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Labour's loss is minor parties' gain - Ross

Friday 30 May 2014 9:25 a.m.

Labour is at risk of bleeding votes to the Greens and Internet Mana if it doesn't start polling better soon, according to National MP Jami-Lee Ross.

But even if it does, Labour's Jacinda Ardern says the party won't be telling people to split their votes to ensure it has potential coalition partners in Parliament.

Labour's newest MP Kelvin Davis has said he won't be giving Internet Mana leader Hone Harawira a free run in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, to avoid accusations of running an Epsom-style rort of the electoral system.

If Mr Harawira wins the electorate, he may be able to bring in more Internet Mana MPs under the coattail rule, without having to reach 5 percent of the total party vote.

Mr Ross says the 2002 election, which saw National drop to below 21 percent, shows what can happen when voters lose confidence in one of the major parties.

He says Labour's weak polling is opening the door for Internet Mana, a newly formed alliance of Mr Harawira's Mana and the Kim Dotcom-funded Internet Party, led by Laila Harre.

"The real risk for Labour – and we saw this in 2002 with National – is that when one of the major parties declines significantly, voters start to move to the minor parties; the Greens, Mana, Dotcom," says Mr Ross.

"The difficulty for Labour is that if they continue to decline as they are at the moment, they're going to lose quite a bit of votes, so there is quite a risk there for Labour with this Dotcom issue."

Mr Ross, like Prime Minister John Key, believes Dotcom's motivation is to avoid extradition, rather than better New Zealand.

"This is a guy that can't buy the house that he lives in, but he can buy a political party," says Mr Ross.

"He's pouring millions of dollars into this – I think New Zealanders will be sitting there, thinking how can this guy who's facing charges, facing extradition, come and buy his own political party and screw the scrum in the way that he's trying to do?"

Ms Ardern calls the Internet Mana alliance a "curious arrangement", but is holding off judging Dotcom's motivations.

"We're still waiting with interest to see what kind of policies are going to be generated," she says. "But at the end of the day we're still focused on campaigning for ourselves, not for any other minor party or any other coalition party."

She says the new party has a common goal with Labour – to topple the National-led Government – but doubts they've got the right mix of candidates to appeal to the youth vote they're aiming for.

"There's no doubt [Ms Harre] is a veteran of politics, but so is the entire list. They're not new faces – Annette Sykes, Hone Harawira, John Minto, Laila Harre – so it'll be interesting to see whether or not that youth vote they're trying to grab will feel like that is a new and fresh party."

Ms Harre has said she will be seeking a deal with Labour in the Te Tai Tokerau seat, making "no apologies for acting in the strategic interests of this generation".

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