Ardern a great leader occasionally but otherwise lacking

There were always going to be questions asked about the leadership of the coalition government, with a relatively young and inexperienced Jacinda Ardern at the top as Prime Minister, and the relatively old and experienced Winston Peters as her deputy.

Peters has ruled the roost at NZ First for a long time, since he founded the party. He is used to having disproportionate power in his party, and there was a risk that he would exercise disproportionate power in the coalition. And it appears that that is how things are.

Peters and NZ First certainly wield significantly more power than the Green Party, despite having just 1 more seat in Parliament – 9 compared to 8 (and less than a quarter as many seats as Labour).

Ardern surprised many with how she stepped up and performed as Labour leader after Andrew Little stepped down. And she has shown admirable leadership qualities in her response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. In both cases she acted very well, largely on instinct.

But Ardern has struggled with leadership that involves getting her Ministers to perform, and especially when getting her Cabinet to agree on which policies to implement.

Her capitulation over the Capital Gains Tax has highlighted this lack of effective leadership, and Fran O’Sullivan points out in  PM’s leadership missing on CGT issue

Jacinda Ardern is at the peak of international celebrity yet she can’t — or perhaps more accurately won’t — even try to sell a capital gains tax.

That’s the paradox that now confronts New Zealand.

It might be overstating it to accuse the Prime Minister of being an outright cynic. But not even fighting for a policy she says she believes in — and would not only have made a difference, but introduced more fairness into the tax system — is a total cop-out on her part.

It is also a failure of leadership.

Not just that she failed to get Cabinet approval to proceed with some sort of CGT, but that she showed no sign of leadership in trying to make it happen.

…the reality is that neither Ardern nor Finance Minister Grant Robertson has made a concerted effort to go over the head of Labour’s coalition partner and make a case to the public to support the introduction of a broad capital gains tax regime.

Ardern claimed that it was “time to accept that not only has a Government that reflects the majority of New Zealanders not been able to find support for this proposal, feedback suggests there is also a lack of mandate among New Zealanders for such a tax also.”

She added that in short, “we have tried to build a mandate, but ultimately been unsuccessful.” This is disingenuous.

Capital gains tax regimes have been at the heart of Labour’s policy thinking for at least a decade now. Ardern could have built a mandate from among her own party’s supporters.

But the only mandate that she appears to have sought was that of New Zealand First.

James Shaw has indicated that she virtually ignored the Greens over the CGT.

In fact, there were options. The capital gains tax could have been set at a significantly lower rate than the top personal income tax rate, and carveouts made for businesses and farms under a certain threshold as had been advocated in prior Labour policy. The bright line test could also have been extended for investment properties.

This would have demonstrated a commitment to at least moving towards establishing equity in New Zealand’s tax system.

Instead, Ardern has made yet another of her captain’s calls on tax.

Her captain’s calls on tax have been somewhat flip-flop-flippy, with no sign of leadership.

In her first flush as Labour leader during the 2017 election campaign, Ardern put them back again, saying it was a captain’s call. But ultimately she took capital gains tax off the table again after Labour lost support in the polls.

She promised not to introduce such a tax in Labour’s first term in Government. Instead, a working group would be tasked with framing options; the Government would introduce empowering legislation. The capital gains taxes would not, however, take effect until 2021.

The upshot is that Labour would have sought its public mandate at next year’s election.

That’s what Ardern promised, but she has now promised to not try anything at all, not just for next year’s election, not just in Labour policy, but forever while she remains leader. This must dismay those in Labour who think that policy is decided by the party, by the members.

It is simplistic to blame New Zealand First for this defeat.

New Zealand First did not rule out a capital gains tax within the Coalition Agreement.

But neither did Labour specifically require New Zealand First to commit to empowering legislation by making it a confidence matter.

The lesson from this is that major parties which get into bed with more muscular junior parties to form Coalition Governments better make sure their own signature policies will be supported.

What we don’t know, but can now suspect more than ever, is that the discussion document that supported the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement ruled out any support from NZ First for a CGT.

