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First Past the Post nostalgia

Written By: - Date published: 11:22 am, October 12th, 2017 - 33 comments
Categories: democratic participation, elections, First Past the Post, MMP, referendum - Tags:

A neat series of tweets yesterday looked at elections past.

That’s a great reminder of just how gobsmacking it is to be even mentioning FPP in a favourable light in 2017 (looking at you RNZ).

In addition to the points being made about the iniquity of FPP, the thing that stood out for me was just how much of the vote the combined left used to hold.

1978 – 56.5%

1981 – 60.6%

1984 – 50.6%

1993 – 53%

Bonus tweet,

While we’re revisiting the past, remember this? Ah, those innocent days when the right attempting to hobble the left and undermine democracy was done overtly by the CEO of one of NZ’s biggest companies and who had a mission and stinking big bags of money in clear sight.

33 comments on “First Past the Post nostalgia ”

  1. tracey 1

    Thanks for sharing this weka.

    I just cannot believe that NO journalist has thought of this or offered it as part oft he analysis in the last couple of weeks? I mean do we really think that poorly of them or are they offering these stories and they are being shut down by Editor’s or by directives to editors?

    We know this happens, most recently a NYT reporter says she tried to write about Einstein in 2005 (?) and the story was shut down from above.

    • weka 1.1

      Shit, really? I haven’t paid much attention, just saw RNZ tweeting out about coverage and people reacting to the MSM coverage. So the MSM talked about FPP and didn’t talk about the central reason for dumping it?

    • lprent 1.2

      Probably many of the political dimwits writing this ‘analysis’ were simply too young to be politically interested before MMP.

  2. ianmac 2

    I remember being in a true blue seat and my vote being worthless under FPP.
    Reminds me of that now living in Kaikoura true blue seat and unable to affect the sitting MP who ignores the real people.
    Still the Labour Party and Electorate candidate votes went up significantly. My vote better than FPP. Hooray.

    • Paul Campbell 2.1

      That’s true, me too I was living just outside Dunedin in the Otago electorate the bluest of the blue, my vote never elected anyone to represent me until my first MMP election

      That’s the thing about MMP everyone gets to elect someone to represent them, there are no voters who are losers in MMP elections (except for the stupid 5% rule which I think should be a 1 seat minimum – 1/120th of the vote for a 120 seat house)

  3. It’s telling how many of those that look back fondly to FPP are National Party people.

    • tracey 3.1

      And the stats confirm why. Together with an inexplicable reluctance to share. A combination of “we just play by the rules” and “moral” mandate. Which outsiders can see for what it is and explains the head exploding over Green Party not prostituting themselves for power.

      • Wensleydale 3.1.1

        They really have elevated hypocrisy to the level of an Olympic sport. (Paula Bennett for torch-bearer.)

    • KJT 3.2

      Democracy is just an inconvenience, when your aim is to loot, a country.

  4. Andre 4

    ” … just how much of the vote the combined left used to hold.

    1978 – 56.5%

    1981 – 60.6%”

    I’m not sure I’d ever include Social Credit in “the left”. They were off the left-right axis in another dimension altogether. If they were lefties, I highly doubt they would ever have won the blue seats of Rangitikei and East Coast Bays.

  5. tracey 5


    They were mercilessly mocked for wanting to print money. Yet that is what the USA did post GFC…

    Also in FPP days a very strong personality could win an electorate without supporters feeling their side (Nats if you are right) would lose power.

  6. ianmac 6

    Had a quick read of, “For all the politics nerds out there I’ve collated the 1996 coalition deal plus all confidence & supply deals” Thanks Luke Christenson.

    Surprised at how little detail was necessary for coalition deals. The experts are currently expecting a huge amount of detail but really?

  7. Gristle 7

    Keep going back into the 1930’s and there was also a rural weighting on FPP. A rural vote was worth 25 % more than an urban vote by reducing the number of voters in a rural seat. The predecessor to Federated Farmers raised a war chest of 200,000 pounds and threatened rebellion if couldn’t keep farmers losing a privileged position of power.

