The choice of Laila Harre as leader of the Internet Party will go a long way towards making sense of the pre-electoral alliance with the Mana Party, as announced on Tuesday.
On paper, there is little ideological and policy compatibility between the Internet and Mana Parties – so far. And initially Sue Bradford captured the attention by walking out of the Mana Party over the alliance, arguing that the Mana Party was only being used by a wealthy foreigner who would not respect their founding kaupapa.
Ms Harre, however, has impeccable left-wing, trade-union credentials to bring to the Internet party. Her strong political nous and experience will help to fill a major gap for the Internet Party. She will bridge the apparent ideological gap between the two parties. But I doubt that many of the 'young and disaffected' that this new party is supposedly targetting will recognise Laila's name.
The danger is that the alliance between the two parties could tarnish both of their brands, and confuse voters about what they actually stand for politically. That risk has still to be managed, but Laila Harre's appointment does help to give an initial impression of a closer compatibility between the two. How compatible Hone and Laila will be as personalities is another question, but one can easily imagine more troublesome partnerships. And it is most important that the limelight be taken off Kim Dotcom (if that's possible!), as he is not able to stand as a candidate.
The Internet Party has some policy development to do in order to bring its present manifesto up to speed on social policy and Maori issues. Policy-wise, they still do not look like an obvious partner for Mana. The alliance agreement requires that the Internet Mana Party will have 'an agreed policy platform' that all its MPs commit to. But it also permits each component party to develop its own policies, with consultation with the other party.
A critical question will be whether the Mana/Internet alliance can inspire young people, especially the less well-off, about an exciting new approach to politics that buys into the world that youth live in today, and that will improve their participation and opportunities in the digital world of the future. Will the young get the message? With the Internet Party's online communication skills, it's likely that they will get the message.
In electoral terms, it appears that Laila will be back in parliament after the next election as Internet Party leader. The Internet Party's resources may well be useful in the Waiariki electorate, giving a boost to Mana's Annette Sykes, and presenting a real challenge to the Maori Party's Te Ururoa Flavell.
So, three or four Internet Mana seats is a conceivable result just for starters, provided the deal doesn't backfire due to voter confusion or cynicism.