Kudos to you Matt. You resigned from the National party to stand up for what you believe in and promote democracy and freedom of choice for New Zealanders. That you have the courage of your convictions to do so goes hugely in your favour.
Your fledgling political party now stands alongside a plethora of other established parties all of whom strongly support freedom-of-choice: New Conservatives, NZ First, ONE, Outdoors & Freedom, Social Credit and Vision.
Now with your party on that list too, voters have even more choice and will also have their votes diluted even more – as each of these small parties vie for the freedom-of-choice vote. Consequently none are likely to break the 5% barrier. As such your announcement created virtual screams that were heard metaphorically reverberating around social media groups.
Meanwhile the two wings of the existing political bird will be quietly smug, as the entrenchment of its power is ensured.
Who knows, you may be lucky, Matt. But only through waka jumping has the entry into parliament been achieved in the past by new political blood. Waka jumping, however, has always been done by taking a seat, rather than gaining 5%, at least initially. So you’ll probably need to take the Northland back. That means pulling enough votes off National and you’ve seen the effort they’ve put into retaining the seat previously. As a former MP standing against them that effort will be even greater.
Parties which formed while having a sitting MP and which achieved parliamentary representation include Act, Maori, Mana, NZ First, New Labour and UnitedFuture. Those who didn’t make the waka jump include Jami-Lee Ross’ Advance Party. If mainstream media is kind to you the result may be better but that was not the case for Jami-Lee nor Graeme Lee (Christian Coalition), or Brendan Horan (NZ Independent Coalition), or Ross Meurant (Conservative Party).
Successful waka jumping takes some serious political muscle, experience, determination, support and funding not to mention charisma and stamina.
Without waka jumping, not a single new party has ever managed to enter parliament by scaling the 5% threshold since the beginning of MMP. Big money hasn’t helped the situation either, as Gareth Morgan’s TOP, Kim Dotcom’s Internet-Mana and Colin Craig’s New Conservatives found out.
Only on polling day will we all know whether your solo strategy was the best use of your time and resources in the current political circumstances.
It would be gutting if only in hindsight it becomes obvious it would have been better to work with those who could have helped catapult a whole team of like-minded people and parties into parliament with a collaborative, co-ordinated, strategic plan.
For example, did you talk with movements such as Voices for Freedom? They have done the hard yards over a long period of time to provide New Zealanders with legal help, platforms for local groups and unity, important information, up-to-date science and event information. They bring valuable insight and foresight to the freedom movement.
Existing small parties have also done the hard yards for many years. Many have very detailed policy manifestos backing them. They have years of political experience campaigning, organizing, petitioning, questioning, engaging, publishing, and speaking out, and the combined knowledge and intellect of the leaders should never be underestimated, nor that of their wider circle of executive members, candidates and advisors. They already have party organisations providing support and building infrastructure.
Some small parties are talking to each other now as they realise that doing what they’ve always done will get them what they’ve always got – which was not representation in the House.
Small parties have a fire in their belly for their values, principles and what they can bring. With careful collaboration, they are looking at having their cake and eating it – or at least a fair chunk of it. What is important is that these parties, including yours, could agree on a basic set of values and principles which they undertake to support once in the House. From there they can agree to disagree and work their own parties from within the House rather than from outside.
These small parties are all fiercely protective of their brand, identity and sovereignty and will preserve their parties at all costs. For a collaboration strategy to be agreed on, it would always involve keeping each party intact, with their own membership lists, independence and confidence in the exit strategy.
If successful, their collaboration would be the first new elected political blood since MMP. The reward would be to give NZers their freedom-of-choice voice and allow their other policies to be heard.
Collaboration has worked in practice – it is not a theory. Initially, getting parties to work together may seem like herding cats, however it was done successfully in the past. Chris Leitch, currently leader of Social Credit was one of the initiators of the Alliance and helped navigate the ensuing multi-party collaboration which allowed it to enter parliament, even before MMP was a twinkle in our political eye. Even they, though, had Jim Anderton as a sitting MP with resources to draw on.
What has not worked in practice Matt, time and time again, is new parties trying to scale 5% on their own. That has never been done.
Here are some other factors you may wish to consider:
A single-issue party can only go so far and will only attract a finite number of votes. Your policy development needs some serious work (at present you have none). While Freedom and Democracy is one critical voter point of contention, taking the middle ground will require a diverse array of detailed, robust policies to ensure political depth and credibility.
Voters in the middle ground can be fickle. They do want to vote for their favourite party and are often members too, but at the last minute often vote for a large political party just to keep their worst-case-scenario out or get the incumbent party out when the media created “close race” is a telling factor. Thus in an MMP environment, outliers must demonstrate poll ratings close to 5% to instill confidence in voters that their vote will not be “wasted”. In general, the voting public does not respond well to the idea that their vote may count for nothing.
You will also be competing alone against other experienced politicians with household names such as Winston Peters and David Seymour. David Seymour, being already in parliament, has a head start and is working to secure the “freedom-of-choice” vote too.
Matt, I’m writing to implore you to work collaboratively with other groups whose sum of their parts is greater than the whole. This is the best chance to have representation of “freedom of choice”. Whether you do this before or after your new party is fully formed I’m sure you will be welcome either way. There has never been a more important time to ensure the “freedom-of-choice” vote gets representation.
Image credit: Amanda Vickers