Moment of Truth

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.

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Where to from here for National?

If John Key wants to have a stab at a fourth term as Prime Minister, there’ll be no one in the party to stop him. He’s weathered the Dirty Politics and Moment of Truth storms, and come out the other side with an increased majority.

Now it’s time for a clean up. Jason Ede has already resigned, which is perfect timing for National. An announcement prior to the election would have looked like an admission of guilt, just prior to people walking into the polling booth. This way, it’s lost in the honeymoon maze, and when the House returns to sit, the opposition will have lost another line of attack.

You’d hope that National’s leadership has learned its lesson from the Dirty Politics saga, and will keep people like Cameron Slater at bay. National may have romped home, but Brand Key has lost a touch more of its shine in the process. National’s result wasn’t necessarily as much an endorsement of John Key’s charms as a rejection of the state of the Left.

And hopefully, National MPs (and prospective MPs) lower down the food chain learn from the reaction within National to the Dirty Politics claims regarding Slater and Lusk’s involvement in the Rodney electorate selection process. If anyone finds out you’ve contracted Slater or Lusk to run interference for you, you’ll hopefully be toast.

Of course, the big issue for National, as they seek re-election in 2017, is the same one that kept them awake at night over the last three years – coalition partners. The election results for ACT and United Future were risible. National will give them roles in this new Government though, partly as a reward for six years of loyalty, partly in the vain hope that they might against all odds surge again in popularity and offer National more assistance at getting over the line in three years time.

Likewise, the Maori Party will be offered a role again too. Te Ururoa Flavell has been very clear that the Maori Party cold work with both National or Labour. National will be keen to keep Flavell onside.

But what if that’s not enough? What if ACT and United Future remain unappetising minnows, and Team Key needs a few more seats next time? Does National build up the Conservatives in the hope that they’ll supplant NZ First?

Once the honeymoon fades, Steven Joyce and the rest of the strategy team will undoubtedly be pondering what needs to be done to ensure a victory in three years time.

The deconstruction – what went down

So, in the end it wasn’t even close. Unless the special votes are dramatically out of kilter with the votes counted on election night, National has the numbers to govern alone.

The worse-case scenario now for National is that they lose a seat to the Greens, meaning that National would need one of either ACT or United Future to pass legislation. It’s not such a terrible worst-case for the Nats – both ACT and United Future are entirely dependent on National for their continued survival; they wouldn’t be giving National too much stick. Besides, as Graeme Edgeler writes at Public Address, if the special votes are distributed in the same proportions as in 2011, there’ll be no change to the makeup of Parliament.

So how has National managed to defy the laws of electoral gravity, while Labour plumbs new depths, and the minor parties are all left licking their wounds? For me, there are five main issues.

Firstly, the public were happy with our current economic stability. On The Nation, just before National released its tax “policy”, Bill English couldn’t highlight a single new idea that National would bring to the table to spur economic growth. It turns out the public weren’t too unhappy about that. People presumably looked at the economic mess that exists in the US, the EU and across the ditch in Australia, and thought that things were actually pretty good here. Labour’s ideas might have sounded interesting, but would they work? Do I trust Labour to mess around with Kiwisaver rates, and what will the effect be on my weekly take-home pay?

Secondly, for almost three years (and another three before that, if you include the Goff years), Labour has presented itself as a chaotic pack of self-absorbed in-fighters, too busy playing identity politics and sticking the knife into opposing factions to give a damn about Middle New Zealand. Labour may have stayed on message with grim determination during the actual campaign, but by then it’s a bit late. Staying on message for six weeks cannot outweigh more than two and a half years of self-mutiliation. The public had already made up its collective mind that Labour were a pack of muppets.

