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Labour obviously never worked out MMP

Written By: - Date published: 8:59 am, September 26th, 2014 - 104 comments
Categories: election 2014, greens, labour, national, nz first - Tags:

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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.







National Party






Labour Party






Green Party






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.

Party Party
Labour Party 838,219 41.26 45 7 52
National Party 425,310 20.93 21 6 27
New Zealand First Party 210,912 10.38 1 12 13
ACT New Zealand 145,078 7.14 0 9 9
Green Party 142,250 7.00 0 9 9
United Future 135,918 6.69 1 7 8
Progressives 34,542 1.70 1 1 2

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.

104 comments on “Labour obviously never worked out MMP ”

  1. Interesting piece, Lprent.

    Just a short note to say that Palmerston North [should] be considered an urban seat. The population of the constituency is all but concentrated in one, contiguous urban area containing most of the city.

    The Parliamentary Library classifies it as a “wholly urban electorate”.

    • Ian 1.1

      So what do we mean by ‘urban’? Not a dictionary definition, but what significance does this have in terms of electoral/party politics? You mention Palmerston North. True, Palmy is technically urban but it is not in the sense that Wellington Central, or Mangere might be. Many urban electorates within larger cities (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch) often have safe electorates well defined by ethnicity and/or class. Palmerston North is not one of these. The electorate encompasses almost the entire city that transcends class & ethnicity, so the challenges in rallying the Party vote are quite different to some in bigger cities. Despite promoting the Party vote (as well as the candidate – a bloody good thing too or he wouldn’t be representing us) we still only got 30% of the Party vote. This is not a matter of an MP promoting his own little fiefdom at all. His ground game started almost a year before the Election. In that time, we canvassed, door knocked, distributed propaganda urging votes for both candidate AND party. Iain holds regular ‘coffee & politics’ evenings ( not just in election cycles) promoting the Party’s policies. He brought in a range of Labour MPs including Jacinda, Chris Hipkins, Annette King and even DC to highlight Party policy. What more can we do? At least for us, this is much bigger than simply ‘not getting’ MMP or running a campaign for the local fiefdom.

      • Liam Hehir 1.1.1

        The significance is that Palmerston North is not a ‘provincial seat’ in the same way that, say, Napier or New Plymouth are. In many ways, it is quite unique because it is also a university and military town with a young and highly educated population.

        The seat does not encompass the whole city insofar as the fast growing and prosperous south side of the Manawatu river is excluded. The seat encompasses the ‘core’ of the city (which is redder) and some of the outer suburbs (which are bluer).

        Because of this geography, boundary changes have tended to simply shift around the blue parts which are and are not included in the electorate. If the city continues to grow that way it the seat might be split into a “North” and “South” seat which would probably go blue.

        That’s unlikely to happen any time soon, of course, which is why the Palmerston North seat will continue to look a bit like West Berlin for a few years.

        • Ian

          Agreed – but it still doesn’t account for the appallingly low Party vote relative to the Electoral vote…

  2. mickysavage 2

    I agree entirely lprent with one minor quibble …

    Labour won the party vote in Kelston (West Auckland not South Auckland seat) and on analysis I have seen there was a significant increase in the party vote in that electorate. That particular campaign showed how to do it. Carmel Sepuloni, aided by some great local people, ran another boisterous energetic campaign and the results showed. New Lynn’s party vote held up. Mt Albert’s and Mt Roskill’s tanked by over 7% points. The four electorates are next to each other. I hope the review gets to the guts of why some electorates went relatively well and others did not.

    The Maori electorates went well. Giovanni Tiso posed the interesting theory that this was also evidence of a right wing trend as the Maori seats were historically very left wing and going to the middle from the left helped Labour.

    One other bright performer was Poto Williams in Christchurch East where Labour’s share of the party vote went up. Well done Poto.

    The on the ground activist campaigning really helps. The party needs to have a think about how to maintain and increase membership activity.

    I am thinking more and more that the Caucus ought to cool it, stick to the status quo and then review matters when the party has concluded its review of the election result.

    • Enough is Enough 2.1

      The party seems to have gone backwards in the past 9 years in relation to strategy.

      Correct me if I am wrong but the Clark/Williams Labour party knew how to win MMP. 1999, 2002 and 2005 Labour campaigned as a party and the party vote was central. The pledge card was all about what Labour would deliver.

      The Cunliffe/Coatsworth Labour party didn’t follow what has worked well for the party in the past.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        The Cunliffe/Coatsworth Labour party didn’t follow what has worked well for the party in the past.

        The same thing happened in 2011 – well before Cunliffe. It is a choice being made by what the MPs (especially traditionalists like Goff) will accept rather than what Labour HQ or most of the leaders office staff think. Or for that matter by almost any activist.

        Because of the way that the power lies in the Labour party constitution, the MPs as individuals carry a lot of power. They are the people who are making this choice to put their own individual interests over that of the party.

        No amount of obstrufication from you is going to change that picture. Perhaps you should have a good close look at your reasons for doing it?

