Want to understand why Gareth morgan's TOP didn't work? Take a look at the world of professional wrestling. AKA Too woke for talkback town, too talkback for woke town.

The party is over. The Opportunities Party, that is. TOP has written to the Electoral Commissin requesting it be de-registered. It's quest for the dominance of evidence-based policy is done and dusted.

Founder Gareth Morgan blames the public. "What makes the New Zealand voter tick is clear," Morgan says - and he doesn't think it speaks well of them. They failed him and, by not electing TOP to Parliament, demonstrated indifference to policy brilliance.

In his statement giving up the ghost yesterday, he harrumphed, “The voting public demonstrated that best practice, evidence-informed policy is not of significant concern when deciding elections". 

Forgoing the indignity of trying to appeal to an undeserving electorate in 2020, Morgan and his troop of "political orphans" have shut up shop instead. Or, in the case of some, started exploring other vehicles with which to make the case for evidence-based politics.  

What lessons can we take from this ill-fated journey? Nothing too new, I'd argue. But there are some helpful reinforcements.

First, the five-per cent threshold ensures that being well-funded is not enough to get into Parliament.

Second, being famous will not secure sufficient votes to see you elected.

Third, the political media is not all that good at reading the electorate.

In professional wrestling, promoters will "push" a wrestler onto the fans. This involves booking the performer in more, higher profile matches. Whether hero or villain, a successful push makes the difference between whether you're a fading up-and-comer and the next WWE Superstar.

TOP and its leader were the beneficiaries of a big push last year. He was constantly in the news (often, but not always, playing the heel). Despite poor polling and the absence of a viable path into Parliament, TOP's chances were repeatedly talked up.

It was not uncommon to hear the opinion that there was a place in New Zealand politics for a bad-boy, evidence-based party. What was constantly overlooked was that these comments usually came from people who would be voting for Labour or the Greens. Those willing to give TOP the benefit of the doubt were rarely willing to give it the benefit of its vote.

And, really, this outcome was clear from the start. What was TOP's constituency? Where was its power base?

It was a populist movement whose leader displayed disdain for the stupidity of common voters. It was an anti-establishment party that was going to rise up against the entrenched way of doing things from its base in, er, bureaucratic Wellington. It railed against personality driven politics while earning free media on the basis of celebrity.

The muddled waywardness of TOP was there at its inception. Immediately following his announcement of the party, Morgan compared himself to Donald Trump. Then he took that back and said distanced himself from Trump. Finally, he said he was a bit like Trump.

This was all at the same press conference, by the way.

All of that may have been interesting to people addicted to what passes for the high drama of politics in our quiet corner of the world. But nobody else really cared - which is kind of important in an election.

Thus passes the worldly glory of The Opportunities Party.

Comments (6)

by Dennis Frank on July 11, 2018
Dennis Frank

I agree the design & presentation were muddled.  Was the marketing failure more fundamental than the design failure?  I think so.  Branding is as much the key to successful political enterprise nowadays as successful business enterprise.

Being anti-establishment & nature-friendly since the sixties, I always saw Gareth's option as inadequate, but he has established that there is a politically-significant group of electors who prefer a more centrist solutions-focused party than the current alternatives.

His failure to use the bluegreen brand mystified me, after he made so much of it's lack of use in his headline commentary after our 2014 election.  Maybe TOP got legal advice that the Nat faction fronting with that brand had established copyright, but I doubt that copyright law automatically applies to politics as well as commerce.

I wonder how much market research they actually did.  James Shaw told us that 2014 exit polling revealed 18% of voters said they'd considered voting Green but didn't.  That's separate from the 11% who did.  Labour was flat-lining on bedrock support then, so I suspect that huge group of voters were bluegreens.  Political operators in Aotearoa continue to prove that they're mostly clueless.

by Fentex on July 11, 2018

...he has established that there is a politically-significant group of electors who prefer a more centrist solutions-focused party than the current alternatives.

How do you reason that, when he failed utterly to win votes worth a damn ("worth a damn" meaning 'to get someone elected')?

by Dennis Frank on July 11, 2018
Dennis Frank

TOP got around 2.5%, didn't it?  Swing-voters are normally credited with changing our governments (by political scientists) because that has been an established pattern for several decades (perhaps more than half a century).  Swing-voters are usually measured at around 3-5% of the electorate.

Using simple maths, that means the TOP voters are from half up to 80% of that critical group.  Since these centrists have been routinely discounted as merely people who get tired of a stale government, it's good to know that so many of them are willing to commit to an interesting fresh option.  Call it an experimental approach to politics - unafraid of novelty and innovation.  Could call it progressive too, but leftist readers might be traumatised by that, so better not...

by Ian MacKay on July 11, 2018
Ian MacKay

We could not risk a vote for TOP because the reach to 5% was too high with the risk of doing so exposing us to a further National Government. Had the threshold been say 3% he would have won seats because voters would see TOP as viable. As it was TOp did win about 75,000 votes.

by Charlie on July 14, 2018

I have to admit I had a bit of fun teasing TOP on Facebook.

Their centrepiece policy was Universal Basic Income (UBI) so I asked them where the evidence was that it worked. They responded by telling me how wonderful it all would be, but I kept pressing them for the evidence, seeing as how their policies were all "evidence based". :-)  

Of course they have no evidence because no other country has been daft enough to try it.

by Andrew Murray on August 01, 2018
Andrew Murray

I have always thought that TOP policies demonstrated a rationality that was separated from self-interest, reminiscent of John Rawls Theory of Justice, the original position 

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