sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Gareth Morgan debriefs on TOP: 'It was never about having a democratic political party structure where the latest recruit had the same say as those that had spent 10 years building to this – that’s just the naivety of political groupies'

Gareth Morgan debriefs on TOP: 'It was never about having a democratic political party structure where the latest recruit had the same say as those that had spent 10 years building to this – that’s just the naivety of political groupies'
Cartoon of Gareth Morgan by Jacky Carpenter

By Duncan Greive

This interview was first published on The Spinoff's website on July 10. Duncan Greive is The Spinoff's managing editor. 

In an election campaign replete with fascinating and colourful moments, The Opportunities Party and its leader, Gareth Morgan, were at the very least the outstanding subplot last September. Yesterday, out of the blue, it was announced that the TOP board had decided not to contest the 2020 election and would be deregistering with the Electoral Commission. But why? Morgan, currently travelling in Armenia, agreed to take some questions over email.

The Spinoff: What has prompted the board to shut the party down now?

Gareth Morgan: Our market research analysis indicates that policy is of minor interest to all but a small subset of the voting public, that in essence there is a massive Establishment party inertia, which in part explains why the policy differences between Labour and National are so minor, even trivial. The way I’d express all that is that the electorate is too fat, content and complacent to respond to radical policy change, albeit policy that without question is of superior quality, evidence-informed, and theoretically sound.

That implies that to change the voting public’s political priorities requires a massive investment of time – time that individuals who have other options might more productively apply on other projects. While of course there is a body of politically active enthusiasts for TOP’s approach who would like to keep plugging away, the project needs money if it’s to realistically ever be more than a bit player like the Greens or NZ First and actually challenge the status quo of the two Establishment parties. The Board of TOP’s perspective was never about wanting to be a political party just for the sake of being a political party & facilitating life-long political careers. It was always only about offering the public a manifestly better set of policies – in essence on a take-it or leave-it basis. Those policies are well documented as is the research base that underpins them. There is nothing stopping any budding career politician or group of politicians from picking them up and participating in the process. We wish them luck but our observation would be that political success has very little to do with quality of policy.

Was there much debate about the decision, if so, what was the nature of it?

No debate really, it was about a post-election process of finding two things that would make a second election campaign worth the sacrifices: (a) a leadership group that would effectively participate in the day-to-day circus that is politics and most importantly champion the policy set, not compromise it for their political careers (b) funding of a magnitude that would challenge the election cycle spend of Labour and National (so $5-$15m per three-year cycle). We agreed that TOP would never succeed in the substantial voter education programme that’s required to break the cycle of underwhelming, mediocre, caretaker governments in NZ, by relying on a shoestring-funding line such as the Greens & NZ First have. That level of funding would condemn TOP to a perennial bit player.  It would be the last place champions of best practice policy would want to be.

To be blunt we could not secure (b) without an effective solution to (a). And over the eight months since the election we did not identify any leadership talent that was in our view, capable of popularity plus policy integrity, consistency and excellence. Hence the final decision was easy in the end.

Do you have any regrets about decisions made through the campaign? If so, what and why.

Absolutely not. If I personally had wanted to ingratiate myself to the voting public as a career politician I would have entered the field years ago when I knew nothing, but just wanted to be a politician. I approached it the other way – I made sure I knew a hell of a lot about policy and presented it to the public on its merits, but on a take it or leave it basis. They said “thanks but no thanks, we get our jollies from popularity contests not policy excellence”. That’s the reality – hence Labour did so well with an abysmal policy offering but a charm offensive, while the Nats had lost their charisma factor. That is the level the electorate-at-large operates on. It’s an enormous task to inject any sort of intelligence into such a morass.

Looking back on the campaign is there anything which still rankles? Media coverage, the TVNZ debate?

Nah not really, the electorate and the media are what they are. I always knew we were challenged with lifting the level if we wanting an election fought on policy excellence. Some would say we made a great start, that 2.4% is pretty bloody good for 12 months effort. That may well be, I don’t really know. What I do know is that devoting time to politics denies me of a heap of other cool things I could be doing. So I was always going to present TOP on a take it or leave it basis – there was never any intention of being a plodding, also-ran like the Greens or NZ First. Life is too short to waste it like that – unless of course that is the limit of your aspirations.

What’s your opinion of the New Zealand voter based on your experiences in 2017?

Fat, content and complacent. Of course the aggregate electorate is the sum of its parts – from the enlightened, intelligent, policy-aware, objective voter through to the tribal sycophant and on out to the other side – the disinterested who still think their uninformed vote is worth the same as an informed one. But that’s our form of democracy which delivers unimpressive policy decade after decade. The result – as any decent policy analysts will know – stagnant productivity, piss-poor quality of business investment, rising inequality and a significant intergenerational disparity of opportunities between generations.

Do you see much hope for New Zealand’s democracy, based on your experience of it?

It is what it is and delivers what it does. Mediocre policy at best and poor economic and social performance – we’re falling down the OECD rankings for very good reason. But, hey, we’re all pretty happy with this so I see it all continuing for the foreseeable future.

After the election there seemed some division within TOP about where to take the party, and your style of leadership. Do you think that was warranted? And did some of that debate contribute in any way to the decision to shut the party down.

Nah. We had a few flakes aboard – which you can expect given such a short gestation period. They should never have left the Greens really. TOP was never an exercise in kumbaya, we were on a mission, to improve policy. It was never about having a democratic political party structure where the latest recruit had the same say as those that had spent 10 years building to this – that’s just the naivety of political groupies.