        • Enough is Enough

          I did not realise we were dissecting the 2011 result as well.

          I was making the point that the party has campaigned well in the MMP environment in the past, and I am certain that if we look back to how it was done over those 3 elections, then the mistakes of the past 2 elections can be remedied.

          • lprent

            I didn’t realize we were either until you attempted to drag a leader into it who’d had less than a year in the job.

            Basically you were just being a partisan fool ignoring the issue that I raised and trying to use it to stick the knife in on a short-term issue.

            Helen focused on the party vote and drove everything that way. That wasn’t just at the national level either. When I was doing the targeting for Mt Albert, that was the entire focus of those campaigns from 1996-2008. It paid off. It turns out that a local campaign run on a party basis will help a good local candidate as well.

            But I didn’t see a trace of that type of party focus in Mt Albert or Mt Roskill during the election. I saw more in Auckland Central where the Labour candidate did strive for party vote.

            The lack of that focus is why Mt Roskill and Mt Albert are barely managing to sustain their electorate vote despite the strange Auckland electorate boundaries redraw in the isthmus. Strengthening two already strong Labour electorates has simply managed to drop the previous party vote in both.

            It is completely stupid.

            • Enough is Enough

              Yeah I think we are in general agreement.

              And apologies, I will refrain from hijacking your thread re leadership or clear lack of, in this campaign.

              • the pigman


                I will refrain from hijacking your thread re leadership or clear lack of, in this campaign NOPE just kidding I’ll keep trying to hijack it!

            • Roger Calnan

              “Basically you were just being a partisan fool ignoring the issue that I raised and trying to use it to stick the knife in on a short-term issue.”

              And that there is the perfect example of why Labour will continue to fail. Someone doesn’t agree with you, so you use ad-hominems, or you ban them.

              You really should consider that perhaps people didn’t vote for Labour, purely because their policies are terrible. They are designed to appeal to minority groups at the expense of the majority of New Zealand. On top of that they have no respect or idea for how to run an economy in a challenging global and domestic environment. Running an economy on a credit binge like Clark and Cullen did is a piece of piss in comparison.

              Middle New Zealand is smart enough to know that having Labour and the Greens running the country, would slam our economy into the proverbial wall.

    • cricklewood 2.2

      I would think that gentrification in Mt Albert and Mt Roskill etc is playing a large part. They are now becoming very expensive suburbs to live in and the demographics are changing accordingly.

      Im in Mt Roskill, Phil knocked on my door 3 times in the run up to election day and he did push the party line. I suspect that the personal effort was rewarded in spite of the demograhic change swing against labour.

      • lprent 2.2.1

        The gentrification in Mt Albert happened long ago. Mostly back in the late 90s and early 00s as the infill housing went in.

        Are you a strong Labour voter? Why were you door knocked three times?

        There are about 40 thousand voters on the roll in Mt Roskill. Can you explain why someone who votes had that amount of attention?

        • cricklewood

          Usually Labour voted Green (disunity issues), In my neck of the woods at least Phil was extremely visible and campaigned hard and he did seem to be knocking on every door as far as I could see. The only thing I did find off putting was the megaphone announcement from the red wagon disturbing the peace at dinner time.

          I can’t answer as to why he was in my particular area so often but their is a reasonably large Indian community where I am and a number of his volunteers were Indian.

    • adam 2.3

      Look I don’t like labour, I think the sold working people down the river in 1984 and when they were re-elected for a 5th term, they were given the opportunity to fix that villainy – they chose not to. So sorry for them.

      That said, I thought Carmel Sepuloni proved she was more than a labour party hack. She has shown herself not to be a self absorbed ass, like the bulk of the current labour party MP’s.

      Carmel was visible in Kelston, standing on the streets waving the labour signs alongside her volunteers. And it was vote labour signs, not vote Carmel signs. Carmel answered questions and took an interest in her constituents. Actually she proved to be a real human being, who was not only empathetic with her constituents, but generally concerned about everybody.

      Trying to think when, Shearer or Goff for that matter have done that? Maybe once or twice to say they have done it – but actually alongside their own party members – piff. Labour supporters have a real dilemma facing them – they have some amazing people and the have some down right nasty, self absorbed, lovers of cupidity.

      I say – end it – it’s over – it’s been over for some time.

      LPRENT just showed why the rot, is worse than you may think – even worse than I thought. They have not adapted, they have not changed and they can’t. And worst of all, their is a cabal who won’t let it, and would rather lose an election to make sure that it never changes.

      • David H 2.3.1

        “And worst of all, their is a cabal who won’t let it, and would rather lose an election to make sure that it never changes.”

        And now they the ABW club will sit back and blame the leader, the opposition, the phase of the moon. But blame the face they look at every morning??? In your dreams. I wonder how they sleep at night knowing that they are complicit in the worst election loss in history.

        They need to be Found, Named, and SHAMED, each and every one, they need to have the scorn of the electorate heaped upon their loser heads, and price of their treachery should be resignation. Public and humiliating resignation.

