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Tim Watkin is wrong

Written By: - Date published: 10:22 am, April 8th, 2014 - 21 comments
Categories: blogs, Europe, International, Media, MMP - Tags: ,

Tim Watkin recently had a post over at Pundit, saying about why a 15% gap (in their latest poll of polls, uncorrected like Danyl’s) between Labour and National matters (presuming that it stays that way and polls don’t massively bounce around – see 11 point gap in latest poll).

His crux point is that in no MMP election has a party led by 15% and not formed the government.

Unfortunately for Tim, this is demonstrably wrong.

In 2011 there was an MMP election for a 120 seat house (70 constituencies, 50 list, St Lague method of seat allocation, overhang seats… all very NZ settings) in which the ‘losers’ got 39% and the ‘winners’ 24%.

As a Labour supporter it wasn’t the best election – the social democratic party vote dropped to 23%, leaving them as junior partners to the Greens. On the other hand, it wasn’t the worst election – the centre right party had been in power for 58 years!

In fact the centre-right CDU got 60 out of the 70 constituencies, so they had to create an 18 seat overhang (all those extra list MPs!) to give the Green-Red coalition their majority.

And what was the conclusion of the populace?  Well the government is still operating 3 years later at any rate. So unless Tim is saying Aotearoa has a greater propensity and history to electoral result overthrow than Germany… I think such a result would stand here as well.

Tim’s other point was how much the gap would de-motivate supporters and voters, who would think they have “no chance”. But it seems to me that can only be a problem of perception, not reality.  And who shapes that perception?

The Left parties will certainly not be pushing that. They’re talking about left-right blocs. So it’s only if the main media (as the window on the world of politics to most people) present the election as a foregone conclusion that people will reach that perception.

So surely it becomes once again our lead journalists’ responsibility to make sure they reflect (and not create) reality?

Postscript: Meant to include xkcd’s cartoon list of electoral precedents, and mention the intriguing contrast to NZ in the Baden-Württemberg state election:

The biggest issue was the turning of a terminus train station in the centre of the main city into a through station. So familiar until you realise that the centre-right government was pushing it through, and the Greens doubled their vote by opposing it…

(Other MMP electoral precedents incorrectly cited include at the last election “no party has ever got a majority under MMP”… while Scotland had (and has) a one-party MMP majority government…)

21 comments on “Tim Watkin is wrong”

  1. Tom Gould 1

    The number of MPs each individual party has is completely irrelevant. What matters is whether an individual MP is able to convince the Governor General that he or she commands the confidence in the House of a majority of MPs. Simple as that. Whether confidence is pledged by the MPs of a single party or those of a dozen parties is of no consequence. Under MMP, 50 per cent plus one MP wins. End of story.

  2. Blue 2

    Most journalists seem completely incapable of considering the election in any other terms than a straight National v Labour horserace.

    I predict that they will all end up with egg on their faces when National comes in at, say 41%, doesn’t have enough friends to form a Government, and we end up with a Labour/Green/NZ First Government.

    I look forward to the acrobatic justifications from all the idiot talking heads who’ve called it for National already.

    • Rob 2.1

      I think you mean that

      Most voters seem completely incapable of considering the election in any other terms than a straight National v Labour horserace.

      Most voters do only vote for Labour and National, for many of these voters the parties that poll less than 15% just make things a whole lot more complex.

      • Blue 2.1.1

        No, I think voters are more sophisticated than you give them credit for. The ones in Epsom and Ohariu certainly understand the special power they have been given to pervert the course of the electoral system.

        I know people who always vote for minor parties because they understand how MMP works and want a minor coalition partner to ‘keep the major party honest’.

        It’s not voters who have trouble with MMP – it’s journalists who struggle to fit the system into their preordained ‘winner/loser’ narrative.

        • Ant 2.1.1.1

          Also, if you look at the Maori electorates you begin to get a picture of a populace who appear to ‘get’ MMP pretty well. It seems like this affliction of not understanding MMP just affects journos.

  3. Philj 3

    xox
    We have very few quality journalists in NZ Mainstream Media. Getting less by the day. RNZ is heading the way of TVNZ, trivia, once over lightly Mora. I Will tell you what to think Ryan. I hope to be proved wrong. Wallace has promise…fingers crossed.

  4. ghostwhowalksnz 4

    Even our close neighbors Australia have had governments formed where the largest party wasnt in government.
    Since the 1950s there have been 4 times when ‘ Labor’ have had more seats than the Liberals but they havent been the government.

    As well, in 1951 they both had 51 seats. Of course Liberals have the Country party, now called Nationals as coalition partners.

    1998 Lab 67 Lib 64. Howard was PM

    1969 Lab 59 Lib 46 Gorton

    1961 Lab 60 Lib 45 Menzies

    1954 Lab 57 Lib 47 Menzies

    The conservative parties allways run separate candidates and only recently in Queensland have they combined as Liberal- Nationals

    The method of electing Mps is soley by electorate but the method of forming an Australian government is only ever based on who has the numbers to form a coalition in the house.

