Unlike Mana leader, activist may lose bullhorn to engage.

If the Internet-Mana alliance attracts just 3.4 per cent of the vote at the election, as it has in our latest DigiPoll survey, John Minto will be in Parliament.

The prospect might be as interesting for him as for those who have known him only by his protest activity over the years. He would not be the first veteran of street demonstrations to move into the House. Indeed, if he makes the cut so will Mana's Annette Sykes who is above him on the list. Both would owe their seats to Kim Dotcom's campaign finance and Hone Harawira's return for Tai Tokerau.

It would be interesting to see whether Mr Minto became an MP like Mr Harawira, who remains an activist first, or like Sue Bradford, who was in Parliament for the Green Party, joined Mana after retiring from the House and left the party this year when it signed up with Mr Dotcom. Ms Bradford has a protest pedigree as extensive as Mr Minto's but when she came into Parliament she engaged closely and productively with it, taking a full part in legislative work. Her bill to outlaw parental smacking was just her most visible contribution.

Not all vociferous contributors to politics outside the House find it easy to make their mark in the chamber. Pam Corkery went in as a highly successful radio talk host, her audience convinced she would shake the place up, but her voice was relatively silent in Parliament. Many issues that seem black and white outside the House turn out to be less clear-cut when solutions are proposed. Members on the other side, previously considered class enemies, can become respected opponents at close quarters.


Mr Harawira is one of very few MPs over the years who have not let Parliament alter their view of the world. He is extremely proud of this, though it suggests a mind very fixed in its positions. Ms Sykes and Mr Minto might be of similar mind but they could offer much more than pure idealism in return for a public salary. One is a lawyer, the other has been a senior secondary school leader. Mr Minto has been writing and arguing for state education in recent years as passionately as he has marched for many other causes since leading demonstrations against apartheid rugby tours.

To be a senior educator at Western Springs College he must have been able to make the compromises required for consensual leadership in any field and must have observed orthodox protocols. Not so, yet, in political life.

When Nelson Mandela died last December, Mr Minto found it necessary to write an article for the Herald pointing out life for South Africa's black majority has not greatly improved since the fall of apartheid. Diplomacy does not rank among his values. John Key ought to have included former protest leaders in the party he took to the Mandela funeral but he could not have taken Mr Minto.

Mana reserves the right to split from the Internet Party six weeks after the election, which suggests it does not want to be in a Government whatever happens. Polls so far present neither party with the prospect. If Mr Harawira brings in Laila Harre, Annette Sykes and John Minto on his coattails, they would be seated with the Opposition. But it would be good to see them there. The broader the spectrum of opinion in Parliament the better. When inveterate demonstrators can put aside their bullhorns and take a place in the national legislature, the electoral system is working. If their rhetoric in the streets was serious they will be effective when given seats.

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