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NRT: MMP, electorates, and misaligned incentives

Written By: - Date published: 3:18 pm, September 22nd, 2014 - 165 comments
Categories: electoral systems, First Past the Post, greens, labour, MMP, Politics - Tags:

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn.

Amongst the post-election entrail reading, I’ve seen a couple of people suggest that one of the reasons labour lost was due to a lack of tactical voting by Greens. If only Green supporters had held their nose and voted tactically in Auckland Central, Christchurch Central, Ohariu, and other close electorate races, the left would be better off.

These people do not understand MMP.

In MMP, there is one vote that matters: your party vote. Unless you live in Epsom, Oahriu, Te Tai Tokerau or Waiariki (electorates where strong candidates from minor parties could have brought in more MPs), your electorate vote is irrelevant to the outcome. All it does is select who your local representative is. But because the overall distribution of seats in Parliament is set by the party vote, it doesn’t change the final numbers unless there’s an overhang.

And to use some specific examples: Green voters voting tactically for Jacinda Ardern in Auckland Central or Clayton Cosgrove in Waimakariri wouldn’t have changed anything. These MPs would simply have become electorate MPs rather than list ones. Green voters voting tactically for Labour candidates in Ohariu or Christchurch Central would simply have traded Virginia Anderson or Tony Milne for Andrew Little or Sue Moroney (the last two people elected on Labour’s list). In Ohariu, it would also have got rid of Peter Dunne, but as he’s not bringing any extra MPs in, that’s really just a question of how much you dislike him.

Basically, under MMP, unless you live in one of a handful of seats, electorates don’t matter to the outcome, so you might as well vote for whichever candidate you like best.

What electorates do matter for is the prestige, survival and political careers of individual electorate candidates. And in the case of Labour, with a mix of electorate and list MPs and a strong FPP heritage, this causes misaligned incentives. The party wants party votes, but candidates – and especially candidates who have a low list ranking, or who have refused to go on the list – want your candidate vote. And so Labour had the joy of seeing a bunch of its electorate candidates put themselves first and run electorate-only campaigns, while letting the party vote wither. Their “success” in holding or taking electorates made no difference to the outcome, but did cost their party new blood (and the ability to get it through mid-term retirements) through the list. In some cases, it would have been better for the party if those candidates had lost, because while their list replacements are mediocre, they could at least have been forced out to make way for the new blood the party desperately needs.

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165 comments on “NRT: MMP, electorates, and misaligned incentives ”

  1. fambo 1

    I wouldn’t consider myself toooo dumb but I only found out a month ago that only the party vote is worth the paper it is ticked on as that determines how many seats a party gets in Parliament. I think everyone is starting to wake up to this fact, and all parties will be pushing hard for the party vote by the next election. The Greens have enjoyed the luxury of being the only party to push hard for the party vote in the past but the competition is going to get much more stiff as Labour and National focus primarily on the party vote.

    I have to say that in my opinion this is a bigger flaw in MMP than coat-tailing or too high a threshhold. I’d never want to go back to First Past the Post but it would be good to alter the system to give greater weight to electorate seats. Not sure if that can be done in a MMP framework or not.

    • karol 1.1

      I don’t agree about giving greater weight to electorate seats. They now determine who represents a geographical area, but not who represents the whole country.

      People often move residence during electoral terms. Their party vote ensures the government still has people who represent their interests.

      • fambo 1.1.1

        Not disagreeing with your point of view as such. As a Green Party party voter, I gave my party vote to the Labour candidate who I thought was pretty good just so he got in instead of the National Candidate. But I think the Green Party candidate would have been even better. And so next time I might just my vote to him as it really doesn’t signify much in the greater scheme of th ings as to whether my electorate has a Green or Labour MP.

        However, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Greens not standing a candidate in a seat like Ohariu where Dunne winning the electorate seat was crucial. I understand the Green’s couldn’t find a candidate for Palmerston North so didn’t stand one. The sky didn’t cave in, so I can’t see why not having a Green candidate in Ohariu would have been a big deal.

        NB When you stand a candidate you always attract votes even if the candidate tells Green voters not to vote for them.

        • Jones

          I did exactly the same (Ohariu, perchance?). Wouldn’t this be considered tactical if it was to knock out a small party that was polling under 5%?

          I imagine the simplest tactic for each party, if relevant to the electorate, is to simply not stand a candidate where it’s clear another party’s candidate can achieve the outcome they want better than they can do it themselves … no drama.

        • Lanthanide

          “I gave my party vote to the Labour candidate who I thought was pretty good just so he got in instead of the National Candidate. …. it really doesn’t signify much in the greater scheme of th ings as to whether my electorate has a Green or Labour MP.”

          Sure, if it was between a Labour and a Green MP. But you just said yourself, if more people followed your direction, the National MP would have gotten in.

          So now you have a choice between a Labour MP and a National MP as your local representative, which does matter (at least a little).

          • Jones

            The “Labour” MP should be the representative from any party that is polling the strongest in the electorate where that is going to achieve the outcome wanted. That’s why at the last minute the call went out from parties opposed to Hone to vote for Kelvin. If other parties seem to get it, why can’t Labour?

    • lprent 1.2

      I’d never want to go back to First Past the Post but it would be good to alter the system to give greater weight to electorate seats.

      That is already happening anyway. As the population increases so do the number of electorate seats on a formula that is based on the roll in the south island (minimum number of seats) and the number of the people on the Maori roll.

      That is why we started with 65 electorate seats out of 120 in 1996 and I think that we are now up to 71 out of 120 as of the 2014 election.

      • Lanthanide 1.2.1

        Actually the number of seats is based on the population of the south island. The maori seats are then in turn based upon that figure in a process I didn’t fully understand but didn’t bother to get my head around.

        • lprent

          Actually the number of seats is based on the population of the south island.

          It is pretty easy. Here is the short version done from memory..

          1. There are 16 electorate seats mandated for the SI. So they take the general roll population figures for the SI and divide by 16 to give a South Island general electorate seat population. This is the result of some bloody awful compromises between the provinces back in the 19th century.
          2. They then take the North Island general electorate population and divide it by the SI seat population. That gives the number of North island general electorates
          3. They then take the Maori roll population and divide it by the SI seat population. That gives the number of Maori electorates
          4. They then take the number of electorates away from 120. This gives the number of list seats.
          5. There are a lot of other crusty finangles in there, but I can’t be bothered with them

          This is so obvious. It cements the South Island as the centre of the known universe, has lots of crusty history attached, and provides a lot of fun for polsci students…

          • The Lone Haranguer

            THank you Lynn for that easy to understand summary. Much appreciated.

