Democracy, MMP, STV and TOPPING themselves

There has been quite a bit of talk about our system of democracy recently. There are new calls for reducing our MMP threshold, which has proven to be to high and a democratic impediment to small parties in New Zealand, especially those attempting to get into Parliament for the first time.

Peter Dunne has suggested a switch to STV, while Gareth Morgan wants his own way rather than democracy in The Opportunities Party.

Dunne at Newsroom: Let’s get rid of MMP altogether

When politicians start to talk about making changes to the electoral system, it is time to be wary. They do not do such things unless there is something in it for them.

So when Justice Minister Andrew Little starts musing about a referendum to “tidy up” one or two “quirks” of the MMP system, rest assured that he is not doing so out of genuine concern for its credibility and wellbeing, but rather for the protection of the electoral wellbeing of the Labour Party.

Over the last thirty years since the Royal Commission recommended the move to MMP, both the National and Labour Parties have done their best to subvert it.

The major parties have done hat they can to preserve their size, status and perks, at the cost of better democracy,

An astute politician might infer therefore from that that the best way to guard against that public scorn in the future is to broaden the scope of Parliamentary representation, not restrict it.

A truly bold politician might go even one step further and promote the replacement of MMP altogether, and so do away once and for all with the alleged need for tinkering amendments, by moving to STV, the single transferable vote, whereby every MP is directly elected by a constituency and is accountable to that constituency. That would do away with the party list system whereby so many unknown candidates find themselves MPs, even if the electorate had failed to elect them  directly, or had even voted them out on election day. (How fair is the current system when for example, nearly one third of our current Ministers were rejected in individual electorate contests in 2017?)

Now shifting to a system where every Member of Parliament was directly elected would be a reform worth doing. It would certainly shake up the system; provide fairer and better representation; and make every MP directly accountable to a particular electorate, rather than the party bosses. For those reasons alone, there will be no politician bold enough to take it up, when the option of “tweaking” the system to preserve partisan advantage is so much easier.

But there is no chance of a major change to our electoral system in the foreseeable future. and Gareth Morgan has rubbished it.

 

And as TOP conducts a ballot to elect new party leadership Gareth Morgan has been throwing his weight around, trying to influence the ballot with his money. And mouthing off on Twitter some more:

“Appealing only to the privileged, university offspring of urban elites was never going to be enough for TOP. We need to draw as many active members from the tradies and the ZB listener segment. We haven’t, suggesting NZ is too fat, content and comfortable for our policies”

I doubt that Morgan is going to attract many tradies and ZB listeners. Or decent candidates – who would want to be lambasted by him if they didn’t do what he wants.

Bryce Edwards (Newsroom): The death of minor parties under MMP

TOP appears very unlikely to be a real contender in 2020, as the party is currently struggling to reinvent itself as TOP 2.0 and embroiled in a faction fight over its future.

Former deputy leader Geoff Simmons has been operating as the interim leader until now. But it’s not clear he will be elected, especially as Gareth Morgan is campaigning strongly for rival candidate Amy Stevens, an Auckland lawyer currently working for ASB.

Morgan has written a couple of Facebook posts in which he calls for a vote for Stevens, and explains why Simmons is the wrong person for the job. Morgan says Stevens is what TOP needs in order to connect with the centre right of the political spectrum: “what Amy Stevens offers is a business background not one as a public servant” and “she can relate to all those small business owners who are as familiar with the trials and tribulations of running a business”.

And as a bonus, Morgan – who gave $3 million to the party towards the last election – promises more money for TOP if Stevens is elected: “My money will be on Amy to lead the refresh that is TOP 2.0, as I think she’s sufficiently credible to attract the significant funders. I’ll certainly chip in if she’s leading.”

Clearly Morgan believes that TOP has become too liberal or leftwing: “TOP faces a big risk right now that it gets usurped by people who would otherwise vote Left or Centre Left. Our policy programme is for all New Zealanders, we are over-represented by members from the Left, Centre Left”.

Morgan gave TOP and chance in the last election, then ruined that with his antics online. With his dictatorial approach and his rubbishing of current leadership and supporters it looks like he is topping TOP.

