NSP at the Crossroads
In 2010, NSP Secretary-General Goh Meng Seng sold off his Serangoon North flat to fund his GE war chest. The election deposit alone was $14,000 and at least another $10,000 per candidate in a GRC was needed, and Goh Meng Seng felt that leaders in NSP should be ready to give a hand to fellow NSP candidates, if they wanted one.
Nicole Seah went out on her own and solicited donations to recoup her election spending. The advertising executive, ever the maverick in her GE ways regardless if one loves or loathes her political acumen, passed the hat around not only to her family and friends, but to her fans as well. With hints of lack of accountability floating from the donations to Nicoles Seah’s personal bank account, this caused a stir as people rightly or wrongly saw that it was yet another stunt by Nicole Seah as no other election candidate had sought funding in such a public and online manner. Except for the comical bunch of independent candidates who made a poor show of trying to contest Tanjong Pagar GRC but had themselves (deliberately) disqualified in the end on Nomination Day.
NSP nonetheless issued a statement defending Nicole Seah. What she did was legally acceptable but not in the minds of the populace naive on how legitimate political donations function. Goh Meng Seng’s defence of one of his own was reminiscent of his “leave no man behind” stand-up attitude in 2006 when he stood back-to-back with James Gomez despite Gomez’s antics and the PAP’s call for WP to abandon James Gomez. The NSP statement was belated and had hints that Nicole Seah did not really consult NSP high command on the manner in which she would handle the return and declaration of her election expenses.
Tony Tan and Hazel Poa did not have such controversies if you realised. Nicole Seah was all sensationalist, not only with her apology and crying during the GE but also her hints that she or NSP might take to task PAP’s dull Tin Pei Ling breaching Cooling Off Day. In contrast, the husband and wife former Admin scholars team was all sedate and sensible. And whatever one might think of Nicole Seah, she was their public face and brand. The NSP “beauty” while the political “brains and brawn” were Tony Tan and Hazel Poa who kept out of the limelight but probably drove the NSP manifesto and the reformist policies together with Goh Meng Seng and the old birds in NSP.
It has been about 20 days since the new political climate and NSP is now at the crossroads in terms of their branding. They need to strike a balance between being sensational and being serious in its political lobbying after the GE. Too much of the former and they become Nicole Seah’s Party, more style than substance. Too much of the latter and NSP becomes boringly more substance than style, and without an edge over the other parties in terms of branding.