    Its absurd to think NZ voters would be any different to Australians in accepting the major party didnt win the most seats

  5. DS 5

    There’s even a New Zealand First Past the Post precedent for the single biggest party not governing: in 1911 Reform got more seats than the Liberals, but the Liberals won an eighth term with the support of independents. Of course, the Government fell the following year, but the point is that there is no “single biggest party must govern” precedent.

    It happened in the UK (again FPP) in 1923. Tories win most seats, but the first Labour Government comes in, propped up by the (now third party) Liberals.

  6. srylands 6

    Yes I agree he is wrong. Labour could definitely win.

    The most likely scenario is that Labour/Greens will get about 41%, National 45% and Winston 5.x %. Winston will decide who forms the Government.

    Alternatively, NZ First will get 4.x %, Dunne gets 1 seat, ACT gets 1 or 2 seats, Maori Party gets 1 seat and in that scenario National wins.

    Sure there are other scenarios but those two are the most realistic.

    A scenario that has Labour/Greens over 50% is unlikely.

    • Rumour Willis 6.1

      “ACT gets […] 2 seats”

      lolololol

    • Lanthanide 6.2

      If MP gets 1 seat, it’s highly likely Mana would end up on 2 or maybe even 3. Which potentially changes the situation.

  7. fisiani 7

    ACT is the fastest growing party in parliament. At this rate they could have 4 MP’s

  8. Ben,

    I think you’ve fundamentally misunderstood Tim’s point. What I take him to be saying is:

    (1) The “it’s never happened before” point is not that this proves it can never happen. Rather, it’s that it is hard to motivate your ground troops to go out and bust a gut for you if it looks like you’re trailing so far behind the opponent you measure yourself against. And for all you may tell yourself (and others) “once the Greens are in the mix, it’s neck-and-neck”, the constant message that “National is 15% (or whatever) ahead” wears you down. So the longer the gap continues, the harder it gets to generate the momentum (and enthusiasm) needed to close it.

    (Of course, there is a way Labour could try and overcome this. They could link themselves publicly and continuously with the Greens as a “Left Bloc”, referring constantly to the two parties as one political force to offset National’s apparently commanding poll lead. But … they won’t.)

    (2) However, the main point is that Tim thinks, based upon having seen Peters up close and personal, that if Labour is still 15-something percent behind National on election night, he will not feel able to support them in Government. The public perception that Labour has “lost” and National has “won” will be so strong that he will feel obligated to support National. So given that for Labour to lead the next Government they’re probably going to need Peters in a King-maker role, that’s a real problem for them.

    Now, Tim may be wrong about that second point. But I think he is probably right. I’d also note that both he and I have both posted on a number of occasions busting the myth that “the biggest party should be allowed to govern”. But that’s different from saying that the gap between Labour and National just “doesn’t matter”.

    • Sacha 8.1

      “the opponent you measure yourself against”

      another part of the mindset problem, yes. Sooner we flush the remaining FPP dinosaurs from Labour’s backrooms and caucus the better.

  9. Dave 9

    Well seems like labour still has a mathematical chance of winning then, even if national doesn’t have some catastrophic collapse.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Labour, supposedly representing the economic interests of the numerous bottom 90% of households, is on 32%.

      National, supposedly representing the economic interests of the rarefied top 10% of households, is on 43%.

      Talk about total disconnect.

  10. George 10

    A plausible explanation. Except it won’t be Holly Walker and Jan Logie filling Government benches. It will be Tracey Martin and Asenati Lole Taylor.