            By my calculations, there are two situations where the electorate vote is more important than the party vote:
            1) where a small party is under 5% and winning an electorate will get them into Parliament – thats why Epsom is such a big deal to the Nats and why Labour attacking Hone in TTT was electoral stupidity
            2) in Ohariu where voting in a Labour candidate would deny the Nats one of their support “parties”. Yes it would bump the lowest Labour list person from Parliament but that may be a price worth paying

          • Doug Mackie

            Perhaps it has changed but my understanding of the 1996 situation was that the population of the SI is not in reference to the general roll but is in reference to census night.

            If on census night all but 16 people moved to the NI then the number of electorates would be equal to the population of NZ. I believe that in return for a MP salary a lot of people would visit (or say they had visited) the NI on census night.

            The only drawback would appear to be that the non-16 SI folk would probably need to make their NI exile permanent in order to represent their electorates.

            • lprent

              The general roll is what people of voting age are in if they don’t opt for the Maori roll option on the census. That is what is used to calculate electorates.

              You are thinking of the registered voters

          • Annie

            Actually the South Island is the centre of the universe lol :))

    • Lanthanide 1.3

      “I think everyone is starting to wake up to this fact, and all parties will be pushing hard for the party vote by the next election. ”

      National always has, except maybe in 2002. Labour always did under Helen Clark. It’s only in 2011 and 2014 that they’ve run such invisible party vote campaigns, even after this was pointed as one of the major faults in the 2011 campaign they largely repeated it again this time.

      • Colonial Viper 1.3.1

        Thanks Lanth. Your comment as a non-Labour member observer is useful.

        I’ve already said on twitter that the Campaign Manager (who did both 2011 and 2014) needs to go. Both Dunedin South and Dunedin North members complained to head office last time re: the shite party vote campaign out of Wellington including hopeless signs. But as you said 2014 rolled around and the “we know best” crowd in Labour Wellington did it all over again.

      • lprent 1.3.2

        The party and the campaign has limited leverage against electorate MPs….

        • Colonial Viper

          yeah pretty bloody limited in some cases.

          • Annie

            But we can make sure that the grass roots are active in electorate campaigns. Our LEC is already gearing up for 2017. We are going to make sure we get a campaign manager who understands MMP. And if our electorate MP doesn’t like it, they can appoint their own one, and we can run a dual campaign – one for the party vote, and one for the electorate vote.

  2. karol 2

    I partly agree with the front page comment that electorate campaigns provide a good base for campaigning for the party.

    However, the Labour Party seems to have failed to adapt that advantage to a 21st century MMP environment.

    Greens could do with better electorate based organisation and campaigning.

    Labour could do with losing the tribal Labour attitude of entitlement to left wing, and certain electorate votes. They need to be more flexible and collaborative with other parties.

  3. aerobubble 3

    Sorry. I know that some analysis, like the one this morning on National Radio believe in the single mindset politics. That every National voter thinks exactly the same and voted against a CGT, which was a puzzle to them. Or that national voters know something that non-Key voters don’t, as if they were all connected in some mind control trance. As Key put it, kept the faith. You will never get zombies to change their nature, but please don’t pick up their ideas.

    The simple reason why some people voted Green not Labour in the electorates is because they were National supporters who have gone Green maybe. Just as there are far too many Labour voters who don’t party vote Green. If Labour had gotten zero party votes, and all their electorate seats they did, then Greens would have 24% of the 130? odd parliament in addition. And Key would have lost.

    Of course this could only happen once, it would force National to split into to parties. Can you imagine have two center right parties rather than the one who can go off to the far right.

    The party vote is the important one, the electorate is the icing if you are smart. And then you have to ask, maybe voters are, and like only giving half heartly to Labour. Labour could just be so fowl that they merely are picking up the smart voters who know the country needs a Labour opposition, even if it stinks.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      “of the 130? odd parliament”

      Labour won 27 electorates, so it would be 147 seats, 148 if you count Dunne’s.

  4. Papa Tuanuku 4

    Post seems to underestimate one point. Green candidate votes in Ohariu could have knocked Dunn out altogether, weakening the National balance of power. IMO, Greens should not have had candidate there. If IMP got in, left would have two seats there, and without Dunn, the balance would have swung to the left.

    Takeaway Dunn

    Add 2 IMP MPs.

    3 is the BoPower.

    • aerobubble 4.1

      Imagine Cunliffe calling Norman and asking, please don’t stand a candidate. Why didn’t he? Well because Dunne can support a Labour government too.

      i.e. why shoot at things that have a small payoff.

      I loath Dunne, but even I see better targets.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        Getting UF out of Parliament permanently and having a Labour MP for Ōhāriu is not a “small payoff” it’s fucking STRATEGIC.

        Geeeezus christ.

        Why didn’t he? Well because Dunne can support a Labour government too.

        Brilliantly clever Labour strategy. Happens to also screw your own hardworking candidate in the electorate like they are totally worthless.

        So how did that work out?

      • Jones 4.1.2

        Good grief, for real…? It’s numbers. Put your weight behind someone who’s going to bring in more seats that just one, as a coalition partner.

      • weka 4.1.3

        “Imagine Cunliffe calling Norman and asking, please don’t stand a candidate. Why didn’t he? Well because Dunne can support a Labour government too.”

        Cunliffe doesn’t have to call anyone. All Labour had to do was either not stand someone in TTT, or stand someone very low profile. And the GP could have done the same in Ōhāriu. Both in Epsom. There doesn’t have to be any dealing, just smart, tactical thinking and action.

        + what CV says about strategic. Even if all those things wouldn’t have affected this election they would have been good strategy for the left over the medium and long term. Fuck unity, let’s just try co-operation and thinking about the pan-left instead of our own little fiefdoms (looking at you DC, who now regrets not holding hands with the GP on the same day as he tells the IMP to fuck off :roll:)

    • GregJ 4.2

      I think people are too easily seduced by the 900+ vote majority in Ōhariu into thinking Ginny Andersen could have won.