        This should be the warning that is sent back to Caucus from the membership. Let them know they are on notice. They will be found out and named.

        • weka

          Bradbury’s take on the factions 15 months ago. Needs updating.

          Team Shearer (11)
          David Shearer, Phil Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard, David Parker, Damien O’Connor, Darien Fenton, Kris Fa’afoi, Ross Robertson, Maryan Street, Ruth Dyson.

          The Young and The Restless (8)
          Grant Robertson, Jacinda Ardern, Chris Hipkins, Phil Twyford, Clare Curran, Megan Woods, Ian Lees-Galloway, David Clark.

          Cunliffe’s People (11)
          David Cunliffe, Lianne Dalziel, Moana Mackey, Nanaia Mahuta, Louisa Wall, Sue Moroney, Rajen Prasad, Rino Tirikatene, Su’a William Sio, Raymond Huo, Carol Beaumont,

          Shane Jones, Andrew Little, Clayton Cosgrove


            • weka

              thanks. Still needs clarity on who the ABCs are I think (as opposed to those who want DC out. eg not sure where Little fits into it all).

              This morning in the NZ Herald, Claire Trevett lists the pro- and anti-Cunliffe factions:

              • Camp Cunliffe: David Cunliffe, Iain Lees-Galloway, Nanaia Mahuta, Sue Moroney, Carmel Sepuloni, Su’a William Sio, Louisa Wall.

              • Another candidate: Jacinda Ardern, David Clark, Clayton Cosgrove, Clare Curran, Kelvin Davis, Ruth Dyson, Kris Faafoi, Phil Goff, Chris Hipkins, Annette King, Andrew Little, Trevor Mallard, Stuart Nash, Damien O’Connor, David Parker, Grant Robertson, David Shearer, Rino Tirikatene, Phil Twyford, Megan Woods.

              • Unknown: Peeni Henare, Adrian Rurawhe, Jenny Salesa, Meka Whaitiri, Poto Williams.

        • Hami Shearlie

          Agreed David H!

    • Tom Gould 2.4

      Kelston was a new seat and only a booth by booth analysis on former and current boundaries would show the actual impact, if any, of the alleged “boisterous” campaign. It looks like facts being made to fit.

      Labour cannot get away from the fact that the electorate, after 7 elections, has pretty much worked out MMP. They can have both a good hard working local MP and the party that will best run the country for them. End of story.

      We actually have two elections. A first past the post election at electorate level for the local MP. And an MMP election at national level for the party vote. It seems that Labour is the one that doesn’t get it.

      But the public certainly do, hence the results on Saturday. It will come as no surprise that some on the ‘higher-ups’ in Labour think the public got it wrong, of course.

      • mickysavage 2.4.1

        Disagree about Kelston. The figures are …

        2011 party votes for Labour cast in polling booths now situated in the Kelston electorate – 10,461.

        2014 party votes for Labour cast in the Kelston electorate BEFORE specials are included – 10,647

        • greywarbler

          @Tom Gould
          “We actually have two elections. A first past the post election at electorate level for the local MP. And an MMP election at national level for the party vote. It seems that Labour is the one that doesn’t get it. ”

          That’s a perversion of the MMP system, even if it has happened this time. And if it has it’s an indication of Labour’s sickness. The MPs are virtually running as independents, but managing to keep the Labour name alive in the meantime while the Party itself is out of favour.

          Good on them now if they have, or that is the effect, but Labour must rectify this firmly and decisively with an overhaul and spring clean! Otherwise it will be sliding further and just present itself as a hollow echoing voice with no substance. If it doesn’t recover the MPs won’t have anything of substance at their back and the Party will be anarchic till it folds.

    • george Hendry 2.5

      Erm, Poto (Williams) actually.

  3. Che 3

    “the small and underfunded Labour HQ”
    I would start with questioning why HQ is so small and underfunded to start with. It appears to me that the messages from HQ simply do not resonant with sufficient people to allow a robust national campaign to be run and certainly not funded. This allows campaigning to be left to the whims of electorate candidates who I suspect understand their individual electorates better than HQ.
    In terms of your analysis is may also pay to think about National having 17 list seats and 31 electorate seats in 2005 and being in opposition, again having 17 list seats in 2008 but having 41 electorate seats and being in government.

    • Tracey 3.1

      how much did you donate to the party in the last 3 years?

      I donated about 250 to the greens

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      I would start with questioning why HQ is so small and underfunded to start with

      One major reason is that Labour sold off and cannabalised the majority of its property assets in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s.

    • lprent 3.3

      The way that it is organised at present, the Labour HQ are mostly there to talk to the members and electorates. That is why they have so few staff and the number of staff has been reducing.

      They have little to do with messages to the general public. That is currently mostly been done by the MPs and their parliamentary staff.

      Consequently as the number of list MPs reduces the Labour message tends to be biased increasingly on electorates rather than party.

      Your precepts are wrong. Perhaps you should restart?

