Since the dawn of time there have been people who have stood outside of the mainstream. In the cruel and primordial days of humanity’s existence these individuals were denied the fruits of companionship and banished out of the tribe, confined to wandering in the bitter bitter cold of the outside world, eventually succumbing to death. In the enlightened and progressive world of the 21st century, the intellectual descendants of these individuals form political parties and are banished out of the hallowed circle of the political mainstream, confined to wandering the bitter, bitter cold of electoral non-viability, eventually succumbing to infighting and eventual political death. Clearly, not much has changed in over 40000 years of history.
Bland and unfunny ‘humour’ aside, a micro party (also known, perhaps more fittingly, as a minnow party) is any political party which has failed to reach what the powers above consider to be an absolute minimum ammount of support one must have in order to enter the governing classes. These many and unlucky band of brothers consist of all political stripes and types. From Far-Right neonazis (Nationalist Alliance, National Democrats) to Far-Left Communists (Worker’s Party, RAM) to Centrist-Populists-Peterists (New Zealand First) these unlikely groups are united only in their inability to cross a 5% threshold or win an electorate seat.
There is a hierarchy associated with micro-parties. At the top tier( Tier One) are parties recently thrown out of the halls of power, the baubbles of office freshly lifted off their backs. These parties have a reasonable chance of making it back in the next election, but in the event they fail to do so, they will forever be consigned to the rubbish-bin of history. Arguably, only New Zealand First belongs in this category, being only 0.7% away from making it back into Parliament. A wide gulf separates this top tier from the next one.
On the next tier (Tier Two) are the parties that could plausibly get into Parliament given the right circumstances. The ‘right circumstances’ can be defined as (1) Charismatic leader(s) (2) Good, coherent policies which will be accepted by the average kiwi (3) A national infrastructure (4) A base of support in the urban centers (or at least Auckland.) and most importantly (5) Favourable conditions. A party can work towards getting the first four, but unless the fifth is present, it won’t be able to break the relative inertia of established parties. I have included two micro parties which I feel could get into Parliament: The Kiwi Party and the Alliance Party. Both parties will have only one way to get into parliament and that is to fill the electoral niche that will be left by the disappeance of Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party and Peter Dunne’s United Future Party. Jim Anderton isn’t getting any younger and the disappearance of the Progressive’s only MP, Matt Robson will mean that the Progressives probably won’t survive Anderton’s retirement. The same scenario applies to United Future.
On the very bottom are parties who are so far from the mainstream that there is no way they could plausibly enter Parliament. These are the parties which haven’t been mentioned in either tier one or tier two and not even when Hell freezes over, pigs grow wings and cliches start writing themselves will they ever make it into parliament. I will explore these parties in more detail in my next column. Micro Parties: An anatomy of electoral failures.