      Look at the party vote distribution – 16,686 out of 32,698 voted National (leaving aside the 977 Conservative votes, 222 ACT & 241 United Future). The combined Green/Lab Party vote was 12,306. If there had been any hint of an accomodation between the Greens & Labour at the candidate level then the 5,000+ National voters who voted for Hudson would have simply switched to keep Dunne in. (If there’s one thing National voters know it’s how to follow directions from “Dear Leader”).

      Ōhariu is not the old Onslow seat, its not even Ohariu-Belmont. It’s now a firmly National seat. Dunne has simply moved right as his seat has moved right. When the Hairdo retires it will return a National member (unless they stitch up some deal with the Conservatives to coattail the Conservative vote).

      I’m not saying that tactical voting isn’t important – and that the Left needs to work out when it is important and when it isn’t (and that also means that sometimes Labour is going to have to surrender an electorate seat to someone else on the Left – oh I don’t know – say a seat like TTT!).

  5. simon 5

    Except its easier to garner party votes in the elections ahead when you have a left sitting electoral MP. Nikki Kaye now has 3 years to cement national support in central AK. So in my opinion, your central thesis is totally wrong.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      I agree. Electorate MPs are part of the Party’s wider marketing strategy.

    • mickysavage 5.2

      I bet you do not see any single vote Nikki Kaye billboards or pamphlets tho. National are very good at maximising party vote.

    • Except its easier to garner party votes in the elections ahead when you have a left sitting electoral MP.

      The statistics disagree. Labour lost the party vote even in traditional safe seats like Mt Albert, Mt Roskill, New Lynn, Mana, Rongotai and Wellington Central. These seats all had well-established and well-liked candidates who faced no real trouble being re-elected. And each of them hemmoraghed party votes.

      • Colonial Viper 5.3.1


        • Mike

          Dunedin South?
          The seat that got the fourth highest number of Labour party votes in the country?

          “Winning” the party vote in an electorate is irrelevant, as it often depends on whether the Greens are strong in the seat or not (and the Greens are most definitely not strong in South Auckland or the Maori seats)

          Contributing the maximum number of party votes you can to the nationwide pot of votes is what counts – Dunedin South contributed nearly twice the number of party votes for Labour as almost two Maori seats where Labour ‘won’ the party vote

          • Colonial Viper

            in 5.3 Idiot/Savant listed a number of traditionally safe red seats where the Labour party vote was lost despite a well liked, well established MP being present. I added Dunedin South to the list because it met all the criteria.

            If you don’t think Dunedin South belongs on the above list, please explain why you feel it does not belong on there.

            Is it not a traditionally safe Labour seat? Was the party vote not actually lost (for the second time in a row)? Does the seat not have a well established and well liked MP?

        • Paul Campbell

          Dunedin South is an interesting thing to analyse – some points:

          – the National party vote is roughly the same as the National electorate vote – that means that all those NZF votes came from Labour (or voted for the Labor candidate), Labour would do well to reach out to its older supporters over the next 3 years

          – About half of the Green voters voted for the Labour candidate, they understood that their candidate had no chance of winning a FPP electorate election and chose the left candidate they felt could win – this was a smart move (I did the same in Dunedin North)

          – Finally while National got the highest party vote, they didn’t win it, the party vote is an MMP vote and is about forming coalitions – National didn’t get as much as Labour+Greens(+NZF) – they lost the party vote in South Dunedin

      • Tangled_up 5.3.2

        Yes but in these electorates all but Wellington Central had a party vote a good part higher than the party vote in electorates Labour didn’t win.

      • mickysavage 5.3.3

        New Lynn is a quite diverse area with a decile ten part (Titirangi). In a bad year it is a National seat. For instance they held the seat in 1990 and 1996.

        Us locals are doing our best to keep it as a stronghold. We lost 1.5% points of party vote this election which was not so bad …

    • Ron 5.4

      Except if your electorate candidates refuse to put up party vote signs or at best put them on the reverse of their own signs.

  6. mickysavage 6

    Agreed entirely. If I was in control of the party every candidate including Grant Robertson would campaign only for the party vote. Getting Grant elected but seeing party votes for Labour in the low 20s is absolutely ludicrous. National realise this. We need to as well.

    • Anne 6.1

      During the campaign period, I drove through Mt Albert (my old stomping ground) several times and the one thing I noticed is: there were plenty of David Shearer bill boards, but I never saw one party vote bill board showing David Cunliffe. This was in stark contrast to other electorates I passed through where the Labour hoardings appeared to be a mix of local candidate and Cunliffe bill boards. I thought that was interesting.

      • karol 6.1.1

        Seriously?! Candidates standing for a party, and not campaigning hard for their party are traitors. They should stand down and let people in who do support their party.

        • Colonial Viper

          There was a bit of that in Dunedin South; relatively few ‘Cunliffe vote positive’ signs around. And we lost the party vote to National by almost 2000. In Dunedin. Frakking. South.

          • Ergo Robertina

            Labour lost the party vote in D South by more than 2300 votes. But National’s vote count was more than 300 less than in 2011. This city is getting a battering so it would have been incredible had more people voted for National.
            The Greens and NZ First went up, 700 more for the former and nearly 600 extra for Winston.
            Labour’s Dunedin policies were good, and the billboards on them specifically were simple and eye catching. But without an effective party vote campaign across the board, it was never going to be enough.

          • Paul Campbell

            No, you didn’t lose the party vote in South Dunedin (that’s just repeating national’s propaganda) – the party vote is an MMP vote it’s all about making coalitions Labour_Greens(+NZF) walked all over National in South Dunedin

        • Ant

          I can back this up, only ever saw Shearer signs.

        • Anne

          I was making a point of looking for them. It doesn’t rule out the possibility that there were one or two (off the beaten track as it were) but I saw none. I also passed through part of Mt. Roskill and didn’t see any there either – at least not on Mt. Albert Rd which runs through the middle of the electorate. Several of Phil Goff though.

          It suggests to me the old self-entitled gang are still at it….

      • Jenny Kirk 6.1.2

        Look at the Party votes for each electorate, and compare them to 2011 Party votes.
        And then look at the candidate votes – and you’ll see what happened in some strongly held Labour seats. The Labour candidate won, but their Party vote went down.