    • AmaKiwi 3.4

      I am shocked to read, “Labour’s head office has a handful of people there. The parties entire paid staff is probably less than TWO hands these days. ” No wonder we can’t run an MMP campaign.

      I have suspected the Greens have a much more contemporary and DEMOCRATIC organizational model. I know Labour’s is antique.

      What part of, “One party member, one vote” does the caucus not understand?

  4. Tracey 4

    thanks for these observations. cunliffe cld resign from parl. get cosgrove to go toe to toe with groser for the seat…. I bet groser wins….but cosgrove resigns from parl if he loses.

  5. greywarbler 5

    If the electorates are so strong, then it explains why we continue getting MPs who are now understood to be right wing in their thinking, and unLabour-like, according to the historical definition and performance. Many must have the mindset of an electorate inner circle who are fossilised and supportive of someone who can talk good, and is matey in the right way perhaps.

    And if that sounds contemptuous, I believe that it is correct. I have noticed how a confident, outspoken person who understands little of importance to the ethos of the organisation, but thinks they know a lot and talk well, can sway a crowd for support.
    (ethos meaning – the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations.
    “a challenge to the ethos of the 1960s” synonyms: spirit, character, atmosphere, climate, prevailing tendency, mood, feeling, temper, tenor, flavour, essence,:google)

    And being able to hold an argument, taking the ‘fight’ to the other side and get the satisfaction of winning a point, too often overshadows the real task which is to win the power to get better policies for better lives and a better and stronger economy.

    You would think all those clever aspirational Nats would know this, but they have adopted the competition-winning model while the news of our weak economy builds and they have no ideas or interest even, in wise moves to raise us from the hole they’ve dug for us. Unfortunately they are prepared to stand on other people’s shoulders to ensure their noses are above the bog.

    The question is – do Labour want to support the working people and lower income interests and needs. Does its name now represent its aim? Does a party with a christian ethos represent one with a humanist ethos, or an agnostic one? Jim Anderton tried to get New Labour going and I saw traditional but older labour people at meetings. Are there not enough true labour-thinking people left in NZ? Are they now a minority with insufficient spirit and mateship to be able to combine and achieve a combative group?

    • Tracey 5.1

      Apparently $5 billion disappears from the economy as a rest of Fonterra’s announcement … and in the media it causes nary a blip. [Tidied up for you – MS]

      • greywarbler 5.1.1

        @ Tracey 9.53
        “as a ‘result’ of Fonterra’s announcement – is that what’s meant?

        Are you drawing a comparison with this wash of money coming and going in a financial tide connected to National, while Labour are operating on short rations?

      • dave 5.1.2

        5 billion gone key want referedum on flag to draw attention away from the rock star economy

  6. Antonina 6

    On the nail Lprent. The party vote message has not fully been accepted. The whole party is still focused on electorates.

    • The Lone Haranguer 6.1

      I disagree with the suggestion that Labour hasnt got a decent grasp or understanding of MMP and the importance of the party vote.

      But, having been in power (unlike the List Parties) they also have electorate name recognition for those who were in the last Labour led government, and particularly for those who held cabinet posts at that time.

      And voters vote on the basis of name recognition? Look at the vote for Garth McVicar to see a novice who got a bunch of votes when say, the unknown Harry The Hump may have only got 350 votes for the Conservatives.

      Now look at the “List only” parties for a minute. Can anyone (outside of Parliament) tell us who the number three person was on the NZFirst list at the 2011 election. That person was in parliament for the past three years. And for the greens, what sort of name recognition do the 2011 intake of Green MPs have in the electorates? Just see how few votes the Greens and the NZFirst get in the electorate races.

      The Greens may be winning the “Ideas Battle” with Labour, but its the Labour electorate MPs who keep the Labour name out there in their communities.

      • lprent 6.1.1

        Sure. But they are keeping the Labour name in *their* communities.

        Tell me, how is that going to help to get party vote in the communities across the country that they have to wind to be able to form a government.

        What you described is what I say is happening. Labour is doing the silo electorate spiral. They can sustain known names in their electorates but can’t ever win an election because all their resource goes into protecting the electorates that they have already won.

        No party vote = eventual oblivion. Look at how many seats United future had back in 2002. They have one now, and that is only because of National having a kindly rort.

  7. newsense 7

    I saw a number of party and vote positive billboards in Mt Roskill.

    • cricklewood 7.1

      +1, I think Phil Goff is been unfairly lumped in with others like Cosgrove in terms of an electorate only campaign.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        That may be…Goff is a consumate professional (most of the time)…the few hours after the election results showed Shearer and Nash as self-interested attention grabbing idiots though.

      • Foreign waka 7.1.2

        Phil Goff is a self made man, and all respect to him for that. He worked hard to get where he is today. However, he also shifted to the right (with Douglas) and later was part of a coup against Helen Clark. He is somehow involved every time when there is a move against the leadership. Not sure whether I would be able to trust him. To opportunistic for my taste.

    • lprent 7.2

      I did too. On the back side of the ones that said Vote Phil Goff.

