Ideological issues more than leadership are Nat’s problem

Written By: - Date published: 8:19 am, February 4th, 2018 - 108 comments
Categories: election 2017, MMP, national, Politics, same old national - Tags:

Changing National’s leadership will not help the conservatives regain power if they fail to address questions of why they lost the 2017 election.

Many, if not most, Nats don’t accept, or understand, they lost the election.

Many still think that because they won 44.4 percent of the vote and won the most seats, they won the election.

Few really understand why. They blame the few party friends National had. The Maori Party and United got wiped out and ACT garnered next to no support.

They also don’t get that 44.4 percent support is likely as good as it gets for National. In all probability, that number at the next election will be substantially lower, assuming Jacinda Ardern maintains her adroit performance to date and there is no international economic shock.

National fought a first-past-the-post election in 2017. National consistently and comprehensively failed to grasp the nature of MMP.

MMP is about consensus but, because it is almost impossible to achieve such consensus that it wins an absolute majority, consensus is also about working with, and weaving several brands together.

The famous National Party advertisement of the two boats – one a smoothly synchronised rowing eight and the other of a tub with rowers pulling in different directions, was incredibly effective and helped National win the 2014 election. But ironically, that meme actually symbolises National’s problem – it is essentially a one-man band.

Because so many in National refuse to believe they were truly beaten in 2017, there has been an utter failure to seriously analyse what went wrong, either at an ideological level or even at the level of how does the party find credible bedmates.

The current leadership issue seems to be framed as “how can we do the same, but better,” rather than having a good, close look in the mirror about fundamental issues.

After the 2017 election, when NZ First’s Winston Peters was weighing his options, almost every Nat trotted out the line about why the Greens didn’t bypass the middleman and do a deal. Not one Nat that I spoke to flipped the argument about to suggest the Nats should put a proposal to the Greens.

What rats would the Nats have had to swallow for such a deal?

Firstly, they would have had to get serious about climate change instead of pursuing the absurd tokenist game they were playing.

Secondly, they would have to get serious about cleaning up waterways – something that even most dairy farmers believe is desirable, even if they are unwilling to pay the cost.

Thirdly, they would have to drop their pursuit of mining exploration and be prepared to phase out coal mining. The coal, oil and mining industries are in serious decline anyway despite National’s foolhardy support for them. New Zealand’s economic future is in technology, not in the ground.

All these rats would have improved National’s popularity and none was unswallowable.

Even if it was not credible the Green Party would have entertained bedding with the devil given National had been so antagonistic for so long, it is something that National should be considering now in light of their election failure.

A serious failure usually opens opportunities.

This one is gives National the chance to take the party into the 21st century, something it has resolutely opposed to date. They should shun the rhetoric of Green hate and ridicule that is currently prevalent and develop policies that don’t leave the door slammed shut to a Green deal.

As it stands, National remains rooted in the ideological mud of farming. National needs to shift its focus from farmers, who have nowhere else to go politically, and shift its centre of gravity to the city, so blue-greens are not ashamed to support them.

After their campaign in 2017 to “leave out the middleman”, how the Nats saw any prospect of deal with Peters shows they occupied some alternate reality. The dirty business of revealing Peters’ superannuation overpayments was never an accident and Peters was not going to let that lie.

National clearly thought they could repeat the 2014 result and win with minimal assistance from ACT, United First and the Maori Party. But every amateur political pundit knew from early in 2015 that NZ First was virtually certain to hold the balance. Why were National’s strategists so dumb to ignore that prospect?

So where does National go from here?

They may hope that 72 year-old Peters will retire and that NZ First under former Labour MP Shane Jones will be more inclined to support them. (Apparently, Jones holds a grudge against Labour’s Grant Robertson for outing him over his hotel porn scandal.) However, that seems both hopeful thinking and vague.

Finding another bedfellow that can garner over 5 percent of the vote should be their main aim. John Key missed a trick because he had the same first-past-the-post thinking when he failed to offer Conservative Party a break in 2014 when they were polling 4 percent-plus. Despite past looney leadership, a conservative Christian party winning 5 percent support is probably realistic. However, whether that cannabalizes National’s vote and how fitting such a party into a transformed 21st century National Party, would be highly problematic.

A change of leadership would at least opens up the prospect of transformation.

Despite having shifted from Dipton to Wellington, English has never made the ideological shift to the city. He identifies with farmers and sees them as National’s natural constituency. He, and his generation of National leaders, such as Judith Collins, Gerry Browlee and Steven Joyce, are incapable of making the kind of ideological shift that National needs.

Other leadership contenders like Amy Adams, Simon Bridges or Nikki Kaye at least understood Ardern when she said climate change is her generation’s moon shot.

English, for all his qualities as a safe pair of hands and a consensus politician, is a dead man walking. He will not lead National in 2020. Labour will rub its hands in glee if he does.

But if National wants to avoid reliving the revolving door leadership problem that dogged Labour for so long, they better select someone who has the insight and brains to address their ideological and strategic partnership issues.

There is no evidence that anyone there has the ability or willingness to do that, so National look likely to spend at least as long in the wilderness as Labour has spent and amen to that.

Simon Louisson is a former journalist who reported for The Wall Street Journal, AP Dow Jones Newswires, the New Zealand Press Association and Reuters and was briefly a political and media adviser to the Green Party.