Ardern also promised to run the most open and transparent government ever, but she has never lived up to that. Being open and transparent about her family life to women’s magazines isn’t enough.

RNZ (4 December 2017):  Jacinda Ardern on ‘secret’ documents

Ms Ardern and deputy PM Winston Peters have been defending the decision not to make the 33 pages of notes from their coalition negotiations public, with National claiming they now look like they have something to hide.

She said the documents have no directives to ministers, despite Mr Peters initially saying it did, and said she would not describe it as a “document of precision”, as Mr Peters had.

Ms Ardern said the documents were more a record of some of the coalition discussions, and any policy details that had been discussed had already been released.

“When something becomes an official part of our work programme, then that’s the point at which, absolutely, we have to be transparent about that. But when it comes to documents that sit behind a negotiation, that aren’t necessarily going to be pursued, as soon as you release it, that gives an expectation that it is a hard and fast policy, when it might not be at all.”

She said the government was still dedicated to greater transparency.

That’s a classic ‘yeah, right’ statement.

Did keeping this document secret hide an agreement between Ardern and Peters on CGT?

Did it hide a secret  agreement on who was actually in charge, despite the official Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister designations?

One could say that Labour, with Grant Robertson as Minister of Finance holding the purse strings, was in charge of what mattered the most, but Ardern and Robertson gave Peters a substantial foreign affairs budget boost, and have Shane Jones NZ First a $1 billion per year open cheque, while pressuring Labour and Green ministers to reduce their financial demands, on things like child poverty, mental health, climate change, nurse and teacher salaries.

Effective leadership means saying the right things, which Ardern seems adept at when thrust into challenging situations.

But it also requires managing ministers and managing governing parties and reaching consensus on important policies. Ardern has got a lot to prove on that still. So far the indications are weak leadership, if she is in fact leader in reality.

Shameful, disgraceful attack on Golriz Gharaman by ‘David Hughes’

Green MP Golriz Gharaman has been the target of frequent attacks in social media. She highlighted this one that combines an attack on her with an attack on Muslims posted on Facebook yesterday:

The whole image (from Facebook):

That’s bad, and it’s sad to see this sort of thing continuing. Members of Parliament (or anyone) should not be targeted with this sort of scurrilous misinformation and abuse.

Ghahraman confronted him on Facebook:

Golriz Ghahraman Given you know I’m not Muslim and my family had to leave Iran due to persecution by a purportedly Islamic regime, this is both a lie and hate speech. Be ashamed.

But he seems far from ashamed. He also posted further accusations, plus this:

As to your moronic charge of “hate speech”, fiddlesticks, you don’t even know what that might be beyond some infantile catch cry for your sycophants.

But I do love that we live in a liberal Democracy where we can have this discussion confident that we have the right to freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas enshrined in some of our most important legislation whilst being very well protected from the excesses that occasionally raise their ugly heads (an example of one such lying excess is attached for your elucidation).

Our laws around freedom of expression are very comprehensive, allowing us to exercise our God given right to freely express our ideas (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990: Sec 14 reinforced by Sec 5 & 6) whilst protecting people from ugly excesses (Human Rights Act 1993: Sec 61 etc, sec 131, etc and Summary Offences Act1981: sec 3 & 4 etc).

We also have a range of legislation to protect people from defamation and libel as well as a huge body of legal precedents to tell us exactly where the courts have ruled the boundaries are and what crosses them.

So he thinks he is legally justified in posting this sort of thing.

You perhaps need to spend some time reading through the relevant Law Reports. They are truly as fascinating as they are educational.

I will never be ashamed for speaking out against hateful people who would destroy my country and deliver us to our enemies.

And he thinks he is morally justified. I think it is morally repugnant from David Hughes.

This is a shameful and n insidious religious and political attack.

According to some comments it has been reported to Facebook, but as of now it is still up, and getting some support amongst the criticism.

There does seem to be hate in Hughes’ speech, and it is likely to encourage or provoke more intolerance and fear and hate – it has attracted some support.

This David Hughes (if that is his name)  deserves to be shamed.

