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.

 

 

Maori Party and TOP considering working together

The Maori Party failed to hold any seats in the 2017 election, and The Opportunities Party (TOP) fell well short of the 5% MMP threshold. Both parties have had leadership changes since then.

And now they are talking to each other looking at whether they can succeed by joining forces.

1 News: …TOP-Māori Party alliances could shake up NZ politics

The Opportunities Party, founded by Gareth Morgan, and the Māori Party both failed to attract voters at the last election and are now hoping a combined effort could pay off.

Kaapua Smith of the Māori Party said being a small, minor party, “we can’t do these things alone in Parliament”.

“We need to start building our relationships.”

Geoff Simmons, leader of TOP, told TVNZ1’s Te Karere it could be an opportunity for both parties which he described as having “an awful lot in common”.

Though adamant talks are still fresh, the parties have met twice already, and will not rule out the idea of forming one party.

“One of the criticisms of the Māori Party has always been that we’re too close to National. This is about reaffirming that no we’re not particularly close to any particular party. We want to talk to all parties,” Ms Smith said.

So while Simmons appears to be looking to the Maori Party, Smith says that the Maori party is looking to all parties.

But Labour is unlikely to let go any of the seven Maori electorates they now hold. The Greens like their own slant on Maori engagement and activism.  And NZ First have campaigned on scrapping the Maori seats. So that leaves National or parties not in Parliament. Like TOP.

Party vote in the 2017 election:

  • TOP 2.4%
  • Māori Party 1.2%

Combined that’s still a long way off the threshold. Both parties have leaders with lower profiles. It will be a battle for them to succeed, even if they combine forces.

The Opportunities Party is still alive, Geoff Simmons answers questions

Gareth Morgan made it clear he wasn’t keen on becoming an MP, and he stepped down from leadership of The Opportunities Party after getting a creditable but unsuccessful 2.4% of the vote (beaten by the large party imposed threshold).

The party is trying to continue on, and are currently running a party ballot to elect a Member Representative and a Parliamentary Leader. The results will be announced on 8th December – see https://www.top.org.nz/

Morgan’s deputy Geoff Simmons is putting himself forward there. He has just held a Q&A at Reddit:

As Me Anything with Geoff Simmons from The Opportunities Party

I’m happy to answer questions about policy or the future direction of The Opportunities Party.

The Opportunities Party is under a process of renewal following the 2017 election. Gareth Morgan has stepped down as leader, and the party is giving members a greater say in how it operates. As part of this, members are currently voting on a new leader. I am standing as a candidate in that election.

Learn more about the election here: https://www.top.org.nz/

Find out more about me here: http://top-candidates.webflow.io/leader/geoff-simmons

Some of the questions and responses:

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about New Zealand, what would it be?

Simmons: The tax system. Income tax payers pay way too much tax. Asset owners, especially housing and land owners, too little. Polluters should pay more too.

Do you agree with my premise attacking NZFirst was largely ineffective last election and how would TOP hold other parties to account under your leadership?

(Morgan presented very well in public meetings but got quite tetchy and adversarial on social media, probably damaging TOP’s chances).

Simmons: Our membership have given us the message loud and clear: we play the ball, not the person.

On the TOP website it says this: To this end TOP proposes to ban junk food advertising to kids and place a 20% tax on all junk food, based on an improved front of pack labeling system.

My question is how do you plan on defining junk food and would it be a flat 20% tax or higher for worse foods lower for mediocre, etc?

Simmons: The original proposal was a corrective tax based on the healthy star rating system, which would have meant higher taxes for worse foods.

My understanding is that the science around that star system has shifted since it was created. The consensus seems to be moving towards an excise tax purely on added sugar now (not just sugary drinks). This would also be easier to implement since most of our sugar is imported.

What’s your stance on a capital gains tax?

Capital Gains tax – especially with the owner occupied exemption – is a stupid move: https://www.top.org.nz/goodbye_capital_gains_tax

Our big problem is the favouring of housing investment over business investment. A CGT will not change that because it will hit business AND housing. In fact by exempting owner occupied housing it will make the favouring of housing worse. Plus CGT is complex and inefficient as all hell.

Our tax policy is that we pay too much income tax. If we tax housing the same as other investments (as per the risk free return method) then we could all take a 30% income tax cut.

How do we mitigate the impact on high wealth low income people?

– firstly, why do you think we have so many high wealth low income people? It is tax favoured.

– secondly, phase it in so people have time to change their portfolio, or farm in a different way (ie not for capital gain).

– thirdly, elderly can defer payment – effectively it becomes a death duty.

How does TOP plan to show that they are more than Gareth Morgan, that they can have a multifaceted identity in a time where possible MMP changes could allow the party to be a viable partner?

The Opportunities Party is becoming a movement. In line with that we currently operating on crowd funding.

Longer term we will need to raise more funding than this to be viable, but even if Gareth Morgan is one of those funders, he would be one amongst many.

A lot of money (Craig, Dotcom, Morgan) has not on it’s own been successful in getting a new party into Parliament. It goes help, but not when dominated by one personality/donor.

Being a ‘movement’ is a great term, but what does that translate to? To what degree will those that align with the ideas of TOP have their views reflected in policy planning?

