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Courting the ethnic vote

Written By: - Date published: 5:58 pm, December 9th, 2008 - 31 comments
Categories: national - Tags:

I’ve just watched the first part of the Address in Reply debate which included maiden speeches by two new National Party MPs – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa Lee. They were impressive. This in itself should provide some cause for concern for Labour but more ominous should be the signal that while this year’s election is over, National’s campaign for 2011 has already begun.

I doubt very much that Sam and Melissa’s names were drawn from a ballot. In their speeches both made much of the changing face of the National Party. If I heard her correctly, Ms Lee will be New Zealand’s first Korean MP and the first female Korean MP in the world outside of her mother country. Mr Lotu-Iiga scored a convincing victory in the previously Labour-held Maungakiekie electorate. Both MPs spoke confidently in english, in their native tongues, and in Maori. If Labour was ever becoming complacent about the continued traditional support of the nationwide ethnic community, the approach National took today should be a wake-up-call.

Finally, I may have missed something but it would have been nice to see even a few of the members of the Labour caucus cross the floor to congratulate the new National Party MPs as did those from other parties (including the Greens). You don’t have to like it, but for the time being you might just have to suck it up.

[UPDATE: I’m told in comments that I did just miss it, good on those Labour members who did congratulate them!]

31 comments on “Courting the ethnic vote ”

  1. Francois 1

    It’s quite concerning. For a party that claims to be favourable to ethnic people no non-pacific, non-maori ethnic person has ever won status as an electorate MP>

  2. gingercrush 2

    Francois what party are you talking about?

    I was very inspired by their speeches. At first I was a bit apprehensive towards Paseta with his references to God. I’m not a religious person and for a number of years was rather anti-religion. But then I listened to more of his speech and I found it inspiring. I’m looking forward to more speeches from the new members. Whatever their political aspiration is. The sad thing, is all their speeches contain so much hope and promise. Unfortunately, the democratic constitution that is Parliament can’t allow idealism and real opinion to take place.


    Asian voters are still largely untapped by either the left or right and so far have proved to swing towards whichever will likely hold party. Both parties could cement some of that support but haven’t done so yet. They’re more into individual responsibility and are tough on law and order. But they also contain many members who are in economic conditions that are less than desirable. A very interesting mix. And both parties look to be picking up that their potential long-term voters that could prove valuable to electoral success.

    In terms of the Pacific vote. Most still vote Labour. More concerning, I suspect is many don’t vote. For Labour that means potential 10,000+ drop in support for them. That hasn’t to be concerning. I think National can pick up more conservative Pacific Islanders but its going to take a long time and proper interest in the Pacific Island community before they’ll vote National. Certainly, they can’t use members like Paseta as a trophy. It has to be a proper investment in that community.

    Maungakiekie it must be added, moved more into National territory and lost boundaries that are very strong Labour territory. Hence, its no longer the safe Labour seat it once was. Interestingly, its likely to move further into National territory in the upcoming years.

  3. Daveski 3


    I’ve been critical of some of your posts but this is top shelf – and not because it is critical of Labour 🙂

    I think National is at least trying to rebuild itself and a broader base of support is essential to this.

    From a centre-right perspective, the thing that has pleased me most has been the failure of many of the left to accept the explanations of why the left lost the election.

    Your post shows the type of reflection and analysis that hasn’t been seen enough on the Left

  4. Tim Ellis 4

    What a very even-handed post, ayb.

    I agree that Lotu-Iiga and Lee are both stars. Likewise Hekia Parata, Simon Bridges, Kanwal Bakshi and Nikki Kaye, of the ones I’ve seen. They all represent quite different faces of the National Party to the image of middle-aged men. I suspect that a fairly active search went on in the National Party to come up with some of these people, but each of them stands there on merit as well. I don’t think any reasonable person can say that they’re just token representatives.

    National’s taken a while to adjust to the changing face of New Zealand. Labour has historically done considerably better, particularly in the gender stakes. National still has some way to go on that front. The real challenge for National will be next election and whether John Key has the gumption to continue the caucus renewal. I think there are probably about a dozen National MPs who will be due for retirement then. It will be interesting to see how National manages these people into retirement, and whether National has the depth to replace them with new faces. From the look of National’s list, pretty much everybody in my view who should be in Parliament, is in Parliament. I think National will have to cast a bit further afield to get different people in there to replace the likely retirements next time.

