Guest post: Deconstructing yet another National has moral right to govern argument

Written By: - Date published: 9:15 am, October 11th, 2017 - 41 comments
Categories: election 2017, greens, internet party, labour, mana, national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Despite its scholarly pretensions, The Spinoff feature Election 2017: a vote for the status quo by Dr Claire Robinson seems little more than a highly aggressive PR strategy for the National Party.

(Robinson = Massey Administrator, media pundit, “expert” in political marketing, former Academic & former Private Secretary to Jenny Shipley)

To defend her thesis that we’ve just witnessed a Status Quo election, Robinson deploys a series of carefully contrived strategies that look very much like the sort of intellectual sleight of hand you might expect from an enthusiastic connoisseur of political marketing.

In other words, she seems like a savvy lawyer employing all the tricks of the trade.

These strategies include:

(1) Fabrication

Concocting out of thin air the ludicrous notion that Labour were devastated by the Specials because (according to Robinson) they were fully expecting to pick up so many extra seats that they’d be able to govern alone with either the Greens or with New Zealand First in just a TwoParty Coalition

That fantasy allows her, in turn, to imbue Labour and the Left in a cloak of highly negative doom and gloom imagery – devastated losers after Specials set against the putative elation of a beaming Bill English and a winning National Party

Here’s Robinson for example:

Saturday’s final election results were, contrary to how they were received by some, a real blow for Labour. They didn’t pick up the number of special votes they hoped for. They can’t govern alone with the Greens. More importantly, they can’t govern alone with New Zealand First, which Labour would have been holding out hope for.

No wonder Bill English was beaming in the images at his stand up after the announcement of the final result, and Jacinda Ardern was looking grim, flanked by her equally grim looking ‘henchmen’ (her description) Grant Robertson and Kelvin Davis.

This is devastating for Labour.

(2) Misrepresentation

An absurd misrepresentation of the reasoning behind Jacinda Ardern’s claim that the election result constituted a mandate for change

Here’s Robinson

Jacinda must also know that her argument for still being at the negotiating table is baseless. She’s claiming she has the mandate for change on the grounds that “the majority of New Zealanders voted against the status quo”, and ‘the majority of New Zealanders voted for change”.

“Baseless” ? Why, Claire ? After all there are solid grounds for the notion that a majority voted against the status quo” Surely the reasoning underpinning Ardern’s claim revolves around the rather momentous fact that for the first time in the best part of a decade the 3 Opposition Parties collectively have a larger share of both votes and seats than the Govt Bloc (and indeed the broader Right Bloc)

2008
Govt lead Oppo by 7 points
Right lead Oppo by 7 points

2011
Govt lead Oppo by 5 points
Right lead Oppo by 8 points

2014
Govt lead Oppo by 5 points
Right lead Oppo by 9 points

2017
Oppo lead Govt by 4 points
Oppo lead Right by 4 points

A clear swing from the Govt Parties and broader Right Bloc to the Opposition giving the latter a majority of both votes and seats.

That would certainly be my interpretation of the rationale behind Ardern’s mandate for change claim supplemented by the fact that:

(a)  A majority of NZF supporters have preferred a Red rather than Blue Government since at least 2008 (if not earlier) (I’ll post more detail in the very near future),

(b)  Peters aggressively campaigned against the Nats & for change,

(c)  Significant policy overlap between Labour and NZF.

But no, without any shred of justification (for eg no further quotation of Ardern) Robinson takes it upon herself to choose the most unlikely of all interpretations – she simply decides to assume that Ardern’s mandate for change claim is premised entirely on the fact that National failed to receive more than 50% of the party vote.  Which, in and of itself, would certainly constitute a ludicrous basis for such a claim.  After all National failed to better the 50% mark through 2008-14 yet no one suggested these elections comprised a mandate for change (Which is why Ardern did no such thing)

But, of course, having set up this blatant Straw Man – it’s then little more than child’s play for Robinson to knock it down

She’s claiming she has the mandate for change on the grounds that “the majority of New Zealanders voted against the status quo”, and ‘the majority of New Zealanders voted for change”. In reality there has not been one election since MMP was introduced in 1996 where the ‘winning’ major party got over 50% of the party vote

Robinson then provides figures in a table that surprise surprise !!! – do indeed prove her always under 50% claim (that no one is in fact denying except deep within Claire’s vivid imagination).

