Gareth Morgan

TOP's most and least valuable electorates

Not only was Gareth Morgan's The Opportunities Party heavily dependent on their 10 most valuable electorates to record their 2.4% party vote total, but they were hugely dependent on the Wellington region, with it providing 15.77% of their party vote tally (I've excluded Ōtaki and Wairarapa from that definition of Wellington).

TOP's issues somewhat mirror those of the Green Party. Gareth Morgan enjoys plenty of name recognition in Wellington thanks to him living here, being an owner of the Hurricanes and Phoenix, as well as his other philanthropic endeavours around the city, and his now famous investment in his son's venture of Trade Me, but outside of Wellington, and other urban centres, TOP's support rapidly drops off.

Especially damning for Gareth Morgan and TOP is that they grossly under-performed in Auckland, with only Auckland Central, Mt Albert, and Epsom winning a higher share of the party vote than their 2.4% final result (North Shore was right on the cusp).

Given the 5% threshold, you either have to perform at, or above that, across most of the country to get in or, like the Green Party, absolutely outperform your national result in a handful of high turnout seats

The problem for TOP is that they weren't able to do either, and they probably weren't helped by the dithering approach taken by Gareth Morgan as to whether he'd stand in an electorate or not. Off the top of my head, Morgan publicly mused that he'd stand as a candidate in Epsom, Wellington Central, and Ōhāriu, but ended up standing nowhere.

As I suggested when reviewing New Zealand First's results, there appear to be clear benefits for your party vote results if you do stand either a competent or high profile candidate in an electorate. And when you're trying to get a fledgling political party like TOP off the ground, they probably needed Gareth Morgan to descend from his ivory tower of pontification and do just that.

Ōhāriu, Rongotai, or Wellington Central were probably the most logical choices for Gareth Morgan to do this. If, as TOP would have us believe, they had the best policies and people who value good policy would vote for them, then surely the three electorates that are saturated with public servants who live and breathe policy, would be the ideal place to maximise your support. They're also three electorates with high turnout, which in turn helps to maximise the impact of your party vote in those electorates, just as the Green Party has demonstrated.

As I mentioned earlier, TOP simply didn't register as an option for voters in most of Auckland with only Auckland Central, Mt Albert, and Epsom recording a higher share of party vote in their electorates than TOP achieved across the country. With such a Wellington centric focus to the party both in terms of the personalities running it, and the almost technocratic devotion to policy, it's hardly surprising that they bottomed out in our biggest city. 

I'm not sure that Gareth Morgan running in an Auckland electorate could have solved this. Auckland Central could have seen him play as a spoiler against Nikki Kaye, but given Gareth Morgan's ability to put his foot in his mouth when it came to women this campaign, it may have hurt him more than it helped him. Mt Albert would have seen Gareth Morgan come up against Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter, which wouldn't have been much better than him.

All of that leaves Epsom as a possible option for him. The race would have enjoyed a high profile thanks to David Seymour and the deal between National and him, and while Epsom sits near to the average of turnout, it could have been a good base for Morgan to lift TOP's vote in neighbouring electorates too. I suspect though that, like the Greens, the technocratic nature of TOP would have hindered these efforts, meaning a much lower return on effort than had Gareth Morgan run in Wellington.

If TOP is to build on its 2.4% from this election, they have two choices:

  • Move the party away from being quite so technocratically policy driven to something that's a bit more tangible brand-wise for voters
  • Accept that they are going to be a technocratic party and set out to ruthlessly maximise their vote in key electorates to offset their under-performance around the country. This will involve Gareth Morgan picking an electorate and running in it. Though at 64, unless Gareth Morgan is planning to do a Winston Peters and stick around in politics well past the age of super, though could be in trouble unless they're able to find a personality as big as Gareth Morgan's to fill his void once he steps aside.
     

Would rather donate to charity than spend on political ads? Yeah right!

If you're going to say you'd rather donate $1 million to charity than spend it on political advertising you'd think that's a pretty easy thing to stick to, wouldn't you? Not for Gareth Morgan's The Opportunities Party (TOP) it seems.

TOP got a lot of attention last month for announcing that, in protest over the advertising money allocated to political parties, that it would donate $1 million to charity because they'd rather do that than spend it on political advertising. Rightly, they received a reasonable amount of press coverage for it and while many saw it as a cynical ploy for Gareth Morgan to get himself back in the news, it was at least going to do some good.

So far, so good. Except you'd think if you've just announced you'd rather donate to charity rather than pay for political advertising then you'd not run paid advertisements. Seems pretty simple?

Except that it's not that simple for TOP. To be fair, you can almost forgive them for spending money on promoting their ads about how they don't want to spend money on ads and donate it to charity. The net effect of it all is that some very worth charities are going to get badly needed funds.

The problem is, TOP has now gone on something of a political advertising spree including with print and Facebook ads.

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The above are all clearly examples of political advertising. The first one teasing the release of TOP's health policy, the next on meeting the leader of TOP, another on their deputy leader on what can be done to bring down grocery prices, and the final one on water policy. They're all examples of paid political advertising. So what happened when I challenged TOP on this blindingly obvious hypocrisy on their part?

 

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This is where TOP is really getting disingenuous about their advertising. Being very familiar with Facebook's advertising platform, and given the frequency that I've seen their ads, they're clearly putting a significant amount of funding behind them to get that type of frequency that I've been seeing. So it's not just $100 on a single Facebook promotion, but a very broad and well backed political advertising campaign across a range of content and channels, including that ad in the Dominion Post too.

I'd also wager that TOP simply doesn't care about their hypocrisy either. If you've ever witnessed either their leader or deputy leader on Twitter, they both appear, in my opinion, to be rather immune to any criticism or contrary views whatsoever.

UPDATE 5 July 2017 10:40am: Contrary to TOP's Facebook comment posted above, apparently they do have a billboard on the corner of Willis and Boulcott Streets in Wellington. Gareth Morgan's left and right hands evidently aren't talking to each other, or they just don't care...

UPDATE 5 July 2017 3:55pm: Have now been supplied a photo of the billboard. Looks like TOP is treating everyone as fools.

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