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Love Him Or Hate Him – Morgan’s Not Like Other Wealthy Men Bursting Into Politics

By   /  November 7, 2016  /  19 Comments

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Every so often, somebody or something comes along which puts a bit of their weight upon our psephological scales, and subtly (or, in this case, probably not-so-subtly) shifts our entire political conversation and course along with it.

Often, when we seek to analyse these figures and these moments, our eyes are first drawn to the boisterous braggarts who want to play political maestro – and hold the fate of governments if not the nation right there in the palm of their hand on election-night by dint of their inexhaustible wallets.

Now, given Friday’s announcement one might be forgiven for thinking that the above is how I’d characterize errant economist Gareth Morgan. It’s certainly a self-appointed thorn-crown which would seem fittingly adorned for two of the most obvious points of comparison to the author of The Opportunities Party – namely, Colin Craig and Kim DotCom. Or, as they’re now known, NZ’s most famous defamation litigant and extradition-case, respectively.

But Morgan’s different. And in at least two key ways.

If we look at his actual record of political engagement here in New Zealand over the years, it’s quite clear that this is someone who’s poured in an almost superhuman level of effort to publicizing issues that he cares about … and, y’know, trying to create change … for quite an extended period of time without ever once seeking to win public office. His debut on the ballot at the next year’s Election, then, contrasts most markedly with Craig staging a fairly well planned two-year ‘arc of ascent’ from referendum-rally-march-organizer to Mayoral candidate to party leader; or DotCom deciding almost on the spur of the moment to attempt to wreak electoral vengeance upon the backs of the government he first donated to and then was spurned by in his hour of need.

It’s probably important at this juncture to note that I haven’t always agreed with Morgan. But whichever way you slice it, it’s difficult to argue against the notion that this is somebody who has put sustained effort into our politics of a manner and character that is probably unequaled among the ranks of those who aren’t doing so with the pursuit of public office in mind.

The results and the reception have occasionally been mixed: while his advocacy for a Universal Basic Income probably had more tangible impact, earlier, than Labour’s now-lukewarm picking up of the idea earlier this year … his de-caturization proposal, on the other hand, appeared to be opposed by an order of magnitude more people than supported it. But either way, there is no denying that we all sat up and took notice – and that for a few weeks in each occasion he’s swooped in, we’ve all found ourselves collectively talking about whatever it is he wants us to ponder.

In other words, politically speaking, Morgan’s no ‘flash in the pan’. Entering electoral politics directly might be comprehensively new territory for him, but he’s been around for awhile and has something of a demonstrable record in this area. I therefore think I believe him when he states that the setting up of TOP has been something of a move of frustration with the continual ‘roadblock’ of establishment politics from his perspective.

But while there is a perhaps surprisingly strong track-record for wealthy Opinionista-fronted parties in our politics (consider Colin Craig’s Conservatives almost grazing the 5% threshold with 3.98% in 2014 – or, further back, Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party winning a substantial 12.2% of the vote in 1984) and even better prospects for them if we look offshore (never mind Donald Trump … does Clive Palmer ring a bell? He should – his eponymous Palmer United Party won three Senate seats plus a Federal Parliament one in the year after its formation in 2013 over in Australia) … this doesn’t necessarily militate either in favour or against Morgan’s future political prospects.

Instead, what WILL determine whether The Opportunities Party are in a position to seriously influence our Nation’s politics by this time next year, will be the set of steps which Morgan takes as he continues to build his party and campaign machine.

Morgan’s main weakness is not in the traditional areas associated with those dipping their toes into the waters of electoral politics for the first time. He’s got a demonstrably viable head for policy (and policy detail), as well as a well-established media profile arguably larger than that of some Cabinet Ministers. I also presume that, as the direct result of his previous projects with The Morgan Foundation and its associated outreach attempts, that he has both a pre-existing (professional) staff and some currency out there in the community when it comes to networks he can activate.

But what he needs more than anything right now are i) ‘political insiders’ who’ve direct, personal and above all RECENT experience in how ‘the game’ works in order to direct TOP’s immediately ensuing growth; and ii) people able and capable of running political/electoral campaigns and recruiting and directing the manpower to propel same.

I have this vague suspicion that Morgan’s Trump comparison was overly revealing of proposed campaign style – and that he might thus attempt to push TOP to 5% largely off the back of his own media presence, without matching this fearsome asset with corresponding spadework on the ground. This will be questionably viable in electoral terms; and will unquestionably make a waste of the formidable force-multiplier he has in his extant politisphere/media persona if there’s nothing for it to actually ‘multiply’ in the first place.