108 comments on “Ideological issues more than leadership are Nat’s problem ”

  1. wayne 1

    There is zero chance that the Greens would consider National in 2020, no matter what National does on the policy front. Almost certainly the same for NZF, even assuming they get over 5%. In both cases it would seem that the decision they made in 2017 was wrong. Political parties don’t do that, not after just one term of 3 years.

    Even in 2023 I don’t think the Greens will seriously consider National. Though perhaps they would if National was say 10 points ahead of Labour. For instance National 47%, Labour 37% and Greens 13% (I am ignoring parties under 5%). It would still be a long shot. Most Greens would convince themselves that Labour is better.

    So for 2020 it will definitely be effectively a FPP election, even if fought under MMP rules.

    At the moment Labour and the Greens are ahead of National. But that may or may not hold.

    There is every chance that National will hold onto its current vote, maybe even increase it a bit. Too many of Labours policies will affect business confidence. We will see.

    • Ed 1.1

      “There is every chance that National will hold onto its current vote, maybe even increase it a bit.”

      Seems somewhat delusional.

      • Carolyn_Nth 1.1.1

        Wayne clearly states that he is still on board with an FPP approach. So that way leads to wanting an outright Nat win. So, that’s the mast his colours are nailed to.

        Long may the dominant Nats have that delusion, because it is an electoral weakness.

        • lprent


          Despite originally favouring FPP, I have come to enjoy MMP and sure as hell never want to go back to coercive minority rule with gerrymandered seats.

          It will be a cold day in hell before I’d want to shift away from MMP. It actually works pretty well.

          Could do with a bit of tinkering, but I suspect that National blew our chance with their short term political gain rejection of the review’s recommendations.

          It will probably be some time before we get another opportunity to get rid of some of flaws in our system.

        • wayne

          I am quite happy with MMP. It is just that I don’t see any chance of the government parties switching in 2020.

          Much more likely that could happen in 2023, plus maybe new parties by then. But would the Greens ever really go with National, and will NZF even survive to 2023?

          It is really hard to create a new party that gets 5%. Hasn’t happened since the Greens did it in 1999. I am discounting United Future of 2002 because Peter Dunne already had a constituency seat.

          ACT growing to 2 or 3% might make all the difference given that they already have a constituency seat. Logically this should be easier than a new party getting 5%.

          • Ad

            If you worked on a scenario where by 2020 Labour are at 35%, and National are nearer 50%, you are going to see action. Not saying it will be pretty.

            If National’s new leadership haven’t figured it out by then, it will probably require the formation of a new minor party. Which we are well due for.

          • wayne

            I should have added that I don’t see the Maori Party coming back, certainly not in 2020. I can’t see Labour acting so badly that they cause the Maori Party to win back one of the Maori seats. And if they have, then Labour is probably on a losing track anyway.

            As for the likely results in 2020. It is a long way out to forecast, so therefore very conjectural. In any event I have given bands which could result in either grouping getting government.

            National, 42 to 46
            Labour, 40 to 44
            Greens, 4 to 8
            NZF, 3 to 6 – the most likely to be out of parliament
            ACT, 0.5 to 2.5 – but stays in parliament
            TOP, 1 to 4
            MP, 1 to 3 – but unlikely to win a seat.

            Most likely outcome is that only 3 parties will be in parliament in 2020, being National, Labour and the Greens, with the latter two being effectively a single bloc. It could be a very close contest.

            Of all these predictions, I reckon the biggest uncertainty is around NZF. They may recover to a much greater extent than I currently forecast.

            • One Anonymous Bloke


              That’s a flattering word for a self-serving guess 🙂

            • Ed

              Too far out to be making predictions and calling them a forecast.
              Better to call them a wager or a bet.

              Your ‘forecast’ reflects what you want to happen, which undermines your credibility.

              • wayne

                My view is fundamentally based on Nationals vote not collapsing (as opposed to a modest decline). The polls so far do not show that it is happening. The vote they have probably lost to Labour in the last couple of months is being made up by vote coming from NZF.

                A collapse, as happened in 20002 for National and in 2014 for Labour, usually means third parties do extremely well. What are the conditions that would currently boost third party vote? I don’t see them. In fact the opposite seems to be happening, that is, a decline in third party vote

                Much more likely is vote trading between National and Labour. That does not produce a collapse. The two major parties tend not to trade between them in dramatic amounts.

                I am not just doing wish fulfilment. I am looking at the polls, especially of the last 6 to 12 months, and the factors that caused the vote flows.

                We will see.

                • Pat

                  Have you considered the possibility of a substantial Green increase (from both National and Labour) on the back of increasingly obvious CC impacts?….that would run counter to your expected third party expectations and could be expected to benefit Labour at the expense of National

                  • BM

                    Can’t see it, Greens have decided their future lies to the left of Labour, picking Davidson as the female leader will cement that position.

                    The Greens appeal is very limited.

                    • Pat

                      the centre voter in NZ politics has shown itself quite mobile and not ideological…unless youre suggesting all National support comes from the right?

                    • BM

                      To go from National to the Greens you’re going to have to pass through Labour and continue out the other side.

                      That’s a huge jump, compounded by the fact that the Greens are more a movement/religious group than a political party.

