Alliance (New Zealand political party)

Alliance (New Zealand political party)

Infobox New Zealand Political Party
name_english = New Zealand Alliance Party
name_maori =
party_wikicolourid = NZAP
leader = Andrew McKenzie, Kay Murray
president = Paul Piesse
deputy =
mps = None
foundation = 1991
ideology = Social democracy,
Democratic Socialism
international = None
colours = Red and Green
headquarters = PO Box 69026, Glendene, Auckland 0645, New Zealand
website = []

The Alliance, in New Zealand politics, is a left-wing political party. The party is currently outside parliament, but has previously been a significant presence there. It suffered a major setback after Jim Anderton, the party's leader, left the party in 2002, taking several of the party's MPs. After the remaining MPs lost their seats in the 2002 election, some commentators predicted the demise of the party but it stood candidates in the 2005 election. The Alliance continues to contest Auckland City Council elections under the City Vision banner, in concert with the NZ Labour Party and Green Party.


The Alliance is a decidedly left-wing party. It is a strong supporter of free education, free healthcare, the reduction of unemployment, and the maintenance of the welfare state. It also has a strong emphasis on women's rights, environmentalism, and Māori rights. It is a strong supporter of New Zealand's nuclear-free policy, and believes that New Zealand should not participate in aggressive military actions such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The party supports progressive taxation, which would mean higher tax for wealthier people and lower taxation for poorer people. It also supports the removal of the Goods and Services Tax, claiming that the tax is unfair because the amount paid does not vary according to the purchaser's ability to afford it. It also supports a financial transactions tax or Tobin tax and in recent years has supported a capital gains tax.

Among its other economic policies are proposals to focus more on regional development and local economic planning, rather than on "big business". It also opposes the privatization of public assets, and the sale of non-urban land to foreign buyers.



The Alliance was formed at the end of 1991 as an alliance of four parties. The largest of the four was the NewLabour Party, established by former Labour Party politician Jim Anderton. The oldest was the Democratic Party (originally known as the Social Credit Party, and dedicated to Social Credit policies). The others were Mana Motuhake (a Māori party) and the Greens (an environmentalist party).

Until his departure from Labour in 1989, Anderton had been the most vocal Labour MP in his criticism of his party's new direction. Led by Roger Douglas, the Minister of Finance, Labour had adopted radical policies of economic liberalization, free trade, and privatization of state assets - sharply in contrast both with the party's background and its campaign promises. This was deeply unpopular both with a section of the public and with ordinary members, but Douglas and his allies, without effective constraint by Prime Minister David Lange, pressed on with the reforms. Anderton, despite heavy pressure from the party authorities, refused to vote in favour of the measures, and eventually quit the party. He contested the 1990 elections under the banner of NewLabour, a party he quickly established. He successfully retained his electorate seat, becoming the first MP to leave a party and not lose their position in the next elections.

NewLabour, the Democrats, and Mana Motuhake, all of which opposed the platform set out by Douglas, gradually began to work together to fight their common political opposition. Initially, this co-operation was limited, but expanded after a joint candidate was successful in an Auckland local-body election. The Greens, who had policies and electoral support, but not party organization, also took notice.

"Original Alliance logo"

On 1 December 1991, NewLabour, the Greens, the Democrats, and Mana Motuhake formally agreed to establish the Alliance as an official party. This established the three original pillars of Alliance policy - left-wing economics (represented by NewLabour and the Democrats), environmentalism (represented by the Greens), and Māori issues (represented by Mana Motuhake).

Shortly after the official establishment of the Alliance, a small splinter group from the National Party applied to join. This group, known as the Liberal Party (not to be confused with the original Liberal Party), consisted of two former National Party MPs who were disillusioned with the continuation of Douglas's policies by National's Ruth Richardson. The Liberals became the fifth member of the Alliance.

