Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Real cost of Dotcom alliance remains to be seen

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Kim Dotcom. Photo / APN
Kim Dotcom. Photo / APN

When eccentric millionaires hijack the political landscape as their own private playground, mere mortals should be very afraid. Even veteran leftie Sue Bradford, who loudly denounced the latest game and refused to have any part in it, has been shamelessly used by conservative oddball Colin Craig.

Could there be anything worse for a principled battler for progressive causes than to pick up the newspapers last Sunday and find you'd become the cover girl in full-page advertisements for a fringe right-wing political party - complete with the logo "Vote Conservative".

This, the work of property management mogul Mr Craig, who is so thin-skinned he's suing Greens co-leader Russel Norman for defamation for comments he made at the Big Gay Out in February. He's upset that Dr Norman described him as someone who "thinks a woman's place is in the kitchen and a gay man's place is in the closet". Mr Craig is going to court over the "woman's place" comment, but not the gay man's place - but let's not go there.

However, if accusing a conservative of having conservative views is actionable, how about using without her permission a lifetime crusader for progressive causes as the bait in a fringe right-wing promotional advertisement?

Mr Craig's advertising was a desperate bid to remind everyone the Kim Dotcom-backed Internet-Mana alliance wasn't the only millionaire vanity party in town. But with the German internet entrepreneur gifting a $3 million dowry to his strange grouping, Mr Craig must be feeling the pressure.

At the 2011 election, he gifted $1.6 million to his little band of true believers and they scraped together just 2.65 per cent of the party vote. With Mr Dotcom's new fringe grouping already flush with twice that cash, the cost of playing in the shallows has suddenly jumped.

Left-wing supporters of this incomprehensible marriage of convenience of geeks, nostalgic one-time Alliance leaders and assorted Ngapuhi are holding it up as a brilliant piece of one-upmanship over National and John Key. Giving them a bit of their own medicine.

In recent elections, National has certainly played the MMP system in Epsom and Ohariu, encouraging the faithful to divert their votes in support of tame allies in the two seats to ensure an eventual right-wing majority in the House. With Mr Dotcom's fortune, and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau seat, the payback plan is for Mr Harawira to be elected back into Parliament, and on his coat-tails bring in an unknown number of list members from the hybrid party. Apparently Mr Dotcom had a dream that his party would attract over 7 per cent of the vote. But in the cold light of day, he has obviously decided a back-up plan was wise.

Which brings us back to Laila Harre, the newly appointed leader of the Internet Party, Mr Harawira, her Mana Party equal, Pam Corkery, the press officer, and the others who are poised to join the Dotcom-backed party. They are all proclaiming they will be unsullied by the $3 million that has brought them together. Yet I can't help recalling a quote my colleague Fran O'Sullivan attributes to banker Michael Fay. He lived by the golden rule - "he who owns the gold, rules". This is the same Michael Fay, remember, who reportedly contributed up to $2 million into Labour Party coffers before the 1987 election in gratitude for the Rogernomics reforms of the previous three years.

In that case, the money came after the deed. We're now expected to believe that Mr Dotcom won't want anything in return for his $3 million except a party that pushes for, among other things, internet freedom. Other than that, he will let his new-found socialist partners get on with building their social justice dream with his money.

Yet nothing I've read about Mr Dotcom conjures up visions of Gandhi. What does come to mind are his promises to get even with the Prime Minister. Over the past few weeks, we've had a good show of what he's made of. He's been the star witness in the trial of 2010 Auckland mayoral candidate John Banks for not declaring the $50,000 donation Mr Dotcom gave him. Their once cosy relations split asunder when Mr Banks failed to rush to Mt Eden prison with a soft mattress after the police raid that whetted Mr Dotcom's interest in New Zealand politics.

Now on bail, he's invested $3 million in the upcoming election as the long fight by the American law enforcement agencies to extradite him drags on.

This could well carry on until next year. By then, all going to plan, the Internet-Mana coalition will be part of a leftish coalition government. Once the courts have decided whether the extradition can go ahead, it is up to the Justice Minister to make the final call. A government possibly propped up by his people.

There's no doubt that our law enforcement agencies have made idiots of themselves, and shamed the rest of us, with their sucking up to the American authorities and running roughshod over New Zealand law in this case. But trying to make up for one round of banana republic behaviour by engaging in another brings no joy.

- 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.

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