    Labour did a pretty extraordinary job, all things considered, in getting some new blood into their 2008 intake, preferring the likes of Jacinda Ardern, Stuart Nash, Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford over Damien O’Connor and Judith Tizard. By rights there should be about 8-10 retirements from Labour’s caucus next time, too. I don’t know how deep the Labour Party is but I suspect like National, pretty much every candidate who should be in Parliament made it in this election. Where else is Labour’s next bunch of fresh talent going to come from? We can probably be reasonably confident that Andrew Little will be there, but who else is likely to be the fresh blood?

  5. Daveski 5

    Sorry ayb – the veritable kiss of death – approval from Daveski and TE 🙂

  6. Tim Ellis 6

    Oh, and by the way ayb wrote:

    I doubt very much that Sam and Melissa’s names were drawn from a ballot.

    Lotu-Iiga’s name was. He stood in a contested selection for Maungakiekie and beat two other candidates for the nomination. National has a delegate selection of 60 local members who choose the candidate so he was drawn from the ballot.

  7. Kerry 7

    hideous..shaking a nats hand????!!!!??!!

  8. Liar 8

    No wonder New Zealand is struggling to find its identity with such stinking thinking attitudes eh KerrY?

  9. ianmac 9

    (Damn. Halfway through writing and my words disappeared.)
    Now. Agreed with all the above but just as there is great diversity within the voting of say the “pakehas” , it would be a bit rude to lump say the Koreans or the Samoans or worse the Asians as a voting block. I hope that the clever Party people are not involving ethnic reps with that in mind, as opposed to undoubted merit.

  10. all_your_base 10

    TE, Davski – cheers, I think!

    By “drawn from a ballot” I meant for the speaking order today… as in their prominent speaking spots were tactical rather than accidental.
  11. Francois 11

    I’m saying that the National Party seems to have more prominent ethnic people than Labour does.

    At least not anyway…

  12. principessa 12

    I watched the house and I can say that I saw Labour members get up and shake Sam’s hand.

  13. sweeetdisorder 13

    good analysis AYB.

  14. mike 14

    “You don?t have to like it, but for the time being you might just have to suck it up”

    Agreed. Pity cullen was still up to his bitter old tricks. But good on Tau putting him in his place. Its going to be a very long term for the grumpy old ex-finance minister.

  15. Tim Ellis 15

    By “drawn from a ballot’ I meant for the speaking order today as in their prominent speaking spots were tactical rather than accidental.

    Oh absolutely. They’ve set a very high standard for not only other new National MPs, but rookie MPs across the House.

  16. Rex Widerstrom 16

    gingercrush laments:

    Unfortunately, the democratic constitution that is Parliament can’t allow idealism and real opinion to take place.

    Actually it could, if parties withdrew the whip on issues other than money Bills and confidence. Then it would be up to Ministers to convince first their own backbenchers of the rightness of a proposal and then, with their help, to try and convince a majority of MPs across all parties.

    Go back to the foundations of democracy (Athens, Rome) and you’ll find the people’s representatives were exactly that. Nowadays they are party representatives first and the people’s a distant second.

    If more people understood this – and the effect it would have on debate and the quality of law making – then a party which said it would not whip it’s members would, I suspect, become wildly popular.

    [insert obligatory David Benson-Pope joke here]

  17. Felix 17

    Rex this has long been my personal bugbear with our parliamentary system. I think MMP has improved things a little but there is still so much emphasis on party rather than ideas.

    ps using “insert” in a sentence with “David Benson-Pope” is already joke enough.

  18. gobsmacked 18

    Actually this is yet another example of Helen Clark changing the National Party.

    Three years ago National’s policy on non-Maori minorities was:

    1) “My wife’s from Singapore”
    2) “Er … did I mention my wife was from Singapore?”

    Now John Key has pushed National to build a more diverse caucus, reflecting Mainstream New Zealand (remember that lovely little label, Nats?). But the hard part for the new MPs will be keeping their seats, when the caucus inevitably shrinks in 2011.

    But good to see some righties joining the anti-racism movement. As on so many issues, we lead, and you’re always very welcome to follow, once the polls say it’s safe to do so.

  19. Well it is early days for the new NZ govt. but good luck to them. It is a new era, and let’s both 1) wish them well and 2) beat the crap out of them if they don’t deliver.

    Ethic-diversity is at best a diversion, more important what will they do?

    Please can we see honest answers to questions in parliament? This is really important. Yes you can take sides, but when the enemy asks a question, understand that they represent a good chunk of us, and have the right to a proper answer!