                      Becoming a Green is like finding the “Lord”, it’s life-changing, very few will make the transition.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      The Green’s appeal is growing, rapidly, as reality dishes up the very things The Greens have been banging on about forever. It’s inescapable, BM; “Green issues” are becoming everyone’s issues and it’s becoming obvious that, despite the denigration from the Right and National MPs in particular, The Greens were on the button with their thinking and their solutions were what were needed. I reckon National’s a spent force.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      “Can’t see it”

                      BM in a nutshell.

                    • Pat

                      You ignore the fact many vote on a single issue….and i’d suggest CC will be increasingly front of mind for many.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      The Greens appeal is very limited.

                      …says the guy who gets dragged behind the party with no mates, like Can-o-Beans behind a sad wedding carriage.

                      Meanwhile, on Earth, the Greens have authored legislation that has found favour with (unless I’m mistaken) all other parties in Parliament and one or two who aren’t.

                    • BM

                      Pat, what do you think will be the tipping point where the masses will start to scream “save me Greens”?

                      What has to happen 20 cyclones in a summer? 3 months of tropical downpours in winter? Hamilton having a sea view?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Yeah, because in BM’s world mind, the masses have no power or agency and can but wait meekly for their salvation.

                      Poor BM. Not the sharpest tool in even the right wing shed.

                    • Pat

                      Lol BM
                      What will be the tipping point?…..for some its already happened, for others it will vary and for the remaining (yourself perhaps?) it may never arrive

                    • UncookedSelachimorpha

                      Could Marama be NZ’s Jeremy Corbyn? If so – well his appeal wasn’t quite so ‘very limited’.

                      When surveyed the majority of the population quite correctly likes socialist and left wing ideas – they just don’t vote for left parties at present (the policies are more popular than the parties promoting them). But Corbyn is starting to show how that can change.

                    • wayne

                      I can’t see a single National voter being persuaded by Marama Davidson, if she becomes co-leader (as she probably will). She has a fundamentally different world view to that of National.

                      Middle National voters, however, may well be persuaded by Jacinda. So far she does not look like a threat. No big tax increases, signing TPP, fixing social problems, and probably most important, being engaging and approachable..

                    • tracey

                      BM Can you outline the policy concessions national has offered the Green party in return for their support? I cannot find it anywhere. This is a two-way street. Nats couldn’t even concede policy to NZF let alone Green Party. The lack of coalition between Greens and national is as much because Nats offered the Green party nothing other than ad hominem.

                    • tracey

                      And yet, BM and Wayne, my National-voting brother (and once or twice has voted ACT) bypassed Labour for the Green Party at this past election.

                    • BM

                      Tracey, I’d say National has given up on the Greens, the differences are insurmountable.

                    • tracey

                      You didn’t actually address what I asked. What policy concessions have Nats ever made or offered to the Greens? National alienated Greens long before Green party made a definitive stand to work with labour to change the government (2016).

                      I recall you thought nats and Greens could go into coalition after the election, so which policies of the Green party did you think the Nats would concede to allow that to happen?

                    • BM

                      I recall you thought nats and Greens could go into coalition after the election, so which policies of the Green party did you think the Nats would concede to allow that to happen?

                      At the time without knowing what the Greens were all about and how they thought, viewed the world I thought it may be possible on a policy by policy basis.

                      After reading a few of Mathews comments I realised that’s not possible, the Greens seem to be an all or nothing fundamentalist type of party where they’d expect National at 44-45% of the vote to completely change who they are to appease the Greens who got just 6% of the vote.

                      It’s never going to happen.

          • Kevin

            Just think of an MMP campaign as a bit like a pot luck lunch, Wayne. Everyone brings something that they hope others will like. National keep turning up with a plate of brussel sprouts and wonder why no one wants to eat them.

          • red-blooded

            It’s true that it’s really hard to start a party from outside parliament and get it to 5%. That’s why the Electoral Commission recommended lowering the threshold. But your guys didn’t want to do that, Wayne. Seems pretty short-sighted now, doesn’t it?

            Of course Colin Craig and his mates would have been disasterous in parliament, but their supporters were clearly looking for a voice, and there are probably other groups who could form more viable parties, given a genuine chance.

            • Stuart Munro

              Wayne knows that any prospect of honest representation erodes the Gnat’s chances of election – and is thus intolerable in his crypto-oligarchic world view.

          • rhinocrates

            But would the Greens ever really go with National,

            Your born-to-rule arrogance in a nutshell. You think that it’s up to everyone else to kneel to you, not for you to consider how you might accommodate partners or seek to serve all New Zealanders.

            And that’s why you lost.

            • tracey

              EXACTLY. It is Greens fault that they dont support national. National played no part in that! Crazy thinking.

          • tracey

            Given national focused on baubles and not policy concessions to NZF it is more that National will never make policy concessions to attract Green support than the other way round.

        • Enough is Enough

          If National fought a FPP election,, please explain to me why we still have to put up with David Seymour in our Parliament???

          National has no mates. But is a bit of a stretch for anyone to claim that they do not understand MMP.

          They have won 4 out of the 8 MMP elections by going into government with sworn enemies (NZ First 1996), Former Labour MPs (Peter Dunne, Tariana Turia) and a party you would never expect them to be in government with (Maori Party).

