Drip of revelations continue on NZ First Party/Foundation

Winston Peters and whoever run NZ First with him seem to have tried to benefit both ways with the NZ First Foundation – they sold it as part of the party, as the name implies, but are claiming it is separate from the party. But the drip feed of revelations continues to suggest what looks obvious, the Foundation is an attempt to avoid donation transparency law.’

There is no evidence that donors to the Foundation, and therefore to the Party, were rewarded with favourable policies, or grants from the Provincial Growth Fund. But the best way to avoid these types of impressions is transparency. The secrecy used – even NZ First MPs and ex-party officials claim to have not known about the Foundation – is always going to raise suspicions. Especially given Peters’ past shadiness and dishonesty regarding donations.

Matt Shand at Stuff today: Who are the donors behind the NZ First Foundation?

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters claims to be the leader who stands up to corruption and fights for the little man, but donations to the foundation show he is backed by wealthy investors, horse racing figures, food magnates, and property juggernauts.

Quite aside from the legal question over the relationship between the foundation and the party is the question of how Peters presents himself: the honest broker between two old sides of politics.

One of the crucial questions swirling around the NZ First donations saga revolves around who exactly knew what, and the relationship between the party and the foundation. Peters says the foundation is totally separate from the party, and that all questions about it are a matter for the party.

That sounds contradictory and confusing – but Peters often sounds contradictory and confusing.

“I look after the political wing of the NZ First party, that’s an administrative matter,” Peters said in Parliament on Tuesday.

“I’m in charge of the political body of NZ First.

That’s well known.

As for the administrative body, for 27 years we’ve complied with the electoral law in this country”.

That also seems contradictory. “We” suggests he is also in charge of “the administrative body”, bujt it’s not clear what exctly that is. The Foundation?

But Stuff reveals that Tauranga-based list MP Clayton Mitchell acted as one of the bagmen for the foundation – which appears to have operated as a political slush fund – financing NZ First’s party operations.

Many sources, on and off the record have confirmed that Mitchell solicited donations for the party, but would often give out the NZ First Foundation’s bank account details.

So at least one MP was also involved.

It can also be revealed that at least some donors spoken to by Stuff were not aware that donations were going to foundation and not the political party.

The revelation that Mitchell was one of the bagmen for the NZ First Foundation could derail Peters’ assertion that the party and foundation, which received more than $500,000 worth of donations, are not connected.

Donations to the foundation are under the $15,000 threshold required for the party to declare them, but several donors said they believed they understood were donating money to NZ First, and not the foundation.

It seems difficult to separate the two.

But there were other large donations, many of which are from companies and individuals who work in industries that have benefited from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. Stuff is not suggesting any wrongdoing on the part of the donors, and it may be that those industries would have benefited regardless.

The largest series of donations occurs from Conrad Properties Ltd or companies and trusts connected to that company. The company donated $27,500 to the foundation in 2017 and 2018, as well as $15,000 in 2019 to date.

The largest of those is over the threshold requiring the donor to be identified.

The racing industry feature heavily within the donations, with at least $80,000 identified.

One investor, who Stuff has decided not to name, has connections with the mānuka honey industry, and has spoken out about the need to protect the brand’s copyright.

The Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by NZ First minister Shane Jones, has granted $5.7m granted to the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society to help protect its trademark. There is no information saying the two are linked.

Those sort of links emphasise the need for transparency. If there is no direct connection between donations and PGF grants then everything should be done openly to show it.

The volume of donations is at odds with what the party recorded in its 2017 and 2018 returns.

In 2017 NZ First secretary Anne Martin declared that the party received only 13 donations of $5001 to $15,001, totalling $135,994, for the 2017 calendar year.

In 2018 then secretary Elizabeth Witihera reported five donations totalling $65,000 in the same range, but foundation records show 10 donations totalling $135,000.

Up to April this year, the foundation had received $80,485 in donations.

That will no doubt be checked out by the inquiry started yesterday by the Electoral Commission after a complaint was made to them.

RNZ: NZ First’s political donations: A creeping feeling of deja vu

Swirling rumours of dodgy dealings over political donations, Winston Peters full of bluster and denial, and potentially a drawn-out series of combative but ultimately meaningless exchanges with the parliamentary press gallery.

There are perhaps lessons here too for Jacinda Ardern, as Prime Minister of the Cabinet, and who the opposition will ultimately hold responsible if these allegations gain momentum.

In 2008 it all went wrong for Mr Peters; the months of controversy around the Spencer Trust and attacks on his integrity resulted in a ballot box defeat, ejecting him and his party into the political wilderness.

The central allegation was around a $100,000 donation from businessman Owen Glenn – he insisted he made the donation to New Zealand First with the knowledge of Mr Peters – who said he knew nothing about it.

There were also theatrics – he summoned journalists to the party’s offices in Bowen House where he brandished the infamous “No” sign – the reply to every journalist’s question about receiving the Glenn donation.

Then there was the spectacle that was the Privileges Committee. A super-sized select committee room set up for the occasion with big screen TVs for prime viewing. Main antagonist and ACT leader Rodney Hide took up his position at the front of the public gallery each day as Mr Peters and loyal lawyer Brian Henry were put through their paces.

Mr Peters was censured by Parliament but in the end that was just a slap on the wrist.

More testing were his relationships with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark and Deputy Michael Cullen, who stood by Mr Peters until his resignation as Foreign Minister became inevitable.

National has described the latest claims, if true, as the most serious of their kind in New Zealand history.

But as with internal political scandals, National will have to step carefully as its nose is not completely clean.

For years it used blind trusts to transfer donations to the party itself, a practice that ceased with a law change. Even now there is still an active Serious Fraud Investigation into the National Party relating to the disclosure of donations.

But apart from NZ First the biggest political risks are for Jacinda Ardern and Labour, who chose to go into a coalition with Peters knowing his history.