You and Sean Plunket got into your fair share of Twitter scraps during the campaign – do you think staying closer to the more successful Facebook campaigning and away from controversy might have helped people focus more on your policy?

Yes I’ve heard this argument. “Please don’t offend me, I won’t vote for you if you expose my arguments as vacuous”. What that tells me straight away is that the aggrieved are incapable of developing and continuously improving their policy arguments, having them tested and really striving for the highest quality policy outcome. These are political groupies in search of an idol to cling to – sycophants. Well I never had any interest in those voters, I wanted TOP only ever to attract the enlightened, the objective and the caring – not flakes and groupies. So I enjoyed pissing them off and sending them scarpering.

You could argue I could have taken an approach more akin to pastoral care – spent time being conciliatory no matter how bloody offensive and stupid the correspondent was – and remember a fair number on social media are just trolls from the tribes of other parties. You could say that greasing for votes was not my strong suit.  I don’t think one other party engaged with the public as the team at TOP did , there was no other platform where the politicians of the day would actually take people on in an honest, no favours way. That in itself tells me just how shallow our political process is.

Did you watch David Seymour on Dancing with the Stars? Do you think pandering to more of the celebrity side of politics would have helped you out?

At 0.1% I can understand his desperation – go and get a real job David. I wasn’t doing the political thing for a job or tenure. I was in a pretty privileged position where I had collated a suite of best practice policies – thanks to the fine efforts of a number of excellent economists and policy experts including Geoff Simmons. Susan Guthrie and Jess Berentson-Shaw and many others, but I wanted that work promoted in the form of policy improvement nothing else, and would never compromise that for more votes. It just wouldn’t enter my head to sacrifice policy excellence for popularity or celebrity points.

How have you rated Jacinda Ardern’s performance in office?

Same as John Key’s. Generally adored, policies of her government are all that matter from my perspective – and on that Labour’s pathetic. Just look at who KiwiBuild is really benefitting; or that dumbass oil exploration ban that will just boost imports of fossil fuels; or this crackpot Tax Group that is told to fix the tax system but to ignore its biggest fault (the tax break for owner occupiers). I still hope for the Zero Carbon Act and I like the noises from Chris Hipkins in education. But hey it’s actions that matter. So overall on the policy front so far they look like another underwhelming caretaker  But don’t forget – that’s precisely what the electorate wants, policy excellence is of little to no interest. So the electorate I’m sure is very happy with that – it suits the fat, content and complacent

The new winter warmer payment for Superannuitants – good use of public funds?

Disgusting and I will claim every penny of it. Just bought a new motorcycle with my first year’s NZ Super too – lots more of them to come – thanks for funding it.

What do you make of the current government? Do you see it as an improvement on its predecessor?

No change – you’re talking about such incremental differences that really there is nothing worth talking about here.

Are there any current politicians who inspire hope in you?

No. They are all products of the Establishment Party system which is about not making changes of any materiality. So the contest them reduces to one of whose charm the public falls for most. Pathetic but that is the outcome from an uncaring, self-centred electorate that always wants someone else to blame for their own inadequacies. The politicians are simply a product of that voter apathy. That’s reality – all power to the hand of anyone who tries to break that cycle but I’d not hold my breath for them making one iota of difference.

Finally, where are you right now, and what are you up to?

I’m in Armenia right now and heading back to Georgia tomorrow – part way along a motorcycle ride from Morocco to Japan. Of course I’m doing other stuff as well and in essence have returned to doing what I’m bloody good at: making money and shitloads of it, so that I have so many more choices and freedoms to enjoy my life. That of course is what I was hoping we could contribute to many more New Zealanders – but our take it or leave it policy offering was of far less interest than Paddles or the new baby. There you go.

Stop press: One added question – what does your former comms director Sean Plunket mean when he says, “Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the party. No individual can declare a political organisation defunct”?

No idea.

Sean was hired by TOP and then by me to provide strategy advice. As we all discovered he has this predilection to get himself embroiled in controversies along the way. They have nothing nothing to do with me or TOP.

You will have to ask him what he’s saying.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


Interesting. Personally, the irony to me is that I respect GM's efforts in looking into the detail and putting forth options, yet he himself can't keep a lid on his frustrations and conduct himself in a respectful manner. Having said that, they would have gotten my vote if I'd seen momentum building fast enough to polling day, but I got stuck when it felt like it was going to be a wasted vote given the gap they still had to the 5% threshold.
I think all the other parties will be relieved they are packing it in. Will make all their lives a bit easier in parliament. Which is a pity for NZ.

He is right about complacency in NZ. All CoL voters want from their leaders is to appear on television every once in a while, and say things soothing to hear. The voters fail to see who these policies cost the most and who benefits from them the most.
The coalition doesn’t even have a plan in place for all the pivotal promises - reducing food prices, targeting migration towards filling shortages only or achieving productivity gains.

I think you rather missed his point - complacency and the same-same nothing to see here politics is a feature of *both* Labour and the Nats. Nothing peculiar to Jacinda or her cohorts and in GM's eyes just the same as his worshipfulness John Key.

So they expect to make the 5% threshold in their first term and when they don’t they give up and blame the voters! Imagine a company blaming the market for not buying their stuff instead of looking at their own product or marketing or price. Bad economics?

Gareth Morgan resorting to fat-shaming. Pathetic.

It's called figure of speech.

He is right judging by your ham-fisted response.

I still haven't read the article.

If you're going to be a moron, at least be a consistent moron. I commend you on that.

He's feeling aggrieved and is lashing out. A bit like a millionaire getting turned down by a $20 hooker.