    • Jones 6.2

      Yep… looks to me as though National is camping out in the left and right of centre. They are governing to public opinion and not even trying to hide it. It’s straight numbers for them. Left and right language is just a distraction for the mob.

  7. tracey 7

    greens stuffed up in ohariu and labour and greens stuffed up epsom.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      big time. And Te Tai Tokerau was a fuck up. Could have had 2 left wing MPs for the price of one.

  8. blue leopard 8

    Idiot Savant’s post is incorrect.

    (Without the specials included:)

    Act got in on 0.69% support, they get 1 MP
    –>This wouldn’t have been achieved had the left voted tactically

    United Future got in on 0.22%, they get 1 MP
    –>This wouldn’t have been achieved had the left voted tactically

    The Maori Party got in on 1.29%, they get 2 MPs
    –>This wouldn’t have been achieved had the left voted tactically.

    >>Note how Act + United Future don’t even add up to 1%, yet they get 2 MPs out of it<<

    Note how all of the Nat's support parties could have been wiped out, instead Internet Mana, a party that advocates addressing the most important issues we face, got wiped out because the right wing are more cooperative with one another than the left is.

    The result could well have:

    a. been a hung parliament, had the left voted tactically.
    – A hung parliament would have been a better result than what we got.


    b. had Winston Peters’ influence in the mix of the new government
    – Even Winston Peters influence on a Nat government would have been a better result than what we got.

    Time to really get this message out. The left needs to start cooperating with one another .

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Would we really have been able to take the Maori Party’s seat?

      • blue leopard 8.1.1

        FLAVELL, Te Ururoa James MAOR 7,973
        SPELLMAN, Pat NZIC 265
        SYKES, Annette MANA 4,482
        WAITITI, Rawiri LAB 4,965


        • Colonial Viper

          Ahhhhhh, right. So Mana and Labour could have done a deal between Wairiki and Te Tai Tokerau.

          This is bloody maddening.

        • Colonial Viper

          Ahhhhhh, right. So Mana and Labour could have done a deal between Wairiki and Te Tai Tokerau.

          This is bloody maddening.

          • blue leopard

            It is actually unbelievable and now Idiot Savant* is mistaken and the mistaken idea is spreading. 🙁

            (*Easy error to make, no hard feelings – just need to ensure what occurs when strategic cooperation is pursued, and how much we need to do it.)

          • blue leopard

            You know, this is one thing that I really would expect all the left-wing paid politicians to have taken the time to work out.

            This is the entire point of representatives – that they work out and explain these things that people are too busy to do (or incapable of working out because they don’t have access to the data).

            This result is a huge failure, there are so many things that are going to degenerate with a National government having a carte blanche like they do now

            And chances are hight that people’s attitudes will only get worse because that is what the rightwing politicians and their dirty henchmen are taking the time to do – degenerate attitudes and divide our nation, for their – and only their – advantage.

            • weka

              I only just found out today that Labour candidates have the freedom to campaign on the electorate vote only. I had to walk away from the computer at that point. I’m sorry to say this, but Labour deserves to have lost the election. I didn’t think that before now, I thought and do still think that by and large the left was doing things well enough and this idea that they should be perfect and then everything would be alright is crap in the face of dirty politics, the MSM, and apathy. But then I read the twitter thread about Cosgrove, saw CV’s comments about Dunedin South, and heard Nash on RNZ and I want to bang my head on the desk. The stupid more than burns, it’s a nuclear sized migraine.

              I get the whole ABC thing, people have their politics and they want to keep their privileges. But I can’t for the life of me understand why after all this time the Labour party caucus and admin don’t understand MMP.

              The GP at least have some rationale to their stupid.

              • blue leopard


                That is truly sad to read these things. 🙁

                Actually your comment reminds me how Labour were acting like they didn’t even want to win the election only a few months ago.

                Perhaps they thought if they lost this election they could push for more centrist policies, you know…like some of them are advocating for already (Pagani & Shearer)…

                Regardless of anything else, I actually don’t know if I can forgive them for their part in TTT.

                • weka

                  I know what you mean about TTT bl. I feel bad about the GP and Ōhāriu, but the loss of Harawira and Harra from the left’s voice in parliament is monumental. I’m sort of wavering about whether to damn Labour or not. I see good people like micky and r0b and CV who obviously work hard for Labour and want things to change and that gives me hope.

                  But then days like today I think we can’t afford to wait for Labour to sort its shit out*. I keep thinking about how if Labour had squeaked in they’d probably have gone with Peters and kept the GP out of cabinet. I want us to make a list of Labour MPs and collate where they stand and what they do and whether they are part of the solution or part of the problem and just put it out there so it’s transparent and the left can see exactly what is going on.

                  I want a list of the MSM, the same, those who are part of the problem and those who are part of the solution and just keep putting it out there so it’s visible. I think at times like this one of the best things we can do is speak truth to power.

                  *(thinking Bill’s post and it’s been in my mind since Sat that now we have lost another 3 years before we can start to significantly shift the consciousness around AGW and that’s 3 years we simply don’t have).

                  • blue leopard

                    That is a really good idea re the lists.

                    Yes, I said on another thread, and I’ll say it again. Prior to the election I was trying to work out who I thought would win – I couldn’t – and I ended up consoling myself that even if the left lost, I would feel happy that Hone & Laille got in…nek minute…

                    Oh dear the utter horror of what transpired!

        • alwyn

          On the basis of those numbers I wouldn’t think that Flavell could have been beaten.
          If Sykes had stood down I think that at least as many of her votes would have gone to Maori as would have gone to Labour. If Waititi had stood down the votes would have gone to Maori rather than Mana.
          For Flavell to have lost would have required at least five out of six votes for the candidate standing down to go to the remaining person and only one in six to go to Flavell. Don’t think it was going to happen.

          • blue leopard

            “If, if, if” – the thing is it should have been tried and now we’ll never know what would have occurred.

            • Colonial Viper

              I think Alwyn is right in that it would have been a close run thing given that party switching wouldn’t have been 100%…but I think you are right BL in that it should have been tried.

              • blue leopard

                Yes, I also agree what Alwyn suggested is a possibility, but that it is a possibility is no excuse for not trying.

