POWER PLAY with Chris Bramwell

6:15 am on 30 May 2014

The battle for votes on the left has become a far more interesting contest with the reappearance of former Alliance Party MP Laila Harre on the political scene.

Laila Harre.

Laila Harre. Photo: INTERNET PARTY

In this week's worst-kept secret, Ms Harre was announced as the Internet Party leader at a glitzy launch at the five-star Langham Hotel in Auckland on Thursday.

The Internet Party and Mana have formed an alliance to pitch for the party vote but the two parties will stand candidates in electorates under their own banners.

Ms Harre has been a Labour Party member, a founding member of the New Labour Party, an Alliance Party MP and was a Green Party staff member up until last December.

She has most recently worked for the Council for Trade Unions on their get out and vote campaign - experience she will take to her new role.

Ms Harre says getting young people to vote is a key reason she is returning to politics.

Competition with Greens

That puts her and her new party in direct competition with the Greens for that vote. Every election campaign the Greens run their own Get Out The Vote campaign, and their support base has always included a lot of young people.

The slick branding of the Internet Party, and the cult status of Kim Dotcom, must surely have some appeal to the voters that both parties want.

When asked for comment on Ms Harre taking on the Internet Party leadership, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei was diplomatic, saying Ms Harre could do what she liked and that the Greens are focussed on their own party.

But there will be some nervousness within the Green Party ranks about Internet-Mana eating into their party vote.

The Greens have enjoyed their place on the left of politics, their support growing to historical highs and their confidence increasing accordingly. They have been a presence in Parliament for 15 years now - accepted as a stable party, and almost mainstream.

The Internet-Mana alliance poses a threat to at least part of their support, and they're disappointed at Ms Harre's decision to opt to stand for a rival political party.

Ms Harre would have been an asset to the Greens. She has a long history of campaigning on the left, she has union credentials, political nouse and unlike any of the Greens - experience in Government as a cabinet minister.

Alliances tricky

The flipside is that she also has experience of being part of a political alliance which spectacularly blew itself apart; she admitted to Mary Wilson on Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme that alliances can be tricky things.

However, she says she and her new colleague, Mana leader Hone Harawira, have a strong mutual respect for each other. That may be so but there is a third person in the relationship - Mr Dotcom.

The Internet Party's Kim Dotcom, left, with Hone Harawira and Laila Harre.

The Internet Party's Kim Dotcom, left, with Hone Harawira and Laila Harre. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Ms Harre says she initially turned the job down but a meeting with Mr Dotcom made her rethink her decision.

She says she already had an impression of Mr Dotcom as a thoughtful, intelligent man and meeting him confirmed that. She insists she has no view on the fact that he is wanted in the United States on piracy charges.

This is where the credibility of the new political vehicle falls down. It looks too obviously like a marriage of convenience. Mr Dotcom wants to bring Prime Minister John Key down, the Mana Movement needs resources and Ms Harre has unfinished business in politics.

Mr Key says Mr Dotcom is using the vehicle of the Internet Party and MMP to get a few MPs into Parliament so they can overturn his extradition charges, and he believes New Zealanders will see through that.

Mr Key continues to paint Labour and the Greens as the radical far-left opposition, and the addition of the Internet-Mana Party, will just add more fuel to those accusations.

What it does mean for the left, even though there's likely to be some shifting around of support, is that there is the potential for a Labour-Green-Internet-Mana block to present a Government in waiting.

Of course, whether that happens or not depends on what voters do on 20 September.

Follow Chris Bramwell on Twitter @rnzgallerychris