Also from Edwards:

Could the next general election result in a two-party Parliament made up of just Labour and National? It seems highly unlikely – especially under proportional representation – and yet the 1News Colmar Brunton poll released on Sunday points to a scenario where we could be close to that.

The possibility that minor parties could be left out of Parliament altogether in 2020 is generally dismissed, often with the assumption that “the minor parties always do better during the election campaign”. This simply isn’t the case. For example, at the last election, support for both the Greens and NZ First plummeted during the campaign.

What’s more, ever since MMP was introduced, every minor party that has gone into government has subsequently received a worse party vote at the following election.

So there is a real risk to both Greens and NZ First. TOP look like self-destructing. The Maori Party, Mana Party and United Future look unlikely to return.

If David Seymour manages to retain the Epsom electorate it could be down to National, Labour and ACT after the 2020 election (but voters may decide they want to prevent this two party dominant scenario).

Meanwhile, the Labour-led Government is pondering bringing in some small fixes for MMP. But the proposal to reduce the 5 percent threshold to 4 percent is mere tinkering in the face of what clearly needs more radical thinking. Abolishing the threshold entirely, makes more sense.

The MMP threshold is proving to be a major barrier to the healthy flourishing of new minor parties. Of course, it’s not the only problem for the small parties. We therefore need a more serious think about the state of minor parties and how to allow them to prosper. If not, New Zealand’s multi-party parliamentary system might soon become a thing of the past, leaving the public with a choice, once again, of just two monolithic traditional parties.

There has been a lot of good discussion on this here at Reddit: Minor parties were supposed to be a big part of politics under MMP, yet they are in serious decline.

 

Can The Opportunities Party make a new impression?

The Opportunities Party (TOP) was generally seen as Gareth Morgan’s thing, and certainly it was his large dollops of money that gave the party prominence.

Morgan toured the country generally making a good impression to audiences that included me – he did well in front of a good sized crowd in Dunedin. However Morgan gave very mixed performances on social media, and mainstream media promoted the weirder side of him, which didn’t help his cause.

And Morgan always said he personally wasn’t really interested in being an MP, but put himself at the top of the party list. That was bizarre.

In one respect TOP was quite successful. Here’s some comparisons for recent first attempts:

  • TOP (2017): 2.4% (63,261 votes)
  • Internet MANA (2014): 1.42% (34,095 votes)
  • Conservative Party (2011): 2.65% (59,237

They were all headlined by rich people who piled cash into their campaigns, Morgan, Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig.

Of course the problem for TOP was our ridiculously high MMP threshold of 5%. They didn’t like getting close enough, so the media didn’t rate their chances, and the public voted accordingly.

This year Morgan announced that he was pulling the plug on TOP, but has since changed his mind. He will be on the new organisation board and will stay on as chair of the party’s policy formation committee

Geoff Simmons has taken over as leader – he looks like a sensible person promoting mostly sensible well researched policies, but that’s not likely to interest the media much, who seem to give precedence to rich and flawed leaders.


We are pleased to announce that The Opportunities Party will contest the 2020 election.

“The general thrust of the policy will be the same.”
“We want to make sure that future generations have as good a life as their parents.”

We want a prosperous, fair and equitable society, underpinned by a sustainable and dynamic economy that protects our natural environment. We want a New Zealand which maximises the opportunity of every New Zealander to fulfil their dreams and aspirations.

New leadership. New energy. Same radical policies like:

Fixing the housing market with a better tax system – Supporting individuals, families and communities to reach their potential – Repairing our broken environment

The financial reality of running a political party is an enormous challenge. And we can’t do it alone.

Help us create a better New Zealand. For all New Zealanders.

$191,315.00 raised

GOAL: $550,000.00


Bryce Edwards: TOP set to pull youth voters, says political commentator

Despite an unexpected leadership change and surprise plans to contend the 2020 election, the Opportunities Party (TOP) is likely to capture the youth vote, according to a political commentator.

Bryce Edwards, politics lecturer at Victoria University, says the minor party is likely to continue to have major appeal to younger voters, due to TOP’s policy narrative that youth are being overlooked by other political parties.

“One of [TOP’s] key campaigning areas is . . . running this line that there’s been some sort of generation theft or generational bias to the [Government’s] current policy settings.”