Danyl Mclauchlan at The Spinoff: The NZ First donations scandal is very serious, and won’t let Jacinda Ardern hide

There are two separate issues here. The first is whether New Zealand First has broken the electoral law. That’s a matter for the Electoral Commission, and if they decide the law was been broken they can refer the matter on to the police or the Serious Fraud Office. Peters says he is looking forward to discussing the matter with the Commission, and is “confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years”.

The second is whether senior ministers in the current government could get caught up in accusations of corrupt practices. When you have companies and individuals making secret donations to a party that holds the portfolios in those industries, there is every reason for the public to ask questions about whether their government is behaving defensibly.

New Zealand First’s coalition partners have dreaded this moment for two years. The prime minister’s instinct will be to distance herself from the scandal and hope that it goes away. “We assume that the law has been followed.” “It’s a matter for the Electoral Commission.” “I am not responsible for the New Zealand First Party.” And so on. But the matter of whether or not she presides over a government linked to allegations of “corrupt or illegal practices” is not a matter for another party or office. The integrity of the government is the prime minister’s responsibility.

One of the things that led to the end of the Clark government was the endless drip feed. The allegations of secrecy and deceit swirling around NZ First just kept coming. And now this government is trapped in the same political hostage situation, with the same politician, facing accusations of engaging in the exact same practices. An early election might be worth the risk if the alternative is a year of ongoing leaks and allegations

I don’t think an early election would help Labour much. Ardern yesterday effectively ruled it out “I’m not Muldoon” but the way information keeps dripping out political reality and necessity may change.

Mclauchlan has been involved in the Green Party in the past. He is now an astute political commentator.

Andrew Geddis: One possibility is NZ First has broken electoral law. The other possibility is worse

Let’s pause and look big picture. We have a political party that is a keystone of the current government. Its members are ministers, with responsibility for (among other things) distributing $3 billion in government largesse around the country’s provinces.

And now we are told that a legally-opaque foundation intimately connected to the party has raised hundreds-of-thousands of dollars from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”. That foundation allegedly has used the money for the benefit of the party and its MPs. And no-one outside of the party and those that gave the money are made any the wiser.

If this is legal, then there’s no way that it should be. You can’t have a country’s political system run in this way and be considered the second least corrupt nation on the planet. Or, at least, you can’t do it for long.

Geddis is a law professor at Otago University.

This is an important democratic issue. There have been past concerns about donation skulduggery by both National and Labour, and there is an SFO inquiry into National after a complaint made by Jami-Lee Ross.

But the biggest issues here are what is being revealed about NZ First – the party and the foundation – and the implications of that for the current coalition government and next year’s election.

Some diverters have canvassed past party malpractices here over the last few days. Please don’t repeat diversion attempts. Either comment on this week’s revelations and their implications, or desist from dredging up squirrels.

And if you continue to grizzle about what I choose to post, it may encourage more rather than less posts on topics you may be trying to bury. A post on diversion and discrediting techniques by political activists is tempting.


More from Stuff today – QComms: the mysterious firm revving NZ First’s campaign engine

An obscure company directed by Winston Peters’ personal lawyer is at the heart of the NZ First campaign engine, documents from a Stuff investigation reveal.

Brian Henry is the sole director and shareholder of QComms. The company that has no online profile, phone number or any other listed information – but in 2018 charged the New Zealand First Foundation for at least $93,000 worth of work and reimbursements to contracted employees. One of these contractors is Henry’s daughter.

Henry is a trustee of the foundation, the director and shareholder of the company, and also the judicial officer of NZ First. This web of connections suggests he receives political donations in one hand and pays his own company with the other.

Invoice records for the NZ First Foundation reveal that two contractors for Thorn Services Limited drew wages from the Foundation account acting on behalf of QComms. One was former NZ First board member John Thorn. The other is Henry’s daughter, Jamie Henry.

Records show at least $93,000 was charged to the NZ First Foundation in contracted wages, reimbursements and other expenses for work done for QComms, a company which appears to have no income other than political donations given to the foundation.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117570433/qcomms-the-mysterious-firm-revving-nz-firsts-campaign-engine

Sustainable NZ could help Labour, Greens as well as environment

The newly launched Sustainable NZ Party has been criticised a puppet party set up to either give National  coalition option they are currently lacking, or compete with Green votes to try to stop the Green Party making the 5% threshold,

But if SNZ makes it into Parliament (this is a long shot but possible) they could help Labour or the Greens (if the get back in) as much if not more than they could help National.

SNZ in Parliament could give Labour a choice between them and the Greens, giving them more coalition bargaining power.

SNZ could also give Labour or Labour+Greens an alternative to NZ First for a coalition.

A Labour+Greens+SNZ coalition should have a strong environmental mandate, far stronger than currently with NZ First in the mix.

The Greens have actually reacted with “it only strengthens democracy when we have a diversity of people running in general elections”.

And even if National and SNZ form a coalition, that must be better for environmental policy implementation than National on their own or with ACT.

The bleating from the left seems more old school politics where parties like Labour think they should be able to effectively rule on their own, or as far as the Greens are concerned worried about self preservation (the threshold), or seeing themselves as the exclusive champion of environmental policies.

Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog: The real purpose of National’s new ‘Sustainability NZ Party’

The point of Sustainability NZ for National is not to get over 5% and join them in Parliament, it’s to take just enough green voters away from the Greens so as to sink them under 5%.

That’s just one possibility. Voters may see differently – two environmental parties could be better than one.

If we had a Green movement that wasn’t more focused on meaningless consensus and middle class identity politics, they could see this challenge off from Sustainability NZ, but because of the shrill alienation the Greens  manage to create, this could be the plot to rob them of any representation post 2020.

He also takes a swipe at the Greens. The bitterness of someone with no party to support.