(3) Inappropriate-Disingenuous Analytical Framework

She tightly inter-weaves
(a) this gross misrepresentation of Ardern’s argument with
(b) a relentlessly FPP-style comparative analysis of voter support over the various 1996-2017 MMP elections that studiously avoids any discussion whatsoever of broader Party Bloc support – a strategy that inevitably flatters the current National Party (pretty much the sole electoral vehicle for Right-leaning Status Quo voters) and thus massively inflates its claims to a moral right to govern.

Moreover, at 44.4%, National’s party vote is greater than Labour’s Party Vote in 1999, 2002 and 2005 — three elections where Labour was more than happy to overlook the fact they didn’t have a majority yet still claim they had the ‘mandate’ to lead the next government.

Yes Claire

(a) that would be due to the fact that while Labour received less than 44% of the Party Vote at those elections (39% = 1999 41% = 2002 41% = 2005) the other Parties that helped it form Govt (variously the Alliance Progressives NZF UF & Greens) gave it a combined weighting of 52% 50% & 51%, whereas National is currently bereft of chums.

(b) Labour + Greens = 43% (2017) is also greater than Labour’s Party Vote in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

(c) Once again, Ardern has never claimed that a Major Party receiving less than half the vote forfeits its mandate (that’s just in your imagination remember).

(4) Avoidance

Labour will have picked up votes from the Greens (who dropped by 94,916 votes), NZ First (who dropped by 21,594 votes), the Internet Mana party (who dropped 30,452). Until we see how votes moved in the NZ Election Study, we’d also have to add some Conservative votes. And Labour got a good proportion of the 175,417 new voters who didn’t vote in 2014.

But to be a vote for change = Labour would have had to get more votes than National. In fact National got 20,574 more votes in 2017 than it did in 2014. This is not evidence of a widespread vote to change the major party leading the government. This was a vote for the status quo.

Robinson desperately wants us to believe there’s been no swing away from National

The huge swing to Labour apparently derives from everyone except National.

Reality –
Right Bloc fell by 7 points
Govt Bloc fell by 3 points
National fell by 2.6 points
Labour up 11.8 points
Lab+Green up 7.4 points
Oppo up 5.9 points

So, in the context of the collapse of the 2nd strongest Party on the Right – the 4% Conservatives – (whose supporters were overwhelmingly former Nats & other Right Party voters and who strongly favoured a National led government in 2011 & 14 – NZES) = the Nats Party-Vote should’ve soared by 3-4 points rather than fallen by 2.6 points (that’s if you want to argue Claire that they’ve essentially held their own)

Don’t tell Claire but I think it’s safe to assume a Tory to Labour swing.

Swordfish 

41 comments on “Guest post: Deconstructing yet another National has moral right to govern argument”

  1. Pat 1

    “(Robinson = Massey Administrator, media pundit, “expert” in political marketing, former Academic & former Private Secretary to Jenny Shipley)”

    theres a surprise…….not

    • Cinny 1.1

      That sentence said it all to me, I didnt know she had been a bosun to the ship,

      What’s the ship doing now, exploiting our water via oravida among other things.

      Now knowing she had worked for ship gives me a clear understanding of the spin Robinson is producing.

      PS Swordfish, love your work, thanks so much for all the effort you put into it

      • Sacha 1.1.1

        Imagine if media organisations told you the backgrounds and affiliations of pundits each time they broadcast their reckons to us?

        • Cinny 1.1.1.1

          Yes please 😀 Would rather a bit of honesty and transparency, instead of hand picked backgrounds.

          Every weekend I tune into The Nation & Q+A, but not once have i heard Robinson referred to as the former private secretary of the ship, which i would have thought was an important detail to mention about a person making political comments on nationwide telly.

          • NewsFlash 1.1.1.1.1

            Cinny

            Thanks for that link last night to Peters budget reply speech, Winston said that it would be Joyces last budget and the metaphor that “National better not even dream about winning the next election, if they do they should wake up and apologise”.

            It was scathing attack at National, but I wonder if he was genuine enough to follow through, if he reneges on his comments, the media and others will have a field day which he may not be able to recover from.