      They certainly weren’t in the most effective prominent positions. You could happily go along the main drags and never see a Labour billboard.

      As I said, Phil is a traditionalist. I have no real problem with that except that the attitude is spreading amongst MPs that they need to protect their jobs rather than promoting the party. That is Peter Dunne territory.

  8. GregJ 8

    Whew – thanks lprent!

    Pretty depressing but brutally frank assessment. If it carries on down this path Labour is in danger of having overhang seats!

    I’m still trying to process the election result and see how the labour movement moves forward (or if it even can within the current structure). This piece seems to indicate a systematic, revolutionary overhaul of the party is required. That is lengthy, time-consuming and grueling work (which of course should have started in 2008 if not before). Abandoning the current party and starting anew would be another path but it would be difficult and the “Labour” name does theoretically still have some “brand” value & recognition.

    But at what stage does the “Labour” brand no longer have any political value? Parties do die and perhaps this one is terminal. Perhaps the progressive labour movement has to look elsewhere.

    • nadis 8.1

      i think the problem is summed up by “labour movement”. This has ceased to exist with union membership at 16% and those 16% mostly at the really shitty end of the employment market. In any case Labour now seems more captured by identity politics. What used to be the “labour movement” is now what I would call the “economically aspirational” and they don’t see Labour as the government that provides an aspirational message and economic environment. I think NZ has mostly moved on from working class/middle class/upper class to beneficiaries/working poor/aspirational/well off. The votes are in the aspirational group and that is who Key resonates with.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        The votes are in the aspirational group and that is who Key resonates with.

        Various global mega trends means that the ‘aspirashanul group’ is going to continue to shrink. Currently around 1/3 Kiwi adults.

        • nadis

          Really? Dont let your personal bias blind you to what actually is happening out there. You really think your undefined “various global mega trends” mean India and China are becoming less aspirational?

          REality is average standard of living on a global basis has rise dramatically over the last 50,40, 30, 20 or 10 years and is showing no signs of slowing.

          • Colonial Viper

            “Showing no signs of slowing”

            Dude, that propaganda is so disconnected to the reality for the 80%, you really need an update. You should start with finding out how many million sq feet of retail real estate has been abandoned in the USA in the last 10 years.

    • lprent 8.2

      Actually we’d bet better off to hunt for overhangs.

      If the Labour MPs continue down the current path, then probably the best thing to do for the left is to accelerate it. An overhang may be the best approach to effectively raising the left vote.

      As it stands at present a party vote for Labour appears to be unlikely to raise the number of left MPs in the house.

  9. nadis 9

    i cant get my head around this concept at all. Under MMP why would any party not have as their overriding focus the party vote? The fact that the question is even being discussed with respect to labour is clear and incontrovertible proof that the Labour Party organisation is willfully incompetent. My 11 year old son has a better grasp of MMP than the labour party.

    • greywarbler 9.1

      @ nadis
      I tried considering this at 2 4 1 1 in response to Tom Gould. Perhaps this would relate to your thinking.

  10. Che 10

    While I’m not disagreeing with you about the competence or otherwise of the organisation I still think it’s worth bearing in mind that over the past 4 elections National have consistently had twice as many electorate seats as list seats and they appear to be doing pretty well under MMP.

    • s y d 10.1

      Che, look at the stats – Labour has 5 times more electorate than list….FIVE.

      • Che 10.1.1

        Yes – I obviously didn’t make my point clearly so apologies. The post gives an opinion that Labour hasn’t worked out MMP due to ‘the lack of attention given to the Party vote’. While such attention is probably right for the minor parties (Greens, NZ First as referenced above) I’m not convinced this is the key to governing. I use the example of the Nat’s use of electorate seats as a stable base – from 2005-2008 they had no increase in list seats but an increase of 10 electorate seats and formed a government. Even if you look back to 2002 the Nat’s have increased their list seats by 14 from then but their electorate seats by 20.

    • nadis 10.2

      I rest my case. The ratio of electorate seats to list seats is about as meaningful an indicator as the colour of my belly button lint. The only ratio that matters is the number of seats held by a party to the total number of seats in parliament, also known as the party vote.

  11. Puckish Rogue 11

    Are you feeling ok? This was quite a good post (by good I mean looking at the fundamental issues and not merely blaming everyone else) I’m quite surprised

    however judging on past history probably nothing will come of it, shame really

  12. Saarbo 12

    Thanks Iprent. This is the sort of analysis that caucus need to be focusing on, I agree regarding labours focus on the electorate vote. But also we were completely out marketed by the nats, they had their hoardings up on 14th july when they shouldn’t have gone up until the 20th and they went hard, they had broad spectrum coverage and it was obvious early on that the Nats were going for the govern alone option, I guess they had too. Our Party Vote hoardings were full of detailed pictures which on a 100km highway were a waste of time. So there are no shortage of issues as to why we missed so many voters. Who at head office designed the party vote hoardings? I get the impression that plenty of people are running for cover leaving Cunliffe to take all of the blame.

