David Clark on Dunedin North

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, September 28th, 2014 - 44 comments
Categories: election 2014, labour - Tags: ,

One of the few bright spots for Labour on election day was Dunedin, with both North and South returning Labour candidates (David Clark and Clare Curran respectively, congratulations to both). Dunedin North (provisional results) even gave the party vote to Labour by a narrow margin, despite the countrywide swing to National (and despite boundary changes that make the seat marginal on paper). David Clark has been reflecting on the results – some extracts below but go and see the full post on his blog.

Reflections on provisional result

… Now, the obvious. Election night 2014 was a huge disappointment for Labour supporters. A party vote tally of 24.7% was no mandate to lead a new progressive Government. It was a trouncing.

For Labour: listening, reflection, learning and rebuilding must now occur.

Questions must be asked. Why, for example, was Labour’s share of the electorate vote up 9.3% across New Zealand? And why did the party vote slump whilst we won more, rather than fewer, electorate seats?

In addition to the musings above, here are a few early reflections on what went right in Dunedin:

1/ I think Labour’s relatively strong showing in both North and South Dunedin owes a lot to the positive plan for Dunedin that Clare Curran and I launched when the Labour Leader visited the city early in the campaign. Our simple message – that Labour would save Invermay, grow a modern engineering cluster around Hillside, and upgrade our dilapidated hospital – resonated.  It resonated because it reflected local concerns, and because it gave concrete examples about what Labour’s wider ‘vote positive’ campaign meant in practice.

2/ I also think tying this local campaign to a party vote message worked. Our additional billboards were simple: Labour will save Invermay; Labour will support local manufacturing; Labour willupgrade Dunedin Hospital.

3/ Literally hundreds of local volunteers and supporters contributing to a campaign generates an energy of its own.  Everyday heroes like Ciaran and Heather bring a lot of people with them. If you have hundreds of heroes, thousands of people in their wider social circles will be predisposed towards hearing what these heroes have to say – before they ever don a rosette. The days of mass-membership may have passed, but healthy and active membership does make a difference. …

44 comments on “David Clark on Dunedin North”

  1. just saying 1

    I suspect you won’t be participating here, David, but I’ll direct my comment to you anyway.

    Support for Labour has been steadily dropping in the (long) time I’ve been here. Dunedin is more left-wing than most places and the party is fortunate to have maintained a solid core of supporters down here who would vote Labour if it stood the proverbial chimpanzee with a red rosette.

    Having said that, you and your team did run a very good campaign, and you’ve worked hard these past three years.

    The problem is, you and Labour don’t represent me and you don’t represent large numbers people down here (and throughout the country). And the people you best represent do quite nicely no matter which party is in power.

    • r0b 1.1

      I wish that you actually knew David! Why not come along to a meeting some time? (Alas that I have to run, will be off line until late tonight.)

      • just saying 1.1.1

        I’ve met him a couple of times and liked him as a person.
        This isn’t about personalities.

        • r0b

          I think if you knew him better you’d have a different perspective on who it is that David is in parliament to represent.

    • Paul Campbell 1.2

      I don’t think that is true, Labour essentially did run a chimp with a red rosette in Dunedin North back in the 70s and we has a 1 term National MP Richard Walls

  2. red blooded 2

    David Clark is a dedicated, open, thoughtful guy and I’m glad that he represents me in parliament. He’s right to say that party vote rested on a lot more shoulders than his, though. There’s a very motivated team in this electorate and the efforts leading up to and on election day are always quite a slog for some.
    It’s prett sad to be celebrating 24 votes, though. After all, it’s the total number and proportion of the party vote that actuall counts, not the electorate by electorate breakdown. Dunedin North hung on because of local people and local issues, but the national campaign still saw thousands of people who voted for Clark give their party vote to Team Key.

  3. KJS0ne 3

    Clare is an egotistical machavellian ABC MP and needs to go. Clark on the other hand, while a bit arrogant at times, has his heart in the right place. The gerrymandering of Dunedin North to include a lot of National leaning districts certainly didn’t help, and it is testament to Clark’s hard work that DN maintained a slight Labour majority party vote. Do bear in mind also though that if you include the Greens, the left block smashed National in the party vote in DN North

    I really have to disagree with him about Vote positive though. A lot of people I know really felt that was meaningless, and a lot of people I know voted Labour in Dunedin simply because they couldn’t stand the alternative.

    Dunedin is a Labour town, it was always going to buck the national trend.