There were also discussions regarding the Alliance's links with Winston Peters, a former National MP who founded the New Zealand First party. Peters was also opposed to the economic reforms being undertaken, was hostile towards big business, and claimed to support ordinary New Zealanders, but was also highly conservative in his social policies. In particular, his views on immigration were incompatible with the Alliance's belief in multiculturalism. There were also problems regarding who would lead any merged entity - both the Alliance's Anderton and New Zealand First's Peters were well regarded for standing up to their old parties, leaving it unclear which of them should be senior. (Some have also claimed that neither Anderton nor Peters would accept being ranked second - both politicians are sometimes accused by their critics of being egotistical and controlling). Regardless of the reason, the Alliance and New Zealand First did not move together.

Early electoral performance

In 1992, the Alliance contested a by-election in the electorate of Tamaki. The former stronghold of Robert Muldoon, a conservative National Party leader, Tamaki was not regarded as an easy run for the Alliance. It was, therefore, surprising when the Alliance nearly won the seat, pushing Labour into third place. Later that year, the Alliance gained control of Auckland's regional council. These two performances helped establish the Alliance as a significant threat to the major parties.

In the 1993 elections, the Alliance gained 18% of the vote. However, the electoral system meant that the party only won two seats - one delivered by Jim Anderton, and the other by Sandra Lee-Vercoe in Auckland. Occurring at the same time as this election, however, was the referendum which introduced the MMP electoral system, making it much easier for smaller parties to get representation. The Alliance was a strong supporter of this change.

In 1994, Jim Anderton left the leadership of the Alliance, citing family reasons. Sandra Lee-Vercoe was placed in charge of the party. Later, however, Anderton was persuaded to return, and resumed the leadership.

Under MMP

In the 1996 elections, the Alliance gained 10% of the vote. Under the new electoral system, this secured the party thirteen MPs. New Zealand First, however, had obtained seventeen MPs, and held the balance of power between Labour and National. Eventually, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters opted to form a coalition with National, leaving both Labour and the Alliance in opposition.

The Labour Party, now led by Helen Clark, had moved away from the policies of Roger Douglas - both Douglas and his strongest supporter, Richard Prebble, had left Labour to found the ACT party, and Clark's more traditional faction had taken over. This allowed a gradual reconciliation between Labour and the Alliance, a process assisted by the impression that lack of cooperation had cost both parties support. Eventually, this led to an agreement between the two parties, with both sides agreeing to cooperate in forming a government should election results allow it.

In 1997, the Greens decided that they would leave the Alliance at the next election, believing that they could perform better individually. Other developments in the Alliance's makeup included the formal dissolution of both the NewLabour Party and the Liberal Party, with their members becoming members of the Alliance as a whole rather than of any specific constituent party. This left the Democrats and Mana Motuhake as the only parts of the Alliance with distinct identities.

In the 1999 elections, the Alliance gained around 8% of the vote, giving it ten seats. This, combined with Labour's forty-nine seats and some support from the Greens, was enough to form a government. Jim Anderton became Deputy Prime Minister, and three other Alliance MPs gained positions in Cabinet. The Alliance claims to have made a number of significant achievements while in government, citing (among other things) the creation of the Ministry of Economic Development, the lifting of the minimum wage, a change in funding systems for schools, and abolition of market rents for state housing. The party also claims to have exerted an important general influence over other governmental decisions.

"2003 Alliance logo"


Towards the end of the parliamentary term, however, internal tensions began to grow within the Alliance. This was partly driven by the party's low poll ratings, which were often blamed on perceived "subservience" to Labour. In particular, many members of the party organization were less willing to support Labour than the party's MPs were, leading to a rift between parliamentary leader Anderton and party president Matt McCarten.

Eventually, Anderton decided to leave the Alliance and establish a new party. However, rules regarding changes of party allegiance meant that Anderton and his allies could not officially resign from the Alliance without also resigning from parliament, which they were unwilling to do. This led to the awkward situation of Anderton and his allies technically remaining part of the Alliance while actually operating outside of it. The conflict within the Alliance was one of the reasons cited by Helen Clark for her calling elections several months early in 2002.

Anderton, along with three other Alliance MPs, established the Progressive Coalition Party (later just the Progressive Party). Three Alliance MPs, led by Laila Harré, chose to remain with the Alliance. The remaining three MPs (two supporting Anderton, one supporting Harré) decided not to stand for parliament again. The Democrats, one of the two Alliance components still having a separate identity, chose to follow Anderton, while Mana Motuhake, the other, chose to stay. Labour was largely successful in avoiding being drawn into the dispute.


