Wellington Scoop

Gareth Morgan launches Top campaign, aiming for six MPs

BusinessDesk report by Pattrick Smellie
The Labour Party can only hope to change the government if its policies attract the same pick-up in support as its new Jacinda Ardern has done in last week, the leader of The Opportunities Party, Gareth Morgan, said at the party’s official election campaign launch in Wellington today.

“It’s too early to judge where Labour lands. Ten days ago we would have all written Labour off and it was a one horse race,” said Morgan after speeches to a loud-clapping crowd of about 80 packed into a Presbyterian church hall in central Wellington.

After a tumultuous fortnight in politics, which has seen Labour rocket 9 points to 33 percent in a Newshub Reid Research poll while the Green Party has plunged because of its leadership crisis, Morgan said it was “unfair to say, given what they (Labour) have done, that this is it, that this first impact poll is the limit of Labour’s advance”.

“It does depend very much on what their follow-up is in terms of the quality of their policies.

“Quite clearly, Jacinda’s a great communicator, so that’s good,” said Morgan, who welcomed Labour’s resurgence as “great for New Zealand democracy”.

“It’s an issue of whether that’s sufficient for Labour: the Jacinda Trudeau Effect, I call it,” he said, referring to the impact a young, stylish leader has had on Canadian politics through its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

“I’m fully discounting into it that Labour will become more competitive yet,” said Morgan.

While TOP’s plan was to “to be a 30 percent party by 2020”, he expected TOP to poll 10 percent at the Sept. 23 election, although modified that to “being realistic” 5 percent and six MPs in the next Parliament, enough potentially to help form a minority government led by either National or Labour.

While National had appeared TOP’s only potential partner on pre-Ardern leadership polling, that cannot now be assumed. A small contingent of TOP MPs could represent an alternative, under some scenarios, to Winston Peters’ New Zealand First party to achieve a parliamentary majority.

TOP has polled 2 percent in three published polls and 3 percent in a UMR poll reported this week by Radio New Zealand. The party hopes that means it has the momentum to make 5 percent by election day. As TOP expects to win no electorate seats, a party vote under 5 percent would be wasted as it would gain no parliamentary seats under New Zealand’s MMP proportional voting system.

Morgan insisted he did not want to become a Cabinet Minister and would look only to provide support to a government from Parliament’s ‘cross-benches’.

Rather than naming non-negotiable ‘bottom line’ policies, if TOP had a choice of partners, it would pick the one that promised to enact the largest number of TOP’s 15 main policies, said Morgan.

“Whoever gives us the most will get the nod.”

His speech in full.