  13. Anne 13

    Jim Anderton expresses his views on Radio NZ. Well worth a listen:


    Whatever else you might say about him, this is the man who grew the party membership to a whopping 80,000 plus in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Factionalism as we know it today didn’t really exist then although it began to develop soon afterwards. That is when the membership numbers started to dramatically fall and is now barely 10,000. There are other reasons that contributed to the decrease of course, but in the 1980s many formerly solid Labour people were frozen out of the party.

    A significant part of the problem was the rise of “identity politics” which eventually claimed a stranglehold on the party. It wasn’t called that back in the 80s but if one was not prepared to align to a specific group – be it gender based, ethnic based, tertiary education based, union based etc… – then one was left out in the cold. It happened to me. These disparate groups slowly took over the party and their individual barrows often became paramount over and above the concerns of ordinary people struggling to make a living.

    I returned to the Labour Party in 2001 in the hope the identity based factions would be dissolving and the membership operating again as one inter-related group working for the party rather than merely pushing their respective barrows. It didn’t take me long to appreciate things hadn’t really changed, but I have persisted in the hope that, along with other like-minded members, we could finally bring about the necessary change. It looked like it was starting to happen with the big shake-up of 2009/10 but the identity groups have proved still largely in control.

    A very good example of this was the much pushed meme that David Shearer’s impressive “back story” was going to catapault Labour into the stratosphere of popularity. No recognition of the fact he was politically inexperienced, and still had an enormous amount to learn. It showed a lack of common sense and an enormous disconnect with reality – not to mention the damage it ended up doing to David Shearer. (One day DS may realise DC was not the cause of his downfall, but it was members in his own team)

    My patience is now fast running out!

    • greywarbler 13.1

      The term pluralism may apply to NZ political thinking now more than the democratic ideal.
      This summary of pluralism does seem to relate to what we are looking at in NZ and may explain what seems strange when trying to explain it in historical comparisons.

      Pluralism is the theory that a multitude of groups, not the people as a whole, govern the United States. These organizations, which include among others unions, trade and professional associations, environmentalists, civil rights activists, business and financial lobbies, and formal and informal coalitions of like-minded citizens, influence the making and administration of laws and policy. Since the participants in this process constitute only a tiny fraction of the populace, the public acts mainly as bystanders….

      Nor do pluralists think that representative democracy works as well in practice as in theory. Voting is important, to be sure. But Americans vote for representatives, not for specific policy alternatives.
      A candidate’s election cannot always be interpreted as an endorsement of a particular course of action.


      • Anne 13.1.1

        Yes, greywarbler, the excerpt is a good example of what is happening here, but it’s not quite what I was trying to describe. I was referring to specialist lobby groups within Labour whose over-arching ambitions was/is to use the party to gain personal power sometimes at the expense of the party as a whole. If you dared to disagree with them over anything (as I did) you’re out – goneburger. I’m sure Jenny Kirk could tell a few stories.

        • greywarbler

          @ Anne
          Interesting. Thanks for the clip. Do you think that Jim Anderton could do the left commentary instead of Mike Williams? Jim has a good critical and analytical head.
          I have done some work for Labour and noticed that I got taken for granted, as if I was thought of as a grunt like the USA army call its soldiers on the ground.

        • Jenny Kirk

          @ Anne – 100% agree ! Thanks !

    • Chooky 13.2

      thanks Anne…really interesting….pity you didnt become an MP…I cant help thinking that there are a lot of boys games getting played in the Labour Party…and like you I am sick of it

      ….my Mother who is in her 80s and has voted Labour all her life….says next time, if they dont keep David Cunliffe on, she is voting Green…my sister also is thinking of voting Green

  14. Adrian 14

    Saarbo, I agree about the piss poor design, can’t agree about the timeline. Billboards become wallpaper after 3 weeks, nobody notices, ( advertising campaign only run for 3-6 weeks for that reason.
    I got really angry about the lack of Party Vote billboards and an over emphasis on candidates, just feeding their meglamania, sure they’ve got a lot of “skin in the game” but it’s MMP FFS.
    One candidate told me not to put up any DC pictures because ” the candidates hadhad a meeting and agreed not too, inferring that the directive had come from party central.
    If that’s the case that nest of dickheads should be the first to go. Moira Coatsworth remember was one of the instigators of the election losing ” mam-Ban”

    • Anne 14.1

      Hang on Adrian.

      You say : “the candidates had a meeting and agreed not [to put up DC pictures]”. I’ll guarantee you that directive did not come from “party central”. My impression is that some of the candidates have been operating outside of party central edicts. This is the problem.

      As for Moira Coatsworth and the man-ban. Where did you get the idea she was any part of that conference remit dubbed the man-ban by Labour’s enemies? It came initially from an Auckland LEC from memory and had nothing to do with Moira. She has no responsibility over what LEC’s submit to the remit process. Her job is organising the party’s over-all activities.

