Morgan targets 10% for TOP

Extravagant claims about how much of the party vote one will get are not unusual in election campaigns – until recent poll reversals Winston Peters was intimating NZ First could surpass Labour and compete with National.

The Opportunities Party has to get at least 5% to make it into Parliament, but not wanting to cut it fine Gareth Morgan says his aim is double that.

NZH: Morgan says TOP will get 10 per cent, as Green voters look for a new home

Gareth Morgan says the Green Party’s recent troubles could be his party’s gain, as disillusioned greenies will be shopping around for a new environmentally-minded party.

The Greens have always refused to be a cross bench party willing to work with anyone in government to promote environmental policies, and with their collapse this week their may be some voters looking for an environmental alternative.

Morgan’s fledgling The Opportunities Party officially launched its election campaign today in Wellington with little fanfare.

The event was held in an understated church hall in the CBD. Around 60 people attended and of those, 20 were candidates and 15 were media.

A lot more than that have attended TOP meetings around the country.

Morgan, completely straight-faced, told reporters he expected the party to get 10 per cent on election day.

Still unsmiling, he said he expected to get 30 per cent in 2020, before breaking out into a grin: “I always like a challenge.”

Asked where those votes would come from, Morgan said TOP would “skim the cream” from a few parties and would “pick up a few” from the Greens.

“They may well bounce back, but I think if they’re going to lose they’ll lose some to Labour and some to us.”

He admitted that despite securing 4000 paid-up members, TOP’s main barrier to election was getting noticed above the better-funded, old parties. It was depending largely on the “viral spread” of its policies online.

Morgan also seems to be targeting ‘stuff the politicians’ voters who go to NZ First in protest.

1 News:  Gareth Morgan launches scathing attack on major parties at launch of TOP campaign

In a speech filled with colourful and scathing analogies of how the major political parties have failed New Zealand, Gareth Morgan has launched his Opportunities Party election campaign today.

Speaking in Wellington this afternoon, Mr Morgan painted a picture of a New Zealand that has failed its middle and working classes, while the two major parties squabble over political rhetoric, and devise policies simply designed get them into power.

“We’ve already moved the policy debate in this country and we haven’t had a single vote yet,” Mr Morgan said.

“We’re the new kids on the block here, so we don’t get the coverage or funding the old establishment parties have access too, but we have one advantage, we are free of the hatred of old tribal politics.”

Mr Morgan described a toxic New Zealand political culture, where the major parties endlessly play “politics” while suicide stats, homeless numbers, housing affordability and the environment all fall into the abyss.

“What’s the political establishment doing – pretty well nothing. Stuck in an outdated left versus right political ideology with a tax and targeted welfare regime that’s obsolete, they trade insults and argue at the margins while New Zealand, this land of opportunity, slips away.

“They fight not to restore the fairness of our society but to perpetuate their own political power in some vain belief that it’s an ideology that’s need to get this country back on track.”

“Let’s be very clear, TOP doesn’t care who leads the next government. Those who campaign to change from blue to red, from right to left are like a bunch of kids screaming ‘dad’s burnt the dinner, let’s get the dog to cook’.

“What NZ desperately need is ideas to restore opportunities, policies that aren’t designed to get a party into power but to fix the problems we have.”

I would consider voting TOP if they look like being able to get close to 5% (still a big challenge for them).

I presume the Greens will continue to rule out working with National so that leaves them in a weak position on the sideline.

I’d rather have TOP holding the balance of power than Winston.

Aim: TOP dog on cross benches

It’s getting hard to differentiate between attention seeking stunts, a normal day in the campaign, and official party launches these days.

Gareth Morgan and the The Opportunities Party have been campaigning for Months, but they had their official campaign launch today.

Scoop:  Labour will need more than ‘Jacinda Trudeau’: TOP

“Quite clearly, Jacinda’s a great communicator, so that’s good,” said Morgan, who welcomed Labour’s resurgence as “great for New Zealand democracy”.

“It’s an issue of whether that’s sufficient for Labour: the Jacinda Trudeau Effect, I call it,” he said, referring to the impact a young, stylish leader has had on Canadian politics through its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

On TOP:

While TOP’s plan was to “to be a 30 percent party by 2020”, he expected TOP to poll 10 percent at the Sept. 23 election, although modified that to “being realistic” 5 percent and six MPs in the next Parliament, enough potentially to help form a minority government led by either National or Labour.

