Labour lost the party vote, but retained the electorates. Looking at the results it is pretty clear that this appears to have been a deliberate decision by Labour’s remaining electorate MPs.
With the exception of the six Maori electorate MPs, Damien O’Conner on the West Coast, and Iain Lees-Galloway in Palmerston North (plus Stuart Nash benefiting from a split right vote in Napier) the rest of the MPs are holed up in urban electorates that lend themselves to the personal attention from MPs.
This shows in the lack of attention that Labour MPs give to the party vote. The only general electorates where Labour is now ahead of National in the party vote (in the preliminary results) are Dunedin North (by 24 votes), and 4 South Auckland seats.
|New Zealand First Party|
There are many ways to display just how much the aversion that Labour has to being a MMP party. For instance the table at the right from the preliminary results.
It is evident that there are genuine MMP parties in parliament. The Greens and NZ First most definitely are with all of their seats coming from the list. So is National with a third of their seats from the list. In each case these party itself made a fairly deliberate decision to become focused on the list.
In 2002, the Greens could have made a decision to throw all of their efforts into the Coromandel electorate that they had won in 1999. But that has been a backstop to their campaign to achieve the 5% threshold and they chose to continue increasing that – now to 10%. Winston Peters losing the Tauranga electorate in 2005 proved to be a boon for NZ First. NZ First has proved to be resilient as a MMP party running almost entirely on the list.
|New Zealand First Party||210,912||10.38||1||12||13|
|ACT New Zealand||145,078||7.14||0||9||9|
After their shattering 2002 defeat where they dropped to levels even worse than Labour in the 2014 election. National’s party made quite sweeping changes to the focus of their organisation.
The most important of which was that the party vote became predominant in their targeting. Their electorate MPs are judged by the party organisation for how much they bring to the party. This has been clearly evidenced by the rash of well paid resignations over recent years. This shows up in their party vote steadily rising even in electorate seats held by Labour MPs.
Labour has no such ambitions as National achieved in 2002. Or rather its parliamentary team do not.
Their electorate MPs ran quite good and effective electorate campaigns, that at best out the “Party Vote Labour” in small letters on their billboards with the face of their local candidate in prominence. When I went through the safe Labour electorates of Mt Albert and Mt Roskill during the election campaign that was all that you ever saw.
In other electorates that the candidate was even a member of Labour was carefully downplayed – Clayton Cosgrove in Waimakariri for instance. The ill-fated and unfortunately chosen (in the light of Dirty Politics turning up late in the election campaign) slogan of “Vote Positive” was a similar distancing from the party branding.
Pretty much the only support for a Labour party campaign was coming from the small and underfunded Labour HQ, the party activists, and the few MPs who were party minded like David Cunliffe, David Parker, and a few others.
Which is of course why they are the targets of the silo electorate MPs and electorate thinking fossils like Josie Pagani. She spent the day after the election proclaiming this…
National are really, really good at organisation. Labour’s head office told us it would win with its ground game. There was some spectacular ground-game effort by Labour people out there, let down by a head office that is awful.
1. It is implausible that President Moira Coatsworth and General secretary Tim Barnett have not already resigned. If 24% is not enough to bring about their accountability, how bad would it have to be? Do they have no sense at all how heartbroken and devastated, Labour people feel?
Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis, (plus wins in Te Tai Hauauru and Tamaki Makaurau) were the only bright spots. Both battled head office interference, when they should have been asked to run things.
Some spectacular simple minded stupidity there. Stuart Nash had a split right vote with a popular conservative McVicar bleeding vote away from the National candidate on the basis of some purely local issues. Stuart Nash sneaked through that with a similar vote to the one he achieved and lost with last election. Kelvin Davis had a main opponent who had was tainted with the decision to campaign with Kim DotCom, and gained a pretty narrow victory that was by less than the Maori party vote in the electorate. Both MPs will have to work hard to retain their electorates.
Labour’s head office has a handful of people there. The parties entire paid staff is probably less than two hands these days. Most of the on the ground effort of volunteers is directed from the electorates and the bulk of that is within electorates with sitting MPs. They can advise, not run.
Similarly the leaders office while better staffed can run under-funded advertising and media campaigns. However they were saving most of their ammunition for the weeks before the election. National had been running serious advertising blitzes since March which has steadily improved the poor poll ratings that they had after christmas.
I knew that Dirty Politics was coming and roughly what its target was (but not a lot about the detail) because of my information and contacts about Whaleoil and Kiwiblog. But I had been requested to keep quiet.
The Labour party did not know. I also knew that Nicky Hager was trying to get it out before the election so that the voters could understand what kind of corruption underlaid the National party.
But the HQ and leaders office got caught flat-footed by Dirty Politics because of the timing. It essentially disrupted the whole party level campaign because they hadn’t started back in March.
A well-funded and locally targeted electorate campaign that the electorate MPs had forced out of the party could survive the storm. But a late running underfunded, however well conceived, country wide campaign could not.
As we saw, the electorate MPs largely chose to run a non-party campaign. They effectively caused the party vote campaign to be caught by the vagaries of the political mood. Now of course they will blame those who work for the party rather than themselves.
Labour is good at winning electorates. Their entire system from the constitution onwards is focused towards that. They haven’t transitioned to a MMP party vote environment.
Perhaps it is time for activists to have two parties. The one that specialises in electorates and the one that focuses on party vote.
Because it is becoming evident that Labour is unlikely to ever manage to make the transition to being a MMP party.