.... the $ 20 hooker was Wild Bill English ... who didn't instruct Stephen Joyce to offer TOP a free run in some electoral seat , to give them a leg up into parliament ... or two legs up ... in true hooker style ...

And now the Gnats are screwed ....

How about "Egotist with god complex and face like a bashed crab quits politics in a huff at first hurdle" There, summed it up in a single headline


Refreshingly honest and blunt. A shame they didn't stick it out for a second round, I think they could have broken the 5% threshold, and then in the third cycle leveraged up off that. But he is certainly right about Lbours oil'n'gas, and kiwibuld/buy/bluster being a shambles. Pity that National were going to be no better.

I hope like hell somebody does pick up some of the TOP policies and run with them, it would be nice to have a party worth voting for rather than holding the nose and trying to pick the least worthless option.

They would never have got to 5% with the cat killer at the helm. He is just not likeable.

And that's the problem, I would rather he said slightly offensive (to some) things and was honest than being a weasel words lying toad like the rest. Don't really give a shit if he's likeable, not like I was inviting him to the pub for a beer, (although I think he'd be good value).

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." Cardinal Richelieu, Spanish Inquisition.

This is the world that twitter and the unforgetting internet has gifted us. Politics is now less the contest of ideas than a Kafkaesque thought-crime minefield that public figures have to tip-toe through endlessly where a few words taken out of context, or tiny errors of memory, or failure to consider all ramifications will be identified by vast armies of opponents and can end your career. Inevitably this leads to grey bland circumloquacious politicians. Bridges, Ardern et al spend hours a day talking to media while saying almost nothing - and that sadly is their primary job requirement. Aged glowering blustering dissemblers like Winston are the last of that breed.

a few centuries out, Richelieu was D’Artagnan’ s enemy. But your point is no less relevant for sure.

Thanks for correction.

and whatever century or country, France or Spain, both are fictitious characters.... never mind the century.

Cardinal Richelieu fictious? Hardly, but perhaps that is why the French named the ill fated battleship as such.

All of recorded history is largely ficticious. Richelieu's quote is unlikely to be his words but written by some wag some time later.

This happens a lot. When you check out many quotes they are highly suspicious. Orwell's rough men stand ready in the night.. or Voltaire's To learn who rules over you are typical examples.

My advice is never be too certain about who said or wrote what. It's a bit like today's Internet memes.

This is a way to get some minor immortality. Make up some pithy quote and then attribute it to some famous person and then spread it on the Internet.

My ancestors were some of the 5,000 Huguenots who survived Richelieu’s siege at La Rochelle. While I owe my existence to his barbarity I take pleasure in knowing his life was short and wracked with sickness.

Yes go along with that. History is always of course viewed in hindsight and open to “massaging,” centuries on centuries of it. That’s why my favourite quoter is W C Fields. Nobody else could ever think to say what he has said.

In that case we will get the politicians we deserve.... oh, wait.. we already have.. .Chon Kee and the current lot. Rather dismal future we have chosen for ourselves.

Well if there’s a possibiiity the current trend continues we should be very worried for our children’s future. That said, I’m not sure it’s possible to have more inept politicians in charge than Taxinda and the man some call political pus.

Bore off Gareth.

Hi Gingerninja,

I'm some what surprised you are not a fan? Is it just Gareth rubs you the wrong way like many or do you not like the whole TOPS idea?

I think TOP raised some interesting questions and attempted to address endemic problems in a different way, which is good for democracy. However, TOP was corrupted from conception by the giant, suffocating ego of Gareth Morgan.

I have been part of policy not personality movements in the UK and I do fundamentally agree that in an ideal world, voting would be policy based....however....Gareth didn't invent those concepts and his perpetually self congratulatory manner does rub me up the wrong way. I find him utterly obnoxious and patronising.
Plato's observation was that democracy would always be at risk of personalities (demagogues and populism) . Nobody agrees with Plato's solution to that problem. Plato asked the right questions but never found a workable solution and most people find his suggestions deplorable.

I'm not comparing Gareth to Plato! But just despise the arrogant way that Gareth proposes ideas as if he is the greatest thinker ever, smarter than everyone else. He presents himself as if he is coming up with unique new solutions that no one has tried or thought of before! And i'm sorry, but human nature has been scrutinised more than any other topic. We are a social primate, and as such we are vulnerable to charisma, memes, certain power dynamics and appeals to fear and/or hope.

Gareth is having a tantrum because human beings behave like human beings. Which is dumb. Accept humanity for who they actually are and the way they predictably behave. If you have noble intentions, then by all means enter in to that with good intentions. Don't act surprised and throw your toys out of the pram when your policies are not sufficient to get people passed your unsavoury personality. Most parties start out knowing that some kind of appeal and charisma in a leader is a necessary evil. It's been that way since records began. If he had been in anyway astute or canny and TOP had been more than just a vanity project for him, he would have had other people front the party who had some charisma.

Thank you very much for your response and explanation. I always find you comments insightful and well thought out.

I totally agree with your assessment by the way. Like you I think people should understand what they are voting for and why, not just casting a vote for the 'tribe' they decided to be part of at some arbitrary point in time. I also think it's a real shame TOPS didn't have a better founder, one what would have inspired voters rather than given them a condescending lecture.

Grendel, I am one of those people who has stayed up till dawn trying to talk out the problems in governance with similarly overly worthy and idealist friends, over several decades of my life, And I admit that I am a disappointed idealist who now considers herself a realist with cynical tendencies.

I wish there was a solution but I genuinely don't believe there is one. I think trade relationships + some form of democracy is probably the best system of governance human beings can manage.