TOP has polled 2 percent in three published polls and 3 percent in a UMR poll reported this week by Radio New Zealand.

The party hopes that means it has the momentum to make 5 percent by election day. As TOP expects to win no electorate seats, a party vote under 5 percent would be wasted as it would gain no parliamentary seats under New Zealand’s MMP proportional voting system.

Morgan insisted he did not want to become a Cabinet Minister and would look only to provide support to a government from Parliament’s ‘cross-benches’.

Rather than naming non-negotiable ‘bottom line’ policies, if TOP had a choice of partners, it would pick the one that promised to enact the largest number of TOP’s 15 main policies, said Morgan.

“Whoever gives us the most will get the nod.”

So Morgan wants to be TOP dog on the cross benches.

NZ First ‘promises’ top $10b

I think that everyone knows that promises and bottom lines from Winston Peters should be taken with a grain of Epsom salts.

But Peters seems to believe that NZ First can lead the next government, he has suggested they could even top National which means they would get a lot of say in which policies are implemented.

Gareth Morgan has highlighted the spending promises of Peters and appears to be going head to head with Peters. The Opportunities Party and NZ First are competing for floating votes and are targeting those who may vote against the status quo.

Stuff: Gareth Morgan positions himself as alternative to Winston Peters

Gareth Morgan is keen to position himself as an anti-Winston Peters “peacemaker”, shoring up a Government on either side of the political divide without introducing the instability of NZ First.

The firebrand economist and newbie politician released a press release attacking Peters on Monday, along with a costing of his “pork barrel promises”.

Morgan contends Peters’ policies – including the writeoff of student debt, removal of GST from food, and free GP visits for pensioners – would cost $10b every year, with no indication of where that money would come from, other than a vague promise to reduce tax evasion.

Grandiose and expensive promises didn’t matter when NZ First were a 5-10% party. If they become, as looks likely, a 10-20% party then the cost of their policies becomes more pertinent. And if they get into the 20-40% zone then it becomes critical.

So it’s important that the possible cost of NZ First policy promises is examined. The media should be doing this but Morgan has done it for them.

TOP: The post-truth World of Winstonomics

It is not unusual for politicians to make promises they can’t keep. In an attempt to restore some integrity and transparency into politics, The Opportunities Party (TOP) has undertaken means to fully cost all our policies and show where the money is coming from.

Not all parties are this robust however. One party in particular, is writing cheques they can’t cash and therefore making promises they can’t possibly deliver. That party is NZ First and their leader is Winston Peters.

We have filtered through the long list of ‘policy’ supplied by New Zealand First on their websiteand pulled out everything we could find that resembled a concrete and significant election commitment.

Winston’s supporters are rightly looking for a change from the ‘do nothing’ Establishment parties that have led us to a society with rising inequality, forgotten regions and unaffordable housing. However, Winston owes those supporters a set of promises he can actually deliver on –  that is not the case with his current offering.

While some of the policies from NZ First have costings, the majority do not.

We took it upon ourselves to do some analysis and so far the tab has run up to around $10 billion per yearwith the promise of more to come.

By far , the biggest cost on his campaign check book  is his promise to give a universal student allowance and write off student debt for those who stay in New Zealand for the same period of their study…And what about the $4.6 billion price tag? Where is that money going to come from?

Winston has also promised to ‘remove GST off food’ as well as rates. Let’s put aside the fact tinkering with our GST system is fraught with issues, and there are much more efficient ways to make housing and food more affordable. The real problem here is the estimated $3.6 billion price tag.

His plan to return GST from tourism to the regions hits the chord that he has been playing for years, sounding the death of our regions. With minimal detail given, it’s hard to know what this really means let alone estimate the cost; it isn’t clear what money he would give back, to whom, and what that money would be used for. However, if this included both international and domestic tourism, the bill could run up to around $3 billion.

The list of promises goes on with three free GP visits for pensioners a year (there are 600,000 pensioners and at $60 extra per visit, that is $108 million), 1,800 more police ($324 million based on Labour’s calculation of 1000 police), free health checks for year 9 students ($10 million, based on the cost of the B4 school check).

The total bill for these promises alone comes to a $10 billion bill per annum. 

That sort of money cannot just be pulled out of thin air as Winston would have us all believe, and certainly, can’t be paid for by nebulous promises to ‘reduce tax evasion.’