Thirdly, the public were happy with our current political stability. Put simply, Internet Mana scared the hell out of people. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve talked to who weren’t necessarily National Party fans, but who wanted Kim Dotcom’s hands nowhere near the levers of power. Those people likely voted National. The Left may point to ACT or Colin Craig, and ask what’s the difference? Well, part of the reason Colin Craig didn’t get the endorsement he wanted was that National’s polling indicated National would take a 2-3% hit if they gave Craig a seat, so there’s not necessarily much of a difference there. And ACT simply isn’t seen as a threat these days; it’s been dependent on National for so long that it’s been politically neutered. Internet Mana, on the other hand, was a frightening unknown; a Frankenstein mix of hard-left activism and big money.

Fourthly, Dirty Politics largely wiped out any emphasis on policy. Yes, the policy was out there, and Dirty Politics almost didn’t feature during the leaders’ debates, but a huge chunk of the election campaign was lost to it. The minutiae of the allegations were largely lost on the public. Judith Collins made an easy villain, and she resigned – case largely closed. Dirty Politics wasn’t seen as a reason to change a Government.

Finally, the Moment of Truth. It was the moment where Kim Dotcom took his credibility out behind the bike sheds and hit it with both barrels, making himself (and the Left, by association) look like idiots. But it also inspired a large dose of parochialism in the dying week of the campaign. “I’m not going to be lectured to by a bunch of foreigners” – it was a phrase I heard rather a lot of, in various permutations. On The Nation yesterday, David Farrar told Lisa Owen that his polling for National showed a jump in National’s support following the Moment of Truth.

Kim Dotcom and his Moment of Truth may have handed John Key those final few seats he needed to attain the ability to govern alone.

 

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.

Kevin

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.

UPDATE:

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.

Out in space, no one can hear you scream

From the sidelines of relevance, ACT has been screaming and waving its hand in a desperate bid to be noticed. The bold (some may use less charitable descriptive language) policies have been coming thick and fast recently – abolishing the Overseas Investment Office, getting rid of the Resource Management Act, arming shopkeepers…

They’re designed to grab headlines, to give party leader Jamie Whyte a few life-giving gulps of publicity oxygen. If publicity is supposed to get you votes, it doesn’t appear to have working for ACT. Following their campaign launch and OIO and RMA announcements, the last Colmar Brunton had them on a year-long high of 1.2%. Unfortunately, they could then only manage a combined 1% from the latest Digipoll and Ipsos polls.

Things are only going to get worse this week. Tonight, Kim Dotcom unveils his Moment of Truth. Whatever Dotcom and Glenn Greenwald have to say tonight, be it bunker busting explosion or damp squib, the media won’t be talking about much else. Certainly, the upcoming War of the Documents between Greenwald and Key won’t be a simple day-long skirmish.

Minor party policy will well and truly be taking a back seat. ACT and United Future might as well just concentrate on Epsom and Ohariu respectively, and give up on the rest of the country. Given that Colin Craig has no hope of winning an electorate seat, Dotcom’s Moment of Truth might very well be the final nail in the coffin of the Conservatives’ run for the 5% threshold.

In fact, the coming week is likely to be a policy-free vacuum full stop. Which means that for the opposition, they’d better hope that whatever Dotcom and Greenwald have to say is compelling and easy to understand.

David Cunliffe, Russel Norman and Meteria Turei had better get used to the idea that for the next four days, the only soundbites they’ll be giving will be on spying. For the Greens, that focus might still pick them up a few votes, given their long-term activism against our spy agencies. For Labour though, Dotcom’s Moment of Truth may prove catastrophic. All eyes will be on John Key and whatever he may end up declassifying. With four days of Key v Dotcom & Greenwald, David Cunliffe and Labour Party policy won’t get a look in.

The stakes are high. If Dotcom’s “proof” that Key knew about Dotcom before the raid isn’t watertight, Internet Mana will be a laughing stock. Likewise, if the Greenwald v Key debate about mass surveillance gets lost in a maze of paperwork and semantics, Labour and the Greens can probably give up on being anything other than bit players for the final week of the campaign. The only winner is likely to be Winston Peters, sweeping up the disillusioned.

The fortunes of Labour, the Greens, and Internet Mana are now firmly anchored to two men. Roll on 7pm…