Monday 21 February 2011

Bomber's "To Do" List

So Much to Do: If Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury is genuinely convinced a New Left Party has a Snowball-in-Hell's chance of putting six MPs into the House of Representatives, he needs to get started right now.

OKAY, BOMBER, let’s cut to the chase. You reckon I’ve convinced you that a New Left Party is an electorally viable proposition. Fine. So, what are you waiting for? The General Election is just nine months away – time’s a-wasting!

Get that application off to the Electoral Commission, send a message to everyone on your e-mail address list that you’re in the market for 500 names to register a new political party.

Oh, wait a minute, you’ll need a name. What are you going to call this New Left Party? Ah, I see. Well, how about "The Aotearoa Party"? Okay, you like that? Done!

Now what’s the problem? Hmmm. Well, I have to say that was predictable. You’re a highly political person, and highly political people tend to have highly political friends and acquaintances. So, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that most of the people on your address-list are already committed to a political party or movement.

Nor should you be surprised, Bomber, that even the ones who aren’t already card-carrying members of the Labour Party, the Greens, the Maori Party, the Progressives, the Alliance, the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, RAM or the Workers Party, are going to want to see some sort of manifesto setting forth your new party’s political vision and its basic programme.

You have got a manifesto, Bomber? Sigh. Now, why on earth would people sign up to a political party if they’re given no clear idea as to what it stands for, or what it intends to do? Be careful how you do this, though, because the Left is notoriously hard to please when it comes to drafting a programme that somebody other than a hard-core socialist might want to vote for.

What about a constitution? Please tell you’ve drafted a basic set of rules and procedures. Not as such. Well, you’re going to need one in order to be registered (and, don’t forget, full democratic accountability to the party membership is mandatory under the Electoral Act).

I don’t suppose you know any progressive constitutional lawyers who might be willing to help you out with this pro bono? Pity. And, no, you can’t just bash something out. A robust set of rules is absolutely essential – especially for a new organisation that's yet to establish its operational norms and party traditions.

Political parties are very fractious beasts, Bomber, and, as the Maori Party’s current constitutional shenanigans vividly demonstrate, they cannot operate effectively without a robust and transparent set of rules.

Meanwhile, you need to make a start on acquiring all the paraphernalia of party-building. This includes a party logo, a fully-functional party website, the requisite party bank accounts, party stationery, membership-books, rosettes, badges, bumper-stickers and a handbook of basic party signage protocols to ensure brand uniformity throughout the country. The new party will also need a grand public launch and an inaugural conference. I’d allow a minimum budget for all these elements of not less than $50,000. (You have got $50,000 – haven’t you?)

You’ll also need to know (roughly) who is going to emerge from that conference as your principal officers and allies. The last thing you want is to find yourself surrounded by a bunch of unelectable weirdoes. Ditto for the party’s basic policy platform.

Get all that done, Bomber, and you can start thinking about how you’re going to attract the attention, interest and, finally, the political commitment of those 598,000 low-paid workers and beneficiaries.

A good start would be to send them all an introductory letter – a direct mail-shot.

How do you get their names and addresses? Easy. As a registered political party you’re now entitled to access all the data stored on the electoral roll. Of course to manipulate the roll data effectively you’ll need to lay your hands on some pretty specialised software. The main political parties have spent years developing their IT (and, no, I don’t think they’ll be willing to share).

So, yes, of course you’ll have to pay for your direct mail shots. As a party outside of Parliament you’re not entitled to the hundreds-of-thousands of taxpayer dollars made available to the political parties with representation in the House of Representatives.

The cost of a direct mail-shot to 598,000 electors? Well, NZ Post will almost certainly give you a hefty discount, but I wouldn’t expect to get away with anything less than $250,000. (You do have $250,000 – don’t you Bomber?)

And, of course, you will need to make several more direct mail-shots over the next few months. Allowing for all the pamphlets, billboards, placards and posters you’re going to need; the print advertising costs; and a minimal travel and accommodation allocation; I think you should budget on spending at least $1 million (that’s not including the state-funding you’ll receive for campaign broadcasting).

So, I hope you know the left-wing equivalents of Craig Heatley, Alan Gibbs and Owen Glenn, Bomber. Otherwise the Aotearoa Party’s founder-member contribution is going to be a hefty $2,000 a-piece.

Of course there’s more – so much more – involved in establishing a political party than these basic "to-do" tasks.

Expect to work 18-hour days. Expect to lose friends. Expect to lose partners. Expect to see your ideals trampled-on; your hopes dashed; and the dirtiest of dirty deals done dirt-cheap.

But most of all, Bomber, and hardest of all to bear:

Expect to fail.


Anonymous said...

This is actually real curiosity and not just stirring.
If a new party could recruit Chris Carter, say, as a member would they gain access to the free (I think) mailing privileges available to parties in Parliament?
Would make him a very attractive member if it was the case.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous @ 2:53

Providing the new party was prepared to take Chris Carter on board, and make him the parliamentary leader of their party, then I believe he would indeed be entitled to a "Leader's Budget" with mailing (and many other) privileges.