I think that at times Gharaman has gone to far in what she has promoted, and what she has supported in controlling ‘hate speech’, but with ongoing attacks like this it’s understandable that she might get frustrated and may want something done to stem this sort of dirty politics.


Note: comments on this post should be confined to the Facebook post and what it means for politics, religion and free speech, whether this sort of ‘free speech’ is appropriate, whether it should be limited by law, and what should be done about it.

Please don’t divert into general or historic criticism or commentary on Ghahraman or Muslims.

 

1 News Colmar Brunton poll

The latest 1 News/Colmar Brunton political poll:

  • Labour 48% (up from 45)
  • National 40% (down from 42)
  • Greens 6% (no change)
  • NZ First 4% (up from 3)
  • ACT 1% (no change)

This is quite similar  to the recent Reid Research poll for both Labour and National- see Reid Research party support poll – but is better news for Greens and slightly better for NZ First.

Refused to answer 4%, undecided 11%. Fieldwork conducted 6-10 April.

The last poll was conducted 9-13 February.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 51% (up from 44)
  • Simon Bridges 5% (down from 6)
  • Judith Collins 5% (down from 6)
  • Winston Peters 3%  (no change)

That’s the highest Ardern has been but it’s still well short of John Key’s highs – he was often over 50% and went as high as 70%..

Barely a change for Bridges but not good for him. There is increasing talk of a challenge to his leaardership.

How do we decide what is right or wrong?

Jehan Casinader wrote this – As a Christian, Israel Folau’s searing sermons from cyberspace make me angry –  in relation to religion, but can also apply to politics.

Surrendering to a higher power doesn’t make you a saint. Those who believe in God, including me, are just as broken, flawed and selfish as everyone else.

That’s why Folau – and those who have vilified him – have lost sight of the bigger picture. Judging others is easier than engaging in deeper conversations about faith, truth and morality.

If there is a God, what is he or she really like?

Where do we find meaning?

And how do we decide what is right and wrong?

Many people seem to treat politics based on beliefs and faith similar to religious beliefs. They believe politicians from their chosen party and politicians, they support them unquestioningly.

And they seem to fear opposing parties and positions to the point of vilifying them no matter what the merits of what they propose, do or say.

For some, politics is an extension of their religion

For others, politics seems to have become their religion.

If there is a political ideal, what is it really like?

Where do we find meaning?

And how do we decide what is right and wrong?

 

Simon Bridges – from back seat to boot

Simon Bridges took a back seat to Jacinda Ardern and politics last month. He had no choice with the Christchurch shootings dominating the news.

Since then thinsghaven’t improved. If anything he has slipped back to the boot, which is what he may get from the National Party leadership if he doesn’t find another formula, fast.

Audrey Young: Another lopsided week for Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges

Comparing Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges this week has been even more asymmetrical than usual.

Bridges’ support within his own caucus seems to be shrinking at the same rate as Ardern’s reputation is growing internationally.

Ardern also took the highly unusual step of leading the third reading debate on the bill to rid New Zealand of the most dangerous of firearms. It was more material for her growing international audience.

And she made a big deal of the bipartisan support from National in her speech.

While National’s young Chris Bishop did a valiant job in being first up to respond on behalf of his party, as parliamentary symbolism went it was highly asymmetrical.

Bridges was missing in action. He was not prepared for the debate because he did not know about it enough in advance.

It certainly would have been a more sincere bipartisan exercise by the Government if it had given National notice of Ardern’s intention to lead the debate. It was petty not to do so.

Ardern’s growing stature would hardly be dimmed, nor Bridges’ inflated by giving him sufficient opportunity to prepare for it.

But the gun debate was the least of Bridges’ problems this week.

Bridges also found himself the subject to a fresh of attacks from ex-colleague Jami-lee Ross.

The internal employment dispute is more problematic than Jami-lee Ross. Ross has done his worst and his allegations about donations are now in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

This an ongoing rather than a new problem. Bridges’ management of the whole Ross debacle has not been flash, but Ross has made it very difficult for Bridges.