Voters could dump the Greens from Parliament regardless of SNZ. If that happens and SNZ manages to get in then we must be better off than being left with National versus Labour.

MickySavage at The Standard: Sustainable Party launches

The Sustainable Party, National’s sock puppet party designed to weaken the Greens has launched.

That’s a negative Labour reaction, without stopping to think through the possibilities.

At a time when the world is in a crisis caused by run away climate change there is only very oblique reference to this most pressing of problems.  It should be centre and front of any policy announcement by a so called environmentally focussed party.  That it is not speaks volumes.  And that the policy is being used to try and wedge the Greens on  Generic Engineering shows the real motivation behind the party.

The Greens should be challenged on their ridiculous entrenched anti-GE position,

Of course the reality is that this party is a puppet party, designed to cause as much grief as possible to the Greens.

And he refuses to accept that late stage capitalism and unfettered greed and growth are the cause of our problems.  That economic disparity and ecological decline are happening hand in hand because they are symptoms of the same problem.  Instead he claims that his party is  “pro-progress, pro-technology and pro-science” and seems to think that eternal economic growth is possible.

This sounds like knee jerk anti-new party syndrome – established parties seem to hate newbies with new approaches. They seem to feel threatened.

Beyond the overreaction of political bloggers, RNZ – Sustainable New Zealand political party: Other parties unruffled

The Greens said they were “not too fussed” about a potential rival, saying in a statement the ‘teal’ vote was miniscule.

“We think National are the only ones likely to lose support,” it said.

“However Mr Tava is welcome to give it a go – he has every right to and in fact it only strengthens democracy when we have a diversity of people running in general elections.”

Yes, under MMP more parties in Parliament strengthens democracy, giving major parties more options to get genuine majorities to progress policies.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford did not think Sustainable NZ would take many votes from the Greens.

“While Mr Tava talks about being willing to go with National or Labour or anyone else I think it’s pretty clear that they are positioning themselves very much on the right side of the political spectrum with all their talk of working with business…

Funny, Bradford equates “talk of working with business with “very much on the right side of the political spectrum”. Even Russel Norman appeared willing to talking with businesses, and James Shaw certainly is willing.

Apart from the fringe far left healthy business is seen as an integral part of the way we live.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said more voices for protecting the environment was a good thing, but he thought the party might struggle to get a coherent message through.

“Much of the destruction of the environment has been the result of commercial exploitation and it seems like their economic policies may not be ones that would actually change that, so we look forward with interest to see what the full suite of their policies might be,” he said.

Mr Hague said focusing the majority of their policies on the environment, could place them at a disadvantage too.

“If they say they’re just going to have environmental policies that is going to make them pretty much a lame duck within Parliament on most issues.

Not necessarily. All parties in Parliament have to make decisions on issues they don’t have policies on.  That doesn’t make them lame ducks on those issues.  And where parties have policies on issues the reality is that most parties have to compromise on their own policies most of the time.

Labour’s 2020 campaign chair Megan Woods said they had not yet discussed the prospect of working with the party.

Ms Woods said however it would not change anything about their campaign and Labour would just be focused on telling its own story.

“[The] launch comes as no surprise, this has been well signalled, but what it does show yet again is that National still has a big strategic dilemma around a lack of coalition partners,” she said.

If she or Labour thought things through it could be a positive change for them – providing they can win more votes than National next election.

Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern throws doubt on Vernon Tava’s Sustainable NZ

Jacinda Ardern has hit out at the newest political party Sustainable New Zealand, saying the Government is already catering to the environmental needs it’s offering.

“I do believe that environmental matters are a huge focus for this Government and I don’t see that there’s necessarily a space that [Sustainable NZ] need to fill,” the Prime Minister said Monday.

But Labour leader Ardern questioned the need for Tava’s party in the current political space, asking reporters at her post-Cabinet press conference: “What is the political issue that they are trying to solve?”

Ardern said the current Labour-Green-New Zealand First Government is already doing plenty for the environment, pointing to the Zero Carbon Bill that passed its final reading last week.

She also reflected on the $181.6 million funding boost over four years given to the Department of Conservation in Budget 2018 – the largest bump in conservation funding since 2002.

“If they claim that they are operating in an environmental space… I’d say that it’s being very well catered for by this Government,” Ardern said.

How well the environment is being catered for is debatable, and could be better catered for if SNZ replaced NZ First as a coalition partner for Labour+Greens.

SNZ could compete with votes that could otherwise go to Labour, and that’s not what a party leader wants.

But for non-aligned people like me another party option to vote for is a good thing. I don’t think there are any current parties in Parliament that deserve my vote. I’d like more options, and SNZ looks to be potentially a good one.

Ngaro continues as National list MP while ‘talking’ about new party – farcical

It is really an extraordinary situation  now where Alfred Ngaro is still working as a National list MP, while talking to people about whether to set up a new party.  It’s surprising that Simon Bridges tolerates the situation.

Ngaro was interviewed on Newshub Nation, where he suggested that if he starts a party he would consider a coalition with the Tamaki/destiny party.

It is remarkable that he agreed to be interviewed when he would have known a possible party would be a major topic he would be questioned about (why else would Newshub invite him?)

So has Coalition New Zealand jumped in ahead of you? Have they stolen your limelight?

Look, I’m not about race. This is not a race, and I think people will know that any form of politics — it’s a long game not a short game.

An odd comment.

Although yesterday Hannah Tamaki said, ‘Alfred Ngaro, come and join us.’ They extended an olive branch. Do you want to join them??

Okay, well, will you rule that out then?

Well, the thing is that I’m focusing on those, and there will be opportunities where lots of people are coming to talk to me, and, like I said, people— I’ve got invitations now to talk. I’ve had no phone calls and that. That just happened yesterday, so for my mind, stick to the task. I’m performing my role as a National list MP and at the same time having lots of conversations.