You can technically *maybe* come up with a more practical solutions to governance but human psychology is what it is, and we aren't always a logical, practical or sensible species. If we start to account for our illogical, impractical and insensible tendencies we end up with something that detracts from liberty and democracy. If we have liberty and democracy then we will always suffer a degree of poor governance as a result of our weaker traits and tendency to be swept up in trends and memes.

Plato and his cray notion of the Philosopher King, bred and raised especially for the purpose of wise governance doesn't work.... we have actually trialled that kind of system in history and the mass of small folk/ serfs/ plebeians in that system are always screwed over and the risk of the despot and totalitarianism looms large. I don't like Trump and the way he leads, but I would still rather an elected Trump than a Erdogan. (I love Turkey so I am taking the death of democracy there pretty hard).

I sometimes wish that governments would pay much more mind to human psychology and not just the psychology of the individual, but how we behave as a system and interacting systems. Not to manipulate the masses a la Machiavelli, but based on a scientific understanding of our behavioural tendencies. We have many checks and balances in governance but how often does it fail, how often is it unprepared for human nature?

Looks at the Brexit campaign in the UK... the Leave team have already been found to have committed illegalities... but let's be honest... both campaigns resorted to some pretty unsubstantiated claims. Why wasn't that stopped? Why didn't the Electoral Commission step in and stop the lies and unsubstantiated claims of both Remain and Leave... wtf is an electoral commission otherwise? If they had, maybe UK politics wouldn't be the utterly broken and unstable mess it currently is? There is now a situation where the ego's and party politics of both red and blue parties are prioritising those agendas over the well being of the nation. There are major international and global issues facing the UK right now, individuals have died of poisoning, they desperately need to negotiate a workable deal in global trade, the NHS is being ripped apart, there are terrorism issues, race and religious issues.. SO MANY ISSUES.... and yet what are the politicians doing with their time???? Certainly not actually governing the sodding country or prioritising the well being of its citizens. That's way down the list behind party politics and agendas.

I don't consider the Trump and Clinton campaigns to have been sufficiently regulated either... campaign funding is now a mess of corruption. That was all supposed to be legislated for in order to defend democracy and our vulnerabilities as voters... what the hell happened?

The rules are actually kind of okay. The fact that the rules are flagrantly ignored is the problem.

I think AEP talked about some of these issues. Our system of politics is based on trial and error and has evolved over centuries, whereas the continentals tend to go for grandiose intellectual theoretical solutions that don't work. To the French enarques the most intellectually brilliant theoretical solution is the right one, not the battle tested one as in England.

There is a similarity to sexual evolution apparently. Sexual evolution leads to a varied population that is sub optimal. Asexual reproduction leads to less varied population that is more fit to the habitat. However, when the habitat/climate changes the sub optimal but more varied population is more likely to survive and the more adapted population is destroyed completely.

So do not despair. The system is chaotic but it works. The people who have been overlooked do find a champion, even if you may not like his manners.

Yeah. Nah. I wouldn't draw a parallel between evolutionary adaption and political chaos, that's lazy anthropomorphism. When I refer to disorderly politics, I am not referring to the random, dispassionate happening of chemistry, biology and physics.

Whilst sexual evolution results in less specialised environmental adaption but more broad ranging adaptability, politics is neither more specialised to its environment or offering more broad ranging adaptability. Rather there is simply a repeating cycle of power dynamics, corruptions, idealisms and fads. They come, they go. People die, or not. Nothing changes long term. Eventually the pattern repeats anyway, the weakness is never wiped out via survival of the fittest because the flaw is both our greatest asset and our greatest weakness. What we see in evolutionary biology, the chaos we see in physics is not mirrored in human behaviour.

We don't mate based on the fittest now, but on whatever we have chosen as our given social signals at that time. The basis of our success as a species, one of our most successful evolutionary adaptions is our ability to communicate and operate together, to coordinate (hence also our greatest weakness). But now our sexual selection has divorced from basic biology to a more complex, nuanced reflection of our social primate dynamics.

Breeding is based on whoever best tickles our loins in some combination of childhood social values, rebellious conflictions, emotional damage, shame, reward, hierarchy, tribalism, hormones, genes and social conditioning. If we all still mated based on dispassionate survival indicators, then we would shun people who wear glasses and not choose to mate with them. Now the perfectly well sighted actually choose to wear glasses because it's trendy and more sexually attractive. The powerful affect of our social adaptation has manifested to override biological adaption. We are supernatural/supranatural at this point.

The same shit happens in politics, because ultimately all human behaviour relates back to what has made us so evolutionary successful. Our social adaption. Human behaviour is not in the least bit chaotic, its highly repetitive. We repeat the same behaviours over and over and over. Different nations, different languages, different millennia, same old humans. We may be born of the random chaos of evolutionary adaption, but evolutionary wise we have changed little in 10,000 years, we have accumulated tech and knowledge because of our ability to communicate and pass on what we have learned from one generation to the next, in a way no other species can, this is what has allowed us to operate beyond basic biological evolution. But psychologically, behaviourally, we are no different to cave men. Anything we have done over the last 10,000 years we are perfectly likely to repeat, not because of "chaos" but because we have evolved that way and that's our species. We can't assume just because chaos produced our species and "consciousness" that everything will somehow come out in the wash. Just because we are spectacularly canny and able to create tech to address the problems in our environment does not mean we can't murder each other en mass or commit horrific atrocities. We have done it before and we will do it again.