Mr Edwards told Te Waha Nui that the presence of smaller parties in the political sphere offered voters more options. He says this can reinvigorate political participation and interest across the board, including within the youth demographic.

I’m not sure whether TOP will appeal to younger voters as opposed to more astute older voters looking for a decent alternative.

Comments on Edwards’ article at Reddit – Bryce Edwards: Why TOP will struggle by Bryce Edwards

TOP may get a percent or two of support again but unless the threshold is lowered they are unlikely to look like a realistic prospect of getting over the line in 2020, unless media pick up on something they think is good click bait and give them good coverage.

They will probably compete with the Greens more than any party for votes, would make the Green recovery a bit harder.

They need more than Morgan staying out of the spotlight and Simmons leading the party – I think they would benefit from having a number of electable looking people promoted. They need to be seen as something unique in the political mix.

No more Opportunities Party

Gareth Morgan put a lot of time, effort and money into the Opportunities Party. They developed some usuful policies, Morgan did well in public meetings, but he and PR recruit Sean Plunket made arses of themselves in social median at times.

Regardless, as all start up parties and millionaires have found, the 5% threshold is just too hard to achieve, especially with flawed leaders.

Today Morgan announced that the there would be no more Opportunities Party.


The Opportunities Party Will Not Contest 2020

The Board of The Opportunities Party (TOP) has decided to request that the Electoral Commission cancel TOP’s registration as a political party.

TOP was formed in late 2016 to contest the 2017 election in which it polled at 2.4%. Since the election the Board has considered whether it would invest time and money in preparing the Party to contest 2020 and after due consideration has decided against it.

Party founder Dr Gareth Morgan said, “I’m proud of the policy manifesto we developed and have no doubt it was by far the strongest on offer to improve New Zealanders’ incomes, business productivity, social fairness and environmental sustainability. The legacy of that manifesto remains and to be frank was all that personally ever interested me.”

“The voting public demonstrated that best practice, evidence-informed policy is not of significant concern when deciding elections. When 20% of the vote moves in 48 hours simply on the back of a change of leader, with no improvement at all in policy being offered, what makes the New Zealand voter tick is clear.”

“TOP was formed to improve the policy options on offer. Too few voters supported our policies. That’s reality and we accept that. With no inclination to compromise policy for political ambition, or to de-emphasise best practice policy for the promotion of whatever else attracts people’s votes, it’s pretty obvious what the appropriate course of action for this party should be.”

“I’d like to thank all those involved with TOP. We had fun and we challenged people and for the more than 60,000 people really interested in best practice policy, we appealed. They have reason to be proud.”

Electric vehicle ‘corrective taxes’ to incentivise behaviour

A couple of tweets in close proximity:

And:

This doesn’t properly sum up ‘incentives’ that would tax mostly poor people (as illustrated here) – it doesn’t show the giving of those taxes to mostly richer people, who are far more likely to be buying new vehicles. Perhaps that’s why Morgan likes the idea.

Political carols

Excerpts from Toby Manhire: Walking in a Winston Wonderland

We Three Things:

Jacinda Ardern solo:
Just a kid from Moh-orrinsville
Keen to help out Andy Little
It’s not hubris, to just do this
Truth is that I quite like Bill
*
James Shaw solo:
Great Together, I believe in
Speak the truth – that’s how we win
Metiria, great co-leader
Popped into recycling bin
*
Winston Peters solo:
Had enough? Too right they had
Status quo was very bad
Need a deadline? Watch it, Sunshine
Covfefe, believe me, sad!

We Wish you a Merry Christmas
Feat Bill English

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And would just note in passing that the National Party won more votes than anyone and yet is not in government which a lot of ordinary New Zealanders will find surprising as they approach their Happy New Year.

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
As sung by Gareth Morgan

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
Had a very small ego
But all the lipsticked reindeers
Were a bunch of thick bozos

Fiscal Spells
As sung by Steven Joyce

O! Fiscal spells, fiscal spells
Fiscal hole, OK?
O what fun it is to ride
When you’re running the campaign.

Little Drummer Boy
As sung by Andrew Little

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
Just a new deputy, pa rum pum pum pum
Must replace Annette King, pa rum pum pum pum
Anyway you know what happened after that and it’s all fine now.

