footage will have on the Left as a whole. It’s been posited by various political commentators that Labour has been losing votes to National due to the level of unease swing voters have towards the Internet Mana Party. The theory goes that the Greens and Internet Mana are picking up a couple of percent from the disaffected Left who sat out 2008 and 2011, but that Labour is then bleeding votes to the Right due to Middle New Zealand’s fear and loathing of Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira. Faced with the choice of a Left-bloc coalition and a Right-bloc coalition, voters see the Right-bloc minor party allies as known quantities, whereas no one knows what in the hell Internet Mana is supposed to be.

If the theory is correct, the “fuck John Key” footage will make Internet Mana even more of an anathema to mainstream swing voters. With Labour, on current polling, requiring Internet Mana if it’s going to have even a hope of forming a Government, it’s just one more reason for swing voters to continue to stay away from Labour.

On the other hand, the whole thing might just be forgotten by tomorrow, as voters find other rather more important things to turn their minds to. We’ll see how much manufactured horror Matthew Hooton can conjure up…

Without Laila, the Greens were nothing…

Yesterday, the Green Party released their Clean Rivers Priority. National may quibble over the possible economic cost of fully implementing the policy, but pollution rates in our rivers clearly show that the current system isn’t working. When almost two-thirds of our monitored river sites are too polluted to swim in, you know something’s wrong.

Caring about the environment was obviously the order of the day, as just three hours before the Greens’ announcement, the Internet Party released its environment policy. They want a moratorium on fracking and deep-sea drilling, and they support the Greens’ carbon tax policy (with some likely variation to the nature of the tax cuts that would flow from the carbon tax). The full policy is here, for those interested.

If it all sounds very much like it’s been pinched wholesale from the Green Party, you’d probably be right. Laila Harre, up until about two weeks before she became leader of the Internet Party, had been working on the Green Party’s strategy team and had apparently been in talks about taking a spot on the Green Party list. With the Internet Party having to release coherent-sounding policy within a short time-frame, I suppose it makes sense for the party’s leader to simply pinch what she could remember from her old employers. Given Kim Dotcom’s approach to copyright, perhaps it’s unsurprising that the Internet Party leader’s apple wouldn’t fall far from the party founder’s tree.

On 3News last night, Laila Harre was confronted on the issue, and had this to say:

 “Look, I contributed huge intellectual property to the Green Party in the 15 months that I spent working for them”.

Let’s get this straight – Ms Harre believes that because she contributed a great deal to the Green Party, as she was paid to do, she has the right to publicly use any Green Party policy ideas she wants?

Nonetheless, as my wife pointed out, the more parties with decent environmental policies, the better it is for the environment. And they do so that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…

What effect the Internet Party will have on the Greens remains to be seen. Personally, I can’t see the impact being anything more than negligible, although it might cost the Greens one MP. The Greens’ established branding and track record on environment issues and personal freedoms will more than trump the Internet Party’s new kid on the block attempt to buy credibility.

What seems clear at this stage is that the Internet Party isn’t snaring new voters. Ms Harre is doing little more than spark a war between the parties to Labour’s left, with Internet Mana and the Greens fighting a battle for the left’s existing pool of voters. If Laila Harre wants to grow the left vote, she needs to offer something inspirational in her own right, rather than merely aping the Greens.

Internet Idol – just as bad as any other talent show

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”.

Lailla Harre explains her connection to NZ youth

Russell Blackstock from the Herald on Sunday asked Lailla Harre some questions, one of which was, “Your party is targeting young, disillusioned voters, but does a middle-aged woman have the credibility to pull this off?”

Ms Harre’s response?

I am connected to young people through my own two children, who are now young adults. There is nothing artificial about my sense of conviction to serving the needs of younger people. At the core of that initial appeal is the scandalously high prices for internet access in this country. I was in Fiji for two years and had faster internet there than we have in New Zealand, where some 70,000 school children do not even have internet access at home. [My emphasis]

Nothing like the “I’m down with the kids, ’cause I’ve got kids” line! It’s enough in itself to turn off the voters she’s trying to attract…

As to Ms Harre’s “credibility to pull this off”, I would argue that knowing that we pay a lot for internet in New Zealand, and having seen faster internet while living in Fiji, hardly provides credibility in the field of internet freedom, nor credibility among young, disillusioned voters.

Russell Blackstock’s followup question? “How proficient are you on the internet and social media, then?”

Over to Ms Harre:

I am no expert, but my husband [Barry Gribben] has an internet business and we have computers all over the house.

Which is a bit like me saying that because I can use Excel or Open Office spreadsheets to add up numbers, people should trust my advice on accountancy…

Ms Harre continues:

I will be on Facebook a lot more in my leadership role. And lots of tweets on Twitter.

As Matthew Beveridge notes, as at 29 May 2014, Ms Harre had less than 50 tweets to her name, less than half of what Matt would send himself in a single day (although Matt is admittedly somewhat of a Twitter addict).

In terms of the passions and interests one would expect from the leader of a party called the Internet Party, everything about Laila Harre rings somewhat hollow. I’m extremely dubious that Ms Harre can capture the “Young and Disillusioned” sector of the voting population.

Pam Corkery? WTF?

So Pam Corkery has been hired as Laila Harre’s press secretary. Apparently Ms Harre discovered this while on air, which, if true, makes one wonder who’s running things at Internet Party HQ. Certainly, this tweet from Jessica Williams (@mizjwilliams) suggests an air of back room disorganisation:

And then after she got off air, Laila Harre made a phone call and found out that it IS true and pam IS her new press sec. lol.

I guess Ms Corkery’s new role makes sense in a ‘good fit with the leader’ kind of way, both Corkery and Harre being former Alliance Party MPs together, back in the 1990s, before Corkery retired in 1999. And I guess she’s got good media contacts, having been a broadcaster for many more years than she was an MP.

But isn’t the defining feature of the Internet Party’s upcoming election campaign supposed to be that it’s about being tech-savvy and online, pulling in those young, previously disinterested voters who will suddenly flock to the ballot box and support Kim Dotcom’s multimillion dollar vehicle of revenge? Both Laila Harre and Pam Corkery are dinosaurs from another political age. I just cannot see how Corkery’s involvement, especially in an important campaign role, can possibly be of benefit to the Internet Party. She’s the antithesis of the Internet Party’s message.

Of course, press secretaries are not the face of a party. How many people (beyond the very worst political junkies) could name John Key’s or David Cunliffe’s press secretaries, let alone Peter Dunne’s or Jamie Whyte’s? (Mind you, how many people could name Jamie Whyte, let alone his press secretary?) However, the press secretary is supposed to be coordinating Laila Harre’s and the Internet Party’s media image across all media. That includes the internet, which is already an area in which the other party’s press secretaries are failing miserably in (see my good friend Matthew Beveridge’s blog, Social Media & the 2014 Election for a daily account of our political party’s social media failings). Why would another old-school media hack like Pam Corkery be any different?

One would hope that the Internet Party has a highly competent team handling the online side of things, and that Ms Corkery isn’t expected to provide them with too much direction. Otherwise, the party’s goal of going for the so-called “Missing Million” online isn’t going to gather a great deal of steam.

Frankly, I think that Laila Harre’s appointment has already put paid to that goal. The Internet Party needed a Richard Branson, not someone intent on creating the Alliance Party Reborn.