Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Dotcom's bid doesn't compute

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Kim Dotcom. Photo / Norrie Montgomery.
Kim Dotcom. Photo / Norrie Montgomery.

I'm a democrat so I will always support any political initiative that gets citizens involved in the running of society.

I wrote in this column some months ago that Kim Dotcom would launch his own party. He has the profile, charisma, money and motivation. He also has a ready-made potential constituency. His claim of having 15,000 internet followers signing up to attend his launch party is impressive. Dotcom is a media showman and will be treated seriously by the fourth estate - initially anyway.

Bob Jones was the last non-politician to successfully form a political party to unseat a prime minister. Dotcom wants to do the same. The difference is that in 1984 Robert Muldoon had had three terms and was tired and deeply unpopular. Jones' call for free-markets against Muldoon's "state socialism" was a siren call that gained him 12 per cent of the vote, ending National's reign. None of those factors apply today.

Cynicism suggests Dotcom's motivation is more about ego and self-interest.

If the Internet Party elected enough MPs to become the critical component in forming a government, does anyone not believe granting Dotcom immunity from extradition to the United States would be a backroom coalition bottom line? Having Key humbling himself before Dotcom after the election to keep his job would be worth a couple of million dollars. After all, Dotcom is spending far more on lawyers, with uncertain success.

By naming his party the Internet Party Dotcom ghettoises himself around a narrow set of issues.

The current electoral field is already crowded. But maybe there are enough soft Greens and marginalised non-voters on the internet to get him over the 5 per cent threshold. Despite the bravado, the Internet Party has no chance of winning an electorate. To get any MPs, the Internet Party would need 120,000 enrolled voters to leave their computers for an hour and cast a physical vote. I assume his party's policies will be libertarian, focusing on personal freedom and limits of the state over individuals. Who isn't for that?

Until now, Dotcom has had a dream run from the media. He has become a folk hero. But now he is in the political arena, he'll get a rude shock. He'll be treated like every other politician.

The perception Dotcom will have to overcome is that the Internet Party isn't some plaything of a rich egotist who made mega-millions exploiting other people's talent and creativity without paying for their work.

It is also relevant to remember Dotcom was a centre-right wannabe who contributed significantly to a million-dollar fireworks display to curry favour with John Banks, the Auckland City mayor at the time. And Dotcom only exposed his $50,000 secret gift to Banks after the Act leader wouldn't take his phone calls when Dotcom was arrested. Dotcom sought revenge for not receiving a return on his investment, rather than on any moral principle.

Dotcom's political inexperience is also showing. His party launch was planned to be an extravaganza. It was cancelled abruptly on the pretext that it contravened electoral laws preventing bribing voters.

That is simply not true. Paying for a party launch is permitted. It is silly to say it's bribery. Maybe part of the problem is that Dotcom has employed an American political consultant, James Kimmer, to advise him. Former mayoral candidate John Palino learned the hard way that involving outsiders to run his political strategies wasn't the smartest idea.

Dotcom hopefully knows voters want their political parties to serve the people, not platforms for rich men seeking self-aggrandisement. New Zealanders are old-fashioned like that.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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