Thompson quits as Internet Party general secretary

Alastair Thompson has quit as Internet Party general secretary amid rumours of infighting.

The move comes just 10 days after he departed Scoop, and his place in the Parliamentary Press Gallery,  for a formal role with Kim Dotcom's nascent political movement (which, earlier, he had been assisting on an undeclared basis; see below).

A statement posted by Mr Thompson to Scoop late Friday reads, in full: "Scoop website co-founder Alastair Thompson has resigned as interim general secretary of the Internet Party. Mr Thompson is not available for further comment."

The Internet Party released its own brief statement, attributed to "The Internet Party team", which said Mr Thompson's resignation was effective immediately.

"Vikram Kumar will take over Alastair's role as interim General Secretary ... we expect to announce our permanent General Secretary in the near future," it reads.

On Wednesday, former InternetNZ CEO Mr Kumar quit as Mega CEO to join the Internet Party in a yet-to-be-defined role.

"Personally I was looking forward to working with Alastair on the Internet Party and am disappointed that will not be the case," Mr Kumar tells NBR.

Infighting rumoured
On social media, there was speculation about whether Mr Thompson had quit the party, or was merely abandoning his administrative role to clear the way to stand as a candidate.

The candidate scenario seems highly unlikely given the abruptness and brevity of the party and Mr Thompson's statements.

Well-connected political blogger David Farrar weighed in, "I hear there was a huge argument and fall out so doubt it is a move to candidacy ...  I am hearing a lot of stories about people not getting paid."

Organisational chaos
Mr Thompson's role as Intenet Party general secretary also coincided with a period of organisational chaos. 

A document outlining strategy suggestions, allegedly written by left wing blogger Martyn Bradbury, was leaked.

A combined Dotcom album launch and political rally scheduled for January 20 was at first narrowed in scope to music, then cancelled as the Electoral Commission warned the free event at Auckland's Vector Arena could constitute the offence of "treating" or offering free food, drink or entertainment in a bid to sway potential voters. 

And NBR noted that the purple and white of the Internet Party logo are also the brand colours of Orcon - the ISP for which Kim Dotcom recently signed on as a pitchman (the party says the colours were chosen because they are politically neutral).

"Indefensible"
Could Mr Thompson return to Scoop, and regain his seat in the Parliamentary Press Gallery?

First, he has broken bridges to mend.

The editor and GM faced criticism from within his own camp after Whaleoil outed him as a Dotcom political operative - particularly over registering domain names (website addresses) for the Internet Party while still Scoop editor, with his interest in Dotcom's political venture undeclared.

Gordon Campbell recently wrote on Scoop, "Especially in an election year, any potential conflicts had to be identified and dealt with beforehand in a way that maintained the necessary distance. Instead, the boundaries in this case were actively blurred. The domain name registration was indefensible."

ckeall@nbr.co.nz


POSTSCRIPT

Alastair Thompson was on the steering committee when the Aotearoa New Zealand Foundation for Public Interest Journalism (o PIJ; formerly the Scoop Foundation project) was launched in April, 2013.

After NBR published a photo of Mr Thompson huddling with Dotocom at his mansion on December 13, a fellow member of the PIJ contacted NBR, concerned that Mr Thompson had an undeclared affliation with the accused pirate's soon-to-launch Internet Party, which would constitute an undeclared conflict of interest.

The Scoop editor had been "evasive" when questioned on the matter, the fellow member said.

Today, Mr Thompson's name has disappeared from the list of steering committee members on the PIJ's website; he resigned the day he quit Scoop.

Mr Thompson is still listed as a candidate for Internet NZ's - although he faces a possible Council conflict of interest discussion if elected.

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