Liam Hehir on rich political retards wasting their money

Colin Craig (both of them) with the interviewer and Mr X

In recent years we have had three political spastics try and get elected.

Liam Hehir looks at why they fail:

 It’s not uncommon for the rich and famous to have a go at cracking politics.

Sometimes they pull it off. Donald Trump has parlayed reality television stardom into the presidency of the United States of America.

But often as not, they fail. Meg Whitman, a billionaire former CEO spent US$144 million of her own fortune chasing the governorship of California in 2010. She lost by double digits.

New Zealand has not been a happy hunting ground for tycoons-turned-politicians. In the recent years, we have seen three attempts by those with great means to breach the gates of Parliament. All three efforts failed.

The first was businessman Colin Craig, who founded the so-called Conservative Party in 2011. The Conservatives garnered 2.65 per cent of the vote in that year’s election. That’s pretty good considering the party was founded just months before election day.

In the following election, the Conservatives boosted that to 3.99 per cent. Again, that’s not a bad result, and the fifth highest number of votes of any party. Nevertheless, it was still some 25,000 votes short of what was required for Parliamentary representation under the 5 per cent threshold rule.

There are a few reasons for why the Conservative Party did as well as it did. One factor is that it targeted social conservatives.

These voters form a large minority of the electorate but did not have an avowed champion within the existing Parliamentary parties. It stood to reason that some of them may have been willing to rally behind a standard bearer. In time, the Conservatives may have become that.

But as we all know (in way too much detail), the Conservative Party was engulfed in serious turmoil in 2015. Craig’s leadership of the party was lost as part of a messy fight that played out in the media.

He is no longer a member of the party which, although it contested the most recent election, is no longer a force to be reckoned with.

There is a small group, less than 5% of voters who are habitual party hoppers. They grasp at every passing political bus that offers them hope. Usually they are single issue nutters trying to influence a small party because belonging to a large party and being ignored for their stupidity is just too much to bear. The Conservatives identified several of these small grups and was able, until Craig’s demise, to keep their competing interests from destroying them.

The next such effort was the Internet Party, founded by controversial entrepreneur Kim Dotcom in 2014. In theory, the party’s aim was the promotion of privacy rights and Internet freedom. However, the party was soon co-opted into a movement that was extremely critical of prime minister John Key and the National Party.

Former Alliance MP and Minister, Laila Harre was appointed the party’s leader.

There was some optimism about the Internet Party from those emotionally invested in the idea that New Zealanders were, as a whole, disaffected. But this disaffection did not exist in great numbers.

The Internet Party remained extremely unpopular and its only hope of getting into Parliament came to be an alliance with Hone Harawira and the Mana Party.

Unfortunately for them, Hone Harawira lost his seat that year. Kim Dotcom’s hopes for his party’s entry into Parliament went with it. In the immediate aftermath, Dotcom speculated that his personal brand had a toxic effect for the Internet-Mana project.

Dotcom believed his own Twitter thread, and he stupidly believed that tweets, retweets and Facebook likes equals votes. Plus the very people he was seeking to support were running their own dirty politics campaign against Hone Harawira.

The third entry into the arena has been The Opportunities Party. Launched by economist and celebrity Gareth Morgan in late 2016. TOP had ambitions to turn New Zealand politics on its head. A notable aspect of the party was its strong denunciation of “personality politics”.

This position did not fit well with the fact that the party was founded, finance and seemed to be led as Morgan’s personal political project.

The fact that he is probably most famous for having strongly held personal opinions on most fields of human endeavour did not help. And, as the campaign wore on, Morgan’s irascibility wore thin.

Despite receiving an awful lot of media attention, TOP recorded just 2.21 per cent of the vote. It remains to be seen what happens to the party now.

Gareth Morgan is all mouth and no trousers. He will jack it in. All those people who voted for them, many of them have also previously supported Colin Craig. They are sycophants, and cultists. They await the next rich fool to clutch at the hem of their coat.

So what went wrong? Each party faced its own challenges and had its own unique weaknesses. But it’s notable that each of the party’s founders and leaders sought to translate their success in business into the political world.

The world of politics is very different to the world of business. We commonly note this in relation to the struggles that politicians face when they transition to the private sector.

Former US Senator and nominee for president George McGovern gave a wonderful and illustrative parable about the steep learning curve he faced when, after retiring from politics, he purchased a bed and breakfast.

He said that he wished he had “had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day”.

But the differences cut both ways, of course.

Ask any seasoned political consultant and they will tell you the wealthy businessmen often make the worst candidates. They expect their wealth, authority and success means politics will be a cinch. Accordingly, they are often reluctant to listen to advise. And they commonly fail.

As they have in New Zealand.

They do fail. They fail because of what Liam outlined above. They are used to being the boss and pointing their fingers and making things happen. Politics doesn’t’ work that way. You’d think they would have learned over the years to make sure they get good political consultants on board and to fine-tune their offering down to just a few issues. The fact that they don’t suggests they became successful business people by accident rather than by the force of their dynamic personalities and skills. I’m joking, of course, mostly they are megalomaniac muppets convinced of their own purity. They’ve run out of people to beat down in their businesses and it isn’t fun smacking the ones left anymore so they decide on politics. They want to inflict their obvious and apparent genius on us all and get a bigger audience to lecture and hector. When that balloon pops however they are gone faster than a fart in a cyclone.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

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