We are already democratising the party – members are electing a Board rep and the Leader. We have also done a Listening Tour which will help the new Leader and Board develop some values for the Party:

https://www.top.org.nz/the_listening_tour_workshop_results

Longer term our position is that members should have input on questions of values and the experts should decide on matters of evidence. We are also planning to trial some deliberative democracy (e.g. citizen’s juries).

TOP has spoken about sitting on the cross benches if they were elected to parliament, and vote on each bill on its merits. This sounds great in theory but the reality is private member bills rarely make it past their first reading. TOP could further their agenda so much more if they were in government. If the opportunity (lol) arose to enter a confidence and supply agreement, would TOP take it seriously? What would be mandatory policy agreements in exchange for TOPs support? And what would be a deal breaker?

That was the previous leader’s position. My opinion is that some issues are better dealt with as part of a portfolio (e.g. Health), others not. So it would depend on the policies that we got across the line.

We don’t have mandatory policy agreements or deal breakers at this stage. Our top four priorities are:

1/ tax reform

2/ unconditional basic income

3/ polluter pays (environment)

4/ cannabis law reform

If TOP gets into parliament, are you going to go into coalition with Labour/Greens or sit on the sidelines? Also would you consider a coalition with National if it meant compromises on key policies?

If we get into Parliament the plan is to negotiate to get the most of our policies across the line as possible. Serious tax reform has to be top of the list however.

What’s your plan for DoC and conservation as a whole?

DOC is one area that this Government is doing pretty well with three exceptions:

1/ Marine. The lack of ocean management policy is a joke – it is bad for business and bad for the environment.

2/ Revenue gathering. The Maaori concept of kaitiakitanga is not about locking places up, it is about sustainable use. The tourist levy is a good start but there is much more room for this sort of approach. DOC’s culture needs to change, and I think working with iwi can help.

3/ Balance between conservation/ recreation/ hunting. We are long overdue a conversation on this issue – it is one policy area we are looking at.

What kinds of things should you think about when considering negotiations with other parties when trying to get policy over the line?

Obviously some of our policies are going to be a better fit with some parties than others.

But the main thing is to get that King/Queen maker role. That is the way to have real leverage over policy. Just look at what Winston got from the deal compared to the Greens.

In fact it is hard to see what the Greens got that wasn’t already in the Labour Party manifesto!

What kinds of things would you refuse to do, even if it were the difference between getting into parliament or not?

That’s an incredibly broad question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X_ViIPA-Gc

Like I said we recently did a Listening Tour to help us determine our values: https://www.top.org.nz/the_listening_tour_workshop_results

These will be ironed out post the leadership election. I won’t compromise on the party values.


I like some of the concepts of what they are doing, and as with all parties i agree with some of their policies and am not so keen on others.

I would like to see a party like this that isn’t dominated by a single personality and financier do well. I think it would add something worthwhile to Parliament if they find a way of overcoming the prohibitive 5% threshold – that is being talked about looks unlikely to change for the 2020 election.

And another major hurdle is the media, who favour the large parties and personalities. Colin Craig got close because of his headline/clickbait whackiness more than his policies. Same for Morgan to a lesser extent. Dotcom got a disproportionate amount of media coverage but he and Mana’s manic marriage still failed badly.

The media also seems to favour traditional politics and parties.

TOP need to somehow find a way to make their democratic processes and their research backed policies attractive. Simmons talked about being ‘a movement’, but that may take a lot of work and luck to get traction in social media.

Whatever they do, it will be a hard job for whoever takes over the leadership of TOP, and for the party.

 

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.

TOP to stand in Mt Albert

Despite Gareth Morgan saying his The Opportunity Party would be list nly and would not contest electorates, yesterday he announced that his chief of staff Geoff Simmons will contest the Mt Albert by-election.

Stuff: Gareth Morgan’s party to take on Jacinda Ardern in Mt Albert by-election

Millionaire economist Gareth Morgan has confirmed his party will take on Labour MP Jacinda Ardern in this month’s Mt Albert by-election.

However, Morgan himself will not run. Instead, his Opportunity Party chief of staff Geoff Simmons has put his name forward to run in the February 25 by-election.

Speaking in front of a van promising to “Make New Zealand fair again” Morgan said the decision of several parties not to contest the by-election meant there was “an opportunity here to do something for the people of Mt Albert”.

When was New Zealand fair before now?

It looks like Morgan sees an opportunity to have a practice campaign at electorate level and build some party profile.

Simmons, an economist with a regular interview slot on RNZ, had been responsible for a lot of the policy work at the Morgan Foundation and was “extremely literate in all that material”.

With the TOP emphasis on policy Simmons could make the campaign interesting if he challenges the cosy Labour-Green plans to promote themselves jointly.

It will be good if Simmons can test Jacinda Ardern’s policy mettle and force her into doing more than play her photo-op magazine style of campaigning.

In a reference to Ardern and Green Party candidate Julie Anne Genter, Morgan said Simmons would act as “a thorn between the two roses”.

TOP are unlikely to get close to threatening the outcome by it will be good to see Simmons  challenging the cushy co-party arrangement.

There’s a real risk to Labour here – that Simmons and Genter will overshadow if not overwhelm Ardern in serious policy debate, unless the show pony can prove she can tackle the hard stuff as well.