Kiwi bloggers set to take on parliament

After sniping from the sidelines, the Kiwi blogosphere is playing an increasingly major role in New Zealand politics as a new generation of political figures surfaces.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

After sniping from the sidelines, the Kiwi blogosphere is playing an increasingly major role in New Zealand politics as a new generation of political figures surfaces.

The latest proof came last weekend with news that Cathy Odgers, who blogs under the pseudonym Cactus Kate, is planning to run in this year's general election for the small free-market ACT Party, which is part of the National-led coalition government.

Support for "the Prickly One", a 30-something Hong Kong-based lawyer, is such that there will be many angry bloggers out there should Odgers not be given a seat.

Though she might be the first Kiwi blogger to make it to the Beehive, other bloggers are likely to run for office this year, even if only in a spoiling capacity.

Furthermore, the Kiwi blogosphere also flexes its political muscles in other ways.

The most notable of the country's political bloggers is David Farrar of the centre-right Kiwiblog, the country's most popular political blog.

Farrar also runs a marketing and polling firm, Curia, and often polls for the ruling National Party. Noted for his strong National Party links, he has MP potential, but probably wields more influence outside parliament than he ever could as a backbencher or junior minister.

Farrar has been a long-standing and noted commentator on many issues, starting with technology through roles with Internet New Zealand, before joining the political mainstream.

Farrar is such a ubiquitous face now, he is part of the political furniture and might also be considered part of New Zealand's "establishment".

Then there is right-winger Cameron Slater of Whale Oil, who has caused many headaches for the opposition Labour Party as well as for government ministers with his campaigns to end name suppression for many offenders. So feared is he, that after recently exposing security holes in Labour Party websites, he now claims that the party is revengefully seeking to hack into his blog and silence him.

Slater often raises allegations of corruption and dodgy dealings in all parties and involving many politicians, though Winston Peters and his anti-Asian New Zealand First Party is a favourite target of his.

The blogger helped destroy the re-election ambitions of a former Auckland mayor in the inaugural council elections last year when Slater stood against Andrew Williams. Slater is likely to similarly stand against Peters to try and prevent a return of this veteran and controversial figure to parliament.

Furthermore, just as Slater and Farrar were heavily involved in campaigns, which defeated the Electoral Finance Act of the former Labour government, we now see the pair working together to change the country's electoral system.

While the right-wing bloggers are taking a lead here, left-wingers are also taking advantage of the opportunities that blogging has presented.

After working in student and alternative media, Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury of the Tumeke! blog is now a regular face on mainstream television political programs, and is also the new writer-in-residence at one of New Zealand's journalism schools.

Bradbury has been slated as a potential election candidate for the radical new Mana Party, which mixes Marxism with Maori Sovereignty.

It may well be that without the internet such figures would have still become major political players in their own right.

But the blogosphere presented an outlet or platform for their views and opinions, and it presented an audience and ready-made support-base or fan club. It gave them national name recognition, too.

These bloggers were able to bypass traditional protocols and procedures and embrace politics on their own terms and in their own ways, reaching out to a new audience.

One or more of these bloggers could soon be in the Beehive. It'll be interesting to see how and what they do when they are.

Editorial standards