  15. Adrian 15

    Anne, that’s what I was told in a very heated discussion with a candidate while I was putting up their billboards. I suspected at the time that it must have been a ” private ” arrangement because it would have been suicide if it had come out of party central, but it was implied that that was so.
    I was under the impression that the remit had very strong backing fro the womans division ( as told to me by a woman in that cohort , no names I don’t want to identify anyone), she was defending the decision at an LEC meeting after I asked WTFWYThinking. She said Moira was right behind it.

    • Anne 15.1

      Moira may have agreed to support it Adrian but I’m sure she had no part in preparing it.

      For sure, the remit would have emanated in the first place from the womens division, but I’m sure Moira would not have dared criticise it – not in their hearing anyway.

  16. The Lone Haranguer 16

    “One candidate told me not to put up any DC pictures because ” the candidates hadhad a meeting and agreed not too, inferring that the directive had come from party central”

    Adrian, I read that as the decision was made by the candidates, quite possibly with no input at all from Labour HQ.

    And Anne, I read a quote n the past few days that said “never introduce a policy that can be lampooned”

    And the “Man Ban” was lampooned mercilessly. It wasnt intelligent politics at all by Labour.

    And now Labour are playing civil war when the whole country needs them to be her majestys loyal opposition. The country deserves better from Labour

    • Anne 16.1

      26 September 2014 at 12:34 pm

      And Anne, I read a quote n the past few days that said “never introduce a policy that can be lampooned”

      Couldn’t agree more. I voted against the remit because the wording of it was suicidal in my view. And so it turned out to be. Read my 14 and 14.1.1. Therein lie some of the problems.

      • AmaKiwi 16.1.1

        @ Anne

        Example of Labour policies that are easily lampooned. I favor the capital gains tax but it is a huge threat to many Kiwis for whom a rental property or three is their ONLY pension scheme.

        Labour would not have lost so many middle class votes if their message had been, “We will look at the tax regime to see if it needs to be adjusted in the interests of fairness.”

        You can’t promise to cut off someone’s balls and then expect he will vote for you.

        • KJT

          The retirement age of 67 went down like cold sick with working class Kiwi’s.

          • Colonial Viper

            I don’t understand why people didn’t vote Labour when Labour was so clearly “fiscally responsible.”

        • Anne

          Labour would not have lost so many middle class votes if their message had been, “We will look at the tax regime to see if it needs to be adjusted in the interests of fairness.”


          Some will say its easy to say with the benefit of hindsight, but some of us saw it virtually from day one, and moreover the evidence among family and associates more than backed up my concerns. But to say anything amounted to whistling in the wind…

          Edit: and after all – as greywarbler put it – we’re just the grunts. 🙂

          • Colonial Viper

            The Thorndon Bubble Labour crowd know best; If our input is wanted, I’m sure they’ll ask.

            • Anne

              Oh well, in that case I better go back to knitting – if I could remember how…

              • greywarbler

                @ Anne 4.29
                Anyone who can think their way through the tangle of politics can put one needle through a loop and pull a bit of wool through, easy peasy.
                Anyone who hasn’t been driven loopy by the election and its aftermath has been strengthened through fire. Knitting will be a doddle after that Anne.

          • Chooky

            you should help the Greens …they are very nice to their workers

  17. Tom Gould 17

    Take a look at the so-called Labour south Auckland stronghold of Mangere, Manukau East and Manurewa. These three seats secured roughly 43,000 Labour party votes in 2008, roughly 50,000 Labour party votes in 2011, and roughly 40,000 Labour party votes in 2014.

    The total number of party votes cast in these three seats in 2014 was roughly 10,000 fewer than in 2011. The Labour party vote across the three seats was also roughly 10,000 fewer than 2011. The three Labour candidates secured roughly 10,000 fewer votes than in 2011.

    Similarly, if you look at the six Christchurch electorates the Labour party vote was down roughly 7,000 votes compared with 2011. The six Labour candidates secured roughly 6,000 fewer votes that in 2011.

    So it looks like the decline in both candidate and party votes from 2011 to 2014 was pretty uniform in these areas.

  18. brian 18

    Looking at Simple statistics for each electorate and saying
    (a) Higher Party Vote than Candidate vote = “Good Guys” and
    (b) Higher Candidate vote than Party Vote = “Treacherous Selfish Bad Guys”
    is more than somewhat flawed

    Newer, or underperforming MPS, will tend to have a higher Party vote than Candidate Vote

    Older established MPs, or MPS who have proven to be hard working at an electorate level, will tend to have a higher Candidate vote than Party vote

    People like Goff and Shearer, who have been Party Leaders will have high name recognition. They are very likely to pick up a large number of Candidate votes from voters who are committed party voters to another party.

    My Party vote determines which Government I want. My candidate vote goes to the most deserving candidate, regardless of Party.

    People who are less political junkies than people on this blog site, are more likely to vote simply on the names they know. They are likely to know the Party they want. Their Candidate vote could go to the “name” they know, or simply double tick on the basis of Party affliation.

    There are many different ways people vote.