  8. greywarshark 8

    I always kicked myself for not keeping the householder pamphlet against MMP with the images of people (men?) with paper bags over their heads. I thought it was shocking and emotional and reminded me of the KuKlux Klan figures. I felt later it was an historic artifact and I should have kept it.

    At the end the support was dropping for MMP. The doomsayers like Shirtcliffe rolled out their negativity – it would be the end of the world as we knew it.

    (It did herald the enormous change which came with the RW imposed free market and the death of our small industry as a result of the dropped trousers, defenceless no-tariffs policies imposed on us. This has been the reason why we have not had good voter turnouts over the years – people were gobsmacked that Labour could turn on them like that and lost belief that their needs and opinions were/are valued.)

    In Nelson people climbed to the top of the cathedral to hang a banner, and we held a meeting in a down-market hall (no formal tables and dinners for us), in which the whole meeting was devoted to talking about MMP. The proponents of FPP were furious at not having speaking rights but we said we have had that for years, it is MMP we have no knowledge of.

    People were handed notepaper and pencils and asked to write down anything they didn’t understand and those were collected and the Q & A commenced. This by the way, cuts down on time as people have to think out and write the question and it saves meeting time which is spent on answering and explaining to the gathering who find their questions well covered.

  9. ” This is really what its all about ,…Hes a buffoon , …and we’re talking about the very serious business of governing this country in very difficult times ”….

    Some things never change…


    Back in the Day Sir Robert Muldoon Calls Snap Election – YouTube
    you tube▶ 2:01

    • Ed 9.1

      Binge drinking.
      New Zealand has been suffering from the hangover of that alcohol induced decision for the past 33 years.

      • WILD KATIPO 9.1.1

        I know,… its been in my mind how much of history can be changed simply by the mental state of a handful of individuals at any one given time – such as the generals of WW1 consigning millions of young men to their deaths out of petty stubborn disagreements ,…or having one too many and offering a snap election.

        And just look at what happened as a result.

        • Ed

          Compulsory viewing for all New Zealanders.
          Should be played on TVNZ at 7 p.m.

          • Ed

            And the following week this should show.
            Part of the programme of DeNazification DeNeoliberalisation of New Zealand

  10. Absolutely shit hot , Ed , – these educational documentary’s should be right up there in any current debate about whether we want this neo liberal system or not.

    High school students and up need to know this story backwards and be exposed to it regularly !

    THEN , … as they mature , they can make more informed decisions.

    And in any discourse about any elections they should be used as a yardstick to let the people decide.

  11. Paul Campbell 11

    Even in FPP systems you can get coalitions …. NZ politics used to be split between the Liberal Party and the Reform Party …. until the Labour movement came along and pulled our political world kicking and screaming to the left ….

    In the end to counter Labour the two old enemies merged and formed the United-Reform Coalition …. which eventually renamed itself “the National Party” after losing to the first Labour govt.

    National Party supporters should remember their roots before they pooh-pooh coalition governments

  12. Thinkerr 12

    Look, you don’t even have to do the research to understand the value of MMP. It goes like this:

    Back in the day, political parties were largely funded by membership dues and donations from, in National’s case, farmers and, in Labour’s case, workers, via the number of trade and professional unions. I’m not old enough to remember, but although I imagine National might have had a bit more money, it wasn’t enough to pay for consultants or journalists to win the election for you. Journalists were paid to sniff out stories of public interest, not shamelessly repeat what they heard in the bar when the consultants picked up the tab.

    The 1984 election was a watershed for more than just Rogernomics. The Business Roundtable crept in and it appeared to Thinkerr that business could maybe even buy the election outcome through whichever party it backed with big bucks. I thought, if I was a richlister, I’d have a bob each way. At the same time, ordinary people stopped being members and donating to parties, as it all seemed to be too big a game for ordinary people. On “Someone Else’s Country” or “In A Land Of Plenty”, you see/hear Doug Myers (as he was then) tell the interviewer that the chequebook’s always open for parties that have the right policies (maybe I’m paraphrasing).