They want you to come along and say that you’re looking for a home, but do you think there’s enough space for two faith-based parties in parliament — or even to run at the election?

Yeah, well, if you think about the history of New Zealand, as far as faith-based or values-based organisations or parties that have been there, they’ve often formed coalitions if they’re to make it there. You can think about in 1996 — you’ve got the Christian Democrats with Graeme Lee and then you also have Christian Heritage,—

But they’ve been—

…so the way forward is to— actually, you would have to form a form of a coalition collectively together.

Right, so that’s a possibility, say with the Coalition New Zealand, then? You’re not ruling that off the table?

Well, the only two parties that are here on the table that we know of is the New Conservatives and this now Coalition Party. I don’t have a party, as I said. Last Friday there were conversations, so hand on heart, I don’t have a constitution. I haven’t been planning a party. What I’ve been having is people coming to me, and I’ve been humbled, Simon, by the conversations that people have said. That actually this is something that maybe we should consider.

Yes. Well, obviously you have to be considering it, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me. You must be quite serious about this.

I’ve gone on the record, and I’ve said that I am considering it.

Yeah, so what’s the time frame?

Well, I think it’s something— I want to be really clear and careful that I don’t— I’m loyal to the party, and I think that’s really important. I don’t disrupt the direction of what they’re doing as well. So that time frame’s going to have to be fairly soon.

I think he has to decide very quickly. He can’t be talking with people about forming another party and remain loyal to National.

Unless National are supporting what he is doing – which would be another remarkable situation.

What makes you think that there’s a place for a faith-based party in government — where everything seems to be based on evidence, in terms of decision-making?

Well, faith is evidence as well. It’s the value system that people have, and so when people act out of it, you can’t say their faith doesn’t have evidence. It’s actually the evidence of the values that people have in the way they exercise them.

Faith is not evidence based.

But faith is belief. It’s not a scientific evidence.

That’s right. That’s right, and so you and I would say that, for instance, when we say that we show love, care and compassion — well, that’s faith that you and I have, right? We believe in each other. We believe in the people around us that they would act justly, kindly and caringly. Those things are really important.

So he has now contradicted himself on faith being evidence.

Well, that’s values-based decision-making, isn’t it?

But here’s the evidence, right? If you don’t have a principle to act on, then the actions that you take is the evidence of those beliefs. You and I know that when we see people who don’t act with kindness, who don’t act justly, then that’s the evidence that there’s a lack of principles. So you can’t divorce them. You can’t just say that, ‘Well, here’s evidence, and here’s faith or here’s some values.’ You and I act every day, in this nation, around this country, everybody acts with a set of principles. That’s what drives us.

Good grief. he doesn’t seem to have anything of substance to say.

So you believe out there on issues like end of life, abortion law reform, maybe even cannabis, there is a wave to ride into power?

Well, Simon, I don’t need to believe that’s out there; it is out there.

There’s certainly opposition to those issues being reformed, but but it would take more than Ngaro’s vagueness to ride a wave to power. It will be difficult enough for Ngaro to win an electorate leading a new party, and very difficult to make the 5% threshold.

You say that you’ve got people approaching you, there’s all these issues that this is riding on, but is it more a political thing where Simon Bridges says he’s giving you space to consider your options — National didn’t have a coalition partner to get into power last time. Has that party, has National, asked you openly or quietly, to do this?

So the long answer is no.

That’s the short answer.

Well, the thing is that it is no. This has not come out of the National Party. There is no one in the leadership that’s turned around and said, ‘Hey, we should consider this.’

So they’re happy for you to do this though?

Well, put it this way — they’ve asked me, and— Look, I’m really thankful. I’m grateful for the fact that they’ve given me space, and I’ve been to Simon, and Simon — as he declared — that I went to see him. In fact, I went to go and see him two months ago, just to say to him, ‘Look, people are coming to see me and talk.’ I want to be respectful to his role of leadership—

Ngaro has been talking about the new party idea for two months, including talking with Bridges about it. And he is still being ‘given space’ to continue while still supposedly working as a National list MP.

If you do this, are you going to take other National MPs with you?

No.

Just going to be you?

Well, put it this way — I’m not going to go and actually take people away from what their roles are. People are free to choose, to make their choices. I’m not seeking to divide the party. I’m not seeking to distract from the party, and if it means that, for instance, even when I was speaking down at the LNI Conference last Sunday, I withdrew myself. Why? Because no one person is bigger than the party.

So it is affecting his job as a National list MP.

And while he says he is not going to poach other MPs from National he sees it as up to them to choose if they want to split with him.

Okay, well, let’s see if you own this. Will you confirm right now that at the next election you’re going to be leading a faith-based party?

I can’t confirm that.

Why can’t you do that? Now is the time to do that.

Well, Simon, when you say you’re considering, that’s what consideration means. If you say you’re planning, then that’s different.

So what are you doing here right now? If it wasn’t serious, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me.

I tell you what I’m serious about. I want to clarify things. Okay, that’s really important. I want to clarify the fact is that where my position is. Okay? People have been coming in, and I chose to come here, as opposed to some of the other programmes by the way, because I wanted to have a conversation like this, so we could actually talk through what those issues are. They’re coming to me and saying, ‘Where are we going to have a voice for our values in the House of Representatives?’

And when are you going to answer them?

Well, Simon, here’s the thing — I’ve got a political career that I’ve been a part of for eight years, I’ve got a family, also I’ve got a party that I’ve been hugely grateful and thankful for. That’s not something that you make lightly. I did not make that announcement last Friday, by the way. These were just conversations that people were having—

So the ball’s in your court now, and you’re not giving us an answer—

The ball is in my court. No, what I’m telling you is, ‘Watch this space.’ Rest assured, I’m not going to leave people hanging. I think that’s really important.

This is looking more and more like a farce. Ngaro looks to be way out of his depth. And this looks increasingly like it could be quite damaging for National.

