TOPping 5% a long shot

Gareth Morgan is getting good crowds around the country, but his The Opportunities Party has a huge challenge first to look like it could get anywhere near the 5% threshold, and if it manages that to actually top the threshold.

If he fails it seems likely to impact more on the left vote and especially the Greens, but is attracting voters across the political spectrum.

Stuff:  Gareth Morgan’s new breed of evidence-based populism

ANALYSIS: Gareth Morgan is not a politician.

So can a non-populist non-politician actually get the five per cent of votes for his fledgling The Opportunities Party (TOP) – what he would need to win seats and so make any difference in Parliament? Or will he just do what some in the Greens and Labour are privately worried about: take one or two percentage points of the Left vote and completely waste it.

It is not a waste, it is people expressing their preferences via their vote. If TOP miss the cut it is the fault of an MMP system gerrymandered by the incumbent parties to make it near impossible for new parties to stand a chance.

At a packed 350-seat roadshow in Wellington on Monday night that 5 per cent certainly seemed possible, even if the millionaire Morgan hadn’t stumped up to cover the bar.

There were former National voters, former Labour voters, former Green voters, former Mana voters, former Maori Party voters, and even a former Conservative voter all interested in switching their party votes to TOP.

The demographics were broadly representative of Wellington – lots of beards, mostly Left-leaning – but young and old turned up, and while many of them trickled out during Morgan’s extensive and complicated answers to simple questions, most stayed the whole 90 minutes.

Kerri Taingahue, 55, told me she was planning on switching her vote to TOP from the Maori Party.

Rowan voted for the Mana Party in the last election, and other Left-leaning parties before that, but is strongly considering TOP this time.

His father, Michael, 61, voted for the Greens last time and is considering switching too.

A pair of middle-aged women who didn’t wish to be named said the night was fantastic and empowering. Both had voted for the Greens in the past.

Keith Morris, 42, voted for the Conservative Party in 2014. “I’m very interested in the policies they’ve (TOP) got. They sound well-researched, well thought out, and I think that’s a bonus.”

Graeme Haxton, 56, who usually votes for National, said he signed up for TOP to challenge his own thinking and values. “The more I’ve dug into it the more I’ve found his thinking parallels my own thoughts, particularly within my social conscience.”

Smatterings of support, but can it build into enough votes?

On my way out of the roadshow I caught up with Geoff Simmons, deputy leader and candidate for Wellington Central.

He admitted that Wellington was probably their strongest city, but said crowds all over the South Island and in provincial cities had been bigger than expected.

Big enough? TOP hit 0.8 per cent of the vote in a recent Newshub poll, above the Maori Party, ACT, and UnitedFuture, all  of whom are in Parliament.

But all of those parties have serious chances of winning an electorate seat, something that TOP doesn’t have. And picking up the remaining 4.2 per cent – more than 100,000 voters – in just three months would be no mean feat.

No new party with no current MP has succeeded in making it into Parliament under MMP. That record will be broken some time, but it will be difficult. Very difficult.

And if they don’t? Nothing. That’s the worry of the other left-of-centre parties, particularly the Green Party, who are the most likely to lose votes to them. Party votes for the Greens will definitely result in more seats in Parliament. Party votes for TOP might easily not.

It would serve them right for not allowing or fighting for a reasonable threshold. If more smaller parties made it it would not just make Parliament more representative, it would usually make Government more representative as well.

I have mixed feelings about Morgan, and also about TOP policies (but well researched policies inserted into the mix is a good thing).

But I think breaking the 5% hoodoo would be a good thing and TOP is the best bet this election to manage that. And having TOP on the cross benches should also be a good thing for our democracy too.

9 Comments

  1. Brown

     /  July 1, 2017

    Wellington is not a measure of national trends. Its the nest of anything lefty because its stacked with civil servants, academics and businesses that depend on the state for work. Gareth has a world view that says North Korea is a great place and the people are doing fine. That alone should be enough to right him off as an idiot and, outside Wellington, I think it will be.

    • Oliver

       /  July 1, 2017

      He has actually been to north Korea. You get your views from the western propaganda news.

      • Brown

         /  July 1, 2017

        True. At least he didn’t come home brain dead because he was in that state when he went there.

  2. PDB

     /  July 1, 2017

    As a contributing member of YourMorganz.Morgan I welcome support of TOP in order for them to make 4.95% in the coming election.

  3. Oliver

     /  July 1, 2017

    Pollsters and political commentators were saying the same thing about brexit and Trump. Get ready for a shock. I’m predicting 17pc

    • PDB

       /  July 1, 2017

      I’m not shocked……………..that you are making such a ridiculous prediction.

  4. sorethumb

     /  July 1, 2017

    I think he is the way for politics to go (“evidence based”). On some things, though he is too liberal, for example wanting that filthy union jack thing to go from the flag. He is also naive about the Treaty in seeing it as a doable agreement.

    • Brown

       /  July 1, 2017

      … naive …

      In a word. I have a friend who has spent time with him and found him a bit awkward (strange perhaps) as well.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  July 1, 2017

        No farmer will vote for him !