  20. Tim Ellis 20

    Gobsmacked I marched against the Springbok Tour. Did you? I’ve lived in nine non-English speaking countries in the world. But thank you for welcoming me out of my racist fold. Very nice of you.

    Can’t say the same for Winston though. Who was it who was in coalition with him last?

  21. gobsmacked 21

    Tim, you forgot to mention your “best friends”.

    Opposition to the Springbok Tour simply illustrates my point. Another anti-racist movement led by progressives, opposed by conservatives. (Feel free to prove me wrong by giving us the list of right-wing anti-Tour leaders).

    It has been that way throughout history. But again, thanks for following.

  22. all_your_base 22

    principessa – thanks for that, I’m very happy to be corrected and delighted to hear it! I must have just missed it, good on them!

  23. Tigger 23

    Having overheard Mr Lotu-Iiga agitate among Pacific voters in South Auckland on Labour ‘social engineering’ (basically it was an anti-gay attack) I’m unimpressed with his pretty words in a speech.

  24. Good post ayb – under Key’s leadership, I’d suggest that the National Party has taken a good look at itself, and come to the realisation that middle-aged, suit-wearing white men were not that representative of New Zealand. And to their credit, they’ve done something tangible about it, in the space of two years. Labour on the other hand has had a belief that the immigrant vote would automatically be theirs, and has taken it for granted. And they have been gazzumped! And as Melissa Lee alluded yesterday, Labour must wear some fallout for their association with and support of Winston First.

    Melissa Lee and Peseta Sam Lota Iiga are representative of the changing face of New Zealand. They are young, educated, urbane and ambitious. Both have enormous potential, as do many others of the class of 2008, from right across the House. It bodes well for the future.

  25. Anonymouse 25

    I think it’s a bit too late for labour to stop being complacent.

    National won the election based on large demographic changes on voting patterns in South Auckland, the immigrant vote generally, lower-income Pakeha, and (via the Maori party) in the Maori seats.

    gobsmacked: I think it very unlikely indeed that National’s caucus will shrink significantly in 2011. Labour increased in 2002, and even in 1987. The chance
    of this being a one-term government is slim.

    I think it very likely indeed that Labour’s caucus will continue to decline – partly for demographic reasons above. Look at the post-election polls and you will see ACT’s voting increasing (drawing some voters from National) while Labour is leaking voters in every direction – to National (lower income Pakeha); to the Greens (higher education Pakeha) and to the Maori party.

    National’s lowest poll result – in 2002 – was clearly the result of a one-off flirtation with centre parties. Labour’s loss is much more than that – it is systemic and demographic – and consequently, much more serious, even if the numbers look better overall.

  26. Tigger 26

    And this self-congratulatory ‘oh look, we let in a PI and and a Korean’ attitude from the Nats and their supporters like Kiwiblog feels very like a pat on the head…good ethnic minorities…we’ll have you in our party but don’t think we’ll give you any real power.

    I guess I know too much about Sam here – a friend gave me a bunch of info about him that I can’t really share online but basicially used the term Uncle Tom to describe him…

  27. Daveski 27

    Anonymouse – I agree entirely that Labour faces real challenges to redefine itself in an MMP environment. For all Clark and Cullen’s perceived and admitted successes, their version of realpolitik has left Labour exposed in the short term.

    The Greens will be obviously disappointed with their failure to significantly increase their vote and as you point out, much of their support is the educated, urban Pakeha.

    The Maori Party will always be at loggerheads with Labour unless they can reach agreement on the Maori seats which looks unlikely at present.

    And the lower income “middle NZers” appear to be less frightened by National and more worried about Labour’s social policies.

    However, as some have already noted, National will score an own goal if there is a perception that they have simply carried on from where Labour left off and will drive through their own agenda regardless of the reaction.

  28. Kerry 28

    Hideous – shaking the hand of a nat supporter!! I think i just puked in my mouth a wee bit!!!

  29. Tim Ellis 29

    Tigger wrote:

    I guess I know too much about Sam here – a friend gave me a bunch of info about him that I can’t really share online but basicially used the term Uncle Tom to describe him

    Oh that’s alright then. As long as it was just your friend using that racist slur, then that’s fine.

  30. deemac 30

    it’s not a racist slur you berk – quite the reverse
    yes the Nats are happy to adopt progressive policies once the public has accepted them but we never forget how bitterly they opposed them all at the time
    if you want moral leadership they are the last people you’d look to

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