I don’t see any chance that this Ngaro party will fly. It is barely flapping on the ground.

New Conservative Party launched

The Conservative Party was Colin Craig’s party. It was seriously damaged when Craig hit problems with ex-staff and multiple defamation actions, and Craig dropped his political ambitions.

The party has been repackaged and relaunched:


NEW CONSERVATIVE – BUILDING THE RIGHT BRIDGES

“New Zealand needs a viable coalition option before the 2020 election,” says Leader Leighton Baker at the launch of New Conservative.

Immediately following the 2017 election result, the impact of MMP politics and coalition governments highlighted the vulnerability for the major parties. The 1 News Colmar Brunton poll of 28 May 2018 again raised this question for the National Party.

“We recognise the importance to New Zealand of presenting real options for voters,” observes Baker.

“With several months to evaluate the political landscape, we appreciated how important the Conservative Party was for New Zealand, but we owed it to our members to build on our foundation with new energy and so New Conservative was born,” says Baker.

Established only six weeks before the 2011 election, the Conservative Party achieved over 2% and was well on track for the 5% threshold for the 2014 election before the well reported public fall out for the then party leader Colin Craig, who resigned from the party in 2016, and a rebuilding process began.

“Time worked against us for the 2017 election,” recalls Baker, “but we could not ignore the members who remain committed to the core values of the party.”

With sound policy, and a leadership with extensive experience in the areas that present most challenge for New Zealand, there is fertile ground for New Conservative.

“Our re-launch as New Conservative retains our connection to the solid foundation of our party values while allowing us to disconnect from a history that has nothing to do with who we are,” concludes Baker.


From their website:

WE STAND FOR

A belief in loyalty to a sovereign and united New Zealand, the supremacy of democratic parliamentary institutions and the rule of law.

A belief in the institutions of Parliament and the right of citizens to direct government by the democratic process including binding citizens initiated referenda.

A belief in the equality of all New Zealanders and that all citizens, regardless of race, gender or religion, have equal rights and privileges.

A belief in a decent society that values life, individual privacy, the freedom of the individual (including freedom of speech, conscience, faith and assembly), the right to defend one’s self and property and the importance of family.

A belief that it is the responsibility of individuals to provide for themselves, their families and their dependents, while recognizing that government must respond to those who require assistance and compassion.

It will be difficult for the New Conservatives to get media attention let alone anywhere near sufficient support to look like a viable option.

Via email:

On a wild and rainy Monday we managed to gather around 50 members and supporters for the launch of our new name, New Conservative.

It was an excellent time enjoyed by all and we left inspired that hope remains and that we are the Party that focuses on fixing the causes of the challenges we face as a nation, rather than throwing money or legislation at the problems.

The whole meeting was shown on Facebook Live and you can view the just over one hour long session here. After welcome and introductions, Elliot Ikilei spoke, followed by Leighton Baker.

The 5% threshold hasn’t been beaten by any new party yet under MMP. Craig’s millions and his quirkiness that attracted media coverage was not enough.

However there could be an opportunity in a changing party environment – voters may react against the move towards a virtual two party contest.

Mugabe sacked as party leader

The ousting of long time leader Robert Mugabe progressed in the weekend with Zimbabwe’s governing party voting to expel him and his wife. His resignation as President has also been demanded, or he will be impeached.

Mugabe is scheduled to address the country shortly and is expected to resign.

Guardian: Zimbabwe’s ruling party fires Robert Mugabe as leader

Zanu PF has sacked the president and replaced him with Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he dismissed two weeks ago

The ruling party in Zimbabwe has given Robert Mugabe until noon on Monday to resign as president or face impeachment by parliament.

In an extraordinary meeting in Harare, the capital, on Sunday morning more than 200 Zanu-PF leaders voted to sack Mugabe as the party’s leader and demanded that the 93 year old “resign forthwith from his position as head of state”.

The move by his own party significantly weakens the position of Mugabe, who has refused to step down following a military takeover last week, despite huge demonstrations in cities across the country on Saturday demanding that he leaves power.

Mugabe has argued that the military takeover is an illegal coup and appears to be hoping that this will trigger regional intervention, sources familiar with his negotiations with the military said.

Zimbabwe’s parliament will reconvene on Tuesday after a week-long suspension and will launch impeachment proceedings immediately if the president has not resigned, MPs said.

The procedure is unprecedented, and it is unclear how long it might take.

Zanu-PF also expelled Grace Mugabe, the divisive first lady, and twenty of her closest associates.

When the motion was passed, removing Mugabe from the head of the party and appointing Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace him, the hall of Zanu-PF delegates broke into cheers, song and dance.

The 200 or so members of the central committee leapt to their feet, many singing Mnangagwa’s name.

“This is the day that is defining the new birth and development of our country,” said Mike Madiro, chairman of one of the provincial party branches that had formally set Mugabe’s dethroning in motion.

This may be the end of the Mugabe era – he has served as president since 1987 – but this is not necessarily the end of dire political and economic situations in Zimbabe – This is redistribution for Zimbabwe’s elite, not revolution in a ruined nation:

In the capital, the roads are potholed, outside they are cracked and crumbling. Banks are so short of cash that people wait hours to withdraw even tiny sums. The only jobs are in government service, yet salaries are rarely paid. The best and the brightest have long fled abroad. Warehouses are empty, fields lie fallow. The busiest store in rural villages is the “bottle shop”, selling dirt-cheap spirits.

Zimbabwe has famously abundant natural resources but resuscitating the economy after 20 years of disastrous mismanagement and wholesale looting by corrupt officials is a major undertaking. The banking system needs to be rebooted, faith restored in the national currency and government finances somehow replenished. The vast debts incurred by Mugabe’s regime need to be rescheduled or waived and new funding arranged to rebuild the country’s shattered infrastructure.