  19. Blackcap 19

    what if the left worked together under MMP and used this strategy. Labour go for the electorate vote only and get their party to vote Green. Thus Labour get say 27 electorate MP’s and the Greens get 35% of the party vote and thus get 40 odd MP’s. That would give the left 67 seats in the house. Or am I missing something?

  20. Adrian 20

    Anne, I believe you on the Gender-mandering, but as President she should have taken Mike Williams advice and warned that the policy was crazy even more so as I vaguely recall someone saying that for the sake of 14 votes in 2011 Carmel would have made the caucus about 48%, or am I wrong.
    I am still pissed off about the lack of DC Party vote billboards and the bullshit story that I was sold. I am still not convinced that it didn’t come from Wellington.
    Anybody have a similiar experience?
    The lack of Labour leader billboards was identified as a major mistake in 2011.
    Maybe it’s time for a good old Eastern Block style purge of the aparatchiks.

    • Colonial Viper 20.1


      Plenty of identity politics activists in both Labour and Greens still wouldn’t change a thing, however. The irony is that Labour’s party vote was so low, that the gender balance in the Labour caucus got screwed anyhows. And I can’t see how making abortion law reform a major policy launch helped the Greens with their core conservation/environmentally focussed middle class base either.

      It’s like both parties forgot how to talk to their core constituencies.

      • KJT 20.1.1

        It wasn’t identity politics that lost Labour the vote.

        And. Greens polices are because the consensus of members decide it is the right thing to do. It is called, Democracy!

        It is way past time that women’s rights in this matter were respected.

        It looks like National have found another treat to throw progressives way, anyway.
        To shut us up while they steal the country.
        A few pokes at reducing child poverty a little. While they ensure those children will continue poor as adults. “Look over here, aren’t we good, we are feeding some kids”. “But we will continue to make sure their parents do not earn enough to feed their own kids.

        Though, as with other rights, any progress is better than none.

        • Colonial Viper

          It wasn’t identity politics that lost Labour the vote.

          Two polls before the election showed a massive gender differential in Labour Party support. Even if you are correct, that gender differential needs to be explained. It probably cost Labour 2% to 3% on Election Day.

          • weka

            Have you considered that you might be conflating identity politics with gender differences in voting patterns.

      • Chooky 20.1.2

        @ CV…”I can’t see how making abortion law reform a major policy launch helped the Greens with their core conservation/environmentally focussed middle class base either”

        …..the abortion issue would have attracted the feminist women vote and most Green women are well educated , thinking middle class

        …it would NOT have attracted the Catholic vote…, but then that is not core Green constituency….and most NZ men are secular and would not care

        …Greens are made up of feminist women….. so yup abortion law reform was a big PolIcy WIN for the Greens

        …and I suspect it would have drawn in well educated thinking young women as well as new Green voters….really in an overpopulated world contraception with abortion back up makes sense

  21. Brian 21

    The labour party is a neo liberal party!The middle ground according to most is to move further right!. It might seem counter intuitive but with nearly a million people not voting it would be logical to move left.Labour are full of M.P.’s who would be better of in Act,[the party of arseholes,c#*nts,traitors].The left need to co-ordinate with each other,and forget the m.s.m.No party has offered a fiscally sustainable economic policy.Running a surplus when private debt is 146% of gdp is height economic illiteracy .Its only a matter of time before that collapses.It will not matter who they elect as leader,without a long term plan that eschews neo liberalism .They are looking at extinction. National will privatise everything before the next election in time for wall street to start running N.Z. inc.The T P P A will go ahead if they can bribe N Z first.The reason Key would want as many parties supporting him in this endeavor would lend more legitimacy.You won’t have to worry about voting next election.

    • karol 21.1

      Brian. We already have a “Brian” commenting here. It would stop confusion if you altered your handle.

  22. brian 22

    The above comment appears to be from a new poster?, and is not mine

  23. Adrian 23

    I’ve got the same problem. I’ve been commenting since the very start and just occasionally another Adrian turns up. I don’t really mind as he invariably makes more sense than me.
    P.s, Where is David Lange when we need him, I just heard Sean Plunkett quote his classic ” half the people in Labour are committed, the other half needs to be “.

    • Chooky 23.1

      I am waiting for another Chooky ..as long as it is NOT a right wing Chooky…then the feathers would fly!…another Chooky would have to be Chook2…because I am the Chooky

  24. bryan 24

    Fact check vs anecdote.
    Labour Isthmus electorates put much of their eday resources into phoning the entire isthmus, including non-Labour electorates. The 80 seat phone bank also phoned all of South Auckland (so that they could maximise their own door-knocking) and Taupo. Pretty good party vote hunting!
    In Mt Albert, all supplied party vote hoardings went up in good positions and in a standard ratio but 20 extra ordered from HQ never turned up.

  25. Jane 25

    If Labour’s electorate MPs had been in a separate electorate only party, and nothing else had changed, the Maori Party would have chosen the government: https://imgur.com/a/glV5e

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