Even as a simple MP, Chris enjoys enormous advantages over political activists outside Parliament (free air travel probably being the greatest).

Back in 1989, Jim Anderton calculated his worth to the NewLabour Party - simply as an MP - at $250,000. The figure would be much greater now.

It is difficult to over-estimate the value of parliamentary representation - or to overstate the difficulties of operating outside the parliamentary arena.

paul scott said...

One of the strategies in setting up ACT was that it made the NAT party centre right, not right wing.
Bomber, dying for the cause as Alliance did, can make Labour party not so left looking. You have to remember Chris we have very limited vision, even when we look..

Anonymous said...

"It is difficult to over-estimate the value of parliamentary representation - or to overstate the difficulties of operating outside the parliamentary arena."

Really? Have you told the people of North Africa?

Chris said...

Hi Chris.

If Bomber wants to move a party to the left, and given that the barriers to starting a party are so great, why does he not join one close to his heard (Progressive, perhaps) and then move the manifesto towards where he wants it to be?

Given that Bomber seems not to be a Trotskyite but more of a democratic marxist in the manner of the Anderton wing of the old Labour party -- isn't an ideological shift more appropriate?

Jim's fairly benign compared with many on the left.

(PS. As an unrecondite Tory, I'd argue that the right should do the same thing to ACT).


Graeme Edgeler said...

(and, don’t forget, full democratic accountability to the party membership is mandatory under the Electoral Act).

Nope. A party is merely required to follow democratic processes in selecting its candidates: through the members, or through delegates directly, or indirectly elected by them. The Party Board - being elected at a party conference - could decide the candidates, and this would be sufficiently democratic.

The other constitutional requirement is around membership: the party's membership rules must be such that it can have 500 individual financial members (e.g. if it only has unions as members, as Labour used to, or has "family membership", this wouldn't work). If it sets up a process by which individuals can voluntarily join as financial members (minimum donation 10c, membership renewable at no longer than every three years), this would satisfy the legal requirements so far as the constitution was concerned.

Unknown said...

Having been around a political party for a while and having lot to do with the campaigning side, I would say that it'd take a awful amount of effort just to get the signatures.

The software isn't that hard. It only took me a couple of years to make a web version useable. Of course it did take a certain amount of experience in both programming and campaigning....

Domino said...

This is the biggest smack-down I've seen on the internet.

So the short answer is that it costs at least $1 million, plus the organisational skills of a McCarten, plus the machine of a Unite union to get there. Plus some highly electable campaigners.

It is conceivable if Unite threw all its weight behind a Harawira, Bradford, McCarten trifecta. But only if they have a big funder. And as you say, Chris, the Left don't tend to have those sorts of people with big money.

Act is the only party outside Parliament who ever made it in. They had a big chunk of the rogernome Labour Party machine who knew how to campaign. And they had a Parliamentary leader in waiting in Prebble. And they spent millions to get there.

It's also the main reason I don't think Winston will get back in. He just doesn't have the resources. Doesn't have the access to the Gallery. Doesn't have the paid staff. Doesn't have Owen Glenn. Doesn't have the organisational machine. Doesn't have the parliamentary allowances (which paid for most of his campaigns).

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous @ 7:31

Last time I looked, Anonymous, the Government's of Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Algeria were either gunning their people down in the streets, or choking them with tear gas.

Doesn't strike me that winning political representation there is any easier than here.

Cactus Kate said...

A brilliantly raw realistic post.

I worked in the ACT head office as a volunteer while at University before and for three years after its launch.

To say that it was hard work was an understatement like you wouldn't believe. Launching a party without an MP is nigh on impossible. Launching a team relying on say Hone Harawira, for an election in 9 months - impossible.

Anonymous said...

I'm still curious about who Bomber expects is going to vote for this party of his once it is established.

Cause unless he is bringing new voters into the turnout, all he is going to achive is to make the number of votes which the Nats need to get an outright majority all the easier to find.

any fewer votes for the Greens could well keep them out of Parliament, any fewer votes for Labour will nullify those precious few Nats who are pursuaded to listen to some policy for once, and not just vote on the 'beer at the barbey' test.

methinks he is just ego massaging a dramatic situation in order to boost his web profile

kevin said...

What was the name of Ross Meurants little pollie party back in the 1990's? He had a crack at forming something but it withered quickly.

Anonymous said...

You and your's must be awfully comfortable Chris, to urge others to not even try to secure some kind of representation for the poorest and most vulnerable, at this point in history.

Me and many of mine are uncomfortable enough to know we don't have a choice. We are staring down the barrel of being unable to survive anymore, of a quicksand that we know there is no escape from.

Do you have any helpful contribution to make Chris?


Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymouses @ 9:16 and 7:31

When you can comment on the topic like a grown up, Anonymous @ 7:31, I'll move you out of moderation.