In the 2002 elections, the Alliance and the Progressives competed against each other. The Alliance, believing that it would struggle to reach 5% (the threshold for a party being awarded representation proportional to its support), needed to win an electorate seat to gain entry to parliament. It chose to focus on Waitakere (contested by Harré) and Tainui (contested by Willie Jackson, leader of Mana Motuhake). In both seats, however, the Alliance came second, losing each time to a Labour candidate, and so failed to gain parliamentary representation. In the list vote the party failed to meet the threshold gaining only 1.27% of the Party vote.

After the election, Mana Motuhake chose to leave the Alliance. This left the Alliance without any component parties - all members are now simply members of the Alliance as a whole.

Laila Harré stepped down as the party's leader on 30 November 2003, and was replaced by Matt McCarten, the party president who clashed with Anderton. McCarten advocated a policy which would see the Alliance focus less on electoral activity and more on playing a co-ordinating role — he has been a particularly strong advocate of working with the new Māori Party, which the Alliance had been involved with and practically supported during Tariana Turia's by-election campaign and the Maori Party launch. There was an ongoing debate within the Alliance, given the poll ratiungs of less than 1%, as to whether the Alliance should contest the list vote in the 2005 elections, or instead only stand in electorate seats and encourage its supporters to use their list vote to support the Greens or the Māori Party. Jill Ovens, a former candidate and the new party president, was critical of McCarten's support of the Māori Party, saying that working both for the Alliance and the Māori Party at the same time represented a conflict of interest and resigned at one stage over the issue (Ovens subsequently joined the Labour Party in 2006). When no agreement could be reached on the electoral strategy McCarten and Harré dissassociated themselves from the Alliance. Gerard Hehir, the outgoing General Secretary, informed the Electoral Commission that the Alliance no longer had the five hundred financial members required for registration. In late 2004 McCarten was replaced as leader by two co-leaders, Jill Ovens and Paul Piesse and the party's remaining membership voted to contest the list vote [] .In the 2005 elections the Alliance gained only 0.07% of the Party vote, placing 12th of the parties.


Following the poor showing in the 2005 elections, the Alliance continued after their 2005 conference with two co-leaders Paul Piesse and Len Richards. At the 2006 conference held in Wellington, no co-leaders were elected with the party deciding to concentrate on internal reorganization. Victor Billot was elected President.At the 2007 national conference, held in Dunedin, two co-leaders were elected, Victor Billot and Kay Murray, with Paul Piesse returning to his former role as Party President. The Alliance stated its intention to run a list of candidates plus electorate candidates in the 2008 general elections.Speakers at the 2007 national conference included political commentator Chris Trotter and publisher Jack Yan.The Alliance spokesperson on tax is the academic and intelligence researcher James R. Flynn.

Currently the party has between 500 and 600 members [ [ Submission on distribution of broadcasting allocations] , Alliance Party, 18 April 2008] .

Electoral results (1993-2005)



*Jim Anderton (1991 - 1994)
*Sandra Lee-Vercoe (1994 - 1995)
*Jim Anderton (1995 - 2002)
*Laila Harré (2002 - 2003)
*Matt McCarten (2003 - 2004)
*Jill Ovens and Paul Piesse (2005 - 2006)
*Len Richards and Paul Piesse (2006)
* Party President and spokesperson Victor Billot (2006 - 2007)
*Victor Billot and Kay Murray (2007 - 2008)
*Andrew McKenzie and Kay Murray (2008)


From start:
*Jim AndertonFrom 1993:
*Sandra Lee-VercoeFrom 1996:
*Phillida Bunkle
*Pam Corkery (retired in 1999)
*Rod Donald (followed Green Party out of Alliance in 1997)
*Jeanette Fitzsimons (followed Green Party out of Alliance in 1997)
*Grant Gillon
*Liz Gordon
*Frank Grover (defected to CHP in 1996)
*Laila Harré
*Alamein Kopu (defected to found Mana Wahine in 1998)
*Matt Robson
*John WrightFrom 1999:
*Kevin Campbell
*Willie Jackson


External links

* [ Alliance] official website

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