Anti-cat campaigner Gareth Morgan is offering himself as Prince Charming to the moribund body politic. With one sloppy kiss, he’s offering to awake the New Zealand electorate from the decade-long deep sleep of the Key era.
Morgan is coy on his The Opportunities Party (TOP) policy, but in the past he has campaigned on everything from curfews on domestic cats to a capital income tax to whack the rich, and an end to “cheating” our way around greenhouse gas emission reductions.
“TOP is a rebellion against the politics of mediocrity, against the inertia of the Established parties,” says Morgan.
I suspect his biggest challenge will not be the inertia of Labour and National, but the inertia of the voters. He will also have an uphill struggle trying to engage voters in deep and meaningful discussion on such matters as the perils of climate change, and the finer points of taxation theory, in an era of tabloid journalism, and social media chit chat.
As a political veteran said to me after Morgan spun his TOP for the first time, “starting up your own political party is a lot harder than it looks.”
The last time a rich man successfully threw his money and time at the political establishment and caused a revolution was back in 1983 when millionaire Wellington property tycoon Bob Jones fell out with his old mate, National Prime Minister Rob Muldoon and unleashed his New Zealand Party on a fed-up electorate.
Comparing Muldoon’s heavy-handed interventionist policies to those he’d recently observed in the Soviet Union, the Jones Party quickly hit the polls on just under 20 per cent. His libertarian policies appealed mainly to the Right, but the way Jones deliberately riled Muldoon, appealed across the spectrum.
However, despite spending more on the campaign than any other party, and winning 12.2 per cent of the popular vote, NZ Party won no seats.
If money was a major driver, both Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig would have purchased themselves a spot in New Zealand’s parliament. But it takes more than money. People genuinely need to feel involved in some way.
It’s hard to see the Morgan Party pulling off a similar coup. New Zealand 2016 is a very different place. Despite the Opposition parties best efforts in recent years, the polls show little appetite for change – let alone revolution on the 1984 scale.
Even if there were such rumblings, Morgan’s professorial manner, his preference to sit about and worry each issue to death, is hardly the stuff of electoral rough and tumble.
On his website he confesses that “I respect both [Labour and National], and I’m happy to work with either. I sit pretty comfortably with either. My priority is to break the inertia that naturally encumbers Establishment parties and get through some overdue reforms to ensure fairness regains its rightful place in our society.”
These aren’t the words of a leader about to go into battle to wrestle votes and power from said establishment.
A total waste of time and money. Unless Morgan sees it as a platform for activism. The problem is that it invariably draws in the criminally insane. Just look at the people that congregated around the Internet Party. Where are they now? Where were they before? Will we ever see any of then again?
Morgan will get the benefit of getting a lot of free media coverage. But even the media will cut his throat closer to the election to ensure their vehicle for getting at Key doesn’t actually manage to embarrass any of them. Ask Kim Dotcom how that worked out for him.
– Brian Rudman, NZ Herald