New Zealand Progressive Party
Current Progressive Party logo
The Progressive Party (initially the Progressive Coalition) is a political party in the New Zealand Parliament. It is presently the junior partner in the governing coalition, being somewhat to the left of its ally the Labour Party. It currently has two seats in parliament, one belonging to leader Jim Anderton and the other to Matt Robson. It was established when Anderton and his supporters left the Alliance party, no longer represented in parliament.
The Progressive Party has a particular focus on the creation of jobs, and has said that it is committed to achieving full employment. The party also lists free education and free healthcare as policy objectives. Economically, the party is left-wing, and places particular attention on economic development in the regions (rather than in financial centres such as Auckland). Recently, the party has been promoting its proposal for four weeks of annual leave from work.
The Progressive Party was established by a faction of the Alliance, a left-wing party that does not presently hold seats in parliament but which was once the third largest party there. Having won ten seats in the 1999 elections, the Alliance went into coalition with the Labour Party, forming a government. Towards the end of the parliamentary term, tensions between different factions of a party increased. In particular, the party's parliamentary leader (Jim Anderton) and the party's organizational leader (Matt McCarten) became involved in a significant dispute. The causes of the problems are debated by the various actors, but a significant factor appears to be a claim by McCarten's faction that the Alliance was giving too much away to the Labour Party. In addition, McCarten's faction claimed that Anderton's leadership style was "autocratic", and that the parliamentary wing was failing to heed the concerns of the party's membership.
Anderton rejected the criticism, claiming that criticism of the Alliance's ties to Labour were "extremist" and would nullify the party's ability to influence government policy. The conflict gradually became more and more severe until Anderton eventually demanded the resignation of the party's governing council. The party organization expelled Anderton and his supporters, with Anderton announcing his intentions of establishing a new party. However, because of electoral law, Anderton did not officially leave the Alliance's parliamentary wing, even if he had left the party itself - doing so would have required his resignation from parliament, a step he was unwilling to take. As such, Anderton and his supporters remained technically a part of the Alliance's parliamentary wing until the election, when they officially established their new party. The Democrats, a component of the Alliance, broke away to join the new group.
Initially, the name given to the new organization was the "Progressive Coalition". Shortly before the 2002 elections, the official name was changed to "Jim Anderton's Progressive Coalition", a measure Anderton says was intended to ensure that the new party was recognized. Later, after the Democrats had departed to reestablish themselves as an independent entity, the name "Progressive Party" was adopted. The new party placed Anderton's supporters from the Alliance first on its party list. In the elections, it competed against both the Alliance (then led by Laila Harré, a supporter of McCarten) and Labour. It managed to gain 1.7% of the vote. Ordinarily, this would not be enough to gain entry into parliament, as it is below the 5% threshold for proportional representation. However, Anderton was successful in retaining his electorate seat in Wigram. As such, the party gained entry to parliament despite being below the threshold, and therefore received its proportional share of seats. This enabled Matt Robson, who had been a member of Anderton's faction of the Alliance, to enter parliament as well. The Alliance itself failed to win any seats.
The Progressives took up the Alliance's old position as Labour's junior coalition partner. However, as the Progressives brought fewer seats to the coalition than the Alliance had, the new party's influence was not as great. Anderton retained his position as Minister of Economic Development, but lost the role of Deputy Prime Minister to Labour's Michael Cullen, the Minister of Finance. Matt Robson lost his ministerial roles.