            • Cinny 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Your are very welcome Newsflash 😀

              Have seen many examples of NZ1st backing up the opposition parties and vice versa, at question time over the years, they didn’t have to, but there seems to be plenty of policy overlap, and Winston does stick up for MP’s that are being treated unfairly in the house, whether it be by the nats or carter (looking forward to seeing the back of that speaker).

              Some of the MPs Winston appears to dislike in Parliament are on the Nat party talk team. Policy is so very important, but so is the person delivering it and there’s been a fair bit of dodgy from senior nat’s over recent years, dodgy didn’t exit with keys departure.

              Just my opinion based on what I’ve seen watching question time

              All I want for NZ for Christmas is a government and ministers that we can feel proud of.

  2. gsays 2

    Thanks swordfish for your mahi on this.

    I enjoy and trust your missives on this and other voter behaviour topics.

  3. red-blooded 3

    She also argues that when there’s a genuine mood for change it shows up in opinion polls a year or so before the election. Of course, what she’s ignoring here is that Labour was under different leadership a year or so out from the election. I’d argue that the huge swelling of support, of funding and of volunteers after the leadership change showed that there was discontent simmering away, it’s just that (for whatever reason) people didn’t see Labour as a viable option until Ardern stepped forward. We’ve never had a leadership change in an opposition party this close to the election before, so comparisons with previous years aren’t as straightforward as Robinson seems to think.

  4. ianmac 4

    Would Newsroom consider Swordfish’s column as part of its stable of straight journalistic truths?

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    The Gnats have a strong moral mandate to “go forth and multiply”.

  6. As soon as you mentioned former Private Secretary to Jenny Shipley , the antennae went up and I started smelling a dead corpse in the room.

    Of all the most loathsome characters besides Ruth Richardson and Roger Douglas this Claire Robinson had to do with it had to be ( ugh ) the treasonous Jenny Shipley.

    You don’t work as Private Secretary to Jenny Shipley and not get terminally tainted with the foul stench of neo liberalism.

    Don’t worry , Claire, … Winston Peters has a long memory and in that memory is the unpleasant recollections of Shipley.

    Take from that what you will…

  7. Anne 7

    This analysis of Swordfish’s is worthy of wider dissemination than just the Standard.

    • Shona 7.1

      Agreed Anne. I was just wondering if Swordfish was remotely interested in having a go at disseminating Prebble’s diatribe in yeaterday’s Herald. Gobsmacking in it’s depths of ignorance it was!

  8. Michelle 8

    bill claims he has the moral high ground but does he actually have any morals lets see how much he is prepared to swallow to have his last shot at being PM

    • tracey 8.1

      Michelle, I agree. In all this talk of moral mandates no one has addressed the immorality of the election tactics displayed by Joyce and English, and key before them. It seems morality is off the table in all things politics except when Nats need morality to bolster its cling to power.

      I remain hopeful that Peters is making this point to the negotiators across the table… “how do I know I can trust you when you say that Bill (Steven etc) ad infinitum?” And if we are all lucky someone is recording their answers and it will be leaked.

  9. Clair Robinson has long challenged the reputation of Massey University

    as being a credible centre of learning and independent thought

    • tracey 9.1

      It does not help when Spinoff don’t do full disclosure. When you click her name you get

      “Claire Robinson

      Claire Robinson is professor of communication design and pro vice-chancellor, Toi Rauwharangi College of Creative Arts, Massey University”

      which only makes one wonder why she would be writing, unless it was for a creative short story competition.

      Was she with Shipley as creative communicator when the Nats ran the “but you don’t have children” line against Clark?

  10. mac1 10

    Great article.

    The descriptor of Ardern’s support team as ‘ henchmen’ is at best lazy writing (similar to all union officials being union ‘bosses’) and more probably a clear indicator of innate bias by Ms Robertson.

    Not the usual vocabulary of a university academic.

    From the Google dictionary
    “henchman
    noun
    derogatory
    a faithful follower or political supporter, especially one prepared to engage in crime or violence by way of service.
    “the dictator’s henchman””

    I don’t think ‘henchman’ is being used in its older meaning as the attendant of a Scottish chieftain, somehow.

    • red-blooded 10.1

      To be fair, she did put “henchmen” in quote marks and clarify – “(her term)” – that she was quoting Ardern (who will have used the term in a jovial way).