This bill does not even include several of his more nebulous or one-off promises such as:

  • Recarpeting government buildings with wool (costed by the Taxpayers Union at $60-90m)
  • To allocate adequate resources into alternatives to 1080 which he will ban (Dave Hansford on Newsroom put the cost of this at $150m just for half of one national park)
  • He also wants to buy back the shares in SOEs that have been sold, which he will somehow do at the same price they were sold for.
  • In fact, NZ First wants to bring our banks back into New Zealand ownership as well.
  • NZ First also plans to ban inshore fishing and compensate the fishers for their losses; a plan that if it includes paua, lobster and snapper, would cost at least $1.3b.

His commitment to railways of national importance, including a rail line to Marsden Point, will apparently be funded by “revenue generated by railway service charges” and a “combination of Land Transport Fund funding and crown grants.”

And of course Winston’s biggest bribe is a long-term one; his promise to keep the age of eligibility for Superannuation at 65. NZ super alone by 2060 will be soaking up 8c in every dollar we earn, and as a result of this and rising health spending, government debt will have ballooned to twice national income.

All in all, New Zealand First is much in the tradition of Muldoonism – it promises heaps but is more than a little short of funding detail.

Is Winston likely to explain how all his promises would be paid for?

What about TOP’s policy costs?

The Opportunities Party (TOP) has undertaken means to fully cost all our policies and show where the money is coming from.

TOP’s youth UBI

The Opportunities Party has announced a policy that will provide all people aged 18-23 a Unconditional Basic Income of $200 a week. Coincidentally (perhaps) TOP are targeting young people to vote for them.

TOP’s Universal Basic Income

We acknowledge the fact that it’s not only people with families that matter but also people starting out in adult life who need support to help them reach their potential.

The Opportunities Party is proud to release an unconditional basic income for those aged between 18-23 years old1.

For the first five years of adulthood, as people are striking out on their own, they have the security of $10,000 per year, no questions asked.

If you are between 18-23

  • You get $200 per week ($10,000 per year) no questions asked, no hoops to jump through, no bureaucrats telling you what to do.
  • You get to decide the best way to use the money, to pursue your own goals.2
  • You will be financially better off under our policies. This includes your mates who are unemployed, students, parents, apprentices, artists, entrepreneurs, etc. Like we said all your mates.
  • This will take stress off you at a pivotal time in your life. NZ has an appalling rate of youth suicide and financial stress plays a key role in this.

This is the third stage of our UBI (Unconditional Basic Income) implementation, after young families and the elderly.

Background

The UBI is a fundamental reform of our social security system that recognises that the economy is changing and work is becoming more uncertain. Unlike the current antiquated system of targeted welfare, the UBI doesn’t penalise people as they move in and out of work, start a business, or retrain. It doesn’t discriminate between different forms of retraining, such as official government courses or more informal approaches like shadowing someone on their job. It acknowledges the people who undertake unpaid work, without whose endeavour our society would collapse. And most importantly it represents a civilisation dividend wherein an affluent society defines a person’s right to access resources, irrespective of their situation. A backgrounder on a UBI is provided here. 

The concept of a UBI is gaining traction here and around the world. It was featured in the TVNZ series What Next as a way to deal with an increasingly disrupted job market. It is also being piloted in many countries around the world including the Netherlands, Finland and Canada. These pilots are exciting, but they overlook the fact that trials have already been done in the 1970s, and we have had a successful UBI for many years in New Zealand; NZ Super. TOP intends to give young people the same opportunities that we’ve been giving those over 65 for the past forty years.

The Opportunities Party (TOP)’s ultimate goal is to roll out a UBI for everyone. The reason for targeting 18-23 year olds next is because they have the highest levels of unemployment and face the greatest challenge getting into the labour market.

So the youth UBI is a start, they want a UBI for everyone (even children?) but this is a starting point.

Giving a UBI to everyone would require a major overhaul of our tax and welfare systems. TOP have related policies:

TOP will really struggle to beat the 5% threshold, and if they do they will really struggle to get National or Labour to get on board with this policy.

I don’t think National would agree to this at all, Labour might be tempted, and Greens may be keen, but NZ First will have their own priorities.

There is a discussion at Reddit on this, and Gareth Morgan responds to some comments.