          The ACT party only exists because of National.

          United Future was given the same free run in 2017, in an attempt by National to keep that dead party alive.

          I can’t think of another party that has actively done more to boost their coalition partners chances of winning than National

          • Carolyn_Nth

            National has successfully used the wriggle room within MMP to maintain control over some small client parties, thus ensuring their authoritarian streak is not threatened.

            And the Nats resisted change that allowed the coattail loophole, and dropping the party threshold – the latter would have enabled the development of more smaller parties, thus limiting their control over compliant client parties.

            • wayne

              Was the Maori Party really a “client party”? I think not.

              They were pretty independent. But they were less impressed with Labour than they were with the Nats. Probably because of the history and the Labour Party aim to wipe them out.

              Perhaps the same could be said of Nationals attitude the NZF. “Parent” parties find it difficult to come to terms with the rebellious child.

              • McFlock

                Going with your idea, that makes the nats even more foolish for not learning from Labour’s mistake.

                But yes, the Maori party was largely a client party. Once it got bought off in a fairly narrow area, that was the extent of its influence. Some Maori Party MPs were willing to cooperate across the floor, but I don’t recall many issues where MP put forward its own alternative to government bills in the vein of the Greens and medical marijuana.

                But I think that’s only partly because of National’s hubris – we’re still seeing parties and politicians adapt to MMP, trying to achieve policy influence while maintaining their party’s visible independence. But most people would realise now that smaller parties who only privately disagree with the larger coalition partners sign their own electoral death warrants.

                On the flipside, larger coalition partners who appear to be wagged by the tail could drag the entire bloc below the next majority.

                I think you’re wrong about NZ1, btw – I think they’re going to get a lot of the credit for opening regional development projects and maybe even bridges in Northland. Same for the Greens in their primary areas of interest. Where the MP got Whanau Ora and not much more, things like the conservation estate and regional infrastructure are not as abstract as a bureaucratic funding body. Ribbons to cut, and shit like that.

      • Peter 1.1.2

        I think you are mistaken I believe national will keep its vote about the same or better. Labour will make a mistake every one does, and with this right wing press they will hammer them day after day and people will start to wonder.

    • lprent 1.2

      The problem is that National has a strong tendency to actively blow off their potential and actual coalition partners and strip their votes. It has left them the biggest single party by pulling virtually ALL of the conservative support into a single bloc.

      However it doesn’t get them half of the house and is unlikely to ever do so.

      But what else do you expect of conservatives? They take a bloody long time to learn anything and usually do it way too late. They’re still playing politics as if it was 1990.

      That is why I agree with you – but with a different spin. The problem is that National thinks too much about the deal and coercion rather than the political accommodation of political partners and factions. That is mostly because they have to drag all of the stupid authoritarians inside National with them – so they never provide much room for varying views.

      With the exception of the alliance disintegration back before 2002, Labour has been a lot more tolerant of dissent throughout the MMP era. Although not without considerable hammering of their idiot tribalist factions. Fortunately that lesson does seem to have been learnt. And if not, I and others are always willing to assist with some sarcasm about the follies of the stupid.

      It is going to be interesting to see how much political room is going to be left for NZ First over this year. They have clearly taken the biggest hit from being in government, mostly as a result of their origins as a party of protest. It will be a good test of how well the lessons have been learnt.

      I will be observing with interest.

      • mpledger 1.2.1

        If National look to Collins/Bridges as their next leaders then National may tear itself apart. I can’t see the disgruntled faction leaving National to jump to ACT because they are politically more towards the centre then the Collins/Bridges brigade but they may want to sit in the space between a more right-wing National party and Labour.

        There are enough rich people around to support a new party and while they might want it to be more right-wing they’ll realise that trying to inhabit ACT’s space isn’t going to get them anywhere with votes.

        • red-blooded

          Sitting in the middle didn’t do United Future (what a misnomer THAT turned out to be) much good, did it? Started as quite a chunky party and got whittled away, as they kept looking for defining interest groups/issues to hang their hats on. (Remember the alliance with the hunting and fishing lobbyists?) Sure, Dunne got to stick around for a very long time and he did serve in both Labour-led and National-led governments, but he didn’t really represent a party as such.

          NZF pretty much occupies that space at present. It’s hard to see a start-up party getting much traction. I think they’re more likely to try to influence the next leader, whenever that opportunity arrives. They’ve blown it with Winston, but they could offer an accommodation to the next leader when things are looking shaky (as they will whenever Winston does eventually retire). I just hope the experience of working with Labour will be a good one and that the people who are standing in line for leadership will think of their party and their voters as more Labour aligned.

      • tracey 1.2.2

        AGree 100%

    • Paul Campbell 1.3

      I disagree – “FPP” is about the way that votes for seats are counted, not about the way that seats are counted to make governments – it can result in a government with more than 50% of the seats but 30% of the votes. FPP can result in coalition governments, just like MMP – after all let’s not forget our history, that’s how the National party came into being in the first place, look at the Aussie govt today.

      Like FPP, MMP is also about the way that votes for seats are counted, but it makes sure that each party gets a proportional number of seats to the number of people who vote for it (mostly, IMHO we should do away with the 5% rule)

      And that’s the thing that a lot of Nats just don’t seem to get, it’s not about the partY that gets the most seats anymore, its about the partIES that get the most seats – they need to lose their self-entitled 1950s world view and get with the program.

