29 May 2014

'Game-changer' picked to lead party

10:31 pm on 29 May 2014

Laila Harre says she is returning to politics to lead the Internet Party because young people, in particular, have been ignored by politicians and is making no apology for the alliance with the Mana Party.

The former Alliance Party MP and Cabinet minister was confirmed as the party's leader at a glitzy launch in Auckland on Thursday afternoon after much speculation.

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

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom's party earlier this week confirmed a strategic relationship with Mana, led by Hone Harawira, to jointly contest for the party vote at the general election on 20 September. It is to be called Internet-Mana, with Mr Harawira as No 1 on the list and Ms Harre No 2.

Ms Harre is excited to be part the new political movement with Mana, saying the National Party has abused the MMP system and it is time the people took MMP back for themselves.

She said she is concerned that mainstream parties are not even trying to connect with young people and it is hardly surprising nearly half the eligible voters under 24 didn't even bother at the 2011 election.

Ms Harre said that has to change, and the Internet Party will be the one to do it. "It's our job to give them a reason to care and a way to connect."

She said she also has unfinished business when it comes to tertiary education. "To lead the only party that makes a core commitment to restoring free tertiary education gives me a chance to honour a promise I made to the future when the first student fees were imposed."

Ms Harre said the Internet Party's alliance with Mana symbolises two strands of the future.

She said her experience of the internet is much the same as many others who use it, but is joining an organisation with expert personnel who have a vast knowledge of technology issues and solutions.

Hone Harawira believes Ms Harre's appointment is a game-changer, saying she is instantly recognisable as a respected leader. On Tuesday, he said the decision to form an Internet-Mana alliance was made much easier once he knew who the Internet Party leader was.

Green Party and union roles

Laila Harre worked for the Green Party for about 18 months, but left in December 2013 to work for the Council of Trade Unions.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Ms Harre has every right to be part of another party, and she trusted her not to pass on any Green Party information.

A former colleague of Laila Harre's said her expected appointment to the leader of the Internet Party was a weird, but brilliant piece of political strategy.

Former Alliance vice-president Sandra Lee said the partnership between Mana and the Internet Party was a great example of strategy under MMP.

Ms Lee said Ms Harre brought credibility and experience, Kim Dotcom brought financial backing and Hone Harawira has the electorate seat that will bring Internet-Mana list MPs into the House.

She warned that Labour and the Green parties should be very wary.