Why TOP will not be much help to National
By Richard Harman (author)
The decision yesterday by The Opportunities Party to stay in politics does almost nothing to assist National win back power at the next election.
National’s strategists argue that TOP, with a focus on environmentalism, could take “soft” votes off the Greens thus pushing them below the five per cent threshold.
And National Leader Simon Bridges yesterday suggested his party could do a deal with TOP.
He said he was "not not open" to doing a deal with with TOP's new leader, Geoff Simmons.
But TOP is going to be up against it. And so is National.
POLITIK understands that though TOP's founder Gareth Morgan has contributed a six-figure sum to assist the party go forward there is no guarantee of any finance from him beyond that.
However, yesterday after the party announced it would continue, $20,000 flowed in from members.
Meanwhile, the party is apparently talking to an overseas-based New Zealand business person who may be willing to contribute some big money.
And there were more signs yesterday of the ructions that have periodically rocked the party with the new leader, Geoff Simmons, telling the interest.co.nz website that controversial broadcaster Sean Plunket would not be the party's communications director even though his sister, Paddy, is one of the board members.
At the same time, the overall electoral landscape has not changed in any way to suggest that the party might be about to enjoy more success than it did during the election campaign.
Even with the $2 million plus that Gareth Morgan's poured into the party last election, it got only 2.41 per cent of the vote, well shy of the five per cent it needed to cross the threshold and get a seat.
And its vote was disproportionately weighted to Morgan’s hometown, Wellington; 16 per cent of its total vote came from the capital.
The new leader, Geoff Simmons, is also from Wellington and, like Morgan, an economist.
“Since Gareth called for proposals to take TOP forward, we have been deluged with pleas to keep it going,” he said from Italy yesterday.
“There is a strong feeling amongst membership that TOP hasn’t fulfilled its potential yet, so a few candidates have come together to keep the momentum going.”
“We will be operating from the same core values we always have - using an evidence-based approach to give hope to the next generation of New Zealanders, by building a thriving, fair economy which doesn’t stuff up our environment.”
But it is long odds against the party reaching the five per cent threshold and thus gaining seats in Parliament.
Who it would join in Government is a moot question.
Central to the party’s pitch at the last election was its comprehensive assets tax and Simmons, in particular, was a strong advocate of it.
That would suggest TOP would be more likely to find compatibility with Labour who will undoubtedly propose a capital gains’ tax once the Tax Working Group has reported.
What this highlights is how difficult it is for National to find partners. Without them, it is highly unlikely to be able to form a Government despite the fact that it continues to record the highest vote share of any party.
In a way, the party is continuing to pay the price for its dismissal of NZ First during the election campaign with then-Prime Minister Bill English's exhortation to voters to "cut out the middleman" and ignore NZ First and vote National.
It’s only option is to hope that somehow New Zealand First might implode.
National Leader Simon Bridges, has vehemently denied claims that he recently tried to split New Zealand First by recruiting Defence Minister Ron Mark to National during a plane trip when they ended up sitting together.
But yesterday on RNZ’s “Nine to Noon” show, former Labour party President, Mike Williams, claimed that there was a witness (Mark’s Press Secretary) to the conversation.
Asked about this yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, said she knew nothing about it.
There are other claims that National is trying to sponsor the creation of a new Conservative Party.
But the basic equation is simple: As long as Labour and National continue to poll where they do now and assuming that NZ First holds together, it is possible that TOP could eat into the Greens vote to bring it below five per cent.
However even then, the centre-left (Labour and NZ First) would still be able to form a Government, albeit with a very small majority, possibly as low as three seats.
The only way National could form a Government would be if it could keep both the Greens and NZFirst below five per cent.
It is a tough ask.