      Wayne what I think you’re really trying to say is that 2020 will be a 2 horse race, and while you’re probably mostly right one of those horses will still be a coalition and as a result capable of attracting a wider ideological range of voters that National

    • Ross 1.4

      Too many of Labours policies will affect business confidence.

      Business-people have only one vote, like the rest of us. I note you don’t explain what Labour policies will affect business confidence.

      • KJT 1.4.1

        Funny that. As NZ businesses generally do better under left wing Governments. Thieves and parasites like national.

      • Craig H 1.4.2

        Agreed, and it’s telling that the loss of confidence is in the performance of the economy as a whole, not in their own businesses’ performances i.e. they think they will do fine, and because everyone individually thinks they will be fine, it’s hard to see how their lack of confidence in the economy is justified.

      • Paul Campbell 1.4.3

        seems to me that the business community are a bunch of snowflakes if their confidence is so easily dented – perhaps someone needs to offer “self esteem workshops for dejected business people”

    • tracey 1.5

      Wayne you could have written this as

      National will never make the climate and other policy concessions required to attract Green support. That you frame it as Green stubbornness rather than National stubbornness proves the point of the post imo.

      Business confidence is all but proven to be an ideological illusion Wayne. If Labour is in it falls, if national is in it rises, regardless of how the economy is actually doing.

  2. Roy Cartland 2

    An outrigger to the NAT waka, led by Judith Coliins and peddling an ultra hard right, Trumpist narrative could see them back. In this respect, the dead rats would have to come from the other side – even tougher on petty crimes, super-nationalist (at least in rhetoric), massive tax cuts and all that idiotic sensationalist talk we see from the US. The NATs would eventually cluster around that like May to the DUP or the Republicans around the Trump gang.

    • Zorb6 2.1

      This would seem an obvious strategy given the surprising(to me)support Craig managed to round up.The Christian inspired parties would flock to it too I imagine.

    • Keepcalmcarryon 2.2

      Hard to be a nationalist when hubby is hocking off NZ via Oravida, can’t see anyone buying that line.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1

        I can: people who vote along nationalist lines tend to ignore anything that contradicts the message. Exhibit a: every nationalist politician ever, or at least, a significant majority thereof.

      • Roy Cartland 2.2.2

        No? I thought so too, but look at the US. Or the “National” party. It’s a front, an excuse.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.3

      Although NZ political discourse and behaviour is pretty terrible – I’d like to think that a Trump would not get voted in here – and we are still quite a long way from that condition.

      But in 15 years time – who knows?

  3. Pat 3

    With only around 60,000 farms of various types in NZ and only 6.5% of the workforce (approx 250,000) in agriculture, suggesting National only has appeal to that sector would appear a little hopeful when they received over 1.1 million votes at the last election.

  4. Dean Reynolds 4

    National faces 3 significant hurdles in trying to win government;

    1) They’ll never get 51% of the party vote under the MMP formula & they have no likely coalition partners

    2) There is nobody in their ranks who can match Jacinda’s charisma, ability & steel

    3) Neo liberalism is in its death throes, but National still clings to it. Until they ditch their extreme right wing views, they have no political future

  5. Sanctuary 5

    The reason so many Nats don’t accept they lost the election is they’re still struggling with the universal franchise and deep down they think the only people who should be allowed to vote are the white middle class and up.

    Thus, they won the right thinking, “legitimate” vote hands down, and only lost because of the votes of those who really have no right to be in the voting booth in the first place.

    National is ideologically split between two factions. You’ve got the liberal authoritarians like Bill English and you’ve got the authoritarian conservatives like Judith Collins. They are all authoritarians, but Bill prefers to rig the system to allow the private sector to do his dirty little hard-right social experiments on the undeserving classes while Collins is more than happy to use the naked iron fist of the state to keep the lower orders in their place.

    It’s the pin stripes vs. the brown shirts.

    • Anne 5.1

      It’s the pin stripes vs. the brown shirts.

      Spot on Sanctuary. Their forebears (mostly British) were convinced of their vast superiority in all things, and down through the many decades since they have passed the same mode of thinking to their equally detestable progeny. Hence the ‘winner takes all and the devil may care for the rest of you’ approach that is still so prevalent today. Then there are the working class among them who managed to make some money and found themselves in the so-called ruling class so changed their voting habits from Labour to National.

      They are firmly stuck in FPP and I hope it stays that way for the foreseeable future. Couldn’t be better.

      • Roy Cartland 5.1.1

        I’m not sure you both have Collins pegged quite right. She might think she’s Nationalist, even ‘racist’ to a degree, but she has deep involvement in Chinese circles. Like Trump, she’ll happily bang on about “our” country, while exploiting the shit out of it for whoever has the money. Dollar trumps race.

        • rhinocrates

          Racists always have ‘honorary white’ associates or token membership of the team to show the others how they ‘should’ be. It is an old joke about East Coast country clubs in the US that they’d always have one Jew on the board whose job it was to ensure that no other Jews were ever allowed to join.

    • Keepcalmcarryon 5.2

      English is no liberal

  6. funstigator 6

    Considering the author’s background I’d suggest his own ideological issues are on display more here than National’s. The old saying about interviewing one’s own keyboard comes to mind.

