Does Dotcom realise the perils of buddying up with Winston? Read this, Kim
On one level, buddying up with Winston Peters is a genius move by Kim Dotcom.
Most polls already have NZ First on or around 5% and that’s before Peters has even broken into a trot with his reliable election year standbys - Asian immigration and super.
Peters could easily be in a kingmaker role after the next election, guaranteeing the giant German a friend in government whether NZ First opts to go with National, or a Labour-Greens bloc.
Dotcom says he will “self-destruct” his Internet Party if it doesn’t make 5% in polls by the time ballot papers are printed (about three weeks before the election), then “put our weight behind a party adopting our policies.”
If the Greens aren’t well positioned and/or continue to distance themselves from Dotcom, that makes government-bound NZ First and even more attractive choice.
Dotcom and Peters have things in common: they can both be charismatic and engaging, they’re both media smart and know what pushes people’s buttons, and they both love a good conspiracy theory involving the government and big businesses.
Peters has come out and backed a pet Dotcom theory – that Prime Minister John Key knew about the January 20, 2012 raid on Dotcom mansion before it occurred (yes, this rankles Key but he will still hold his nose and ally with NZ First if that’s what’s needed to hold power after the election).
NZ First has put a document called the “The John Key/Kim Dotcom Timeline” on its website. The timeline has no new information but its subtext is clear: look at all this stuff going on: surely the PM is fibbing when he says he knew nothing about the raid. And there’s also an insinuation that Dotcom was only granted residency so it would make it easier for him to be arrested and extradited. It’s labelled “Prepared by New Zealand First Leader’s Office,” but consists entirely of Dotcom's familiar bullet points.
And Winston has alleged the government is spying on him and his visits to Dotcom’s mansion, making the pair brothers in surveillance conspiracy. Most guffawed when they heard this theory but of course in the MMP world NZ First only has to appeal to 5%, and a good government-is-out-to-get-me story is grist for the mill.
So: Dotcom and Peters seem like best buddys all of a sudden.
But the relationship has perils on both sides.
For Winston, there’s the danger his blue rinse supporters will take fright. Some will ask, why should we support Johnny Foreigner? Isn’t he an internet pirate?
And, at the other end of his spectrum of support, there is a risk some of Peters’ conspiracy theory-loving fans will jump ship and support the Internet Party (in a 3News-Reid Research poll that found one in five would consider a vote for Dotcom’s Party, the largest block of the Internet Party-curious (30%) - identified as NZ First supporters). It would be a cruel irony for Winston if defecting NZ First supporters tip the Internet Party over 5%.
For Dotcom, there’s the danger Winston will draw out the worst in him. Already, we’ve seen Dotcom offer clownish support for the NZ First leader’s theory the government is keeping tabs on him.
Many potential Internet Party backers want detailed analysis on issues such as the TPP, copyright law reform and surveillance legislation – and a serious debate, not “the GCSB has planted bugs in my toupe” level dialogue.
Allying with Winston is likely to derail a serious policy push in favour of the NZ First leader and Dotcom egging each other on make ever-more-mindless claims about John Key targeting.
They will bring out the worst in each other. And for one of them, it will end badly.
And lastly, Dotcom needs to read a little NZ political history. Then he will discover that for all his campaign demogoguery, Winston actually kept his head down and behaved like a good soldier during his time in National, then Labour-led cabinets under MMP. When he does push for a concession, it's something like the Gold Card that's of direct practical benefit to his supporters. Key doesn't need the GCSB to tell him the NZ First leader won't push any radical causes next time he's in government, either.