There is a leap of faith that the membership of both the MANA Movement and the Internet Party have taken. That leap is the presumption that voters will be as pragmatic as these parties have been. As one thoughtful commenter on social media observed (commenting on Sue Bradford’s decision to leave the party):
I also was worried about this when it was first mooted. However it is a very pragmatic arrangment with the Internet Party (not Kim Dotcom the individual) and the way it is set up totally leaves Mana intact as well as it has many rigorous safeguards…What it does do is offer the possibility of maximising the party vote in a way that may make some dent in ousting the Nats (without which the reality of a “farleft movement for change” is a fantasy) Realistically Mana had neither the people or resources to promote the party vote alone. The Mana electorate candiate campaign is the same as it would always have been. …. More damage will be done to the “left” by inaccurate negative spin than the arrangment itself.
The last sentence of this post encapsulates the issue I mention. To some degree at least, it won’t matter that the arrangement leave a high degree of autonomy to each party. It won’t matter that MANA gets most of the top seat spots in the combined party list. These countervailing arguments won’t matter to a significant degree of the voting population because now they can no longer be so sure what each of these parties represent. They are the voters not involved in the decisionmaking, not in the room when the deal went down, or on the email lists. I know MANA apparently has a terrific party organisation, and I’m sure that was a major factor in the decision. I also suspect that standing on lonely principle is not all that attractive to two parties that really want some degree of political power, and memberships that clearly want that as well.
But the abandonment of unifying principle is a dangerous course. Many people still vote on the basis of a positive idea, however muddy that idea becomes in realpolitik. National party supporters really do buy the notion of freedom, autonomy and individual responsibility, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Labour Party voters really do buy the idea of social and collective responsibility, again in the face of all political history that suggests such pure ideals never survive intact. The Māori Party knows better than anyone how difficult it is to sell a party based primarily on a pragmatic idea, in this case that Māori can benefit from being at the decision-making table. That too is a pragmatic stance, but at least it is phrased in the positive, and closely married to the idea of achieving a level of rangatiratanga for Māori. And it might be yet seen that the Māori Party has ended up losing its way because of that pragmatism.
Selling the idea of getting rid of the current government just doesn’t stand for anything in the hands of this new entity. No doubt ample numbers of the supporters of both future components of Internet Mana can explain the logic and the utilitarianism of this decision, with that unifying goal of bringing National down. But those people are not where the tyre hits the tarmac. How does each potential voter now articulate for themselves and others what this entity stands for? Internet freedom (except in the case of Māori cultural knowledge)? Being the voice of the poor and dispossessed (except when that voice has to articulate, or at least accomodate other concerns)? How does each voter explain their own voting beliefs in the absence of any demonstrable conjoined beliefs in their party?
And thinking of the future..come September, if the election does see the return of a National-led coalition, where will the combined energy of these two collections of people go? On? In 10 years time will there be an Internet Mana? Once the conjugal purpose is either fulfilled or defeated, what’s left?
I spotted this quote a moment ago:
“[The party] was not well received by the general public…The perception that these MPs had “betrayed” their former party was strong. Many voters believed that [the party] had been born out of political opportunism, not out of firmly-held principle.”
Any guesses? Yep, a quote from the Wikipedia eulogy to the very short-lived Mauri Pacific Party formed in 1998. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauri_Pacific
Of course Internet Mana will likely have a longer presence just because Hone is a sitting MP and favoured candidate. Ultimately my prediction, for what it is worth (!), is that this pragmatic venture can’t have a long life, because it cannot now give voters something they can believe in without a proviso, a ‘but’, or a hedged exception.