    • lprent 6.1

      Ok so you are a useless dimwit.

      Who else apart from the deeply politically retaarded would point out such an obvious point when the end of the post gave a description of the background.

      I know that some conservatives are really stupid. But that went past stupidity into being being a fuckwit wanting in public…

      In other words you sound like a stupid troll. I really don’t like trolls. You need to buck up your ideas.

    • red-blooded 6.2

      Do you have any actual points of argument to make, funstigator? Perhaps some issues from the initial piece or the ensuing discussion that you’d care to rebut? If not, I struggle to see the point of your comment. It was, after all, an opinion piece. I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept.

  7. Chuck 7

    Having a support partner that can pull their own weight is an issue for National.

    The Green Party will never be an option for National, having read and participated in various threads on here with Green Party members. If they have to hold their collective noses to work with Labour…then working with National will be impossible.

    National will need to outdo Labour (go even further left than Labour) and even then the grassroots Greens will still say no…National in any form = the devil.

    NZF will not survive this term, Winston is a natural opposition MP. Once in Government his appeal is blunted. NZF is an unknown at this stage…will Winston take a plum post as his retirement? or will he stay on and fight for 2020? He needs to attack the Government of the day to whip up his supporter base.

    All the risk is currently with the Government of the day…they have talked them selfies up big time. Housing, immigration etc etc…if they don’t deliver to the satisfaction of the NZ voters then come 2020 they will be punished.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1

      Generally speaking, pundits assert that the electorate gives new government two terms before drawing those sorts of conclusions.

      Good on you for swimming against the current.

    • Stuart Munro 7.2

      The Greens could easily work with a true conservative party – but National has become the party of dishonesty and corruption. It is less a question of left or right than of the overturning of representative bodies like ECAN and the misappropriation of funds earmarked for conservation or the like for other purposes like irrigation.

      National has had a charmed life since Labour sold out with Roger Douglas. It has made them lazy and ineffectual.

  8. Ad 8

    National learnt MMP over 13 years. They refined it over two 9 year runs in government 1990-1999, and 2008-2017.

    They considered it with New Zealand and finally implemented it in 1996: National invented MMP. They don’t need lessons on MMP from anyone.

    National are in a fine position, with great funding, strong membership, sustained support, all the business and business media they could possibly wish for, and the sublime position of facing a government who at their highest polling only barely got in to power.

    All in parliament know that Labour has peaked, since that’s what happens every single election.

    National need to do nothing except wait this out.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      …for nine long years 😆

    • BM 8.2


      It’s up to Labour to deliver, they’ve talked up a huge game all the pressure is on them.

      They’ve got to be making serious progress this term otherwise they’re out the door.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 8.2.1

        …or if National thinks “steady as she goes, it’ll be our turn again soon”, twelve long years.

      • Roy Cartland 8.2.2

        Even if they do make significant progress, as the post implies, a massive financial shock could doom them. Yes it may have been caused by NAT et al, but the Govt will be the ones who wear it. Conditions are ripe, some are saying.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          That very much depends on how the government goes about cushioning people from the consequences.

  9. red-blooded 9

    They thought they had it sussed years ago, with ACT as the more extreme party that they could use as their excuse for extreme policies (eg charter schools, which were never needed in NZ). But ACT is a joke, and unlikely to revive. NZers have moved on from the tear-it-al-down-and-sell-it-all-off extremes of the 80s. ACT had a brief spike of interest when it was really pushing the “trash the Treaty” line under Brash, but again that wasn’t really sustainable (whew!). Now they seem to be trying to be groovy urban liberals, in terms of issues like marriage equality and cannabis reform (a velvet glove around the iron fist), but their brand is too established to really shift. David Seymour hasn’t managed to rescue them. Good.

    If TOP hadn’t exploded, they might have morphed over time into a possible support party for the Nats. Doesn’t look too likely at this stage, though, does it?

    I think any long term support will probably be from a conservative religious party, but the Nats really blew it when they refused to consider lowering the party vote benchmark . It’s bloody hard for a new party to get over 5%, with no backing from the Electoral Commission because they don’t have any seats in parliament. it means that all the recent attempts to form new parties that have got any traction at all have come from rich guys who can afford to throw money around. That’s not a good basis for a democracy.

    Anyway, I hope they run another FPP campaign next time. And another one after that!

    An edit to respond to Ed: I’m not dismissing National as a force to be reckoned with. They were smart enough to deal with the remnant of ACt and United and to do a deal with the Māori Party which considerably broadened their support base for a sustained period of time. And the Māori Party did get some concessions out of them – it wasn’t all for show. But it wasn’t enough to keep those parties alive, either. National have never been good at allowing dissent, they see it as weakness. You say they just need to wait this out, and in one way you’re absolutely right (after all, no government stays in power for ever – National’s time will come again). I just hope they’ll be waiting for a bloody long time and that in that time the current government will have managed to shift the paradigm enough so that there are innovations that they can’t roll back. The Clark government managed that, and I think this one can, too.

    • Anne 9.1

      … the Nats really blew it when they refused to consider lowering the party vote benchmark .