The ruling Zanu-PF party and allies in the military launched their takeover to purge an ambitious faction that threatened their position, not because they wanted to see structural reform that would shut down their own lucrative rackets and rent-seeking.

The people of Zimbabwe have high hopes of a new democratic era. But the ousting of Mugabe was a redistribution of power within the ruling elite of Zimbabwe, not a people’s revolution.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ousted vice-president, who is most likely to succeed Mugabe when he finally leaves power, is no committed democrat. He was Mugabe’s chief enforcer, with a long history of human rights abuse. Mnangagwa, 75, will need to make some concessions to public opinion within Zimbabwe and the hopes of the international community, not least to get the donor and diaspora money the country so desperately needs. However, he will seek to do this while reinforcing, not weakening, the grip of the party.

So Zimbabwe’s problems will just have a different figurehead.

 

How to Start a New Political Party

I looked seriously at how to start a political party. Seriously enough to have a go in 2011, suggesting a party based on more inclusive democracy. That’s actually where the name of this site came from – Your NZ.

It soon became apparent that it was a daunting task, especially with few resources (in other words, I’m not a multi-millionaire with money to burn).

Getting the 500 party members necessary to register as a party is challenging.

Most people who are interested in political involvement are already involved with existing parties. And by far the majority of people are not interested in getting involved in political parties.

Even if you can manage to sign up 500 party members there is then the reality that no new party has managed to beat the 5% threshold. Most get nowhere near it, and with no apparent chance of making the threshold voters aren’t interested.

There were sixteen registered parties this election so they must have all signed up 500 members, but the Internet party only got 464 votes so far – perhaps the rest of their members will be counted in specials.

Anyway, I’ve been sidetracked from the reason for this post – a post by Alex Eastwood-Williams at Right Minds NZ on How to Start a New Political Party

This includes an interesting graph of the historical links between different New Zealand political parties, plus discussion on party formation.

My point was to demonstrate that founding a new political party simply to cater to a more pure strain of a particular ideology is almost always a waste of time and effort (I’m looking at you, MNZGA). To be successful, political parties have to be able to form coalitions, and I don’t mean coalitions with other parties, I mean form coalitions of voters.

Last week I used the example of New Zealand First, currently the third oldest party in New Zealand, and argued that its political survival hinges on its ability to form an internal coalition of working class Maori, upper class elderly white people and disillusioned voters from other parties such as Labour or the Conservatives.

A big talking point as we await the outcome of the election is the Green Party determination to not consider a governing with National, and their exclusion so far from discussions with NZ First in particular and also their supposed ally, Labour.

Greens have successfully managed internal coalitions but have been largely unsuccessfully over 7 elections at forming meaningful coalitions with other parties.

How to form a new party:

So maybe you’ve read all this, but you’re still hell-bent on starting a new political party. What can you do?

You have only two options: You can either attempt to find people on the extreme wings of the left and the right and hope that enough people are annoyed with Labour or National being “too centrist” that they’ll vote for your new party instead – but be aware that as soon as you end up in power, you’ll be absorbed by the bigger, older party.

The alternative is to build a coalition that is neither left nor right and be non-aligned: Either you could be a liberal right-wing party like Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party in 1984, or a conservative left-wing party like Social Credit. You could try and be “centrist” but appeal to urban liberal voters like United Future or the British Liberal Democrats, or you could try to be “centrist” but appeal to rural conservative voters like NZ First (and, again, Social Credit).

As long as you’re consistently attacking both the left and the right in equal measure, and you don’t get into power, your movement will survive. And it helps to go in the opposite direction to the other parties, too.

But too much negative politics can turn potential supporters off. Winston Peters tends to dominate the “consistently attacking both the left and the right”, leaving little room for anyone else in this space.

For example, if Labour are trying to be socially conservative to win National voters, and National are trying to be left-wing to win over Labour voters, then your best bet is to form a right-wing socially liberal party: It worked for Bob Jones in 1984, it works for the Libertarians in the US (where the Democrats and Republicans both try to out-conservative or out-big government each other) and it worked well for the Liberal Democrats in the UK when you had a socially authoritarian New Labour competing with David Cameron’s “Compassionate” Conservatives.

However if things are trending the opposite direction: National are trying to be socially liberal (e.g. John Key) and Labour are trying to be economically right-wing, then you should be trying to win over the conservatives and economic left-wingers.

Basically, if you’re a non-aligned party, you should do the opposite of what the left and right parties do: If they agree on something, it’s your job to disagree.

But if you’re planning to start a new party, and if you’re planning to be successful, be prepared to eschew ideological purity: There are a diminishing number of each type of voter, and you will need to be able to form a coalition that can appeal to as many as possible.

I really don’t think there is much hope for any new party with the current barrier of our 5% threshold. National and Labour have been happy to keep that in place to protect their patches. Even the Greens have been happy with a high threshold, despite their claims to being principled on democracy.

Going by our 21 year history of MMP the only practical way of starting a new party requires a long term and high risk strategy:

– join an existing party
– grease your way up the ranks
– either score a winnable electorate (if in National or Labour), or
– get enough party support to get a winnable place on the party list
– establish yourself in Parliament for a term or two
– get enough other MPs to split off into a sizeable new party
– win an electorate or beat the 5% threshold in an election

If you manage to make it that far your next task is to play a meaningful part in a government. That could take another term or two, or if you’re the Greens, seven terms and still trying.

As well as this expect to get a lot of media disinterest because you are not deemed important enough for them to promote, unless you create some controversy and get hammered by them.

If you look like achieving some success also expect attacks, undermining and dirty politics from opponents in parties and in social media.

Why don’t we get more good quality candidates and politicians?

There is the odd exception.

Shane Jones seems to have been given an easy ride into parliament by Labour, and again by NZ First. But he is part of the club.

A media bored by the Auckland mayoral election last year amused themselves by picking up and promoting Chloe Swarbrick, and she picked up a few more consolation votes than others.

