If any spies from the Labour, Green or Maori parties infiltrated yesterday's Internet Mana rally in West Auckland, they would have come away with very worried looks on their faces.
The Maori Party, in particular, should be afraid, very afraid. The main hall of the Kelston Community Centre was packed to the gunnels. There was not so much a buzz of excitement as a raging ferment of noise as the audience waited patiently for proceedings to begin.
Say what you like about Kim Dotcom. Say what you like about Laila Harre's initially hard-to-understand decision to team up with the internet tycoon - all that paled into utter insignificance yesterday. There was instead a hint of history being made. The chance to fund and build a new movement of the left is not an opportunity to be squandered. The likes of Kim Dotcom do not come along very often. Neither is such a collective of credible activists always on hand to run such an outfit as is the case with Internet Mana.
Hip-hop artist King Kapisi, who is also the party's youth ambassador, had been designated the task of warming up the 300 or so present. He did a brilliant job but he hardly needed to have bothered.
The party may be feeding off Dotcom's millions, but money cannot buy the kind of raw energy that pervaded the room. The mood of exuberance and anticipation topped even that at the weekend's Conservative Party conference. It left New Zealand First - also holding its annual conference - for dead.
Things may still technically be the period of phoney war before the election campaign proper gets under way in a few weeks. But no one seems to have told Laila Harre, Hone Harawira or Kim Dotcom.
Make no mistake. Internet Mana is on a roll. The party cracked the 2 per cent mark in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey a matter of weeks after its formation. With Labour's woes intensifying and that party's support bleeding away, there is a good chance that Internet Mana could be hovering around the 5 per cent level by the time the official campaign gets under way.
Internet Mana has one commodity the other parties on the left struggle to provide in convincing fashion to those at the bottom of the heap. That commodity is hope - hope in enough quantity to drag this segment of the voting population in the direction of a polling booth. It will still require considerable effort to get them to actually vote.
As one speaker at the rally said, Internet Mana is now regarded as "cool". It is an epithet which the party will wear with abandon.
Just how big the market is for a party on the hard left is a moot point. But on yesterday's showing, it may be bigger than first thought.
And especially when the policies of the Internet part of Internet Mana are thrown in to soften the overall mix.
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