Mārie Te Pō
As sung by Don Brash

Mārie te pō, tapu te pō
Marino, marama
Ko te Whāea, me te Tama
Tama tino, tapu rā
Moe mai i te aio
Moe mai i te aio.

Google doesn’t translate that well, but it is obviously

Silent night, holy night, calm, bright etc.

Whāea is mother, Tama is boy/sun but no sign of a virgin there.

 

TOP for 2020, Morgan stepping down as leader

The Opportunities Party has announced a commitment to contest the 2020 election, and have said that Gareth Morgan will step down as leader – this is a wise move, Morgan did very well at public meetings but his media performance was very mixed and won’t have helped his party’s chances in this year’s election.

Announcement:

  • Our day-to-day activity will be centered around our policy development and comms unit at HQ. We will continue to engage with the public and champion the importance of best practice policy.
  • As well, of course, we’ll be providing a TOP perspective on policy developments from the new government – Benchmarking them against TOP best practice policy.
  • We will be looking to grow ‘areas of influence’; regional groups of members and candidates working mostly autonomously to help build our follower base.

On leadership:

  • While Gareth intends to remain as Party Chairperson he will not be the political leader for the party in 2020. It has always been with great reluctance that he has put his name forward in that capacity and so has decided to remove the ambiguity and let others compete for the political leadership role. He will remain as political leader until we determine a new political leadership, most probably well before the end of 2018.

TOP’s commitment for 2020

At TOP HQ our post-election “breather” is now over and it’s time to gear up for the next election. You may have heard the announcement this morning, shedding some light on TOP’s future. We are going through some pretty significant changes, however rest assured that these are all in the interests of giving us the best chance to be successful going forward.

One of the big shifts is our intention to pass some of the responsibility on to you. We’re looking forward to developing a couple more policy areas in 2018/19 in conjunction with submissions and discussion with our party members. We had some great success with this process during the election when we developed our cannabis and alcohol policies through member submission, and we plan to continue this relationship. We also want to turn TOP into a movement, starting from the grassroots, after all, having a strong membership is the cornerstone of any organisation. So, if you feel passionate about what we are trying to achieve, feel like you can help, or want to get involved in our next batch of policy, make sure you sign up here.

TOP got 2.4% of the vote this year, 63,261. They need to get 5% to get into Parliament, unless they can get a current electorate MP to defect to them – no party has yet made it into Parliament under MMP without having a current or past MP.

Evidence against TOP

The Opportunities Party have promoted their policies as evidence based. From About on their website: TOP takes a long term, evidence based view.

However now we are down to the business end of the campaign evidence seems to have flown out the TOP window.

A few days ago on Newshub: Gareth Morgan blames landlines for poor polling, claims he’ll win 5-10 percent

“When I ask the question in the town hall shows I do every night, ‘ Hands up those who’ve got a landline, it’s 10 or 15 percent,” the Opportunities Party (TOP) leader told The AM Show on Thursday.

“What’s wrong with these polling companies? I think we’ll be somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. I’ve said it from day one.”

Where’s the evidence? TOP has a big budget, if they wanted evidence they would have done their own polling. I think it’s quite likely they have done their own polling, if so it is not evidence they want publicised.

Cut Your Hair: The evidence says TOP have no hope

TOP pride themselves on being an evidence-based party. So it behooves us to examine the evidence behind Gareth Morgan’s suggestion that TOP have a real chance of winning representation in Saturday’s election.

Question: Has any party ever achieved what TOP is trying to achieve?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Only one party has ever won representation under MMP in New Zealand without a sitting electorate MP from a sitting party. That sole exception is ACT, who had several prominent former Labour and National cabinet ministers. That happened in the first MMP election, when everyone and their mum voted minor party.

Not many parties have won representation under MMP in New Zealand, whether through the 5% threshold or local seats. Only one MP has ever won representation for a party that didn’t have an MP elected in 1996 for one party or another: Hone Harawira, for Mana.

Most of the small parties that have won representation have done so via a local seat (Māori, Mana, Progressive, United, ACT, and NZ First have all coat-tailed in). Only 7 parties have ever reached 5%: National, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, ACT, the Alliance, and United Future. The last three have all failed more times than they’ve succeeded and have basically shriveled away to nothing (or, worse, to David Seymour). Scores of parties have failed to reach 5% OR a local seat: the Conservatives, Christian Heritage/Coalition, Legalise Cannabis, Destiny, Outdoor Recreation, Future, etc.

