Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Mission impossible in Helensville

32 comments

Laila Harre hasn't a hope of rolling John Key, and the publicity spotlight will stay firmly fixed on Kim Dotcom.

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

If you were looking for a definition of "seriously rich", the ability to buy your way into the New Zealand political system, as internet file-sharing mogul Kim Dotcom has done, is a good benchmark.

Only a few money-bags can afford to spend more than $3 million on a start-up political party, hire a clutch of candidates, each on an MP's salary of $147,800 a year, then put your hand-picked party leader up against your bete noire, Prime Minister John Key.

The icing on the cake for Mr Dotcom is that the stand-off will occur in his home electorate of Helensville.

For the rural folk on the northern fringes of Auckland City, it promises to be the biggest excitement in the area since the FBI and their New Zealand Police buddies launched their helicopter invasion of Mr Dotcom's Coatesville mansion.

Mr Dotcom's surrogate Laila Harre, was, in a former life, a respected warrior on the left of politics. She says she chose to stand in Mr Key's electorate "because the Prime Minister has some explaining to do" and she wanted to debate him at candidate meetings "away from his army of spin doctors".

With a majority at the last election of 21,066, Mr Key won't be quaking in his boots at the prospect. But it's not so much the candidate meetings - if there is more than one - that Ms Harre is hoping for. She'll be banking on the publicity accruing from taking on the PM in an election.

By focusing the election on Helensville, Ms Harre and her Internet-Mana Party are playing into Mr Dotcom's gameplan. No doubt he will be prominent in the audience at any public meeting - guaranteeing that any publicity will centre on the German refugee from United States enforcement agencies' battles with local and international lawmen.

One suspects she won't have too much time for neighbourhood door-knocking. Which, if one-time Helensville Labour candidate Darien Fenton's experiences are anything to go by, might be just as well for Ms Harre.

Ms Fenton Facebooked Ms Harre with a few home truths after her decision to take on the PM.

"All I can say is good luck. I stood in Helensville in 2008 and it was a tough experience. This is a largely rural seat, with a lot of John Key love out there."

She says she was "tailgated at one stage by rednecks shouting 'ditch the bitch"' about Helen Clark.

"There is only one debate John Key turns up to, which is stacked with hundreds of his supporters, so Laila won't have any chance to do what she says she wants to do.

"Everyone thinks standing against John Key is good for publicity. The opportunities are small. Believe me, I've done it. And there's no glory in it."

But Ms Fenton was not running as the surrogate for a media-darling internet file-sharing tycoon. For Ms Harre, this association guarantees him, if not her, continuing attention.

Five days before the September 30 election, Mr Dotcom is flying Glenn Greenwald - the journalist who, with Edward Snowden, leaked the revelations about the United States' NSA worldwide spying antics - to a meeting at the Auckland Town Hall.

Mr Dotcom has modestly promised the world will "witness a moment of truth" at this rally. "We're about to make history."

He promises to release information highly damaging to Mr Key and the National Party. He says he will prove that Mr Key was wrong in saying he had no prior knowledge of the police raids on his Coatesville home in 2012.

Surprisingly sanguine about Ms Harre's grandstanding tactics is veteran protester and Auckland City mayoral candidate Penny Bright.

Until Ms Harre turned up, Ms Bright saw herself as leading the also-rans pack. She'd already declared herself as running on a "fiercely independent" ticket, campaigning on her day job as an anti-corruption and anti-privatisation campaigner.

She says she's congratulated Ms Harre and that her candidacy "will put the spotlight on Hobsonville".

Ms Bright already has some posters up in inner-city Grey Lynn, on sites she had access to after her mayoral bid. She needs some more cash before she can afford signs in Helensville.

Ms Bright says there's room for her and Ms Harre. She's after the electorate vote; her rival is seeking the party vote. The truth is, neither have a hope in hell of dislodging the PM.

The one difference for this campaign is that thanks to Mr Dotcom, the Helensville campaign won't go unnoticed.

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

Read more by Brian Rudman

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 29 Dec 2014 04:28:35 Processing Time: 540ms