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  • Burger King shows zero-hour contracts not needed
    The abandonment of zero-hour contracts by Burger King is further evidence good employers do not need to use them, Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Issues Iain Lees-Galloway says. "Congratulations to the Unite Union and Burger King for settling an employment agreement… ...
    7 days ago
  • Kiwis deserve more than reheats
    The Government looks set to rely on regurgitated announcements for this year’s Budget if today’s speech is anything to go by, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “National has been building up to this Budget for seven long years, promising a… ...
    7 days ago
  • Landlords not cashing in on insulation schemes
    The fact so few landlords have taken up the generous taxpayer subsidy for retrofitting shows it is time to legislate minimum standards, says Labour’s Associate Housing spokesperson Poto Williams. “Many landlords aren’t using Government insulation schemes because they don’t want… ...
    1 week ago
  • Zero excuses, end zero hour contracts now
    It’s time Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse cut the weasel words and banned zero hour contracts, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Michael Woodhouse today acknowledged zero hour contracts are unfair. ...
    1 week ago
  • We’ve reached Peak Key with ‘artificial target’
    John Key’s attempt to redefine his cornerstone promise of two election campaigns as an artificial target suggests his other promises are works of fiction, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “For seven years and two election campaigns, John Key has… ...
    1 week ago
  • Top 10 need to know facts on climate change
    All the numbers and stats around climate change can be confusing, so we’ve put together a handy list of the top 10 numbers about climate change that we should all know- and then do something about. You can sign up here to… ...
    GreensBy Frog
    2 weeks ago
  • Campbell Live a bastion of investigative journalism
    The announcement that current affairs programme Campbell Live is under review and may be axed has sparked outrage from the New Zealand public, for good reason, says Labour’s Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran. “Investigative journalism is a precious resource in today’s… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ground Zero for ‘disastrous’ contracts
    Yesterday the Green Party called on the Government to follow the leadership of Restaurant Brands and ditch zero-hour contracts. Currently it looks like the Government is a large part of the zero-hours problem. It allows these types of “non-jobs” to… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Trust in National will disappear with deficit
    Bill English is set to break his promise to get the books back in the black this year and lose the trust of Kiwis who have had to do it too hard for too long, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Dorothy Jelicich passes away
    It is with sincere sadness that the Labour Party conveys its sympathies and condolences to the bereaved family of Dorothy Jelicich who passed away last night at the age of 87 years, says the MP for Mangere, Su’a William Sio.… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government leaves aquaculture industry at sea
    If the Government had acted in its first term, the Sanford mussel processing plant would not have to close, says Labour’s Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene. “Sanford is considering closure after a decline in the natural supply of spat. This is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Maggie –it’s time to roll your sleeves up
      It’s time for the Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry to listen to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment  and start untangling the mess around  New Zealand’s stewardship land, says Labour’s Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson.  “The Commissioner has called for… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Gutting of prison jobs a gift to private prison provider
    Today’s announcement that sections of three prisons are to be closed is the thin end of the wedge for the privatisation of the country’s prison service, says Labour’s  Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis.  It's estimated that 260 prison officers will lose… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Joyce must rule out revising export target
    Steven Joyce must rule out a second revision of the Government’s export target in six months and stop trying to massage statistics when he fails to meet his goals, says Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson David Clark. “National set a target… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Caregiver law passed in haste now a fail
    The Government’s response to supporting family caregivers is mean spirited and designed to fail, says Labour’s Disability Issues Spokesperson Ruth Dyson.  “Figures released by the Ministry of Health show that only a tiny percentage of the eligible families have applied… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Clear message handed to nuclear states
    MPs Phil Goff, Shane Reti and Marama Fox are due to meet with diplomats from the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, China and France tomorrow to hand deliver a letter calling for their countries to disarm their nuclear weapons.… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Parity is no party for export businesses
    The extent of the damage done by the high dollar to New Zealand businesses is larger than many think as shown by a dramatic decrease in exports to Australia as our dollar rises, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “When the… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nats’ limited thinking stifling innovation
    Businesses trying to innovate and create better products are being let down by this Government with an industry expert saying Steven Joyce’s mini-tax credits will have almost no impact, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Andrew Dickeson, director of taxation… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Vanishing Nature: A must-read for all New Zealanders
    The Environmental Defence Society’s new book Vanishing Nature – facing New Zealand’s biodiversity crisis, should be read by every New Zealander concerned about our native plants and wildlife and striking natural landscapes; and particularly by Government Ministers before Budget Day… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • The CYF review – an exercise in predetermination?
    Child Youth and Family (CYF) has a troublesome history of underperformance and botched care and protection cases, the most recent being its abject failure, along with the Police, to address the Roastbusters sexual abuse allegations with any semblance of professionalism.… ...
    GreensBy Metiria Turei MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Time to act to protect Hector’s Dolphins
    The death of a Hector’s Dolphin in a set net must lead to action from the Minister of Conservation, Ruth Dyson, Labour’s Conservation Spokesperson said today. “Despite the fact that the Akaroa Harbour has been a Marine Mammal Sanctuary since… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Double-laning Darby and Joan disputed
    The Prime Minister’s by-election promise to double lane the road between Northland’s iconic Darby and Joan kauri trees has been contradicted by officials, Labour’s spokesperson Phil Twyford says. The NZ Transport Agency has told a media outlet that not all… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Parity: Cheaper trips but lower incomes
    The Kiwi dollar’s near-parity with the Australian means some tourists will have cheaper Gold Coast holidays but New Zealand incomes will stay lower for longer, making it harder for many to afford the trip, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • English’s state house flog off plans exposed
    Labour is calling on Bill English to confirm or deny a claim the Government is exploring a mass sell-off of state housing to tenants. Property magnate Bob Jones writes in a newspaper column published today that the Minister responsible for… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Extension of work scheme urged for disaster relief
    The Government is being urged to extend the Regional Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme to help families in the most severely-damaged islands of Vanuatu, following Cyclone Pam. “Allowing a further 300 people to take up seasonal employment in New Zealand under… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Nuclear deal with Iran should be just the start
    A deal struck by Iran and major powers to ensure the Iranian facilities producing nuclear material are not used for the purpose of constructing nuclear weapons has been a long time coming, Labour’s Disarmament spokesperson Phil Goff says. “Undoubtedly Iran’s… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Green Aoraki Newsletter March 2015
    Attachmentsmarch2015_web.pdf - 1.4 MB ...
    3 weeks ago

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