      And she’s not writing an academic paper – it’s an opinion piece, intended for general consumption. So, argue with her analysis and interpretation – great – but zeroing in on this one word isn’t helpful.

      • mac1 10.1.1

        Fair points, red-blooded. The bracketed “her description” was in the original text and was not swordfish’s interpolated comment. as I (mis)read it.

        Lesson for self to read the original text before commenting.

  11. cleangreen 11

    National = MSM control centre. = S Joyce = head of propaganda. = MBIE is HQ for S Joyce war bunker.

  12. Bearded Git 12

    nice post swordy baby….comprehensively destroys the Robinson trash that i read with blood boiling

  13. lprent 13

    When I saw that article my antenna for political lying flared like a flame. And that was what I intended to write as soon as I got time.

    I have say that swordfish wrote a much better and temperate post about ms robinson’s gross intellectual dishonesty than I would have.

    Thanks.

  14. NZJester 14

    The Maori party paid big time for having supported National by being knocked out of parliament.
    From what I have heard more of the people that voted for Winston want him to go with Labour than National.
    If he does go with National it will be bad for his party vote numbers at the next election.
    Any chance they can National will stab in in the back anyway.

  15. CHCOff 15

    All the same, the prudent course of action for a potential Lab-NZ1st-G govt would be carving up the National support block between themselves for the present and future arrangements, with realism to how that would apply for the different elements their party’s represent in current standing; with moderate policy baby steps in a different vision of New Zealand society overall, alongside a few bold initiatives that will give the most positive value in ability to govern differently in the mind of the population – other than that, applying band aids to paper over the cracks in a semi train wreck state of affairs is the pragmatic political reality of that current situation.

  16. cathy 16

    but do you see the headline on the herald page –

    “Coalition talks: NZ First, National ‘making huge progress’ ”

    this would make you believe NZF and Nats are nearly reaching a deal, right?

    but when you get to read the article, it’s just the same old winston-speak. every time he comes out of a meeting with either party he claims huge progress. all it means this time is he has finished this morning’s meeting with the nats and is about to go into the meeting with labour.

    after that he will claim huge progress again.

    but i bet you don’t see a herald headline that says “Coalition talks: NZ First, Labour ‘making huge progress’ “

    • Oooo no , – cant have that . Instead we read of the Greens being snubbed or ‘left out of negotiation talks’…

      All designed to give the impression a Labour / Green / NZ First coalition isn’t going to be happening…

      When the reality is the terms are NZ First and Labour negotiate , as Shaw has said , he trusts Adern and Labour and that they are doing a good job…

      Two quite different scenarios…

      So much for ‘ unbiased’ NZ media…

      • cleangreen 16.1.1

        Yep Wild Katipo.
        MSM are relying on ‘perception’ ruling our minds for sure but at 73 I’m not being conned by these crooks.

  17. tracey 17

    Great analysis Swordy. Please do submit it to Spinoff. If they are taking opinion pieces from creative communication lecturers why not you?

  18. DSpare 18

    Which party got the most votes does become relevant again if NZF decides on the cross benches and to abstain on Confidence and Supply votes. Nat + ACT = 57, LAb + Grn = 54 => NAct wins again (though they would have to be careful about framing issues such as the TPPA as C&S votes).

    Peters and his party have tactical reasons to shun any formal coalition deal with anyone. Peters simply hasn’t given himself enough time to safeguard any policy gains by NZF within a detailed and prescriptive coalition document, as he did in 1996. Historically, Peters also has ample reason to feel wary about going into a coalition with either major party. Twice before, formal coalitions have ended in disaster for NZF…

    A confidence and supply (or abstention) arrangement with a minority government might also make NZF’s long term survival far more likely. Certainly, NZF would be better placed to join forces with a Labour/Greens government in 2020 if it hadn’t been in bed with National for the preceding three years.

    http://werewolf.co.nz/2017/10/is-winston-peters-our-best-current-defence-against-market-extremism/

  19. Cantabrian 19

    I can’t find a record of Robinson’s qualifications. What is her Phd in – spin?

  20. Philj 20

    Robinson has always been been a Nat. Just listen to her and it becomes quite clear. IMO, her oped fails the academic purity test. Good work Swordfish.

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