The latest public polls (that use a variety of polling methods):

  • Listener Bauer Media Insights 1-5 Sept: 2.2%
  • 1 News Colmar Brunton 2-6 Sept: 1.9%
  • Newsroom-SSI 4-6 Sept: 2%
  • Roy Morgan 28 Aug-10 Sept: 2%
  • Newshub Reid Research 6-11 Sept: 1.6%
  • 1 News Colmar Brunton 9-13 Sept: 1.6%
  • Horizon Research 9-14 Sept: 2.3%

Evidently TOP look like getting nowhere near the 5% threshold.

So they have done their own polling. It shows them very likely to come up short.

Morgan will know that if they don’t look like getting close to 5% many voters will prefer to vote elsewhere rather than risk ‘wasting their vote’.  Hence the bullshit about the polls being wrong.

Question: Might the polling be wrong?

Short answer: Anything is possible, but TOP reaching 5% would require polling error on an unprecedented scale.

Morgan and Sean Plunket ranting and abusing on Twitter won’t change things.

It’s not just history and the polls that are against TOP. Others have tried Donald Trump’s tactic of being bellicose and abusive and complaining about the polls – in particular Winston Peters, and NZ First has slumped over the last two months in the polls.

Question: Is this a good year for a minor party to achieve the never-before-achieved?

Short Answer: No—on current polling this will be the worst MMP election ever for minor parties.

It looks like it will take a major game changer for TOP to get close to or beat the threshold, and they are running out of time.

Question: Could TOP win a local seat?

Short answer: There is no evidence to suggest they will come close to winning any local seat. Morgan might have had a chance, but he isn’t standing in a local seat.

That Morgan is targeting the polls and the threshold (without any evidence) supports this. TOP dabbled with targeting the Ohariu electorate a couple of weeks ago but that effort seems to have fizzled.

In some ways TOP have been impressive. Their evidence based approach to developing solid policies has been very good. Morgan has impressed sizeable crowds at campaign meetings.

But TOP has been shut out of small party debates. And they have failed to attract enough positive media attention. Morgan and Plunket have also been too cranky on Twitter and possibly elsewhere in social media.

Yesterday Plunket tweeted a challenge:

A bizarre approach.

It must be frustrating to have put so much time and money into their campaign, but making up shit about polls looks desperate and not based on any evidence.

Moaning about polls is almost certainly not going to change the game and suddenly boost support for TOP. Morgan might be better trying a different last gasp approach.

It’s sad to see another new party beaten by the ridiculously high threshold. Parliament could benefit from a different approach and some fresh ideas and MPs. But facts are facts, and TOP look like failing.

TOP lose legal bid to debate

The Opportunities Party went to court to try to get included in tonight’s minor party leaders debate and lost. This isn’t surprising, it’s hard for a court to force a media organisation, but it’s very disappointing to see our state owned television broadcaster using ‘rules’ to be undemocratic.

The MMP system – in particular to ridiculously high 5% threshold – is stacked against new parties making it into Parliament.

TVNZ’s ‘rule of not allowing parties who haven’t got at least 3% in their last two polls to take part in the biggest debate of the campaign for minor parties is a disgrace to democratic principles.

RNZ: TOP loses legal bid to appear in multi-party debate

The Opportunities Party (TOP) has lost its legal fight to appear on TVNZ’s multi-party debate tomorrow evening.

TVNZ lawyer Stacey Shortall said it had robust criteria for parties to be involved, including either already being in parliament or polling at at least three percent in one of the two Colmar Brunton polls before the debate.

It is not ‘robust criteria’. State owned broadcasters in particular should have a responsibility to be fair to serious contenders, but TVNZ is denying TOP a prime  chance of being seen and heard.

TOP polled at 1 percent in its poll at the end of August and at 1.9 percent today.

TOP’s lawyer Francis Cooke QC argued the party’s inclusion in the debates was critical to the election process and TVNZ’s criteria should be more robust.

But the political-media system remains stacked against them.