Rue the wasted decades? :-P

I was blessed to learn in my mid 20's that democracy is an illusion. I have wasted my time and energy in other ways, such is the human condition. But perhaps given the same human condition, I wasted them about as well as I could have.

Scarfie, I don't believe democracy is an illusion, but would agree it had illusory qualities!

I was pretty cynical about democracy even at 17. It just didn't result in me becoming dispassionate or disinterested in it. These days though, with two kids, I don't have the time to waste being as self indulgent in that way. So I just have to be more disciplined in not getting dragged into futile debates on such topics. Especially not on the internet hahaha

Hi Gingerninja

'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'

'There is no Utopia, for the name itself means - 'no place''

'Can man be relied upon to get to a position of power and authority and not to try to sculpt the next path to his advantage or for those he has sired' (that's mine, albeit an idea may have come from elsewhere)

Do sometimes the vested interests need to be controlled, the nepotism, unfair advantage be it through birth, capital or favour...... sometimes.. Does history regularly provide an example of where this balance has been redressed? Often.

Would New Zealand politics have benefitted from a challenge to pandering to the populous (voting blocks).. and some new ideas?

I think maybe an intelligent alternative will be missed and could be to the detriment of the country's future, but as Gareth states ' It’s an enormous task to inject any sort of intelligence into such a morass.'

I don't know him well enough to like or dislike him but as far as I can see both sides currently do nothing other than Panda to two opposing tribes and neither work well for the overall well being of the future of the Country........

maybe sometime I'll have the conviction to argue all night about it... but I do understand where Gareth is coming from, 'there are only so many nights you want to live with no sleep.' (that's mine too)

I’m guessing you meant to write ‘pander’.

Yes gingerninja things always change and as Lennon penned something like now there aren’t problems only solutions. Seems that politics is a something like the law in how it as evolved. A law is formed by law makers and then through the nature of precedent lawyers set about blurring and weakening it bit by bit so it can end up a long way from the original intent which then requires more law(s.) Our politicians now are a very different breed to those around post WW2, the then coalition. Power politics and win at all costs outweigh the substance of democracy that our old Greeks philosophised about and should be a core value for every member of parliament. The reality is that it is not, maybe it takes a huge catastrophic event such as war to unify a cause for the common good of the people? But philosophically, what we have now would still be the better world.

ps, think the “you bitch” comment today in parliament as a response to an arguable criticism of a colleague found wanting, really sums up how far we are now removed from the principles of democracy and how low the calibre of our politicians has sunk. And then “somehow” the remark was deleted from hansard by “someone.”
Don’t think the Roman senate would even have allowed that. This is the nature of the beast, folks.

Yes, a nation of fat, content and complacent voters doesn't sound all that bad. A nation of starved, unhappy and anxious voters would be its opposite.

Good point.

Speak for yourself, I’d like to be part of a nation that has somewhat higher aspirations than yours

I like fat fat nation ^^

I don’t mind that I am fat. I still get the same money. Compliment by Marlon Brando.

sometimes Double-GZ, I wonder if all you and Zachary Smith want is an 'Obese Vassal State, who pay their way towards maintaining the re-public's system in 'their rent, their water, their fresh air, their freedom and their food?' - or Maybe my interests and your interests are mis-aligned ?

Gareth for all his high self regard forgot this system was politics. Our system is not management by a brilliant all seeing technocrat. Guess who Gareth thought that should be !
He never worked out we have politics for a reason. It balances the views and interests of a whole lot of people. While politics is mostly disappointing, I'll still choose politics over technical perfection any day.

He's just jealous that he couldn't join the Coalition of Losers. TOP Party, the Secession of Losers.

Frustrated maybe, but not jealous. BTW - there's only one group of losers sitting on the Opposition benches...

Morgan is not silly, but he represents the oxymoron that is First-World business hammering up against planetary limits.

So he will initiate ' million dollar mouse' programmes, entirely logically, but then decry fossil fuel exploration when there is already enough discovered to wipe up out.

You simply can't ' increase incomes, productivity, fairness and environmental sustainability' all at the same time. So - just like our RMA - they were fundamentally flawed back at the policy-statement stage..

Beg to differ powerdown. Why can't we 'increase incomes, productivity, fairness and environmental sustainability' all at the same time. ???
Seems to me those things go together. There is no swing factor. Lets give it a go.

One of the best articles I've read that provides a good answer to your question, KH;

Wish it was freely available. But here are some of the summary points:

“… sustainability has largely been captured and deployed under a narrative of sustainable development in a manner that stifles the potential for substantive social and environmental change...

The dominant institutional interpretation is often employed as justification for policies that are “not necessarily sustainable or even socially just”.

"Sustainability’s underlying message that we must change our consumptive behaviour to be consistent with the carrying capacities of the planet largely are overlooked, if not outright negated”

To have sustainability, you have to be giving future generations - all species including ours - the same resource opportunities we currently have. And the working proviso has to be ' per head'.

So what, in that scenario, are these ' increased incomes' going to 'buy'?

A productivity gain is just an efficiency gain, in energy terms. We get diverted into thinking that people have to work harder, but less than 1% of work done is human, and most of that 1% is via fossil-fuelled food anyway. But you can go for efficiencies with my blessing - just be aware they're a diminishing return.

Fairness? Yes, by all means - the only workable sustainable societal format has to be egalitarian, all else results in unfettered resource draw-down. As we are witnessing.

Environmental sustainaility can only be had without draw-down (including of sink capacity-rates). So is mutually exclusive of greater income, assuming you don't think rampant devaluation vis-a-vis resources is some kind of solution?