    Moving on in time, then, with a two-party, FPP system, whichever party had the most business-friendly policies stood the most chance of winning. Corporatisation was ‘in’ – those who controlled the purse strings of things like research grants etc could silence opposition by directing money where they felt it deserved to go and many felt, at least, that their careers depended upon ‘zipping it, sweetie’. Unions were stifled, too, with one or two bought off with plum jobs. I’m sure if it could have been done, it would have been a criminal act to belong to a union.

    Coupled with all this, big fire sales of public and private entities took place and there was a bit of a shift in the kind of business that was interested in NZ politics widening in scope from local richlisters to foreign companies, whose senior management may never have set foot on our shores, let alone concerned themselves with the welfare of ‘the bottom 90%’.

    Fast forward to today, where those who can read this will have their own memories of the last years of politics and how the government policies have improved the lot of the ‘bottom 90%’. Some may have read ‘Hollow Men’ and ‘Dirty Politics’, both books by Nicky Hager.

    Where does this take us?

    Neoliberalism may not have done what its proponents said it would do, but there’s still a large group of suppoters who like it and don’t want to see it go.

    With FPP, as Sir Douglas Myers told us, rich people’s checkbooks are always open to suitable parties. That’s another way of saying, if you can guarantee that the party with the most votes will be the government, you can risk big dollars on influencing the outcome.

    MMP takes away that guarantee. Big dollars spent on a political party may not guarantee that that party will be able to do everything big-business wants it to do. Some small, shoestring party may be able to demand other ideas or, Heaven forbid, be a fly on the wall in the cabinet room.

    The price we pay for this is that, sometimes, a small, shoestring party will decide the outcome of the government, regardless of the fact that other parties may have a much bigger share of the vote. It has to be this way, because stopping the ability of influencing or contolling the election outcome is what makes MMP such a valuable system for the bottom 90%.

    And so, we must wait patiently this time. Even if we don’t get the government we each would like, it doesn’t mean MMP is flawed. MMP is working as it is supposed to work. Just, some people in influential positions either don’t understand it or, for some strange, unknown reason, want to rile people up into a return to FPP.

    • Indeed,… this is why I keep using the Hugh Price link because it is an educational resource to shed understanding for those new to the world of recent NZ political history or younger people who were not even born during those days that may care to read up on it. The more people know the better . Because it has a direct bearing to where we are today.

      And what you are saying is exactly what did happen , it was planned , it was deliberate. And the NZ Initiative ( formerly the Business Roundtable ) were the ones behind it. And they are still doing the same today.

      A bob each way – with both Roger Douglas (Labour) and Ruth Richardson ( National ) being members on the Board of Directors of the Mont Pelerin Society which is based in London.

      The NZ Initiative is the local branch of the Mont Pelerin Society in NZ.

      And it is true , MMP does slow that rapine and plunder back , … but as we have seen ,.. it still doesn’t stop them trying ,- and by and large , – perpetuating their neo liberal theft.

      New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?

    • tracey 12.2


  13. Rowley Birkin QC Cairo – YouTube
    Video for rowley birkin cairo▶ 1:15

  14. How interesting,… the triangle points down to Peters . Lovely shot.

    There’s ways to beat you yet ,… and no matter which way you turn ,… your eye of Horus was beaten a long time ago,… here is just one of the agents sent to make it more difficult for you….


    Your time is dead and gone…

    Start to tremble.

  15. DS 15

    I’m old enough to remember the 1993 referendum, and, yes, it was a ridiculously one-sided affair on the airwaves. “Tick the top box – reject MMP” still sticks in my mind 24(!) years later.

    The pro-MMP campaign was more guerrilla style – from Murray Ball’s cartoon “the best reason to vote MMP? Look at the people who are telling you not to”, to posters “I’d rather live in a democracy with 120 MPs than a dictatorship with 99.” The Listener came out in support of MMP too – it ran a lengthy article rebutting Shircliffe’s arguments, mostly by pointing out the success of the system in (West) Germany.

    Incidentally, on election night 1993, it was a hung parliament (Waitaki later flipped on specials). Mike Moore was actually promoting a Labour-Alliance-NZ First deal (sound familiar?), though at that point Anderton was in full vengeance mode, so it’d have never worked.

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