Key points from Edwards’ affidavit:

24 Fourth, in my view the use of such criteria is self-perpetuating and antidemocratic. A party that is excluded from the debates has little chance of making headway in the polls. What is more, I think that excluding them from the debates sends the message to viewers that their views and policies are not worthy of consideration. I think this is dangerously undemocratic.

25 Fifth, this year’s election campaign is proving extremely volatile. Political scientists and commentators appear to be in consensus that we are witnessing the greatest polling volatility yet recorded in an election campaign in New Zealand. Therefore, it seems unreasonable to take two Colmar Brunton polls as a snapshot of likely outcomes in the election – the flux is just too great at the moment in politics to regard such polling to be definitive.

27 Finally, the minor parties seem set to play a pivotal role in this year’s election as they are likely to hold the balance of power after the election. In my view, this makes it particularly important that the public is given sufficient exposure to their leaders and policies.

30 In my view TVNZ’s exclusion of TOP would do a disservice to democracy.

31 If TVNZ proceeds with minor party leaders’ and young voters’ debates without The Opportunities Party (TOP), this will have a significantly negative impact on TOP’s chances to be taken seriously by those members of the public looking to vote for a party other than Labour and National. It will send a strong signal to voters that it is not a viable candidate for voting consideration. It may seriously affect TOP’s electoral chances. And given the inclusion of less popular parties, it would be arbitrary and irrational.

The full affidavit: http://liberation.typepad.com/files/affidavitdraft.pdf

The judge probably had no legal basis to rule in favour of TOP, but TVNZ are doing a disservice to taxpayers and to democracy.

Large and incumbent parties (and their supporters) and large media do what the can to deny newcomers a fair chance. Incumbent also have other substantial financial advantages.

The Nation – election debate

This morning on The Nation (early start at 9.25 am) is an election smaller party debate.

  • James Shaw (Greens)
  • Marama Fox (Maori Party)
  • David Seymour (ACT)
  • Gareth Morgan (TOP)
  • Hone Harawira (Mana)

No one from NZ First, I presume a continuation of the refusal to be in anything that includes Gareth Morgan.

I presume United Future wasn’t invited or was dumped.


Shaw starts with a familiar poverty spiel.

Seymour points out that NZ First isn’t there, and also that he is the only leader on the stage who is an electorate MP.

Morgan “we stand or fall on policy. All I can so is sell the message”.

Harawira – I missed what he opened with.

Fox “We’re the party of the future, the country is sick of the red and blue bus.”

Shaw was pushed to state a single priority (and was stopped from his normal 3 key spiel) – he said he would want an act stipulating zero carbon by 2050.

Harawira (feeding kids) and Fox (no GST on primary produce) say that the cost of their number one policies doesn’t matter, it should just be done.

Shaw rules out working with National, more or less – he promotes changing the Government with Labour.


A decent debate as far as it could be, five didn’t seem too many, they all got a few shots in. I doubt it will have changed many votes though.

The panel all picked Marama Fox as the ‘winner’ through her heartfelt personality. Like her or not, agree with her or not, she expresses herself strongly.

Loser – Winston Peters for refusing to take part.

And it was suggested that all the smaller parties were the losers now that the campaign looks like being dominated by two parties only.

And once the media have an excuse to call a two horse race the other party jockeys don’t stand a chance of being heard.

TOPling?

In some ways Gareth Morgan and his TOP party were a refreshingly different addition to the election mix.

They had well researched and specific policies, they weren’t after power, they wanted to influence policies. And Morgan connected well with audiences.

But the last few days in social media they look like toppling over. Perhaps it’s due to the pressure of what has already been a long campaign for Morgan.  Or perhaps it’s the pressure of not getting enough progress in the polls.

Whatever the driver, both Morgan’s PR sidekick Sean Plunket as well as Morgan have been acting like arses in social media, especially on Twitter.

This has involved petulance and abuse, and has gone as far as a sustained period of harassment of Lizzie Marvelly by Plunket.

I think it is destroying any credibility and goodwill they may have had with the media, and that won’t help their chances of getting traction.

I thought that TOP on the cross benches could have added a useful new dimension to Parliament.

But if they keep acting like arrogant ignorant arses they won’t get close (they may already have destroyed any chance they had).