As promised, this post will deal with the issue of why micro parties remain micro. By necessity, this can never be a complete or full list of why they remain electoral failures, but I hope it will at least provide a basic structure for understanding why.
Broadly speaking, the ingredients needed to make a successful political party can be divided into five categories: Money, Leadership, Organization,Media and Policies (MLOMP). A party lacking one can still break out of micro party status, a party lacking two can still arguably break through. (See New Zealand First) But most micro parties seem only to posses at most one, if any, of these traits.
- Money: As in war, money is the sinews of politics. Without any money, micro parties can only go so far. Although most micro parties do not employ paid staff (with the present exception of New Zealand First) money is still needed to maintain a bare minimum of a national party organization – usually a website. During election season it is needed to purchase pamphlets, leaflets, billboards, airtime and most importantly, nourishment for the foot soldiers and true believers of the cause. The spirit may be more than willing, but if the stomach is empty….
- Leadership: Ordinarily, leadership only needs to be stable, but in the world of micro parties, one additional factor must be present – charisma. Without charismatic leadership, a party cannot ever hope to achieve an electoral breakthrough. This partly explains why the Bill and Ben Party was able to achieve a modest success, despite completely lacking policies, money and organization. The benefits of stable leadership are self evident, parties which descend into in-fighting every 2 months will never go anywhere.
- Organization: At bare minimum, a party needs a means of keeping in touch with it’s members and a way of getting information out to the wider public. A website usually fulfills this function, sometimes a blog or forum is used but it is almost always online. A handy way of knowing if a party is still alive and actually serious about getting into Parliament is to check how often updated their online presence is. If a party hasn’t updated since the election (*cough Kiwi Party cough*) or hasn’t actually managed to put a website up (* The Pacific Party*) then it’s probably dead, or on it’s way to death. Any serious micro party will also be putting up yearly conferences where a handful of deadly serious and earnest folks will turn up and the conversation will inevitably turn to how “The ineluctable historical dialectic is guaranteed once more by the backstabbing actions of the lickspittle running dogs of the petty-bourgeoisie in undermining the dictatorship of the proletariat.” No, I don’t know what that means either.
- Media: Overlaps with organization. If a party wants to get elected, it needs to be either well organized enough to have branches in every small town and suburb brining their message out. A feat that even the two big parties can’t achieve or it needs media exposure. If Money, Organization, Policies are the firewood and Leadership is the fuel, then media is the oxygen. Without enough oxygen, the fire won’t be able to get bigger, eventually burning out. The Media of Radio, Newspaper, TV and increasingly the Internet are needed to keep the party’s messages constantly out to the public. The lack of media interest in the micro parties because they’re unlikely to succeed creates a cycle where the micro parties fail because they can’t get media attention.
- Policies: Remember kids, it’s not about having good policies. It’s about having the perception of good policies. Ironically negating what some micro parties believe to be their greatest strengths. The image based reality of the modern world makes this factor the least important of all the five factors.