      And there you have it in a nutshell. FPP thinking:

      “… we’re not going to let those jumped up Tom, Dick and Harrys challenge us by starting up political parties. Oh no, the only political parties we’ll allow are those who swear allegience to our superiority and then we will gerrymander the MMP system in order get them into parliament.

      • Psycho Milt 9.1.1

        Thing is, that 5% threshold is the hook on which they’re hanging their FPP approach to winning. The “wasted” votes of those who support parties outside the mainstream get redistributed to the larger parties, so National can hope to rule outright with a vote share in the high 40s. That’s potentially achievable if the current government does poorly.

  10. patricia bremner 10

    My contact with national supporters has been through family and friends. They faithfully trot out the memes provided by msm, or their branch.

    When questioned about consequences they would quote the “help themselves, like we do” line, failing to account for their money advantage.

    They do realise they need coalition partners, but never mention policy alignment.
    One relative joined United First “to help them get over the 500 line” even while disagreeing about their drug policy, “to be sure we get enough seats”.

    Support parties were seen as a necessary evil under MMP and First past the post was “Cleaner and fairer” (to them!! sarc)

    I was often told, “you would be Labour, your’e a teacher!! They are all red!!.”
    When I pointed out half the family were Labour supporters and farmers who believed in sustainable practices, they said, “Oh, they are greenies”

    So tribalism exists on both sides.

    May this government gain 4 terms and put in place legislative frameworks to promote a cleaner fairer more healthy happy state. Jacinda will be 50!!

  11. greywarshark 11

    This story about the dreadful conditions that Chicago has produced for its young, unemployed and living in an enclave of street violence and drugs, is a film that we should all see. We have people in National and possibly old Labour with the same uncaring, irresponsible mindset and we must keep National out of power and keep pressing Labour to regain its emphasis on Te tangata, while it also encourages responsible and employment-rich business in every way left to it.

    From Wallace Chapman, RadioNZ Sunday Morning slot
    Craig Renaud: US documentary maker
    From Sunday Morning, 41 minutes ago
    Listen duration 19′ :18
    Brent and Craig Renaud are brothers and US documentary makers and journalists
    living in New York. They’ve spent the past decade covering humanistic stories from Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt, Libya and Mexico in the “cinema verite” vein.

    They won the coveted Peabody documentary award for a gritty TV series filmed closer to home, in Chicago. Craig Renaud talks about the challenges of filming Last Chance High and the risks doco makers take all over the world.

  12. Incognito 12

    Finding another bedfellow that can garner over 5 percent of the vote should be their main aim. John Key missed a trick because he had the same first-past-the-post thinking when he failed to offer Conservative Party a break in 2014 when they were polling 4 percent-plus. Despite past looney leadership, a conservative Christian party winning 5 percent support is probably realistic.

    Lowering the threshold will make it easier for National to find “another bedfellow” but I don’t seem to find it in the new Government’s 100-day plan 😉

    • greywarshark 12.1

      What do you think is an appropriate threshhold for good, positive, progressive and practical levels of political life in NZ.

      • Incognito 12.1.1

        I find that an impossible question to answer. Guided by democratic principles I’d set the threshold at 1/120=0.83%. I’d do away with the Electorate Vote. Simplify the system and make it more representative than the current system, which is only about half-way there. That is, if we want to stick with a representative democracy …

        But given the current political realities in NZ I think 3-4% would be about the most feasible threshold. As long as the majority 44.4% of the voters are still firmly living in FPP land I can’t see this changing nor would it change much anyway. However, it is a bit of a chicken & egg issue.

        • greywarshark

          The problem with being very open to democratic system, making it easy for anyone to be involved, the mass of people who don’t explore other ways of carrying out policies, don’t think of the effect of particular policies. Then those that don’t want to accept their role as individuals who have a vision for the country and take the opportunity to vote for it, and instead, prefer to follow the loudest voice at their pub or other meeting venue and become part of a bloc which might vote against their best interests.

          So I think there needs to be some seawall against the wash of uninformed opinion and see total democracy as a utopian vision.

  13. greywarshark 13

    I have just checked – I should have said He tangata as Dame Whina Cooper said.

  14. CHCOff 14

    Colin Craig should join NZ1st.

    The ‘scandal’ was a joke.

    He had the strongest most transformative out in front progressive policy that has been on offer – the binding referendum policy.

    Go into NZ1st with that, and the promotion of Guild Economics as a panacea to ‘free trade’ & it’s cartel monopoly globalism. Guild Economics is christian economics, promotes and builds liberty, social responsibility, public works and community, demand and supply market signals that reflect these attributes. This would bring in the majority of the Christian vote.

    Combine this with NZ1st nationalism and new zealand traditional life stylism, and you are soon nudging near 15% give or take to start with.

    • Roy Cartland 14.1

      Totally. What brought him down again? Carrying on with an underling? Sending dodgy poetry? Compared to old blue-hands-Jones, he’s in great company in NZF.

  15. greywarshark 15

    National’s not doing anything about important problems can only be bad.

    The West Coast have been told in a report on threatened coastline not to delay and leave matters for others to pick up:

    In a June report to the Buller District Council, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) engineers said it would be at least five years before the erosion reached the nearby community hall, and 10 to 15 years before inland property would be at risk.

    They recommended the council use that time “to start considering their options”.:
    “To intervene too soon could be an unnecessary expense for the community, but to wait too long would be a poor decision for all,” the report said.