I call this ' we can have our draw-down and have sustainability too' line, the ' Forest and Bird' approach. Drive out in your Rav, plant a few trees and reward yourself with a chardonnay. It's nice, but it is not sustainability.

..the only workable sustainable societal format has to be egalitarian..

The sorry history of the world is littered with uniformly unpalatable (from our present Enlightenment POV) examples of 'sustainability' - generally under warlords, feudal magnates (but I repeat myself), kings, sultans, caliphs, emperors or other varied forms of of a single root - Tyranny. All are perfectly Sustainable on a millennial scale....

There's absolutely no 'has to' about it, unless there are enough rough men to stand ready in the night to do violence on those who would harm us (to re-parse Orwell's classic quote).

Egalitarianism under most other forms of Gubmint than democratic (and we have plenty of current examples - Venezuela and North Korea with perhaps Somalia thrown in for good measure) tends towards Churchill's quip:

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

So a future of boom and bust? Proliferation followed by obliteration? Probably quite right about that from what I can see of human behaviour.

With you there. Another irony.

Is Gareth labeling some of us as - (gulp...) - Deplorables?

... I do hope so ... the Gummster family needs a goal to inspire us upwards ....

Clearly Gareth is not a happy camper.
However, Gareth is obviously is not bitter at all. It is just that he is the only one who knows that he alone has all the answers and the entire rest of the population are ignorant sods not able to comprehend that he is the marvelous messiah.

I find him so ironic. For me, the flagship policy was The Big Kahuna but when translating the book into the policy, they wanted to implement the tax proposals without the UBI. Effectively compromising their very raison d'etre.

If I recall the reason, it was because they really didn't know that a UBI (and I think they even renamed it something other than Universal Basic Income) was affordable and they'd introduce it incrementally as they determined just how the tax switch would work out.

Which seemed ironic - you can't claim on the one hand that you are evidence based, while on the other stating that you haven't done the necessary empirical work.

These guys will likely succeed where Gareth didn't;

LOL. A UBI doesnt create anything. But i would agree, Branson is as deluded as Musk.
Its resources we are short of - not handouts...

Resource depletion is an entirely different subject altogether. Trying to conflate the two, is a bit like arguing that we should not administer pain relief to terminal cancer patients.

If a UBI doesnt call on resources, Im not sure its any use.

The current UBI initiatives the world over are about redistribution within existing settings. And sure, I agree, our existing settings won't/can't last forever.

But that's no reason not to work toward betterment in today's terms.

We are all within one caldera eruption leading to planetary extinction, but that doesn't give us the moral legitimacy to ignore existing social injustices.

Nicely put. That means giving up everything made in sweatshops of course, equality being more than local.

But equally, if we don't address local population numbers, we might as well not bother; even our current poor will look fabulously rich in that rear-view mirror.

But what exactly are you redistributing? Because redistributing money tokens is fine... but then the "Poor " go and spend the damn things.

This needs resources, rather than paper claims on resources. Betterment implies MORE .. see

"that doesn't give us the moral legitimacy to ignore existing social injustices."

So many cans of worms here. Eg
- Are the haves only motivated by self preservation .. ie they can see the havenots will soon stop playing nicely ...
- its human-centric. Given the extent of our population boom and resource depletion, its safe to assume earths other inhabitants dont subscribe to the need for further human social programs..
- Why are oldies using up resources to extend their lives way past historic norms? etc Is that just using their descendants resources?
- Who decided the existing settings were the baseline?

I had to have a chuckle at the evidence/link you used to support your argument;

This book will explain how we got into this mess:

I only wish it could explain how to get out of it

So, via this article/advertisement, the author is peddling his/her own wares. Wares that explain that exactly what he/she is doing (i.e., exchanging money tokens for goods) is unsustainable. But admits that he/she provides no solution/new ideas - at all.

What a waste of energy that was then!

Its actually his logic which is sound.

"Whatever line of thinking one follows, the three hurdles of overpopulation, climate change and energy shortage appear coupled with the collective certainty prosperity can be voted into office or looted from elsewhere.."

If you think he needs to offer a solution, you dont understand the nature of the problem.

So, your point is: we're doomed, regardless - hence no need to attempt to change anything?

No one is changing anything ... Actions are speaking far louder than policies and words. ..No one is willingly reducing their global footprint to that of a North Korean... the opposite in fact. NZers are doing more air travel than ever in todays headlines .... No one is proposing to shrink Auckland and lower the number of roads, reduce the number of houses (Kiwidemo) ...... etc but sure we're Green minded and sustainable and honest right!

When it comes to overshoot, everyone will resist change until there is no alternative

And yes its baked in now - the debt bomb is there, the easy resources done, the populations exploded, our supply chains too twisted, our total dependence on burning more fossil fuel complete. Capitalism has maximised resource use and reach so that we had a hell of a party ... and we are closing in on the point where there is no more plundering the future to be had.

In the end you cant change the laws of physics.

Yes, and the IPCC are doing more air travel than ever before as well :-).

I'll be happier when there are no more Kyoto Protocols or Paris Agreements because we realise we can all participate in the development of a consensus text from the comfort of our own homes.

I'll also be happier when we reduce our use of slogans - like 'baked in', 'overshoot', 'no alternative' ... and that last one: 'you can't change the laws of physics'.

But then, science-wise I'm philosophically Kuhnian;

And from my perspective, only history is infallible.

PS, Just as an aside, my Dad was a physicist. When not working on what the government wot paid him to work on, his hobby was developing a perpetual motion machine/equation. It took seven years for one of his proposals to be falsified in the Popperian tradition by colleagues.

Who was/is your Dad?