    • Clearly you didn’t notice the “unless you live in Epsom, Oahriu, Te Tai Tokerau or Waiariki” bit. Tactical voting makes sense where there’s more on the line than just a single local representative. But in most electorates, it makes no difference whatsoever to the overall result who wins.

      BTW, I agree with the front-page lead that electorate campaigns provide a base for campaigning. They mobilize activists, provide visibility, and help parties sell their message to the voters. Its the focus of those campaigns that in some cases needs to change.

      • blue leopard 8.2.1

        No, sorry, I didn’t notice those additions. I read your article earlier in the day, did you add them later?

        Would you please explain to me the advantage of sharing the meme that ‘electorate votes aren’t that important’ – when actually had the left been conducting such, it could have won, or at least mitigated, the disaster that ensued on Sept 20?

      • lprent 8.2.2

        Its the focus of those campaigns that in some cases needs to change.

        I put a particularly egregious example on the featured image on the front page.

    • yeshe 8.3

      act and uf .. not just mps, but ministers; two ministers for less than 1%

  9. James Thrace 9

    Just have 120 electorates. Candidate only. Best man wins. Overall proportion of electorate MPs determine who can cobble a coalition. e.g. 50 national electorates,2 Maori party, 1 act seat, 1 uf seat and 2 conservatives means no govt (56 seats in a 120 seat parliament). 50 Labour electorates, 10 green electorates, 2 NZ1st seats means a government (62 seats). Internet Mana party with 2 seats on the outer.

    Easy. Then no such thing as party votes. Parliament would then be truly representative of only electorate MPs. Any excessive votes in an electorate wouldn’t have any bearing on extra seats in parliament as it would be a simple majority rule to determine winning candidates.

    No more overhangs either.

    • alwyn 9.1

      The man has discovered yesterday. What was it called again? That’s right, bring back first past the post. I approve.

      • Tracey 9.1.1

        geee I wonder why we ever changed it…

        • James Thrace

          The only difference here unlike FPP is that any extra votes in an electorate, over and above the amount needed don’t add more seats to a party.

          So there wouldn’t be any party votes. It would be a straight out contest.

          120 seats. 120 MPs.

          And to make it more proportional, STV could probably be used, but only in conjunction with an effective, and ONGOING, educational campaign about how STV actually works.

          What we really need to do again with MMP for 2017 is bring back Wal n Cooch. At least those two understood MMP.

          Oh, and remove the vote from NZ Resident Visa holders, and only allow NZ Citizens to vote.

          At least a citizen has an ongoing vested interest in this country, unlike a resident who can upsticks and return home, or move to Australia, whenever they like.

          Those on a resident visa are probably responsible for a large portion of National’s vote – especially in Auckland. The NZH covered it well in one of their pre election coverage articles back in April

    • Colonial Viper 9.2

      Why would you go back to a much less proportional system than MMP? Daft.

    • Tracey 9.3

      the good old days are almost never as good as some remember them.

      roger douglas and ruth richardson style raping and pillaging is much harder under mmp. we just need labour to stop thinking like fpp.

      • Jones 9.3.1

        I will never forget those years. Get ready for the next three years of it under this Government (if the special votes retain their majority. Only this time, the people probably won’t even know it’s going on.

      • KJT 9.3.2

        And National under Muldoon, in exclusive Dictatorship, with less than 40% of the vote, after gerrymandering the seats.

    • DS 9.4

      Been there, done that, got two elections in a row where the party that got the most votes lost the election.

  10. alwyn 10

    If a party really want their candidates to campaign for the party rather than the electorate vote they have to believe that they will get in from the list if they miss out in the electorate.
    In practice, and I believe this is what happened in the Labour Party under Helen Clark, it means that every sitting MP has to ranked ahead of all new candidates. It works for a little while but it means that you don’t get renewal if they won’t retire. With so many of our current MPs having never done anything else but hang round Parliament they aren’t going to go as they aren’t capable of holding down any job that pays as well. Very few are in the situation of a Key or a Joyce who either don’t need the job or can get another one that pays more.
    National did not do that in 2002 and sitting MPs did the entirely natural thing. They campaigned for the seat if they didn’t think they would get in on the list.
    The lower the poll numbers were the harder you were going to work for the electoral vote. It is hardly surprising that the Labour candidates in winnable seats this year did exactly that. After all, almost any sitting MP believes the world will come to an end if they aren’t re-elected.

    • Tracey 10.1

      doesnt explain woodhouse in epsom

      • alwyn 10.1.1

        Why not. He was way up on the list, with a position of 20, and with only about 5 above him relying on the list.
        There were, if I have counted correctly, 12 who were below him on the list who made it into Parliament. I would say that he was quite confident of making it in as National would have to have dropped into the 30’s for him to miss out. Thus, being confident of his seat anyway he didn’t have to campaign for the electorate vote.
        If he had been placed at 50 on the list he wouldn’t have been quite so blasé.

    • Mike Smith 10.2

      Alwyn this wasn’t true for the 2008 election under Helen Clark. Labour ranked 7 sitting MPs 38-44. 7 list-only were ranked above them, all of whom became MPs. Below them were 4 members who would only come into Parliament if they won their electorate. All 4 did and all the 7 above them didn’t.

      • alwyn 10.2.1

        Thank you. I guess I was thinking about the difference that was most apparent in 2002 between National and Labour, where it seemed to be the case and to help Labour.
        In 2008 Labour obviously did try to start a renewal process, which was the problem I had proposed. Did the low-ranked, “must win my electorate” candidates work hard for the party vote or almost exclusively for the electorate vote? They would have to have a truly saintly character not to try for themselves.
        It must have been interesting when the sitting members got the news that they were going down in the list.

  11. Te Reo Putake 11

    Crikey, this is a smugly bourgeois post. NRT obviously hasn’t got a clue what electorate MP’s actually do or why it’s important to the poor and and disadvantaged that their local MP actually gives a shit. Fuck the Greens, they’re the reason Peter Dunne is still a minster in the John Key Government. And fuck NRT (I/S) for blogging with his head up his middle class arse.

    • lprent 11.1

      That too. Constituency MP offices are routinely over worked for a reason. It is usually the final resource when there are real issues. Good constituency MPs earn a lot of voting power through the work they do in their communities.

      However NRT is right in that often not making that much difference across the whole electorate vote required to become government.