Don’t judge a UBI as just a left wing concept. It has appeal across the spectrum. More info here http://www.top.org.nz/what_is_the_ubi_why_do_we_want_it

Good article on that here – https://medium.com/basic-income/wouldnt-unconditional-basic-income-just-cause-massive-inflation-fe71d69f15e7

The only condition of eligibility is the same as the basic eligibility for any benefit:

You must also be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident who normally lives here, and who has lived here for at least two years at one time since becoming a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.

More faq’s here…. http://www.top.org.nz/youth_ubi_faq

I think a UBI is an interesting concept and well worth considering.

But I think a major drawback is the cost of implementing one. If it ensures that no one on a low income or benefit or pension is worse off it will be very expensive initially.

If Winston Peters has any say there will be no drop in Universal Super – I doubt National or Labour would dare drop that entitlement either – so that sets a fairly high entry level for a UBI.

Unless New Zealand suddenly strikes oil in a big way, or perhaps patents a new cheap clean energy source, I don’t think we can afford a UBI in practice.

The drinking age

What is often referred to as the drinking age is more accurately the alcohol purchase age.

Yesterday Gareth Morgan successfully got policy debated when he announced his TOP policy on alcohol, which included raising the ‘drinking age’ to 20.

Alcohol is responsible for 4% of avoidable deaths – that is 600-800 people per year – and around $6b of total costs to society. Half of those deaths come from injuries such as violence and car crashes. On weekends, around 2 in 3 injury related admissions to Accident and Emergency are because of alcohol. Alcohol has a huge impact on people’s lives far beyond the resulting police and hospital bills; it is also a major driver of sexual offending and family violence.

The problem is that the framework for regulating alcohol has been relaxed over the last decade or two. Indeed alcohol regulation is far weaker than what we recommended for cannabis. Thankfully international and local studies have set out the key actions that are needed. The National Government has taken steps on some of these actions, although their attempt to allow local areas to set their own rules for the sale of alcohol has proved toothless and needs fixing.

The two main areas that require urgent attention to reduce alcohol harm are the legal drinking age and the excise duty. The legal drinking age was reduced from 20 to 18 in 1999 and there is evidence that this has increased harm, particularly by lowering the ‘de facto’ drinking age to 14-17. The excise duty on alcohol has not been increased in years, so alcohol has become much more affordable, driving an increase in use.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) recommends increasing the legal age for alcohol purchase to 20 years, and increasing the price of alcohol by an average of 10% through excise tax. The $300m revenue from this will be used to provide a much needed injection of funds into community based youth mental health support and drug and alcohol treatment.

Read the research.

The research is arguable, as are TOP’s proposed solutions.

New Zealand certainly has major issues with drinking and alcohol abuse, and there are many associated problems. But it is far from a youth problem, so is targeting 18 and 19 year olds fair and a good way to limit the damage?

Some responses from politicians:

  • Prime Minister Bill English “I don’t think there’s been a strong case made for raising the drinking age. I think it would create all sorts of challenges that we don’t know how to deal with.”
  • Amy Adams (Minister of Justice) “I voted for a split age and that’s still my preference”.
  • Nick Smith “Retain the drinking age at 18 for on-licence, but increase it to 20 for off-licence” (split age).
  • Steven Joyce (Minister of Finance) “No, not personally. I think it’s about right where it is”.
  • David Bennett (Minister for Food Safety) “I’ve always been an 18. I think at that age you’re able to make that choice”.
  • Jonathan Coleman (Minister of Health) “Yes.”
  • Phil Twyford (Labour) “I think that 18 is fine”
  • Eugenie Sage (Greens) “stick with what we’ve got and people can go to war says if people can go to war at 18, then they should be allowed to drink”.
  • Judith Collins “Probably not going down that path”.
  • Marama Davidson (Greens) “It’s not an age thing, I think that all people need to learn to drink responsibly”.
  • Maggie Barry National minister) “We’ll stay with the status quo”.
  • Marama Fox (Maori Party) wanted it raised by mentioned serving in the armed forces.
  • Alfred Ngaro (National minister) “I think at the moment it seems to be working ok”.
  • David Seymour (ACT) “It’s another beat up on young people. Binge drinking and alcohol consumption is actually going down among young people”.

Only one Labour response. None from NZ First.

With most National MPs asked supporting no change then raising the age looks unlikely.

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.

Morgan/TOP touring the south

Gareth Morgan has begun his second tour of the country in his campaign for The Opportunities Party, starting in the south.

I saw him in Dunedin last night – he comes across as very well informed, passionate,  and determined to make a difference.

