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Chris Ford: The disaster of the Dotcom Party launch and what of Martyn Bradbury?

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

I'm no fan of Whale Oil but yesterday he latched onto a doozy of a story with revelations that Martyn Bradbury was touting himself as a consultant/strategist for the fledgling Dotcom Party.

I read the leaked paper on the Whale Oil site and was simply astonished to read the contents. Yes, I thought Martyn Bradbury was a leftie like me - at least until yesterday. Sadly (but not unsurprisingly) he now seems to be supporting a man whose politics can best be described as right libertarian. While Dotcom played a useful role last year in blowing the whistle on New Zealand's intelligence agencies and their wrongdoings, it seems that the elixir of power has gone to the German internet entrepreneur's head.

As I have argued in a previous blog on Dotcom, elements of the left have fallen in love with him - but I asked then, and I more saliently ask now - to what end?

I ask this question because last year I really saw  (as did many New Zealanders did) how PR savvy Dotcom is. He appears to be egotistical (and that's admittedly a trait shared with a lot of politicians across the board).. Clearly, Dotcom has been carefully planting the seeds of a major political run since late last year with a party launch expected next month. Now, following legal advice from the Electoral Commission, the launch, in the form of a major dance party, has been called off.

This latest news just caps off a bad 24 hours for Dotcom and his fledgling band of party formers. I really wonder as to the usefulness of the advice being tendered by constitutional lawyer Graeme Edgeler or whether they are following any sensible advice tendered by him at all. You would have to wonder given Bradbury's potentially illegal idea of the new party providing free wi-fi in Auckland Central - that is illegal in the sense it would be regarded as treating for electoral purposes!

And the other astonishing thing is just the sheer audacity of Bradbury's other ideas. The one idea that really stuck in my mind was the one proposing that 300 volunteers be recruited and invited to live in a tent city on the grounds of the Dotcom mansion - with the purpose being that they would flag out across Auckland Central on a regular basis! This conjured up for me the image of a mass community being formed with a slightly cultish feel to it - very worrying if you ask me.

Then, what capped it all off for me is when Bradbury asked for $8000 per month to run his campaign. He's a declared political consultant, that's fine, granted. But by aligning himself with a libertarian who could turn to National (that is, if ever the Internet Party got as far as Parliament and if they ever, remotely even, held the balance of power), Bradbury has probably damaged his street cred with significant sections of the left.

But Martyn Bradbury still has the ability to come back from this potential disaster if he realises what a fool he has been and decides to have nothing further to do with Dotcom. All I can say in this regard is that Bradbury should be well aware of what happened to a similar internet sensation - Julian Assange - and his Wikileaks Party in Australia. It all started with a hiss and a roar with good publicity and a serious shot at some Senate seats at the last federal election there. However, Assange began to show off his egotistical side and also ideological differences began to surface which effectively doomed that party to an awful result.

And that's why I think that despite what some commentators (including Chris Trotter) have said, the Dotcom Party won't put a spanner in the works at this election. I think it won't even fly as, in politics, successful party launches are everything - any political marketer could tell you that. And this one has fizzed big time even before it was supposed to happen.

For all these reasons I am now beginning to wonder - will Martyn Bradbury follow former Scoop Editor and fellow left-leaning journo Alistair Thompson as the second left wing victim of the curse of Kim Dotcom that has claimed (so far) the careers of Peter Dunne and John Banks on the right? Time will tell. One thing is for sure though - the Internet Party will remain only a domain name and not a registered political party, if even that.

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