      You can easily see that in the very few changes in electorate seats for Labour (good local MPs) and the party vote that went against their party. Their MP’s party isn’t getting voted for because of their good local MP. In fact there is a perverse incentive to individually bag their party if it means that they can distance themselves from policies that they find hard to explain.

      National induces party feeling with a strong whiff of selection fights for sitting MPs. I think that Labour activists should start doing the same.

      • weka 11.1.1

        How would they do that?

      • blue leopard 11.1.2

        I disagree re sending the message out that electorate votes don’t count. Clearly they do in some electorates and it is better that people are given the message that the electorate vote can be pivotal, rather than an easily swallowed, yet sometimes fatally wrong, message that ‘it dunt matta’.

        Political analysis and commentary needs to be a bit more savvy than to send out the potentially damaging message that Idiot’s article does. Well, this consideration is only neccessary if the left ever want to win an election.

    • weka 11.2

      “NRT obviously hasn’t got a clue what electorate MP’s actually do or why it’s important to the poor and and disadvantaged that their local MP actually gives a shit.”

      I’m surprised his degree of ignorance on this.

      On the other hand, fuck Labour for TTT 😉 (and agreed about the Greens).

      • Te Reo Putake 11.2.1

        Touche! Sadly, Labour had no choice in the matter, weka. If only Hone had approached Labour well in advance, something might have been sorted. eg. giving Davis a better list placing so he wasn’t under so much pressure to win the seat. But too late now. As I said on election night, it’s the mana movement, not the mana party; having an MP or not shouldn’t define mana or stop them having a future.

        For mine, I think Hone realised when the dopey dope issue came up that a serious mistake had been made. mana minus Dotcom might well have done way better in both electorate and party votes.

        • weka

          Are you saying that Labour would have considered a deal? That’s not the impression I’ve had.

          Pretty stink to blame Harawira for this. Labour should be smart enough to do the right thing. As far as I can tell they want Mana and the IP off the political landscape altogether. That’s parochial, partisan, power grubbing and fucked up because it basically says that Labour on 25% want to disenfranchise people they’re never going to represent (it’s also daft strategically).

          “For mine, I think Hone realised when the dopey dope issue came up that a serious mistake had been made. mana minus Dotcom might well have done way better in both electorate and party votes.”

          You do realise that both Harawira’s personal vote and the IMP party vote are up on last time right?

          • Te Reo Putake

            I’m not blaming Hone and I’d prefer he was still in parliament. But mana made a strategic mistake and I think they could have lifted Hone’s vote and the party vote without KDC. My reading is that the alliance was only ever going to assist the party vote, anyway. I don’t think the IP demographic was a strong presence in TTT, so the electorate vote gain there was always going to be minimal.

            Who’d have thought that a hastily put together alliance with a libertarian millionaire with no political experience, no discernible social conscience and a criminal record on a par with Gordon Gecko’s would eventually end in tears?

            • weka

              Yeah but what do you mean by this “If only Hone had approached Labour well in advance, something might have been sorted.”?

              • Te Reo Putake

                Huh? Didn’t I already expand on what I meant in the rest of the paragraph that follows that sentence?

                • weka

                  I’m asking you to state clearly if it is true that Labour were open to doing deals. You haven’t done that yet.

                  • Te Reo Putake

                    I’m not Labour.

                    • weka

                      So when you said “If only Hone had approached Labour well in advance, something might have been sorted.”, it was more of a wishful thinking kind of thing rather than being based on anything real. Because everything I saw about Labour over this year said that they wouldn’t do deals.

                      I really have no idea why you made that statement to be honest, because I’m pretty sure you know damn well that Labour wouldn’t have given Harawira any concessions. Yet you are happy to lay the blame at his feet for Labour’s subsequent actions. Weird.

                    • Te Reo Putake

                      LPrent has just covered this, but Labour did effectively help the greens win Coromandel in 1999. By a fluke change of electorate boundaries, I actually found myself in that electorate and it was pretty clear who the LP wanted to win the seat and I voted accordingly.

                      It can and has been done, but no accommodation, official or otherwise, can be done if there is no obvious benefit to the party making the sacrifice. And mana needed to make it clear what there was to be gained and they did not, at least until it was way too late. I don’t blame them for that. You make the best guesses you can at the time, but mana got this one wrong.

                      And, anyway, Hone wanted to be seen as an independent voice until very, very recently and I’m assuming formal or informal cooperation only became an option when Laila Harre got on board. Laila knows a thing or two about strategy and tactics and doing the numbers. Even though she’s no fan of the NZLP, she would have spotted that there was a huge risk in going it alone as Hone had done.

                      I’ve gotta say, it’s incredibly naive of mana supporters to think it was up to Labour to organise this outcome. If you want something in this world, you’ve got to ask. Wishful thinking gets you nowhere, organising is what wins.

                  • lprent

                    They have always made their deals after the election.

                    In 1999 Helen had a pretty informal understanding with the Alliance. But much of that was that they wouldn’t attack each other as much as they did in 1996 – it probably cost them that election.

                    Also in 1999, Helen stated the obvious about the Greens in Coromandal.

                    As it was, the undignified disintegration of the Alliance after 1999 gave everyone in Labour a massive distaste for any further adventures with unstable parties.

                    That was it.. Why exactly would they bother making some kind of formal agreement with a 3 month old party with dubious stability and a public image that would have tarnished Labour more? At best IMP would have gotten between 2% and 3%.

                    • weka

                      It was TRP that was suggesting that if Harawira had approached Labour a deal might have been done. I don’t believe it myself.

                      Mana isn’t 3 months old. Even if IMP disintegrated, Harawira would still be there.

                      I don’t believe Labour should have made a formal agreement. All they had to do was stand someone more low key in TTT (the GP chose to stand no-one), or as TRP says, put Davis up the list, because of the chance that they would need the extra MP that IMP would bring if the eleciton was close.

                    • Te Reo Putake

                      But why would they do that for someone who publicly said he was likely to sit on the cross benches? At the time the list was being sorted, there was no gain for Labour because it was unclear that mana would give confidence and supply. Indeed, at that time, Hone was saying that C&S wouldn’t be his preference. His tactical mistake, not Labour’s.

                      Later in the campaign, IMP became toxic (to use Dotcom’s words), so it was a non starter. Bad luck, but KDC killed any chance of a deal. You make yer choices and you take yer chances.