Not so the ’emotional junior staffer’ fiasco, which is a self inflicted disaster.

The employment dispute with press secretary Brian Anderton, however, is seen by many National MPs as having been mismanaged by Bridges and his closest advisers.

The changing answers from National about why its petition against the UN Migration Pact was taken down after the mosque attacks have been widely construed as lies rather than misunderstandings.

There has been little attempt by those in the thick of it to set the record straight. The vacuum has been replaced by accusation and speculation likely to be much worse than the reality.

Bridges’ description of Anderton as an emotional junior staffer has been seen as pejorative, even though it was strictly true that he did not have the seniority to take down the petition on the night of the killings – when the whole country was in a deeply emotional state.

Essentially, Bridges is getting a reputation as a leader who compounds problems when he steps in, rather than clearing them up, and of attracting people with similar traits.

The dispute with Anderton is similar to the Maureen Pugh issue. In the eyes of the caucus, the slagging off of a colleague (revealed in secretly recorded tapes by Jami-lee Ross) as useless was unforgivable disloyalty.

Many MPs believe Bridges has not shown Anderton the loyalty that should be accorded to long-serving staff members who make an error.

It is his dealing on smaller personal issues such as Pugh and Anderton that have given Bridges’ colleagues reason to question his judgment.

Loyalty is a two way thing in life and in politics. Bridges burning loyalty has become a recurring problem.

The so-called inquiry into National’s culture ordered in the aftermath of the Jami-lee Ross saga appears to lacked rigour. No one knows who did it, no one can find anyone who was spoken to for it, Bridges says it is a party matter, and the party says it will wait until the Debbie Francis review into bullying at Parliament before it issues any comment on its own review.

A number of female National MPs were asked about about this inquiry and remarkably said they had taken no part in it.

It’s difficult turning a perception of ineptness around.

Bridges has regressed from back seat to boot this month. Next may be the trailer, and not just in the polls.

 

Reid Research party support poll

A Business New Zealand Reid Research poll on party support slipped under the radar this week. It was taken from 15-23 March, the day of and just after the Christchurch mosque attacks, so it should be treated with more caution than normal.

  • Labour 49.6%
  • National 41.3%
  • Green Party 3.9%
  • NZ First 2.3%

Labour are up from 47.5% in the RR February poll (which was up 4.5% from the previous poll). It isn’t surprising to see an (small) increase in support for Labour at the  time of a major adverse event. Jacinda Ardern’s adept handling of the attack aftermath has been rewarded in the poll.

National have hardly moved, down just 0.3% from the February poll, but had dipped 3.5% to a record low in the previous poll. They may struggle to hold even at that after Simon Bridge’s performance since.

Labour’s gain has been Green’s loss.

Greens have dropped from 5.1% to 3.9%, which must be a concern to them. James Shaw was largely unseen after the Christchurch killings, with Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman being more prominent, and they tend to be polarising – popular in part but also annoying many.

NZ first have slipped 0.5% to 2.3%, after dropping by the same amount in February. Winston Peters and NZ First fully backing the Arms Amendment Bill happened after the poll period so they could easily slip further. They have disappointed a lot of their 2017 supporters.

The Business NZ Reid Research poll of 1,000 voters was taken from March 15-23 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent. 750 were interviewed by phone and 250 online.

Source NZ Herald – Claire Trevett: Poll puts Labour support up after mosque attacks but tax is back in debate

 

Poll – most people against Capital Gains Tax

A Business New Zealand/Reid Research poll has found that most people are opposed to a Capital Gains Tax. Labour has found in the past that a CGT was unpopular with the electorate.

CGT should be a priority for the Government?

  • No – 65%
  • Yes – 22.8%

Has CGT harmed the Government?

  • No – 33.1%
  • Yes – 47.8%
  • Don’t know – 19.2%

I don’t know if the CGT proposals have damaged the Government. I don’t know how anyone else can say with any certainty that it has or hasn’t.

Do you think there should be a capital gains tax on things like businesses and farms?

  • No – 54.3%
  • Yes – 31.6%
  • Don’t know – 14%

Do you think there should be a CGT on earnings on KiwiSaver?