Branson is well aware of the problem


"Our mission is to deliver a Plan B that puts people and planet alongside profit"

Oxymoron alle same TOP

In other words, he doesnt get the problem. Heres some nonsense from the website ...

"We can start by ensuring that our companies significantly reduce their environmental impacts and invest in new business models that help regenerate the environment."

In other words we can regenerate the environment by carrying out business activities. Ridiculous logic.

UBI is the castle, resources depletion is the quicksand.

Here is some Branson nonsense...

"“What I took away from the talks was the sense of self-esteem that universal basic income could provide to people. The hope is that policies like these can help people struggling just to survive and allow them to get on their feet, be entrepreneurial and be more creative.”

Lovely, but Im guessing this new spirit wont create more arable lands / Oil / metals / water / energy /food stocks / trees / fisheries?

Instead of paying dumb people to have babies who'll in time create more babies we'll be paying lazy people to create nothing. I'm not sure which is worse in the long run. Currently we're becoming an idiocracy.

It really depends on the amount. The risk comes about when a UBI is too damn high. If people can live a comfy life they'll quit their jobs, taxes will go up to pay for all of this, more people will quit their jobs, repeat until you're Venezuela.

If UBI were the right amount, let's say enough to rent a room and eat noodles, we could at least get rid of a lot of useless bureaucrats and pay them half as much to stay at home.

It was almost like seeing an academic in the midst of a rugby scrum, in that he thought he knew what needed to be done but the other 15 disagreed with him. Given that he is aware of all the failings and limitations of our political system one would have thought he would have conducted a more subtle and patient campaign and manifesto for the first time. This is not a nation that is quick to embrace change. Even the dynamic Lange/Douglas government didn’t really let fly until after they had won.

^^ nailed it ^^

Massive flounce.

Not a man suited for politics, and does not have nearly as good a grasp on reality as he thinks he does - his defence of North Korean regime was appallingly naive. A case study in (not Dunning/Kruger) Kahneman's over confidence (Thinking Fast and Slow), where experts in one field imagine themselves more competent than they really are in other fields.

Not naive, actually, Read Chomsky's 'Hegemony or Survival', re the US empirical strategy. The propaganda began with ' communist' and went all the way to ' terrorist'.

The west has been - willingly - propagandised about lot of stuff besides the why of North Korea. Why is it that six million Palestinians can be disposessed of their land and nobody does squat, yet a different six million are disposessed and it's deplored? Why does anyone looking to lead an opressed/resource-raped nation to a better life (think Chaves) get castigated by the compliant - or is that just complicit? - media?

and I think Morgan is aware of his lack of expertise in various areas - he seems to get others in to write the investigative books like ' Hook line and Blinkers', Poles Apart' and so on - quite a wise approach.

you looking to get a branding pdk? they'll be tarring you with pitch in a minute and looking for some feathers. willingly complicit and woefully compliant. From the safest places, come the bravest words.

Quite true. But what is true security? Things can change fast, what is safe is only a tipping point away from losing that status.

I am surprised that PDK is back from his sojourn and lost nothing of his veracity. Although perhaps a little shrewder with avoiding the legal ramifications of his wisdom, despite its accuracy.


Well suited to truth, so maybe that shows how bad politics has become.

The way I’d express all that is that the electorate is too fat, content and complacent to respond to radical policy change, albeit policy that without question is of superior quality, evidence-informed, and theoretically sound.

His ego knows no bounds. If you don't agree with him, you must be stupid, Fat, Lazy, etc....

Hi policies were mostly theoretical successes solely in his mind. In the real world they were unsound, unworkable and nothing more than ideological clap trap.

Morgan makes a telling point that 20% of Kiwis switch their votes when an affable Key or charismatic (to some) Cinders waltzes onto the stage. Clearly there is little policy analysis in play, it is simply a feel good telegenic based decision. Airheads and the suggestible decide which government we get.

The sincere politicos with developed views on policy who engage in combat with opposite wing mates at the pub or on sites like this, are viewed as something of a curiosity with possible derangement syndrome by a worryingly large proportion of our society. Morgan correctly observes that we are paying the price of this political apathy in our living standards.

Well said, thumbs up for that man.

In some ways that is a great endorsement of NZ, that politics has so little easily observable impact on our lives that the majority feel they can safely ignore it or put emotion ahead of rationality when making voting choices. NZ is in most respect administered well and we are not struggling to survive.

The more corruption there is the greater political involvement is (hence why political party membership has been falling in NZ since the 70's/80's).

Yes, I agree that our reserve about being seen to be too political has the upside you describe of politicians being careful to not intrude into Kiwi lives too far but we are not progressing economically to anything like the extent we are capable of. If not for external events such as the rise of the middle class in the developing world (thanks in large part to globalisation), we would be in very much more straightened circumstances as a nation. This great little country and its tolerant, fair-minded people could be doing so much better with informed policy based direction.

straightened circumstances?

I like to think I would still be straight despite economic circumstances.

Clever guy but not really cut out for politics. Then again the cynic in me thinks that those that are cut out for politics are not really the best for the country.
Seriously though I think that if he ever did get into government he would struggle with his ego and unbending sense of what he believed is right. I imagine that successful political leadership requires both having a vision but also listening to others and forming as wide a consensus as possible that most people are willing to commit to.

Politics is the art of the possible. Autocratic personalities don't mesh well with the demands of MMP democracy.

It is not about popularity: what Gareth did not get is that the next generation is sick of politicians who personalize the issues and who are negative or rude: they did not vote for Jacinda because she is "popular" but because her inclusive style of politics works for the next generation. Shame he never got this, I liked many of his policies.