This is in contrast to my impression of Winston Peters (last year) and Andrew Little (earlier this year) who played to their faithful with slogan laden speeches. Morgan sounded original and was interesting right through his presentation.

On Monday: Southlanders voice their concerns at public meeting with Gareth Morgan

Mental health, the economy, environmental issues and poverty were among the concerns raised by Southlanders at an Opportunities Party meeting on Monday night.

About 100 people were at the meeting, led by party leader Gareth Morgan, and held at CentreStage in Invercargill.

Morgan said the newly founded party aimed to turn around concerns with its radical policies, and make the best of the people, economy and resources in New Zealand.

It was the second trip to Invercargill for Morgan and his team, who have been touring the country.

With New Zealand having one of the highest rates of teenage suicide, the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and thriving families policy would be the first step to smoothing the path to adulthood, Morgan said.

“That’s [rates of youth suicide] pretty bad. It’s just one indicator that things aren’t great,” he said.

The aim of the party was to “persuade the government to make all boats lift” and make progress as a nation, he said.

Tuesday night in Queenstown Morgan targets inequality:

Speaking at a public meeting in Queenstown last night, The Opportunities Party (Top) founder outlined sweeping economic and social reforms for tackling what he said were growing income disparities among New Zealanders.

The audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from pensioners to a toddler, were told the economy appeared to be doing ”reasonably well” on the surface.

But New Zealand had become a low-wage, ”treadmill economy” in which most people were working harder and producing more, but were not getting wealthier.

A widening gap between the asset-owning class and everyone else was causing social stress reflected in rates of youth suicide, workplace and school bullying and imprisonment that were among the highest in developed countries, Mr Morgan said.

Both of those reports sound similar content to last night.

ODT reports: Morgan impresses Dunedin audience

Mainstream political parties who underestimate Gareth Morgan’s influence in the September 23 election will do so at their peril.

Mr Morgan, the leader and founder of The Opportunities Party (Top) attracted about 200 people to hear him in South Dunedin’s Mayfair Theatre last night

That’s a good number for a new party. Morgan asked how many had been to his previous Dunedin meeting. He estimated about 1/3 of the audience had.

For 40 minutes, Mr Morgan enthralled the audience, fielding applause and laughter as he outlined only one policy – although it was a very wide-ranging and quite detailed policy -before taking questions.

”I promised I would only talk about one policy tonight, otherwise I would have you all in a coma,” he said to much laughter. When the economist-turned-investor and now politician formed his party, much was made about his style of delivery, which was described as dry and casual.

Although he was dressed casually, often with his hands in his pockets, those attending last night paid close attention to what he was saying.

It was different to normal polispeak, he is very much a non-politician politician.

Mr Morgan’s delivery was slick, peppered with colourful language. He said his job was to offend everyone and often mentioning his party’s policies would go down like a ”cup of cold sick”.

His job is to battle against the same old, against the status quo in politics.

The audience ranged from those in their 20’s through to retirees. Those spoken to by the Otago Daily Times said Mr Morgan had good ideas and was talking sense, something other political parties might be wise to take note of, three months out from the election.

Given the main parties are coming across poorly and could do with a good boot up the political bum, there are votes in Morgan’s approach, but it’s a big challenge to look like getting close to the 5% needed.

I went to an Internet Party meeting in the 2014 campaign and that was very different – more showy but much less substance.

I also went to an ACT conference and David Seymour impressed, Jamie Whyte didn’t. The election result suggested that was a common impression.

The provincial media seems to be warming to Morgan, but the political media establishment in Wellington and Auckland still seem unexcited.

If anyone can shake up the political establishment this year it’s Morgan. Time will tell whether he just shakes up the campaign, or gets to also shake up Parliament.

Morgan says his intention if successful is to not take sides but to sit on the cross benches pushing for any policy gains they can get. Some of their policies are radical considering how bland National and Labour are in the main, but they are well researched and could make a good contribution to the mix.

But he has a long way to get there. The TOP van moves to Timaru today, the campaign for a party that can’t use free MP travel is a long haul.

 

Morgan and the Macron miracle

The UK vote for Brexit surprised, the election of Donald trump in the US shocked, and then Emmanuel Macron came from virtually nowhere to win the French presidency.

Then Theresa May destroyed a significant advantage to end a disastrous campaign still ahead of the rapidly improving left wing maverick Jeremy Corbyn but severely weakened, both in government and as Prime Minister.