        • blue leopard

          Why would it take Hone to approach Labour for them to work out the importance of Hone winning that electorate?

          Are Labour party strategists complete zombies?

          • Te Reo Putake

            Um, Hone’s no longer in parliament, blue. I think that answers exactly why he needed to make the first move. More to lose etc. There was no indication from him till about 3 months ago that he would actually support a Labour led Government. Prior to that he’d said mana would probably sit on the cross benches. That’s not how to win friends and influence people, eh.

            As for LP strategy, 6 out of 7 of the maori seats is a good outcome, even if the wider objective wasn’t achieved.

            • weka

              Implication: Labour would rather have IMP gone completely than trust them to be a left wing party who would work for the common good.

              Davis taking TTT gave Labour no advantage in forming govt. IMP would have, even if they sat on the cross benches. You really think that Harawira would have let National form govt instead of Labour? Really?

              DC’s denigration of IMP today says one of two things: either Labour really do want to disenfranchise the people that IMP speak to. Or they’re playing power games.

              • Chooky

                +100 agreed

              • Te Reo Putake

                Not at all. Trust doesn’t come into it. As I noted, until shortly before the election, Hone’s position was not to support Labour, but to vote issue by issue. That’s not a basis for any kind of deal, even if one was desirable. And once it became clear that the tie up with KDC was unpopular with the wider voting public, then no deal (open or just a Coromandel style nod and a wink) was ever likely to happen.

                It was always up to mana to get the ball rolling. They didn’t and that’s part of why they no longer are in parliament. I know that sounds harsh, but no doubt they made strategic decisions that seemed logical and profitable at the time. The greens were in a similar position and they did make a clear offer. Sadly, it was rejected, which was probably the LP’s biggest blunder.

                • weka

                  “It was always up to mana to get the ball rolling”

                  Maybe, maybe not. But irrespective of that, Labour was still cutting off its nose to spite its and everyone else’s face.

                  • blue leopard

                    +100 Well said.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Ssome Labourites are quite OK with Internet Mana being extinguished. Reports of big cheers going up around some Labour circles when Kelvin took the lead in the count. Sorry to see you go Hone, don’t let the door slam on the way out!

                    • lprent []

                      Yep. The TTT Labour election day workers where I was.

                      Umm who can blame them?

                    • blue leopard

                      There appears to be a real problem re strategy in Labour.

                      I was rather interested to see my mother’s reaction to Labour rejecting the Maori Party, (just prior to the election). She was strongly unimpressed. Actually, she was really quite upset about it. I find such reactions interesting because if one person has them, I assume others quite possibly will too.

                      I, also, found I didn’t respond well to Labour rejecting both parties that are strong for Maori issues. (MP & Mana via IMP) It was like a subliminal message that Labour were too quick to reject those that commonly get marginalized.

                      Don’t get me wrong, I do realise there are two sides to the argument re rejecting both the Maori party & Mana and I accept it if these types of reactions are considered and then dismissed due to various other considerations. I am just questioning whether they are considered at all?

                    • blue leopard

                      @ lprent

                      Who can blame them?

                      Well, for starters: me.

                      Any more questions?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I was rather surprised to see my mother’s reaction to Labour rejecting the Maori Party, (just prior to the election). She was strongly unimpressed.

                      Sorry BL, I may have missed some earlier information; is your mother Maori or somehow connected to iwi?

                    • blue leopard

                      You quoted an earlier version, (I changed ‘surprised’ to ‘interested’)

                      No, no Maori blood, hence the interest.
                      I think she simply cared that Maori interests weren’t marginalized (my words, not hers), I certainly ended up feeling that way.

                      I know Cunliffe/Labour was saying they were going to include Maori interests – just still looked and felt bad to me 🙁

                      I realise that there are probably other people who were quite happy by his move – am just sharing another perspective from this corner 🙂

                      Do you think they consider such things in Labour?

                  • Te Reo Putake

                    You’re not wrong about the cheers happening, CV, but you’re wrong about why LP supporters cheered. Getting 6 maori seats is a fantastic result. If only we’d got one more, eh?

                  • Tiger Mountain

                    ‘Kunning Kelvin’ joins the bulging coterie of right wing labour nuisances.
                    I look forward to speaking with him in person at the Kaitaia market.

                    As Bob Dylan once said to Hunter Thompson…
                    “we may not be able to defeat the swine, but WE don’t have to join them”.

              • Murray Olsen

                In my opinion, the last Labour government that cared about those people was under Big Norm. Rogernomics made them completely expendable, and Aunty Helen never did anything to turn that around.

            • blue leopard

              Thanks for explaining that TRP, I see where you are coming from.
              It is pretty troubling for an ordinary voter such as myself to realise decisions are being made with a lot more regard to posturing than with regard to the main aim of achieving a leftwing government.

              I liked Labour’s policies alot and I very much liked Cunliffe’s warm-hearted and inclusive narrative (pity it didn’t extend to fellow leftwing parties, oops I was attempting not to be scathing, oh-well-never-mind), however this thread is reminding me how very divided Labour were coming across only a few months ago and this helps me to start understanding why they achieved such a resounding fail in their levels of support. It wasn’t their policies it was people intuiting the lack of harmony and cohesion emanating from them.

              It would be great if Labour realised the value of harmony, cohesiveness and cooperation, however judging by recent voxpops & articles from those in or connected to Labour, I trust that the narrative will all be centred around posturing, getting rid of Cunliffe-The-Bad and ensuring policies become increasingly bland and centrist and in this way, the real problem will go by unaddressed.

              I did fairly well agree with your comment at 11, by the way.

    • Herodotus 11.3

      Great point also should a party only attract the party vote there is a case ( as in the greens in previous elections)where large tracts of the country the north island and especially Auckland had minimal rep of green mp’s.
      Trendy electorates like ak and Wellington Central having 3-4 Different mp offices. In other areas there is the bare 1 mp physically present, and if you do not live in urban area, traveling to an alternative mp’s office should your local not be sympathetic to you, there is nowhere that you can visit to voice your case of opinion.

      • DS 11.3.1

        To illustrate: if you’re a left-leaning person in Invercargill, it’s been six years since you’ve had access to a left-leaning MP (electorate or list) in Southland. The nearest one would be a good two hour drive away, in Dunedin.