And the media kept giving her exposure, leading to her taking her chances with the Greens. It turned out she was the right age and sex for the Greens to promote her up the ranks, ahead of candidates who had been greasing their way up the party for many years. And she’s now in Parliament. But for every Nek Minit success there are thousands who get nowhere near achieving their political ambitions.

Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and now Gareth Morgan couldn’t buy their way into Parliament with huge resources.

The most common pathway into Parliament these days is to become a party staffer either as a political graduate or a journalist, and grease your way up the party from there. Many years involved before even getting a shot at the big time.

Trying to start a party and trying to find a way into Parliament can be interesting and fun, but for most it is futile hobby.

If you want to be an MP your best chance is making it a career and wheedling your way into and up the political class.

If you want to fast track pick a smaller party with possible future prospects. Unless you can convincingly join the Green congregation they only option is NZ First, but that means having to approve of Winston and be approved by him. And remaining subordinate.

Someone may come up with a successful way of starting a political party, but the formula hasn’t been found yet. It will take a lot of ability, a lot of nous, and a lot of luck. Even the most successful politicians happen to be in the right position of the right party at the right time.

Party ‘pulse’ and activity on social media

An early peek at Zavy, a new website that scores the positive and negative ‘pulse’ and activity of parties on social media by measuring the sentiment of of comments and public activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A current snapshot of the Facebook channel:

ZavyFacebook20170821

The Zavy Pulse maps the change in sentiment of each political party’s activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Text analytics define whether the comments made are positive, neutral or negative.

This illustrates Labour’s rise and sustained activity when Jacinda Ardern first took over, then the spike over the weekend with Labour’s campaign launch.

It also shows a dip and then a dramatic dive for the greens coinciding with their convulsions last week, and also a negative reaction to National’s boot camp policy.

The wideness of the lines show ‘volume of conversation’. You can scroll and click to see online articles and posts relevant to the measure.

You can point to any part of the lines to click up relevant news, like this from yesterday:

ZavyPulseLabourExample

You can also compare public activity on different platforms.

Labour and TOP are doing the best on Facebook:

ZavyScoreboardFacebook

The Zavy Scoreboard presents each political party’s share of social media conversation: their total number of interactions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Greens and NZ First do better on Twitter:

ZavyTwitter

The Greens dominate on Instagram.

It’s well worth having a play with: Zavy – New Zealand Election 2017

How well planned was Labour’s leadership change?

There are some aspects of Labour’s very quick leadership change that raise a few questions.

It appears that as far as Andrew Little went he was genuinely undecided about what to do on Sunday when the Colmar poll went public and Little went public in response, making a major mistake for a leader when he questioned whether he should remain. Who advised him to go public with doubts?

On Monday Little seemed to swing back to being determined to stay on, but I think he was out of Wellington.

However on Monday evening it was reported that he was going, and it was specifically stated that Labour sources had Jacinda Ardern set up to take over, with Kelvin Davis as deputy.

When Little returned to Wellington on Tuesday morning he was asked at the Wellington airport what he would do, and he told a reporter he would not step down.

But at 10am he fronted up to media and said he was quitting. That was followed by a Labour caucus meeting where he nominated Ardern as leader, and Grant Robertson nominated Davis as deputy. Both were unopposed so got the top jobs.

Soon afterwards, at noon Ardern fronted up to media seeming remarkably well poised and prepared considering she officially only knew she would be leader about an hour earlier. She read from speech notes or a written speech.

Afterwards Davis claimed that it was all a sudden surprise, but there are doubts about that. It would be remarkable for someone to make such a big decision that would dramatically effect their and their family’s lives in an hour or two with little or no chance to discuss with family.

Stuff:  Labour’s Kelvin Davis is ready for the spotlight

Kelvin Davis says he had no idea that he’d have a new job just 24 hours ago, but you get the feeling he’s been getting ready for a while.

He was nominated by finance spokesman and former deputy Grant Robertson, and was elected unopposed.

But while texts were swirling discussing the possible pairing of Davis and Ardern on Monday night, he is adamant he had no idea he would be in this role until the morning.

“24 hours ago I was in a totally different frame of mind, and not expecting to be the sitting where I am now – but that’s the nature of politics,” Davis said.

Davis was in Northland and planning to stay on, but his assistant booked him flights down to Wellington late last night.

He woke up at 4am, had “the quickest shower of my life” and drove to KeriKeri airport to fly down.

Davis said he managed to talk to his wife about the decision to be deputy leader before making the call – and she said “go ahead”.

He said “he had no idea he would be in this role until the morning” but that is contradicted by “his assistant booked him flights down to Wellington late last night”.

He may well have been uncertain whether Little would step down on Tuesday, but he must have considered the possibility well prior, and must have been involved in discussions on Monday, otherwise he wouldn’t have been named as deputy in advance.

Ardern has obviously been groomed and preparing for a leadership role for some time. She stood as Robertson’s deputy in 2014 when they lost to Little.

Normally Labour have a very involved leadership selection process that has taken about a month, being decided by a vote  split between Caucus (40%), party members (40%) and affiliated unions (20%). Little beat Robertson by just over 1%, but with scant support from Labour’s caucus.

There is an exception to this process – within three months of a general election the caucus alone can decide on a leadership change.

Given that it is now less than two months until the election and time is critical – Labour’s billboards and pamphlets have all been printed and there is not much time to reprint and re-plan their election strategy – I don’t think the exact timing was planned.

But it looks suspiciously like alternative leadership had already been well canvassed and planned, should the opportunity arrive to shove Little aside.

It looks like Labour’s caucus, or at least some of it, had at least deliberately been prepared to overrule the decision of members and unions.

