(First published in The Dominion Post, May 30.)
WHATEVER else you might think of Sue Bradford, she sticks to her principles. You have to respect her for walking away in disgust from the Internet-Mana pantomime.
Who, other than the most gullible, is going to believe these two parties have genuine shared concerns? They are united only by rank opportunism.
Hone Harawira needs access to Kim Dotcom’s bank account, while Herr Dotcom seems driven by a personal grudge against John Key and a need for political friends who might help him avoid extradition. These are hardly a sound basis for a credible political party.
In his desperation to make the merger look honourable, Harawira argues that Internet access is a pressing issue for young Maori. This is a convenient but very recent conversion. When I last looked, digital access wasn’t even mentioned on the Mana website.
The $200,000 that Dotcom reportedly put into the Internet Party [note: since this column was written, we've learned the sum is $3 million] is a far more likely explanation for Harawira’s enthusiasm. But at least he had the decency to grin cheekily when he admitted coveting his new ally’s resources. Like Winston Peters, he often gives the game away by grinning when he knows no one is fooled.
Unfortunately a mischievous grin can’t disguise the truth that this alliance is a cynical exploitation of a deeply flawed electoral system. Theoretically at least, there is a possibility that Internet-Mana will end up in a classic tail-wags-dog position of power that bears no relationship to its voter support.
What’s more, the two parties have undertaken to review their relationship six weeks after the election. So if they get into Parliament, all bets will be off. Take that, suckers.
The best we can hope for is some entertainment as the inherent tensions boil to the surface and Internet-Mana blows up like Krakatoa. How long, for example, before Mana office-holder John Minto – a conviction politician in the Bradford mould – spits the dummy? He can only fool himself for so long that the merger is in the best interests of the proletariat.
Even on their own, far- Left parties such as Mana have a glorious history of disembowelling themselves. Who knows what bloody mayhem could result when the hard-core Left hitches itself to a wholly incompatible ally like the Dotcom party?
* * *
MY FELLOW columnist Joe Bennett has written in these pages about his irritation at the tone of phony familiarity adopted by marketers in their sales pitches. I think I know what he means.
A few weeks ago I received a card from Telecom announcing its proposed name change. It began with the words “Hey there”, which is the type of fatuous greeting you might expect from a cashier at Starbucks.
Genesis periodically sends me emails with the subject line “Let’s chat”, apparently unaware that a chat is a two-way dialogue that requires consent from both parties. Other companies begin their promotional messages with the words “Hi guys”, at which point I stop reading.
A common marketing misjudgment, one guaranteed to raise older people’s hackles, is the presumption that customers are happy to be addressed by their first names.
Members of the generation that was brought up to address each other as “Mr” or “Mrs”, at least until invited to do otherwise, are affronted when employees in the bank or insurance company, who are usually young enough to be their grandchildren, assume the right to call them “Joe” or “Mary”.
Most are too polite to say anything, but quietly grit their teeth in resentment.
The problem, of course, is that corporate marketing departments are run by Generation X-ers who assume that older customers will be flattered to be addressed as if they are teenage airheads.
I’m waiting for a bright young marketing graduate to send me an email with the introductory words, “Hey, dude”. It can only be a matter of time.
* * *
BIG GOVERNMENT is now so all-pervasive that many people find it hard to imagine life without it.
That was evident from a recent minor party leaders’ debate on TV3’s The Nation, in which ACT leader Jamie Whyte was treated as some sort of freak - or possibly even a traitor - for daring to suggest that New Zealanders don’t need constant intervention from the state in every aspect of their lives. This is clearly a dangerous heresy.
Only days later, Dr Whyte got a similar going-over from Guyon Espiner on Morning Report. It seems we’ve all become so accustomed to the smothering influence of Big Government – even to the extent of deciding whether we should have children – that we can’t comprehend any alternative.
Dr Whyte, of course, believes the state should get out of our lives, save for a few essential functions. It’s an idea worth exploring, but you get the impression that for a lot of people, it’s just too scary.