Editorial: Mana-Internet union cynical step too far

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Nothing is more important to a political party than its credibility. Photo / Charles Howells
Nothing is more important to a political party than its credibility. Photo / Charles Howells

Voters are justifiably rankled that a party which fails to reach the 5 per cent threshold gets additional seats in Parliament simply because it has won an electorate. The Electoral Commission, in its review of MMP two years ago, declared it to be "the single biggest factor in public dissatisfaction". The level of that disgruntlement would take a sizeable leap if an accommodation between the Mana Party and Kim Dotcom's nascent Internet Party ever comes to fruition. It would see both parties going their separate ways after gaining list MPs in Parliament thanks to the Mana leader, Hone Harawira, retaining his Te Tai Tokerau seat.

That scenario was confirmed yesterday by Mr Harawira's press secretary, who said the two parties would not merge but would share a list. The outcome, said Jevan Goulter on Facebook, could be two or three Mana MPs, "and we remain our own party". It is almost superfluous to say that this would represent a new low in the defilement of MMP.

Two parties with little in common aside from an antipathy to John Key and covert surveillance would be guilty of a new level of cynicism based solely on mutual benefit. For Mana, there would be the prospect of boosted funding and a higher profile during the election campaign; for the Internet Party, a representation in Parliament that it could never achieve on its own.

Attempts to defend this arrangement point to the grouping of parties that comprised Jim Anderton's Alliance, starting initially with NewLabour, the Democratic Party, Mana Motuhake and the Greens and, ultimately, including the Liberal Party. At their peak after the first MMP election in 1996, this disparate group boasted 13 MPs. But those representatives came with an agreed slate of policies and at no time did they function as anything other than Alliance MPs. Indeed, when the Greens decided they wanted to plough their own furrow, they left. And, over time, both NewLabour and the Liberals dissolved themselves to become members of the Alliance, leaving only the Democrats and Mana Motuhake with distinct identities outside the confines of Parliament.

That is far from the scenario apparently contemplated for Mana and the Internet Party. And the dubious nature of this proposed link does not end there. The basic incompatibility of the two has been enunciated by Sue Bradford, the former Green MP who joined Mana in 2011 on the basis that it stood for self-determination and for all people on low or no incomes. She said she found it astonishing that the idea was even being considered. What Kim Dotcom stood for, said Ms Bradford, was "the antithesis of what Mana is about to me". In her view, some people within Mana were looking for a shortcut to build the party, "but there aren't any shortcuts to building a credible party or movement".

She is absolutely right. Some within the Mana Party may believe that current polling shows they have nothing to lose. Any perception that they were selling out ideologically would be more than offset by the prospect of more seats in Parliament if the construct with Mr Dotcom's party increased their combined party vote to anything more than about 2 per cent.

But nothing is more important to a political party than its credibility. Mana would pay a heavy price on two counts. First, potential supporters would see a party willing, in its desperation, to compromise its beliefs. Second, they would be alienated by its readiness to take advantage of a much-maligned aspect of MMP as never before. By any yardstick, this marriage of convenience would be a sorry step too far.

- NZ Herald

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