Fortunately, for a man of Morgan’s means, the required personnel resources ought not be too hard to come by. There’s a not insignificant number of people who worked hard with demonstrable results on 2014 or even 2016 Campaigns who, for whatever reason, are now looking for a new political paymasters. And as we saw from his enlistment for the Morgan Foundation’s Treaty Talks project of Hone Harawira’s former right hand man Jevan Goulter, Morgan already evidently has at least some connections in these areas which he can draw upon.

Once that is done, he can start upon the serious business of attempting to first demarcate and then carve out a ‘core constituency’ for his party. A number of proposed areas have been suggested by other commentators, ranging from “somewhere between ACT and the Greens”, and “Blue-Greens with a twist” (if we insist upon using other, more established parties as easy yard-sticks for potentially vast and ill-defined segments of the electorate).

In any case, however he chooses to proceed with the above, the course of his party is likely to prove worth watching.

Even if he doesn’t succeed in cracking the 5% threshold late next year, there remains every chance that his efforts and his exploits will be strongly positioned to have a pointed influence upon our broader political conversation and thus the other parties.

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"Part Apache; Part Swede. Part Attack Helicopter; Part Kitset Furniture."

19 Comments

  1. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Banks and corporations have a stranglehold on NZ, and they will not release that stranglehold voluntarily.

    If Gareth Morgan’s agenda matches that of the banks and corporations he will be tolerated, perhaps even embraced. If his agenda is threatening to the stranglehold he will be mercilessly stamped on and crushed.

    • I think there is appetite for well researched ideas

    • John W says:

      AFKTT. Axiomatic.

      The problem with our multi party system is that it is accessible by the rich who have proven their predatory stance.

      How long is it since we have had a politician who debuted on ideas and common good no holds barred.

      Now we have a Wall St puppet as PM

  2. Bg says:

    The same Gareth Morgan that described North Korea magnificent?

  3. Interestingly, Morgan was candid and upfront in declaring that if his new Party crossed the 5% threshold, they would not be seeking any coalition deals, but would seek to influence the government-of-the-day from the cross-benches.

    That’s a refreshing bit of honesty, for which I give him kudos.

  4. gsays says:

    Perhhaps this new venture is a break away from the old,jaded left/right framing of politics.

    The ubi is a god example: to lefties it is a way of undoing inequality, to conservatives it’s a way of having more people participate in ‘the market’.

    As for curbing cats behaviour: it has fans and detractors from across the spectrum.

    Good luck to him.

  5. Helena says:

    Does Mr Morgan have the money, influence, armies to take on the Secret Government of the US : http://galacticconnection.com/the-path-to-total-dictatorship-americas-shadow-government-and-its-silent-coup/?mc_cid=f99ca2f415&mc_eid=992f5a3916
    and the “7th Floor” plans to pursue the Project for the New American Century : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century
    which Project the 7th Floor Secret Government gives itself the Divine Right under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_doctrine to conquer and subjugate all inhabitants of those lands with special treatment meted out to those of coloured skin.
    In other words – can Mr Morgan defeat the real Power behind the TPPA which is the Project for the New American Century?
    He can’t. Only We the New Zealand People united as one can do that and we don’t need political parties to succeed. Been there done that and nothing ever changed regardless of the political party name. And why? Because since the outset this country has been operating under the Discovery Doctrine only here in this part of the Pacific our indigenous were treated slightly better than the indigenous of Australia who were and remain fair “game”.

  6. Helena says:

    All politicians are honest and upfront until they’re not.

  7. Draco T Bastard says:

    But what he needs more than anything right now are i) ‘political insiders’ who’ve direct, personal and above all RECENT experience in how ‘the game’ works in order to direct TOP’s immediately ensuing growth

    If you’re out to change the system because it’s not achieving what needs to be done then having insiders with experience of how the system isn’t what you need – unless they stand up and explain how the present system is broken.

  8. Blake says:

    Afewknowthetruth is right – as usual.
    This is all about the criminal greedy corporate and bankster control but let us not forget that the people have much power if they unite.

    We just have not figured out how to unite powerfully and effectively yet.
    We remain, even here at TDB, in victim and conflict mode and finger pointing wasted energy. We complain about this and complain about that and rarely discuss how we can get together and make some changes we need – TOGETHER.

    My first suggested move here at TDB would be to get rid of Chris Trotter.
    He, in our opinion, is the biggest finger pointing energy waster at TDB.

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