Now France is voting for their Parliament, and exit polls suggest that Macron’s party En Marche will win a majority. Not bad for a party that didn’t exist at the start of last year.

So around the world voters are make decisions that seem to stick it to traditional politics and the status quo.

Could it happen in New Zealand?

Winston Peters and NZ First are often promoted as the king maker, with the baubles of power virtually a formality. But Peters is very old hat and has been there, done that before.

Will voters look for something different?

Barry Soper writes:  In politics anything is possible

Think about it, Prime Minister Gareth Morgan, leading a majority government with half of his MPs never having been elected to office before.

Sounds absurd? Yes well it’s highly unlikely to happen but these days in politics anything is possible as we’re seeing in France at the moment which has to be the political story to beat them all.

The 47 million French voters are again today going to the polls and are expected to give their new 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron a healthy majority. It’s spectacular because Macron’s party was only founded by him in April last year.

After he won the Presidency last month he was on his own, he didn’t have one MP in the French Assembly. Since then he’s had to cobble together 577 candidates to stand for his party and after the first round of voting they led in 400 constituencies, more than half of them women.

And it looks like En Marche has succeeded.

Let Macron’s success be a warning to those established political parties who think elections are a walk in the park. The Socialists who ran the last French Government failed to scrape together even ten percent of the vote.

Here in New Zealand National obviously have the most to lose, but voters here have shown a reluctance to take big risks. They have preferred a stable government but without absolute power.

NZ First are in the box seat to hold the balance of power, but it’s possible a real alternative is considered.

The 5% threshold is a long shot for a new party, something that hasn’t been achieved before here.

The newly formed Conservative Party got a 2.65% in 2011, and increased to 3.97% in 2014, creditable but not enough. They are out of contention now after the political collapse of Colin Craig.

The only option looks to be TOP. Morgan doesn’t look like getting his party close at this stage, but there is three months to go.

Recent overseas elections have shown that anything is possible, even the unexpected, but a major surprise looks unlikely here.

 

 

Morgan says he will spend $5 million

Big spending campaigners didn’t have a good return on their investment last election, with Colin Craig’s Conservatives coming up a bit short of the threshold and Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party spending even more and having less success, in fact he dragged the Mana Party backwards and out of Parliament.

Gareth Morgan is suggesting even bigger numbers for his The Opportunities Party, but he has a big political hill top climb.

NZ Herald: Morgan prepares to spend $5m

Gareth Morgan expects to spend up to $5 million of his own fortune on his political party – saying he is “donkey deep now and has to keep going”.

“I have been surprised [at the cost]. The sad reality of politics is you have to have money to play. And I don’t like that,” Morgan told the Herald.

The media political machine hasn’t really warmed to Morgan so he will find it difficult to get the exposure he needs.

Morgan said a lack of money particularly excluded the young, many of whom can’t afford to take time off work to campaign, he said.

The deck is stacked against newcomers to politics. Incumbent parties and sitting MPs have effectively been campaigning for months already on full MP pay and using their free travel perks.

University of Otago Faculty of Law professor Andrew Geddis said New Zealand was “pretty much in the middle of the road” internationally in terms of controls on fundraising and spending, with no spending limits in Australia and the US.

Spending limits here cover advertising, but not other campaign expenses like opinion polling, travel and staff.

Incumbents exploit taxpayer funded polling, travel and to an extent staff.

Geddis said there wasn’t a strong link between spending money and winning in New Zealand, however there were high entry costs for new parties and low levels of state funding for parties (the Greens have called for an inquiry to investigate state-funding for parties).

“Voters know unless a party has a realistic chance of making the quite high 5 per cent threshold, a vote for them is wasted. It’s not just money that achieves success, it’s been seen as potentially successful.”

A lot of money seems to be essential, at least for the media to pay any attention to a new party or to different approaches to campaigning and to politics.

But it nowhere near guarantees success.

Any other party wanting to get anywhere near the ridiculously high MMP threshold (kept in place by incumbent parties to protect their positions and keep new parties out, another substantial advantage they give themselves) has a huge hill to climb.

TOP has the finance, but they don’t yet have any candidates that interest the media.

What Morgan needs to try and find is a party leader who is competent, ambitious and confident, but also is different or controversial enough to attract attention from the headline seeking media. He isn’t that person and knows it.