  12. timbo 12

    Perhaps not the most popular thing to say, but I still think the country missed a trick by not going with STV. It achieves proportionality, but avoids the presidentialisation tendency that the party vote leads to under MMP. Also takes out of the equation the need to campaign for party vote.

    I am in Rongotai, which means I could have voted for Russell Norman and Annette King. (And even Chris Finlayson if I’d wanted to endorse his work on Treaty Settlements without having to vote National)

  13. timbo 13

    Perhaps not the most popular thing to say, but I still think the country missed a trick by not going with STV. It achieves proportionality, but avoids the presidentialisation tendency that the party vote leads to under MMP. Also takes out of the equation the need to campaign for party vote.

    I am in Rongotai, which means I could have voted for Russell Norman and Annette King. (And even Chris Finlayson if I’d wanted to endorse his work on Treaty Settlements without having to vote National)

    • weka 13.1

      How does that work for national elections (have used it for local body)?

    • DS 13.2

      Problem with STV is that it is both potentially confusing (needs a computer to calculate), and can lead to truly counter-intuitive situations where you can hurt a candidate by voting for them.

  14. timbo 14

    It means having pretty large electorates, which return 3 or 5 MPs. Works in Ireland

  15. Adrian 15

    In Waiariki, Sykes was expected to match Flavell so Rawiri would not have been the anointed one. The one thing that Labour got right was the expectation that IMP would become toxic, it did but not as much as could reasonably assumed given the mix of people in the party. If DC had not said that they would not be in a L,G,NZ government, Labour would have been lucky to get 22%.
    Personally I think the letter may be legit, it was debunked so quickly as to raise suspicions about the MSMs motivations.

  16. Richard 16

    My aunty loves key. typical, she so backwards she thinks all the dole bludgers in Mangere are getting their kids fed for free and one of her reasons for liking him. What the? I thought when my mum was telling me, mum put her right, sisters at war sheesh.

    Somehow those that are receiving welfare have such a bad press and stereotype. lets be truthful their are some no hope cases on the bene but tarring everyone with the same brush is doing damage when the stereotype of labour is they pander to bludgers because they make up their voter base. How can you battle such negativity and racism.

  17. DS 17

    Electorate seats matter in the sense that they ensure that certain parts of the country actually have a Labour presence. West Coast-Tasman, Palmerston North, and now Napier are outside the main centres, and as such ensure that provincial voters don’t think of Labour as alien beings who only work for Auckland and Wellington. When provincial voters go to see “their person in Wellington”, it’s a Labour person they’re seeing, and a Labour person who is passing on their point of view.

    Sure, electorate votes are less important than the party vote, Doesn’t mean they’re worthless.

  18. Hamish 18

    David Shearer is in fucking la-la land. Another leadership bid??? WTF is he smoking, I want some!!

  19. GRiM 19

    The candidate vote and party vote should be within a couple of percent points within that electorate, if not then something is drastically wrong.

    Party vote is important, but it relies on building support in electorates, especially when you can’t rely on media outlets speading the good word.

    exercise for Labour team, check where the party vote differs from the candidate vote,
    some very weird anomilies there.

    • DS 19.1

      No. Electorate votes are really a binary choice in most cases: Labour v. National. Party votes are not a binary choice.

      For the list vote to be the same as the electorate vote would mean no parties other than Labour and National in Parliament.

      • GRiM 19.1.1

        No, ideally candidates should be promoting the party, if not cut them loose, they are focused on self interest, 2 ticks, always or you self harm.

        Vote candidate because you like them(good for me, my area and vote party as a conscience vote or policy vote, that is how it is framed. This is how the right win.

        The right vote to win, no conscience vote, no split vote between personality and policy, 2 ticks for the party, (which includes stratigic votes for ACT and UF)

        Given the present mind set of the left and right the results should be binary left vs right, labour losing party votes to other left leaning parties is understandable, and expected, but the result differ with 30 to 40 % of left candidte votes going party vote right, this is unbelievable and needs investigating.

        So once again for clarity, 2 ticks for the party.

        • DS

          If the difference between Labour’s electorate vote and party vote is only a couple of percent, the Greens cease to exist. People who party vote Green generally electorate vote Labour.

  20. GRiM 20

    Additionally ,
    I can understand smaller party supporters ie green voting green party vote and stategy candidate voting labour to block a national candidate,

    but not a national supporter party voting national but candidate voting labour.

    That is what I am seeing in the results, it doesn’t add up.

    • DS 20.1

      Three explanations for that phenomenon:

      1. They are Nats who really like their local Labour MP. It happens (so does the reverse, in places like Nelson).

      2. They are Labourites who, for whatever reason, hate the nationwide party, but not the local party.

      3. They aren’t very clued up on MMP, don’t have strong preferences, and vote Labour one way and National the other “for balance”.

  21. Pascals bookie 21

    Had a quick scan trough but didn;t see this posted from early this year, regarding the lack of, shall we say, effort on the part of sonme candidates to get the list vote done:

    “They’re not going to roll him. They’re just concerned he’s not delivering on his promises. I’m told that there’s a bit of a go slow. Some of the MPs and the staff have decided well he can lose the election and we’ll roll him straight after the election.
    A go slow, that’s what I’m told, they won’t roll him but they’re not working hard for him’.”


  22. Scott1 22

    If the party likes the candidate (believes they would be good and effective in government) they should put them high on the list to avoid loosing them. This process could be full of political corruption but at least thy know these people well and know what is needed (more or less) in a politician from the parties perspective.

    If you vote for the electorate MP you substitute that person for someone the party has determined is not as good/useful or important. This process could gut a party of it’s future leaders.

    It also prevents labour from hitting it’s target for females in parliament or any similar policy.

  23. Scott1 23

    Maybe this split is to some extent the 5 headed monster argument.

    For the local vote you might just vote for the guy who is close to you in the political spectrum. But at the national level you might vote for a coalition and you might end up effectively voting against one of the other partners.

  24. SeanExile 24

    You dont consider that not all things are equal. This isnt a zero sum game.
    Had Labour done a deal with Internet/mana it would have scared the living daylight out of a lot of potential Labour voters in other electorates and its extremely unlikely that the partyvote would have been equal.
    if we are to support and cooperate with people like Hone Harawira and this is to be seen as making sense for the Labour party then we will never see a red PM again.

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