The Opportunities Party was the brain child of Wellington economist Gareth Morgan, who prior to picking up a career in politics was the infamous and vocal advocate of treating stray cats as pests in cities. Gareth Morgan’s vision for TOP was to present the party as being in a ‘kingmaker’ position so that the established major parties would come to them after the election to form a coalition, much like Winston Peters and NZ First. TOP had very idealistic and focused policies aimed at people who wanted a major shift in New Zealand. This made them a very unpopular party with some demographics and very popular with others.
One of such policies was the proposed overhaul of our current superannuation scheme (oooh sexy) which meant the testing of those old enough to receive a super and only giving it to those who met the testing threshold. While this helped fund the party’s other policies, such as increasing education spending, protecting the environment and a universal benefit income (UBI) for the average university aged student, it meant they alienated a large portion of New Zealand voters.
In the lead up to the 2017 national election, TOP went up and down the country holding talks for people to become familiar with who they were as a party. These talks were held in community halls, function centres and more. The party appeared not to contest all the seats in parliament, but instead they devised a plan to stand for certain seats where there was a possibility of them winning that seat.
All that sounds so precise and considered, although the same cannot be said for Gareth Morgan and how he managed to find himself at the centre of more than one media frenzy. One such frenzy was when he said Jacinda Ardern was just lipstick on a pig.
This was received very poorly in the media for several reasons. Jacinda was the newly ascended leader of the Labour party who had managed to drum up a large amount of support behind her and her party. This meant those working under her experienced a unity within the party which they hadn’t seen for years. Gareth Morgan tried to defend himself against harsh criticism by saying he was just asking whether Jacinda was changing the Labour party or whether she was just a new face for the same policies with a more youthful exuberance.
Once the comments, and defence, had been poorly received by the public, Morgan made it worse by doubling down on his comments and not apologising. The writing was on the wall for TOP when they failed to win any seats in the 2017 election. Morgan soon stepped down as leader.
The final nail in the coffin was when the person they had lined up to replace him as leader pulled out. There have been speculations by various Kiwi media outlets on who this person could have been, but no-one has been officially confirmed. The party now no longer existed with members announcing the news to the public earlier this month. This may be the end of The Opportunities Party, but hopefully it isn’t the end of idealistic policies, because those are the hard conversations that need to be had.