Abe Grey open letter on shift to TOP

Abe Grey has posted an open letter on Facebook to all present and past members of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party after announcing he was shifting allegiance to The Opportunities Party (TOP).


AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL PAST AND PRESENT AOTEAROA LEGALISE CANNABIS PARTY MEMBERS FROM PARTY PRESIDENT ABE GRAY

WHY I’M LEAVING THE ALCP AND JOINING THE OPPORTUNITIES PARTY AND WHY YOU SHOULD DO THE SAME

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has existed for over 20 years and contested every election and by-election since MMP. The principle of the Party is sound, under MMP any party that gets over 5% is able to wield its influence in Coalition negotiations and demand certain bottom lines.

In theory, the Cannabis Party could make cannabis legalisation a post-election demand if they were to get 5%, just like Peter Dunne made no cannabis legalisation an election demand last time he got over 5% back in 2002. Unfortunately, the Cannabis party have never reached 5%, and it’s unlikely they ever will.

I have not always been a die-hard Cannabis Party supporter and I am conflicted about my vote being ‘wasted’ as a ‘protest vote’. I used to be a very enthusiastic member of the New Zealand Green Party but I was disgusted by the way they backed away from the Cannabis issue even though it was the right thing. Now they have come back to their ‘grass-roots’, but for those of us who had to endure the last 10 years of silence on the issue it is too little too late.

The only reason the Cannabis Party has existed in those years, and the only reason that I would give any of my energy to it, is that no other party had the guts to stand up for what was right and tell the truth about cannabis. They were all too concerned about the public image of their own party and not about the wellbeing of the people of New Zealand.

I’d always said if ever a mainstream party were to take up an appropriate cannabis policy (and actually campaign on it), or if a new party were to come along that actually had a chance of getting into Parliament and made cannabis law reform a central issue of their policy programme (along with other policies I support), that I would leave the ALCP and devote my energies to the party with the best policy that actually had a chance of being elected.

I have waited for this to happen for the last 5 elections an unfortunately it hasn’t … until now.

Call me ahead of my time, but the things I have been saying about cannabis for over a decade have now all of a sudden become very fashionable, even the subject of jokey banter between Richard Branson and John Key!

And now as we get closer to the election many parties are beginning to jump on the bandwagon and signal rhetorically that they would be willing to ‘do something’ about the cannabis issue. I’m wary of this, as I’ve seen this before and the rhetoric is seldom matched by action.

But this time around The Opportunities Party really stands out to me for having a policy that is not only based on evidence and public health best practice, but also has the guts to see the policy through to its logical conclusion instead of just waffling around the edges without really ‘doing’ anything. And they have matched their policy prowess with thoughtful and forceful campaigning on the issue in the media.

The TOP cannabis policy in my opinion is the best possible policy you could have. It ties together decades of research and public health discussions, arriving at a framework that is unquestionably best practise. This is exactly the cannabis policy I would have written if I had the resources of a well-funded policy think tank at my disposal, and every serious cannabis law reform advocate I know feels the same. The fact that TOP arrived at this exact policy through an evidence based process and without the input of the pro-cannabis lobby only further vindicates law reform advocates and speaks volumes for the robustness of TOP’s evidence based policy approach.

That’s why I am leaving the Cannabis Party and joining TOP and will be giving my Party Vote to TOP at this election. And I encourage any current or former Cannabis Party members/voters to do the same.

For the first time in memory we actually have a party prepared to stand up for us, and make cannabis legalisation a high priority, a party that actually has a chance of getting into parliament.

Better still, they also have a whole bunch of other great policies that are similarly bold and put the wellbeing of New Zealanders ahead of political appearances. Besides even if for some reason they don’t get in, they will still do much better than the 0.5% ALCP usually gets, and by adding our 0.5% to TOP’s result we will send an even stronger message and put the career politicians on notice that cannabis legalisation is a high priority for NZ voters.

If you want to join me visit www.top.org.nz to sign up.

Sincerely
Your departing President
Abe Gray

Polls and election prospects

A number of recent polls have given pointers to where the parties stand with less than two months to go until the election.

National

National have been polling in the high forties through to mid fifties but are expected to drop back a few percent in the final count. They are aware of this and are trying to minimise that drop by playing as safe a game as possible.

They have had some hiccups with embarrassments through Claudia Hauiti (now withdrawn from candidacy) and Gerry Brownlee’s airport security slip-up. Hauiti was National’s lowest ranked MP so she won’t be a loss, and Brownlee has front footed the damage control with what appears to be genuine contriteness.

National have just announced their list with no real surprises. They will say this week what other parties they will be prepared to work with and give a nod to some potential support parties in electorates.

They have yet to reveal much about policies. There main plank seems to be more of the same, steady sensible management of the economy.

That will be enough to win the most seats by far but they are not expected to get enough to rule on their own so their fortunes may be dictated by small parties. They will be hoping Winston Peters isn’t the main dictator.

Likely result range 45-50%.

Labour

The polls have not been good for Labour with the last twelve results being in the twenties, as low as 23%.

David Cunliffe continues to fail to impress as leader. He says his string of apologies are behind him but he is dropping in preferred Prime Minister polls, the latest having him on 8%. Some hope he will show his mettle in leader’s debates but it’s unlikely he will do enough to shine over the seasoned Key.