  • No – 90%
  • Yes – 4.4%
  • Don’t know – 5.6%

The Reid-Research poll was conducted between March 15-23. It had a sample size of 1000 voters, with a margin of error of 3.1 percent. 

Source – Newshub

No reported and presumably not asked – do you understand what a Capital Gains Tax is?

Also not asked – will NZ First allow Labour to implement a CGT?

Also today, a pro-CGT protest at Parliament was very poorly supported – Few people at campaign launch in favour of capital gains tax

About 10 people were present for the launch of the campaign by Tax Justice Aotearoa NZ at Parliament this morning.

 

 

‘Tax Justice Aotearoa’ pushing for Capital Gains Tax

A group linked to an international tax reform movement, but seemingly light on tax expertise, is launching a campaign to push for a Capital Gains Tax, plus tax cuts for low income earners and increases for high earners.

It seems to be late in the tax reform process, with Cabinet due to announce what it plans to do following with the Tax Working Group recommendations this month.

NZ Herald: Tax Justice Aotearoa launches campaign pushing for capital gains tax

A nationwide campaign pushing for a capital gains tax is being launched today by Tax Justice Aotearoa NZ.

The campaign, which is officially launched at Parliament at 10am, is backed by advertising in major newspapers across the country, and on billboards and in bus shelters in Wellington.

“The campaign will add balance to the current tax debate and give voice to the many people and organisations who believe it’s time for a capital gains tax to help reduce inequality in Aotearoa,” the group said in a statement.

I’m not sure that this group is big on balance.

As well as a capital gains tax, the campaign calls for tax cuts for low to middle income-earners and hikes for the highest paid.

It also suggests reducing GST, pressuring multinationals to pay more tax in New Zealand and taking stronger tax action against polluters.

An advertisement in today’s New Zealand Herald from the group said tax reform was good for the public good.

“Tax Justice Aotearoa welcomes tax reform. It’s well known we have a stubborn gap between rich and poor and we don’t have enough money to sustain and grow decent public services.”

Campaign supporters include the Public Health Association, New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services, Council of Trade Unions, Public Service Association, Hui E! Community Aotearoa, Equality Network, Closing the Gap, Poverty Action Waikato, and UCAN (United Community Action Network).

That looks like the social side of the tax and economic equation.

Website: About Tax Justice Aotearoa

Tax Justice Aotearoa NZ seeks a fairer society through tax reform. We represent the growing number of people who wish to see greater transparency, equality and fairness in national and global tax systems. Founded in August 2018 and linked with the global Tax Justice Network, we provide analysis, ideas and information to create an informed dialogue about how tax builds societies where all people flourish.

Read our charter here.

The steering committee:

Louise Delany

Louise is a public health lawyer and academic. For most of her working life Louise has been employed as a public servant in the health sector on public health law and policy; she has also worked as a legal researcher at the Law Commission; as a drafter; and adviser in the Ministry of Justice. Currently Louise works part-time as a senior lecturer, teaching public health law and ethics; and global health law.

Paul Barber

Paul is a Policy Adviser with the NZ Council of Christian Social Services. He coordinates the NZCCSS policy and advocacy work that responds to poverty, housing, inequality and exclusion and is a member of the steering group for the Equality Network.

Jo Spratt

Jo has a doctorate in policy studies, is a registered nurse, and has worked in international development for over fifteen years, predominantly in Melanesia. Jo brings a global perspective to the work of TJANZ.

Mike Smith

Mike is a retired community, union and political organiser, most recently as General Secretary of the Labour Party. He is currently Treasurer of the NZ Fabian Society.

Gervais Lawrie

Originally from the Brighton in the UK, Gervais recently became a resident in his adoptive home of Wellington. Interests include words, evidence and being outside.

These are probably capable and well intentioned people.

But for finding a fair and equitable balance to our tax system I think that economic, tax and employment expertise would be useful if not essential.

Their timing isn’t great either, with the Tax Working Group public engagement happening last year.