I am certainly not trying to prevent the most vulnerable New Zealanders from receiving assistance, Anonymous @ 9:16. I'm simply trying to prevent the expenditure of huge amounts of scarce progressive energy and resources on what looks to me like a fool's errand.

Between them, Labour and the Greens (and, who knows, even NZ First) are well on the way to developing policies to relieve the economic pressure on working-class Kiwis.

Surely, then, it makes more sense to devote all our energies and resources towards assisting them to power - rather than attempting to re-invent the left-wing wheel?

Domino said...

This is a little bit idealistic, but technology makes it marginally easier to organise a new political grouping. Facebook and the like are good tools to spread the message.

But as Chris says you're really only likely to hit the most politically engaged, and people who are technologically engaged. And those people aren't the 700,000 beneficiaries and minimum wage earners that Bomber hopes to mobilise.

If bomber and his friends really had what it takes to start a left wing party, they would go and capture an existing political machine, like a union. Even Unite isn't big enough. But there are enough people in Unite to mass join the SFWU, take it over, break it away from the Labour Party and voila, you suddenly have the machine, people, and resources to form a left wing party.

The real obstacle to a left wing party in NZ is the blind loyalty the big unions have to a very centrist labour party. It's because so many of the union apparatchiks see their union service as stepping stones to parliament through the labour party more than advancing worker interests.

Anonymous said...

CK, I agree a real raw realistic post. Chris, you are quite correct in your last statement at 10:17. This will only divide an already divided left (Labour, Greens and NZ First) and take scarce resources away from the left developing policies.

But then this is not about policies, it is about politics and massaging the egos of Bomber, Harawira, Bradford et al.

Anonymous said...

I'd say Bomber would be the last person you'd want to be in charge of any organisation. Just look at his record. He was programming director of ALT-TV which subsequently collapsed under his stewardship despite being staffed with unpaid volunteers -a fact that he is still in denial about. Bomber should learn that rhetoric is not reality.

I just don't see any coherence about a socialist party which wants to be left of Labour incorporating a Maori racist and environmentalists.

Anonymous said...

"Between them, Labour and the Greens (and, who knows, even NZ First) are well on the way to developing policies to relieve the economic pressure on working-class Kiwis."

I wish this were true (especially of the Greens who have reverted to being the liberal yuppie party).

Instead, they are fighting a brave, and possibly doomed, rearguard action against 25 years of public rightward economic and cultural drift.

Their problem is that they have no ideas. The left has lacked a coherent theoretical basis since the 1970s. It's not actually that hard to explain to people why we pay tax, but Phil Goff couldn't do it if he was given the sort of media exposure Fidel Castro used to have in Cuba.

Meanwhile, the political right have a simple set of ideas that taps into our hyper individualist culture. No matter that it is ultimately nonsense. It works.

Anonymous said...

Reader (Don't know how to post a handle with your system Chris)

Seems a bit tacky somehow, carrying on this conversation today.


I don't believe you Chris. During their last stint in govt Labour was effectively operating a sinking lid on almost all supports for the poorest and most vulnerable. They were never up-front about it, but they continued to play a kind of (grossly inadequate and ever-reducing) resources shuffle. Any policies that did benefit the poor were piggy-banking on measures designed to benefit the comfortably middle.

Labour continues to tacitly support hate campaigns against beneficiaries, and the unions with its timid and mealy-mouthed "can't upset the rednecks" rhetoric.

Goff has said there will be no new social-spending under Labour and any new initiatives would come from taking resources out of existing programmes. It's called austerity. Any cut that Labour reverses will be funded from a cut somewhere else.

The poor will continue to be the "few" that don't matter, the acceptable collateral damage if Labour leads the next government.

The Greens provide what little parliamentry representation the poor possess. But the party has chosen to move to the right, and anyway, the Greens exist to champion evironmental causes, and if a push comes to shove, the environment will always trump the poor.

As for Winston, the poor and elderly would have a real champion in him, as would the comfortable and the wealthy elderly.

Bomber said...

Well, well, well - what do we have here? I'll keep my comments to just two.

1: I'd say Bomber would be the last person you'd want to be in charge of any organisation. Just look at his record. He was programming director of ALT-TV which subsequently collapsed under his stewardship despite being staffed with unpaid volunteers -a fact that he is still in denial about. Bomber should learn that rhetoric is not reality.
As I have explained to you a thousand times anonymous Troll, ALT rated incredibly well, which was my responsibility as programme director, the problem was with the owners who were forced out in the end because of their lack of revenue strategy, seeing as I was asked in by the creditors at the end to try and save the station and looked at the books, I hardly think you as an anonymous troll are in any position to post libel around Alts demise.

2: In light of the deal Matt cut for Hone allowing for a new party, I would suggest you all have a certain amount of hat eating to chomp through before I hear any more from any of you.

Oh and in case you all missed Matts column today...

Joe Carolan said...