    • swordfish 3.1

      Yep. Dunedin has certainly been a stronghold for the Left Bloc for quite a few Elections now (with Wellington a close second over the last 6 years). So the fact that Labour managed to (just) win the Party Vote in Dunedin North on Election Night doesn’t in itself say anything about the swing (and, if Specials go the same way in DN as they did in 2011 then the Nats will end up slightly ahead in the final result).

      However, a comparison of the 2011/2014 Election Night results (ie excluding Specials) in both Dunedin North and Dunedin South does indeed suggest the City recorded weaker swings away from the Left compared to New Zealand as a whole.

      In Dunedin North, Labour are down 2.1 points and the Greens 0.6, roughly two-thirds to three-quarters the fall nationwide. And the Nats were barely up at all.

      In Dunedin South, both Labour and the Greens fell 1.6 points, a poor result for the Greens, but good for Labour. What’s more, the Nats suffered a slight decline as well.

      None of which, of course, takes into account boundary changes. Sounds like they favoured the Nats in Dunedin North, so the result there is even better than my comparison suggests. Not sure what the effect of boundary changes in DS was though ?

      • Ergo Robertina 3.1.1

        Not sure what the effect of boundary changes in DS was though ?

        There was no boundary change in Dunedin South.

        • swordfish


          Well, that was a good result for Labour in Curran’s Dunedin South, then. She presided over a pretty woeful Party-Vote result for Labour in DS in 2011 (Labour down 11.8 points compared to 6.5 nationwide / Nats up 6 points compared to 2.4 nationwide).

          Labour also suffered way-above-average losses in Clark’s Dunedin North in 2011 (albeit the swing heading much more in the Greens direction compared to Dunedin South).

          Good to see things have changed dramatically in 2014.

          • Colonial Viper

            to be fair, David Clark was an unknown candidate going into 2011, whereas Pete Hodgson had been a Cabinet Minister and long time MP for the city. Now as a known face and someone who has built a reputation as a hardworking local MP, Clark’s electorate majority shot up this year compared to 2011.

            On the other hand, Labour’s electorate majority in Dunedin South has fallen each and every time that Clare Curran has stood.

            • lurgee

              Similarly, David Cunliffe has found fewer people voting for him in New Lynn each time has has stood as a candidate, and the party vote has fallen every time as well.

              If Curran is a hopeless reject , as evidenced by her persistent decline, doesn’t that mean Cunliffe is as well?

      • mickysavage 3.1.2

        Thanks Swordfish. I calculated Dunedin South as dropping 4.2% party vote percentage points (2014 % of total – 2011 % of total. What formula did you use?

        • swordfish

          @ micky

          Labour Party-Vote Dunedin South

          2011 (Final Result) 12,326 34.97%
          2011 (Election Night)* 11,536 35.06%
          2014 (Election Night)* 11,539 33.51%

          2011-14 Diff 35.06 – 33.51 = 1.55 points (rounded up to 1.6)

          * Election Night = includes Advanced but not Specials

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      The gerrymandering of Dunedin North to include a lot of National leaning districts certainly didn’t help, and it is testament to Clark’s hard work that DN maintained a slight Labour majority party vote. Do bear in mind also though that if you include the Greens, the left block smashed National in the party vote in DN North

      Agree with all these comments – the Dunedin North campaign and David Clark worked real hard to counted the several thousand vote influence the stretching of electorate boundaries towards North Otago had.

      • Honestly, if Gerrymandering is happening anywhere other than an electorate where a lifeboat party is running, why should we even care about it?

        Much better to focus on Party vote turnout, and correcting the misapprehensions of many New Zealanders that their electorate vote matters to the makeup of Parliament if they’re not in Epsom, Ohariu, or Te Tai Tokerau. (Potentially it matters if you’re in other Maori electorates, but only if the Maori Party gains a third electorate MP or less of the Party Vote)

    • Ant 3.3

      Agree KJS0ne, ‘vote positive’ was meaningless and insipid. For me Labour’s message should always be roughly based around socail ideals of work, fairness, and prosperity. Most of the other important issues for Labour can fit under those things including identity and environmental issues.

      • Colonial Viper 3.3.1

        Yep. But some identity politics advocates feel that having those policies headlined in lights is just as important as having the actual policies enacted by Government. The irony – sometimes (though not always) you can only do one of those things, but not both.

    • Machen Marie 3.4

      Clare Curran is down-to-earth and responsible to her constituents. She promptly makes time in her schedule to meet with anyone facing a problem they think a government voice might help. Your comment that she is an “egotistical machavellian ABC MP” is only a reflection on your views. Clare represents some of the most fragile in our society. She rolls her sleeves up and tries to help on a local and personal level.