Perhaps Tax Justice Aotearoa is concerned that the TWG and the Government aren’t going to go far enough with tax reform.

 

Staffer claims Bridges lied to media about UN immigration petition

When a National party petition was taken down soon after the Christchurch mosque shootings the reasons given for the take down by Simon Bridges sounded suspect. First Bridges claimed the petition had been taken down weeks earlier as part of a ‘routine clean-up’. When it was shown that the petition was still in public view at the time of the shootings Bridges switched his claims to saying an ’emotional junior staffer’ had rushed to remove it.

The staffer claimed that Bridges lied to media, as his PR staff had been contacted before the petition was taken down.

It is now being reported that the staffer is expressing a different emotion after being accused of ‘serious misconduct’ by Bridges’ Chief of Staff.

Newsroom on March 19: Petition taken down by ‘emotional junior staffer’

After claiming a controversial petition against New Zealand signing the UN’s Global Migration Compact was taken down weeks ago, National now admits the petition page was deleted by a “junior staffer” who was “emotional” on Friday night, after the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The National Party had previously told media including Newsroom that the petition was deleted weeks before the attacks.

The party now claims that while it had asked for the page to be archived a number of weeks ago due to inactivity on the petition, it remained live without their knowledge until Friday night.

Google screenshot shows the page was still live at 1.39 pm on Friday, roughly the time the shooting took place.

National says they only discovered on Tuesday morning that the petition had not been taken down until Friday.

“The situation there is that I had understood the petition was deleted a matter of weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving,” Bridges said.

“What in fact happened, which I learnt this morning was that a junior staffer who was incredibly emotional on Friday night took it upon themselves to delete it, we didn’t know that until this morning”.

Bridges said he didn’t know whether the staffer had made decision to delete the petition.

“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re not going to be critical of it. As I say it’s a junior staff member — very emotional, I think New Zealand is emotional, given what we’ve seen,” he said.

Last night Stuff reported:  ‘Emotional junior staffer’ in dispute with National Party following UN petition deletion

The “emotional junior staffer” who deleted a petition from the National Party website is now in a dispute with the party after alleging media were lied to, two sources close to the situation say.

MPs who know him are upset with the way the staffer has been treated by leader Simon Bridges’ office.

The staffer, who has worked for National MPs in various roles for a number of years, has retained high-powered lawyer Linda Clark to represent his interests in the ongoing matter, the sources have told Stuff.

The staffer was upset that the National Party still had a petition online concerning the UN migration pact, which was mentioned by the alleged killer.

When the petition’s absence was noted, the party told both Newsroom and The Spinoff that the petition had been archived “weeks ago” as part of a routine clean-up. Newsroom had already reported the petition was deleted recently but following a conversation with a party spokesperson had corrected their story after being told the deletion pre-dated the attack.

This was proved false the following Tuesday when cached records made clear the petition was still live on the Friday afternoon.

Bridges explained this to media as a mistake, saying an “emotional junior staffer” took down the petition on Friday night, but his media team had believed it had been removed as part of a routine clear-up.

“I had understood that it was deleted some weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving. What in fact happened I’ve learnt this morning was that a junior staffer was incredibly emotional on Friday night and took it upon themselves to delete it,” Bridges said.

Both of the sources who talked to Stuff believed this was false, because a press secretary had been informed by the staffer that he wanted to delete the petition.

This sounds to me like the staffer did take it upon themselves to take down the petition, but after informing a press secretary.

If Bridges was informed of all this then it does look like he lied to media. If he inadvertently told a false story, then his press secretary at least has done a very poor job of communicating with Bridges.

But after the staffer took his concerns about the mismatch in facts to Bridges’ chief of staff Jamie Gray he found himself the subject of a dispute, with Parliamentary Service soon involved, the sources said.

One of the sources said Gray had accused the staffer of “serious misconduct” and began an investigation into the claims he made about lying to the media.

He is now out of the office on leave.

The staffer has been asked for comment.

Something that had looked concocted and messy at the time has blown up into a bigger mess for Bridges and National. This could easily have been avoided by being up front and honest.