    Coastal erosion has already affected the Westport community. A road near the airport was redirected as the sea inched closer to the runway, and significant flooding events are increasingly common.

  16. Thinkerr 16

    National has built a business formula around neoliberalism.

    There will likely be a whole lot of National’s ‘establishment’ that can’t do/don’t know any different.

    It takes a bunch of young turks like the old fishnchips brigade to overthrow an old guard and I dont see that kind of groundswell in National, at least not yet.

    Hence, National remains a neoliberal party in a world that is finally waking up to the fact that neoliberalism was never going to work for the bottom 90% and never will, IMHO.

    • Ed 16.1

      People of Bridges’s age and wealth are deeply embedded into neoliberalism.
      They think it is a great thing.

      Adams has 5 (?) farms and is very wealthy .

      Kaye …possibly open to change.

      Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

  17. Jess NZ 17

    The conservatives dislike of being on the losing side (i.e. not getting the largest votes from the pie) won’t go away soon. There aren’t the numbers in the NZ public to support another major conservative party – those votes would be cannibalised from National and National wouldn’t compromise any real power away to a partner. The National leaders can barely stand to share power with each other.

    I expect (and truly hope) that National will continue its banging on about how Labour shouldn’t even be the government and how they’re going to fail to achieve what National was going to achieve any day now. Labour, while performing no miracles, will use the brains and talent from the coalition pool to slow down the ‘money first’ avalanche NZ has been suffering for too long. The benefits will be widespread and hard to deny.

    And Winston Peters will be right there in Parliament to counteract the blockhead schoolyard bullying and flat out obstinate lying that National MPs have enjoyed without interference for 9 years.

  18. Tanz 18

    When it comes to the next election, re MMP mates, Labour has the same problem.
    NZ First’s vote share has already collapsed to around 3 percent, and there is a good possibility, with legislation like the Waka Jumping Bill and the selling out of the Kermadecs for power, that the Green vote may collapse also. No party without an electorate seat has survived more than one term in Parliament. So, come next electioin, it could well be just a two horse race. Even if the Greens make it over the threshold, that is not enough for the left bloc to win. And National won the election, they simply lost to a technicality of MMP and the bitterness of WP. They sill lead in the polls, which is unprecedented for a new gov! and a new Opposition. NO matter how one spins it, the majority of voters still prefer National. If WP ends up being PM for any real length of time, there will be much resentment with Kiwis over that. Three.eight percent and PM…just see how that goes down with all those all never voted for him (being most of the country, of course! ) Bring on the popcorn..

  19. Jo Smith 19

    Dammit Simon, why are you telling the Nationalists how to win ?


  20. Sparky 20

    A lot of assumptions made here. The most obvious is will the coalition last more than a term?I believe its a maybe at best.

    I’m a NFZ supporter, formerly Greens and I really do not like this govt. Their support for the TPP, on going oil exploration that has not been curtailed, refusal to rule out mining, turning a blind eye to the 90 day clause and more really fails to impress in a big way.

    The MSM rabbit on but frankly they have I believe long since lost the pulse of public opinion.

    If enough voters like myself simply fail to vote next time around as they see no good coming of their efforts or pressure their parties look at whoever offers the most concessions, I would say its anyone game.

    Do I want a Nat govt. No I don’t but I don’t see any point in wasting time on one that looks all too much like its predecessor either.

  21. tracey 21

    In my time as a Litigator, I noticed that some people start lying and get to a point where they actually believe it is the truth or fact. This makes them very compelling on the stand until presented with a document to the contrary. The document doesn’t always exist.

    My point is Brash tried the truth, his and their truth, and failed, just. They learned, to lie.

    It has worked and even in the last election when Joyce was yelling about a hole, he seemed convinced. He was convincing cos he knew there was a hole. His hole of $22b hidden from PREFU. English joined the lie.

    They have played the propagandist and it has worked. It has worked because we want to be comforted in the status quo and because the media cannot google.

    Wayne Mapp called Marama Davidson a militant. My response to him was give me and open and honest militant over a lying reactionary, any day.

    Examples of why they think lying will keep working

    Remember when Key said there is no housing crisis?

    “We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.” He used the word crisis 14 times. In 2007!

    Remember when he claimed poverty was his biggest regret?

    “…found he’d mentioned ‘poverty’ in his official speech notes only 15 times between 2007 and early 2015. On several of those occasions, he was claiming an absence of poverty in New Zealand.”–the-words-hes-never-said

    Remember when he was going to increase reading and writing skills amongst children?

    “The 2016 study, which assessed 5646 year 5 children from 188 New Zealand schools, deemed more than a quarter had low, or less than low, literacy. ”

    To me, John Key is one who tells the lies so often he comes to believe they are true. How else could he have regrets about child poverty, when he refused to acknowledge its existence except on the campaign trail.

  22. Mark 22

    From afar, it seems so blatantly obvious to me that NZF only chose Labour because of Winston’s personal animus towards the Nats, who he believes leaked his personal information (by the way, how does WP, a lawyer and now the deputy PM, not know he has received too much pension? Anyway….). It was a petty vindicative move. I don’t see how you can draw any other conclusion. Labour’s win and the legitimacy of the current coalition govt can only be seen in that context.

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