      Your comments are a symptom of the problem that Labour has in parliament. The fractionation in Labour is what killed them. Squabbling for power among themselves and knifing Cunliffe in the back at every opportunity does not make for a strong party. I believe Cunliffe needs to clean house and get rid of the dissension. The only way forward for the left voting parties is for Labour to stop fighting amongst themselves and align their strategies with other Left parties.

      I’m glad that South Dunedin still has Clare Curran. She looks out for the most vulnerable people in Dunedin and is a great asset to our town. A society is only as strong as it’s most lowly family.

      • KJS0ne 3.4.1

        Haha, you clearly do not know Clare very well… The irony of course being that squabbling for power and kniving Cunliffe in the back is exactly what Clare has been up to the past 9 months.

  4. Bill 4

    There’s something unsettling about David’s analysis/perspective that I can’t quite put my finger on.


    The days of mass-membership may have passed…

    Well, no. When people have something to believe in, they engage politically and also join political parties. Witness Scotland, where party memberships for the parties on the losing side of the referendum have essentially tripled since the count was announced.

    The SNP is now the third largest party in the UK – over 65 000 members – from a population base similar to that of NZ and about one tenth that of the UK as a whole. The Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party have also seen their memberships mushroom by thousands.

    Meanwhile, perhaps instructively, the BAU Scottish Labour Party – one of the parties that prevailed in the referendum, has attracted, they themselves claim, ‘hundreds’ of new members (total unknown because they don’t make it public).

    • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1

      Well they are a relatively new party, that is cheap to join ( 1 pound a month), I think they have only been majority government in Scotland since 2011 and havent even had a chance to have an election. Plus the referendum has been a magnet issue for them.

      IF they had referendum in 90s, probably would have won and gone headlong into disaster with the GFC just like Iceland and Ireland.

      Banking was seen as a Scottish specialty and unlike Iceland the people wouldnt have overturned the decision to bail out the banks.

      I remember the Bank of Scotland having tons of easy money for speculators in Auckland in around 2006.
      The effect on Scotland would have been worse than Ireland

      • Bill 4.1.1

        The SNP isn’t exactly a new party (formed in 1934). Dunno when the Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party were formed, but it’s safe to bet they haven’t been around so long.

        Membership of $2 per month for the SNP is way above the current $5 per year I payed last year to join NZ Labour.

        When you talk about the referendum being a ‘magnet issue for them’, are you meaning for the SNP, Greens and SSP, or the people of Scotland? Since independence has sat at the core of the SNP since its inception, I can only assume you mean for people in Scotland. And that was my point, no? When people have a reason to engage, they engage and a spin off of that is that party memberships swell.

        Obviously, independence isn’t an issue that would galvanise people in NZ. But what about AGW – on its own terms, as well as a mechanism by which to challenge our economic neo-classical orthodoxy?

        Just a thought.

        edit – elections for the Scottish parlaiment have been held in ’99, ’03, ’07 and ’11(when the SNP won an absolute majority in an environment of proportional representation). Turnout has been low. Between 50 and 60 %. BUT. 90%+ registered for the referendum and 80%+ voted. Just goes to show, eh?

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.2

        Well they are a relatively new party, that is cheap to join ( 1 pound a month),

        Compared to NZ parties that are usually around $5 for three years. The Internet Party is $1.69 for three years.

        It’s not the cost of joining that’s the problem but the fact that, IME, political parties don’t engage the members once they’ve joined. In the case of Labour, actively ignore them.

        • Murray Olsen

          The Greens keep sending me stuff thanking me even though I’ve never joined and can’t remember ever doing anything specifically for them. I got the impression that I’d be far from ignored if I actually joined up.

  5. red blooded 5

    So, your message is..? “Don’t worry if you don’t win the vote, so long as your membership increases”..?

    We have to win the confidence of people who don’t necessarily see themselves as politically engaged. Key’s fawning masses aren’t all party members, but they are devoted and they have stayed loyal to him much longer than I, for one, expected them to.

    • Bill 5.1

      Was that comment a reply to mine above? If so, my ‘message’ has got nothing to do with winning or losing a vote, but rather, the fact that people will engage when they see a reason to engage. And that when they’re meaningfully engaged (ie informed) that they will stay engaged and keep pushing.

