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.