It's pretty depressing when the 'big event' for politicians is 8 or so of them trying to stand out in a 30 odd minute shout feast moderated by Hosking.

MSM needs to do much better than this or we will keep getting the pig wearing lipstick.

The 5% threshold has to go.
Its an affront to democracy, & does nothing but favour the incumbents.
There is no reason to have a threshold at all.
With 120 seats, 1/120 of the total vote will get you 1 seat in the house (give or take, given some will poll below that).

I don't like the 5% threshold myself. But the flipside to having it too low, is that a one seat party with a very low percentage of the party vote could have disproportional influence with 2 major parties/coalitions bidding to form a government.

and what's the difference between Act with 0.2%? and a seat V say 2% and 2 seats?

Because the Act MP actually won an electorate? Quite surprised I have to point that out.

2% of the population are probably certifiable yet you think they should have two seats?

Gee, and he won that on his merits didn’t he? Epsom reminds me of one of those old English “rotten boroughs”. ACT could pick up a chicken with an ACT rosette and it would still probably win, “just in case” for National should they need it. There is a real sliding scale of talent in this parliament, and David Seymour would be right at the dim end of the scale. He’s a disgrace, so is his “party”.

We have been told to vote for him and we did #DGZ

If you were happy voting for a bumpkin like him then you got what you deserved at the election. Suck it up

We are very happy. He is still our local MP and we are proud of him for making it to the semi-final of DWTS. You suck it up.


Hey everyone, DGZ just illustrated Gareth Morgan’s point about vacuous NZ voters! DGZ did well, only took him 2 posts before he self destructed, and he slipped in some property porn too!! chapeau sir!

We love David Seymour!. He really came to our defence when school zones were threatened and he always comes to see me at election time.
Really his success in Epsom is a shining example of what democracy should be. Parties should win seats.

Act only wins because they are handed it by national, who get their extra lapdog vote. If National actually contested it with a decent candidate and without giving the Act candidate the nod Act would have failed to get any seats years ago. This can be seen by the fact ACT only got <700 party votes in the seat, even though their candidate got 16,000 electorate votes. Nobody actually votes for ACT, they vote for a bonus seat for National.

With MMP you don't even need 1/120th. United Future grabbed a seat in 2014 with just 0.22% of the total vote. Why do we even have tiny Gerrymandered electorates like this?

I have been pretty clear with my disdain for all politicians, and that I don't bother to vote. Morgan here is saying the voting public are too stupid to vote, and it congratulate him on the belated insight. Democracy is an illusion, go and do something worthwhile Gareth.

No sh*****. 45% are happy with National despite them spending 9 years turning the country into a basket case. Another 35% expect Labour to fix everything in less than 3 year but not to raise taxes. Simple really does not compute.

I voted for him but now he's lost and throwing the toys out of the cot.

Comments like: "and in essence have returned to doing what I’m bloody good at: making money and shitloads of it, so that I have so many more choices and freedoms to enjoy my life. " aren't going to endear him to anyone. And I thought his son made most of the money?

I believe he lost because of his "tax the owners of houses" policy. Very few house owners would vote for that, and can't say I blame them.

He should've quantified what the capital tax would likely be and the proposed offset in reducing income tax would also be.

I think TOP should reboot and contest the next two electoral cycles, they may well find that in that time more kiwis will have finally started talking about why the roof has collapsed on the NZ economy and how the lies told to an ignorant public by a succession of politicians stretching back to the 1970s are the root cause of it. I think I will move to Australia to watch the show from there...

I think TOP should reboot and contest the next two electoral cycles, they may well find that in that time more kiwis will have finally started talking about why the roof has collapsed on the NZ economy and how the lies told to an ignorant public by a succession of politicians stretching back to the 1970s are the root cause of it. I think I will move to Australia to watch the show from there...

Gareths ,so-called, evidence based policy foundered on the rocks , for me, when I saw his interview with Paul Henry.
He blames the general Public... I think he should look at himself. I think he was politically naive...

Nzers have the government they deserve. Coalition of Losers.

All I can say is thank god we have been spared a future with Gareth as leader.

Dunno. At least there would be way fewer Cute Cat videos glugging up the Interwebs bandwidth...

My experience of being a TOP member:
1. Loved the policies, so I signed up.
2. Gareth seemed to be of such a singular mind and attitude, that he damaged his campaign. Plunkett was also a catalyst in this sad demise.
3. Started going on one of his cat benders when Arden's pet got run over. Told him on Twitter to stop being a dick and concentrate on actual issues (he blocked me then starts ranting about "snowflakes" on social media)
4. Election night rolls around and TOP gets 2%. Not a bad outing considering they'd been active for < 1 year. A good foundation for 2020 I thought.
5. More about Morgan's ill behaviour towards his party members & candidates comes out. I request information on how to cancel my TOP membership.
6. Morgan resigns as leader. "Great" I think, he's realised his attitude is a problem and more amenable candidates will be put forward in future. Should be a good buildup to 2020. I decide to retain my TOP membership.
7. Morgan cans TOP prematurely, with plenty of blame being doled out to broader NZ.

If you're not in for the long haul, then don't bother starting in politics at all. If Colin hadn't imploded himself with hypocritical impropriety the Conservatives might now be in parliament (not that I'd vote for them). I think there's still room for a alternative-yet-rational political party, but who's going to do it? The bizarre positioning for the centre of NZ politics by Labour and National isn't going to help the country in the long run.

If Morgan had held the balance of power would we now have a Labour or National led government?