Lynn Prentice at The Standard posted  Ok, I’m pissed off with the Labour caucus again. Time to switch

To say that I’m pissed off about whatever happened and deeply suspicious about the action of the caucus, would be an understatement. The vote in 2013 [it was November 2014] by the whole of the Labour party as a group to install Andrew Little was quite clear. He wasn’t exactly my choice of a best candidate, but he was the best candidate to cut across the whole party and their supporters. Especially bearing in mind the damage that the faction fighting inside the caucus had done since Helen Clark stood down after the 2008 election.

I neither have time or the inclination to dig around to see the machinations that caused this to happen in the 3 month window when caucus alone can elect the leader of the parliamentary party. But I am deeply suspicious about the timing and abrupt nature that it isn’t a coincidental move. It looks to me like a deliberate roll via whisper campaign and a general lack of support in a caucus. I’ve had rumors of a move by the conservatives and ambitious in the caucus to do this for a while.

Anne commented:

I’m with lprent on this one. We’ve both been around the Labour Party a long time and observed the machinations inside the Labour hierachy, and their parliamentary equivalents, from the inside looking out, and from the outside looking in. We’ve got form when it comes to understanding the nature of their respective ‘modus operandi’ and its not always a pretty sight. I could go on to detail what I mean but frankly can’t be bothered.

I, too, was hopeful that the elevation of Little would put an end to the factionalism and he certainly has held them in check. However, its now starting to look like the leading parliamentary lights have taken advantage of the current situation and (I suspect) exacted their revenge on the membership and affiliated unions for daring to go against their wishes in the leadership election 2 years ago [closer to 3 years ago]. Unfortunately, the weaker members of caucus appear to have not stood up to them and have been rolled into line.

The truth will emerge one day.

No matter how they were put in these positions Ardern is now leader, and Davis is deputy. The campaign will roll on.

But it appears that the story about how they got there is being spun somewhat.

It will now be interesting to see what Ardern and Labour do about policies.

Policies are theoretically put forward and debated and decided by all of the party, involving party members.

Labour’s current policies have been developed and decided over the past two and a half years.

Ardern could put different emphasis on policies that are already in place or in the pipeline.

But if she makes policy changes, as some people are urging (the Corbynisation of NZ Labour has been suggested by left wing activists) that would be another usurping of party processes by a caucus cabal.

If Labour do well in the election then this may not matter – power placates the party plebs.

But if Labour end up in  opposition again for a fourth term the caucus could fragment and the party may want to take out their annoyance on someone.

Some of the affiliated unions may not be very pleased either. Recent donations:

Maritime Union of New Zealand – $40,500 received on 19 July 2017

E tu Union – $120,000 received on 20 June 2017

They have lost the leader they voted for.

D’Esterre at The Standard:

It certainly looks like that. I’m very angry at Little’s ouster and I’m done with Labour.

It infuriates me that I made a donation to the party the day before Little was forced out. Now Andrew Kirton is claiming a flood of extra donations over the last couple of days as an indication of public support for the change of leadership. It bloody is not, in my case at any rate! If I could get that money back, I would.

Last night, I got the begging e-mail from Jacinda Ardern. Would I be getting my cheque-book (to coin a phrase) out? somebody asked me. Not. A. Chance.

One thing seems likely – that while the timing may have been opportunistic quite a bit of planning had already taken place by some in Labour’s caucus. Ardern and Davis must have considered the options well in advance, they were too ready to jump in not to have been.

If that’s the case then some people aren’t being straight with the public. That’s a risky thing to do during an election campaign – especially if not everyone in Labour is happy.

Adam:

This is a coup d’etat, pure and simple.

An authoritarian one at that.

So much for democracy for the members of the labour party. This is quite an awful affair. But good news for us who have been saying all along labour is a liberal party representing the interests of the liberal class, by using the words of the suffering and pain to trick people.

Trick me once, shame on me. Trick me twice, shame on you. Keep on trying to trick us – well for that we have the labour party.

If the election goes well or ok for Labour most may be forgiven. If not Labour could be at risk of further turmoil. Politics can be a high risk game.

Uninspiring slogans

Current party slogans (or website headings):

  • National: Delivering for New Zealanders
  • Labour: A Fresh Approach
  • Greens: Great Together
  • NZ First: Stand with us.
  • ACT Party: A tax cut for every earner
  • United Future: Working to secure a Better Deal, For Future Generations
  • The Opportunities Party: Care. Think, Vote.

Nothing that grabs attention there. I think the last one is the most effective.

But how many votes come from the slogan? Does it matter?

NZ First congress from the inside

This is one of the best political party insights I have seen – a journalist became a paid up member of NZ First and observed the people and the policies from the inside of their congress in the weekend.

Branko Marcetic at The Spinoff:  I joined NZ First and went to their conference to find out what they’re really up to

To its supporters, NZ First is the only party that truly gives a damn about the average Kiwi, and its policies are born of fairness and common sense. To its detractors, it’s a hotbed of racism and intolerance that threatens to bring Trump-like authoritarianism to New Zealand.

In an attempt to cut through the noise and get a sense of what the party truly is about in 2017, I decided to immerse myself, and look at the party as an insider. I paid the $10 fee to join the party, and signed up to attend the conference — my first for any party — as an observer. The intention was not to indulge in “gotcha journalism” or attempt to lampoon other attendees, but to engage with and better understand the men and women that make up a party so often defined by sensational headlines.

The weekend gave me an insight into a party that is almost universally expected to hold the balance of power come September 24.

Despite the party’s association with anti-foreigner sentiment, immigration was rarely touched on across the weekend. In fact, if there was a prevailing theme weaving through the various speeches, discussions and debates at the 2017 conference, it was a steadfast opposition to neoliberal economics, a belief that New Zealand had gravely erred in the embrace of deregulation and globalised trade since the days of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.

If you want to get an excellent insight into the NZ First party the whole article is worth reading.

Peters aside there are a lot of people who believe in the party and what it stands for.