Otherwise the incumbent party advantages and the lack of media opportunities for new parties the political establishment is very difficult to upset. There’s some irony in the media reluctance to provide balance, because they could help a political revolution (or at least an interesting addition) happen.

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup  also looks at TOP:  Is Gareth Morgan’s TOP really an anti-Establishment party of outsiders?

 

Young voters are looking for substance

Bill English has tried some trivial photo ops, but Geoffrey Miller writes about more substance being important seeking the young vote in  Forget the spaghetti pizzas – it’s substance voters are looking for.

It’s that time again when politicians pull out all the stops to do what they think will make young people vote for them.

At the 2014 election, Kim Dotcom spent some $4m largely targeting the youth vote.

That was an expensive flop.

Both Labour and the Greens were also keen to target young voters, which were given the label of the “missing million” and assumed to be chiefly latent support for left-wing causes. And for the most part, the focus was on “getting out the vote”, rather than changing the substance of the party platforms to offer something non-voters wanted.

They seem to think that all they need to do is advise non-voters and new voters how good they and their policies are and they will get the missing votes.

Of course, it is not just the left which has sought to target younger voters. Ironically, National has probably been more successful at picking up young voters. Many of John Key’s stunts – singing Gangnam Style, planking, making derp faces and so on – reached a much wider audience.

Key’s frequent appearances on non-political media – such as More FM – helped with this, but these only worked because the stunts suited Key’s personality. Bill English’s efforts – such as his spaghetti pizza selfies – look contrived by comparison.

I think that voters are more likely to be deterred rather than attracted by contrivances.

This time around, much of the left’s focus seems to be going on putting forward younger candidates.

Greens have lauded their new young candidates, and Labour had a go at promoting Jacinda Ardern (they seem to have backed off that a bit).

The assumption is that young voters are attracted by young candidates – but is this really true?

Bernie Sanders attracted young voters in the US, Jeremy Corbyn attracted young voters in the UK.

Take Winston Peters, for example. With Peters being 72 and the face of the SuperGold card, most assume New Zealand First has no real hope of attracting a large pool of younger voters. Yet during this year’s Orientation Week at Victoria University, Peters reportedly attracted hundreds of students on a summer weeknight to hear him speak.

I think new voters are looking for something different than the same old National and the same old Labour.

What about the ethnicity of candidates? Corbyn and Sanders are both fabled ‘old white men’, yet have managed to appeal to significant numbers of non-white younger voters. On the other hand, Winston Peters, part-Maori, has traditionally found his biggest voter base in elderly Pakeha New Zealanders.

Another probable fallacy is that more female candidates will automatically attract more female votes.

Substance over style

The lesson from the surge of young voters for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK is that to get young voters to vote, you need to give them something to vote for. In Corbyn’s case, this was a traditional, ideologically-driven left-wing manifesto which included an end to student fees, nationalisation of railways and increasing taxes on the rich.

Labour’s announcement this week that they will reduce the number of foreign students (who don’t vote anyway) is unlikely to impact on the young vote, except for those who don’t like the anti-immigration message.

Social media was a part of Corbyn’s success – as it was for Bernie Sanders – but only as an adjunct.

Social media campaigning is seen as essential – and it probably is, to an extent. But…

In New Zealand, part of the appeal of Winston Peters has traditionally been the repetition of simple policies against immigration and in favour of elderly voters.

Peters excels at old fashioned person to person public meeting campaigning, and hardly uses social media. But he’s after 10-15% of the vote, not 50%.

All parties will be looking for votes from wherever they think they can get them.

Peters attracts a substantial protest vote who don’t care about his lack of substance or his refusal to say what he might do in coalition negotiations, but he is as old school as a politician can get.

Don’t discount TOP. They have substance in their policies, they have passion and drive in Gareth Morgan, and they have a country that is getting tired of National but hasn’t warmed to Andrew Little and Labour.

And Greens seem to have hit a support ceiling, hence their trying to attract young voters, female voters and Maori voters. But can they offer substance to such a wide range of voters? Where is their substance on the environment? It risks being overwhelmed by all their other targets.

Add the dual leadership of Turei and Shaw and it’s hard to know what the Green substance is supposed to be.

English can do substance if he sticks to his strengths rather than associating himself with slippery spaghetti.

Little promised straight talk but squirms outside his rehearsed lines.

Will anyone step up and demand attention through substance? No matter how old or white they are, or not, they could attract all sorts of voters.