Media are writing Labour off and talking more about how low they might go instead of how much they might get. There’s good reason for this, they look divided and disorganised.

Labour’s best hope seems to limit the damage and not get any lower than their record low in 2011 of 27.28%. A more common hope is probably that their vote doesn’t collapse.

Likely result range 20-29%.

Green Party

The Greens bounce around in the polls, usually in the 10-15% range.

They look to be the best organised party by a long shot, and seem determined to finally get into Government. They deserve it on their own efforts but they are relying on Labour who will be worrying and disappointing them.

Without Labour improving substantially Greens look like at best competing for attention and influence amongst a mish mash coalition but more likely being denied by Labour’s failure.

Many voters are happy to see Greens in the mix but one negative is there is a wariness (and in some cases fear) of Greens getting to much influence, especially on economic matters. Some Green good, too much Green scary is a common sentiment.

Likely result range 10-15%.

NZ First

NZ First have been polling from a bit under to a bit over the magic 5%.

Most expect them to lift a bit in the run up to voting as happened last year but National will be taking as much care as possible not to hand Winston Peters another opportunity like the cup of tea debacle.

Peters is a seasoned campaigner and the media help his cause because he is good for stories, but time will tell whether there is too much seasoning in the old warrior and too little substance in the rest of the party as the other MPs have failed to impress.

One thing that may make it harder is direct competition for attention  and votes with the Conservative Party.

Likely result range 4-6%.

Maori Party

Poll results have been low for the Maori Party. That doesn’t usually matter because in all elections they have contested so far they have got more electorate seats than their party vote would give them so it has been unnecessary. Last election they got 1.43%.

It’s tougher for them in electorates this time with Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia retiring. It will be challenging for them to retain their current three seats, with some suggesting they might lose most or all of them.

There will be strong competition from the Dotcom financed MANA Party, but they may be helped by Labour’s woes.

For the first time the party vote may matter to the Maori Party, especially if they only hold one electorate seat.

Likely result range 1-2%.

Conservative Party

Polls have been in the 1-3% range. It’s now looking unlikely National will help Colin Craig in an electorate so they may have to get 5% to make it. That will be difficult, especially if Winston Peters competes openly with them.

Formed just before the last election the Conservatives got 2.65% and hope to improve on that. They have had much more exposure but that may have lost as much support as it has gained. Craig still seems politically naive. He has tried to turn the ‘Crazy Colin’ meme to his advantage but that’s a risky strategy.

Conservative fortunes are relying on National’s decision this week but it’s not looking positive for them.

UPDATE: John Key has just stated that National won’t help Craig in East Coast Bays so Conservatives only hope is getting 5%, which looks a big hurdle.

Likely result range 2-3%.

ACT Party

Act has been polling poorly, often under 1%.

Act were in turmoil last election with a very Brash takeover and installing John Banks as Epsom candidate. Banks won to save Act but has had a troubled term.

Act have made a concerted effort to rebuild over two elections. They have split responsibilities between Jamie Whyte as party leader and David Seymour in Epsom. Seymour looks a good bet in Epsom but the political jury is still out on Whyte and Act.

Much could come down to how Whyte looks in the minor party debates. He is intelligent and has good political knowledge but can look to serious and too polite – he hasn’t been forceful enough in interviews.

Act may benefit from being an alternative to giving National sole charge.

Likely result range 1-3%.

United Future

UnitedFuture has been languishing in polls, as often on 0% as slightly above.

More than ever UF hopes seem to rest solely on Peter Dunne in Ohariu. His chances are reasonable there. He has held the seat for thirty years so is very well known. He hasn’t had the best of terms but seems determined to rebuild his credibility.

Dunne looks to have been helped by all the major parties:

  • National have a new candidate who looks likely to campaign for the aprty vote only and has been given an almost certain list position.
  • Labour’s Charles Chauvel resigned mid term and has been replaced by a relative unknown.
  • Green’s Gareth Hughes has withdrawn from the electorate to promote youth and party vote and has been replaced by someone.

Like last election voters are likely to return Dunne and ignore the party. The party seems to be virtually ignoring the party.

Likely result range 0.3-0.7%.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

ALCP rarely feature in opinion polls, but they manage to get votes in elections. In 2011 they got 0.52%.

They are under new management this time and are likely to get some stoner and protest votes but 5% is just too high a hurdle for the influential media to pay them any attention.

Likely result range 0.4-0.8%.

Internet Mana Party

As a newly formed combo IMP have been polling 1-2%. They have a huge budget so will feature in the attention seeking stakes.

And while Kim Dotcom can’t stand as a candidate his attention seeking will keep him to the forefront of party success or failure.

Dotcom is promising a town hall circus five days before election day – he thinks this will destroy John Key and National but it could just as easily backfire.

His personal crusade is to oust the National Government. He is more likley to fracture the left wing vote and scare people off a Labour let government.

IMP’s monetary might will gain them some party votes but may fail in the ultimate aim.

Likely result range 2-4%.

Summary

IMP could be pivotal in the final result but it looks most likely to be a failure for them and a win for National with a few small allies.