  6. newsense 6

    Would his brother like Mt Albert? It would have a nice ring to it. Good to see what a city united can achieve.

    • left for dead 6.1

      nothing good about losing the party vote yet again,in Dunedin South.Have another look at those stat’s.By the way MickeySavage,will you not release that list you are compiling on the Labour caucus misfits/cretins.If we have to spill blood,lets have all the facts,for a cleaner fight.

      [lprent: So get off your lazy arse and do it yourself. From memory, the specials still have to be counted and should be through at the end of the week. We’re all short of time to do anything.

      Demanding things of authors is bloody stupid. Read the policy.

      Banned 1 week. That should give you time to do your own analysis. ]

    • newsense 6.2

      Eh. Not a helpful comment of mine really. But the Clark brothers seem to be good Labour talent coming through. When Key says that he is over things that happened in the 80s, it resonates.

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.1

        Of course he is over the things which happened in the 1980s. He was well on the way to becoming an investment banker by that time. The financialisation of the economy suited him fine.

        Core Labour Party constituency on the other hand – are still feeling the scars inflicted in that decade.

  7. left for dead 7

    Look Lynn,I have those Stat’s.Demanding things of authors,is stupid,it was my clumsy way of pointing out Mis Currans poor record,over Cullens.

    [lprent: So put them up, and be careful about demanding that authors do certain things. I have a hair trigger for that trope. Bad enough when people demand and don’t request from other commenters. Ban rescinded subject to future behaviour. ]

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    The days of mass-membership may have passed,

    Only because the parties have let it pass in favour of focus groups and polling. Hell, even National used to be a mass membership party, now it’s membership is seemingly limited to corporations and business people with the result that they have policies that benefit those groups but are detrimental for NZ as a whole.

    If we want the political parties to reflect us then we need to join them en-mass again and the parties need to encourage that. How they do that is up to the individual party but my suggestion is engaging members more in the policy creation process rather than dictating policies from on high.

  9. Jenny Kirk 9

    Please – everyone – and David Clark – go onto The Political Scientists’ blogsite and read his (her ?) post on “Drawing the Poison”. As a member of the Lange govt 1987-1990 I find what the Political Scientist is saying is remarkably accurate. There is a hangover from the Rogernomics years which has not yet left the Labour caucus, and these people continue to dominate Labour policies and politics – and the general voting public do NOT like it, and nor do they like the very public sniping and snarling which goes on via the meda when someone like David Cunliffe tries to take the Party left and towards a more socially conscious policy setting.

    Here is the link to the blog I’m talking about.


    ” Drawing the poison
    Posted on 26th Sep, 2014 by Puddleglum
    It’s – more or less – thirty years since Roger Douglas’ faction gained control of the Treasury benches. It’s even longer since it latched its fangs onto the Labour Party jugular.
    The bloody leadership struggle within the Labour Party since the election is pretty much an anniversary reminder that Douglas’ legacy lives on.
    That’s because the poison that the Douglas faction injected into the Labour Party has never fully worked its way out of the Party’s system – for a simple reason: It has festered in the huge, dry crack the Douglas faction opened between the Labour Party caucus and the Labour Party itself…………

    • r0b 9.1

      Thanks for that Jenny. You were in the middle of history – ever thought of writing about it?

      The permanent link for Puddleglum’s post:

      • Jenny Kirk 9.1.1

        One of these days, rOb, I’ll sort out my papers and try and put down some semblance of what went on …. I’ve tried a couple of times, but it all still makes me too angry (even after almost 3 decades !)

        But all I’ll say now, is that Puddleglum has written an analysis in his post Drawing the Poison which really resonates with me, and what I have experienced and observed within Labour over all these years. Labour supporters need to reflect on Puddleglum’s post and work out from there some way in which the Rogernomics poison can be removed from the real Labour Party which still struggles away in the background.

  10. Tom Gould 10

    Want to know what’s wrong with the Labour party and how come they got thrashed? Just read the venal anti-ABC attacks on Clark and Curran as right wing patsies and sell-outs and class traitors. The cultural revolution and the purge is underway. Brace yourselves.

    • the pigman 10.1

      Yes, yes Tom, and we all know you’re a sensible counter-counter-revolutionary. Reading from the beginning of your post, you appear to be saying Labour got thrashed because supporters of the leader (the majority of the NZLP) have called bullshit on parts of the caucus undermining him. On the likes of the highly undisciplined Clare Curran firing broadsides at Tat Loo on twitter today.

      So sorry that standing up to caucus bullying is unacceptable to you.

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