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March 31, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Politics |
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Power and the Money, Money and the Power

Some ideas only minor-party politics can spawn. Standing staunch with all the conceit that your ideology can muster while your polling struggles to grow larger than the population of Ngāruawāhia – it breeds a special sort of desperation. The constant rejection of your wisdom is tough. Blame must be laid and a solution found quickly, before anyone suggests the fault might lie with you.

Kim Dotcom has been courting Hone Harawira; the millionaire mega-capitalist has an eye for the socialist radical. A week ago, Dotcom announced that his Internet Party wants to run a combined list with Harawira’s Mana. That would mean that if either party were to win an electorate – and Harawira almost certainly will – both would be eligible for list seats in Parliament. As this column goes to print, it seems the alliance has been wrecked upon the rocks of political reality. I am not surprised.

It’s unclear why the Internet Party exists. Inspiring though the principle ‘the internet is really cool’ may be, it’s not obvious how it will deliver a policy platform covering the breadth of issues Parliament considers. Fibre to the home would be nice, but income taxation and surgery waiting lists matter too. Meanwhile, Mana are proud radicals who care more about the overthrow of capitalist superstructures than any individual policy. Harawira left the Māori Party despite enormous progress on smoking because he views National as political representatives of the bourgeoisie. He is not in politics to give laptops to schoolkids. Mana want the revolution, regardless of whether it’s live-tweeted. If the Internet Party has any worldview, it is technological optimism. That’s a hard sell to the supermarket teller whose job has been given to a machine.

For Mana, the alliance only ever had one justification. Dotcom has cash. Harawira doesn’t.

American research suggests that doubling a candidate’s election spend increases their vote by one percentage point. It doesn’t sound much, and in America it isn’t. But Mana received barely more than one per cent of the 2011 party vote. Another one per cent, and Annette Sykes and John Minto would have joined Harawira in Parliament. Last election, Mana only spent $60,000 on election material, most of that on electorate campaigns. Another $60,000 could have put two leaflets into the letterbox of every household in New Zealand.

Perhaps it would have worked – we cannot really know. But the possibility is all that matters. After being shunned by their downtrodden masses, Mana will grab any excuse they can.

In 2011, $7.7m was spent on election materials. Per voter, that’s less than a fifth of what Obama and Romney spent in the last US election. Around here, politics comes cheap. But the less funding a politician has, the more it matters. Poverty is no antidote to corruption.


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