A spokeswoman for Bridges said the issues surrounding the petition were “well traversed” already and directed all other queries to Parliamentary Service.

That sounds like Bridges is trying to traverse himself as far from the mess as possible. If the dispute is being dealt with he shouldn’t comment on any details, but he hasn’t helped his case by saying the issues were “well traversed”. The previous traversing did not go well for him, and this latest news makes it look less well.

Two meanings for traverse:

verb
1.  travel across or through.
2. move back and forth or sideways.

The way Bridges has dealt with this looks more like number 2. It doesn’t help that his recent manner of speech has seemed far from authoritative.

 

 

Gareth Morgan resigns from The Opportunities Party

Gareth Morgan has resigned from The Opportunities Party (TOP), withdrawing from all involvement.

He had already distanced himself substantially from the workings of the party he founded, financed and led in the last election campaign. He stepped down as leader after the 2017 election. He had threatened to not provide any more funding unless his preferred candidate won the party leadership contest.

Last November:  Gareth Morgan backs newbie Amy Stevens over Geoff Simmons in The Opportunities Party’s leadership race, saying he’ll put his money where his mouth is

The Opportunities Party’s (TOP), Gareth Morgan, is backing a fresh face to lead the party over its former leader and one of its key policy writers, Geoff Simmons.

Morgan says he’s voting for Amy Stevens in the party’s leadership election and is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Speaking to interest.co.nz, Morgan says he’ll “totally” alter the amount he donates to the party based on who’s in its leadership team.

He wouldn’t say how much he’d donate if Stevens was elected versus Simmons, but says it comes down to the whole package of people playing key roles in the party.

“The less enthusiastic I am about the prospects of success, then the less I’m going to fund it… If I get excited by it, I’ll put more money in it,” he says.

This sort of financial coercion was bad democracy and should have made his position in the party in the party untenable. Simmons ended up winning the leadership – think it’s likely he was helped by Morgan’s dictatorial approach in backing a different candidate.

Several months later The Opportunities Party founder Gareth Morgan resigns

The founder of The Opportunities Party, Gareth Morgan, has resigned from the party.

He has been chairperson of the policy board for The Opportunities Party (TOP), since stepping down as leader in 2017.

Dr Morgan’s resignation means he will not fund the party’s next election campaign.

That’s his choice, but reinforces the impression that Morgan used his money to try to get what he wanted, and without that he wasn’t going to play at all.

Mr Simmons has been travelling the country in the past month, talking to members and getting a fundraising campaign going.

“Our members are generously funding the party at the moment,” Mr Simmons said.

“I’m also talking to a lot of businesses, and they’re pleasantly surprised at our economic and business policy, so I’m hoping they’re going to contribute to our 2020 campaign as well.”

He is confident there will be enough funds to lead a strong campaign.

The party’s support in the last election was gathered through social media and it did not require a lot of money to run a grass roots campaign, he said.

People appreciated the fact the party called a spade a spade and spoke to the truth, which would continue, even without Dr Morgan in the fold, Mr Simmons said.

“We want to keep the truth and cheekiness, but more cheek, and less arse,” he said.

What an odd comment.

Simmons and TOP are going to finds it tough now. That lack of a lot of Morgan money is one factor – although their lack of success last election showed again that millionaires throwing money at elections doesn’t guarantee success, as Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig found out. All three attracted plenty of fee media publicity, but much of that ended up being detrimental to their political goals. They were all flawed characters.

Money is not power in politics in New Zealand.

However media exposure is essential, and Simmons seems to lack the pulling power. Journalists and news media have not taken to him. Some support can come from cheap and free social media publicity, but I think that mainstream media still holds crucial power in how they choose losers by ignoring them or writing their chances off.

And how they substantially improve the chances of some politicians. Winston Peters has been adept at playing the media for publicity purposes, and they have kept delivering for him.

The TOP website is heavy on policy and light on personalities – the mainstream media love to play personality politics, so are unlikely to be enthused by that.

Simmons and TOP have to find a different social media formula that somehow finds popular appeal.