- Date published:
1:44 pm, March 4th, 2015 - 113 comments
Categories: by-election, elections, greens, labour, mana, national, nz first, political parties - Tags: bomber, brian rudman, electorates, northland, polity, voters
Rob at Polity makes some observations on the Herald’s columnists pontifications on what Labour should have done in Northland.
This morning’s Herald has not one but two opinion pieces on the Northland by-election. First, here’s Bryan Rudman:
The March 28 Northland byelection had the makings of a real nailbiter if Labour had stood aside and made it a two-horse race between New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and National’s Mark Osborne. But yesterday, Labour’s leadership played it safe and nominated Willow-Jean Prime, who has been trounced at the last two general elections, as its candidate.
It would have been a high-stakes gamble but, if successful, would have delivered a severe blow to the Key-led National Government’s grip on power. Instead, we can look forward to the ho-hum replacement of one National MP by another, with Mr Peters and Ms Prime scrapping it out for the minor places.
Andrew Little is wise to have ignored the pressure that was coming even from Labour quarters for him to pull his party’s candidate from the Northland byelection in order to avoid splitting the Opposition party vote and instead boost Winston Peters’ chances of winning the seat.
It is now too late to withdraw Willow-Jean Prime’s nomination as Labour’s candidate. Barring a candidate’s death or sudden incapacity, a nomination cannot be pulled after noon on nomination day – which was yesterday.
Little may not have completely ruled out urging Labour-leaning voters to cast their vote in Peters’ favour. Byelections can be unpredictable affairs. So it is sensible for Opposition parties not to foreclose on their options too early in the campaign.
But Opposition politicians also have to be realistic.
So, clear as mud then. Andrew Little faced a high-stakes gamblling opportunity, and he was either entirely right, or alternatively a total dunce, when he turned it down.
For me, the starting point should be that political parties exist to (1) govern; by (2) running in elections. Only if there was some overwhelming benefit to (1) would you ever choose not to do (2). I don’t see anything overwhelming here, which is why Andrew Little made the right call in running a great local candidate.
If, between them, Willow-Jean Prime and Winston Peters can knock National’s down by a good amount, that will have been a good day for the opposition. Anything beyond that is superb, and may be possible, but should be seen as a bonus. Getting returned in a stronghold seat, but with a reduced majority, isn’t normally a good harbinger for incumbent governments.
For the record, I generally agree with Rob at Polity for similar . Where is the advantage for Labour in forcing their candidate to stand aside? What are the disadvantages?
Looking at the numbers and the situation I can neither see Winston or Willow-Jean Prime winning on their own even if the other was not there. Hell, I’ll even bet that their combined vote in the current byelection where they give voters some choice would be less than 2/3rds of the worst National candidate. This non-gambler would even be tempted at half. I like sure things when I bet.
But even if there was, there are definite downsides for a political party in asking any electorate candidate to stand aside. First they may not do it and even go independent, and secondly it destroys the local electorate organisation that has to fight in future elections for party and electorate votes. There’d have to be a hell of a return for it to be worthwhile for a political party, especially for one who is heading up to it’s century and has a *lot* of experience about what happens inside a political party made up of so many variate people.
But I’d also have to say that people who expect compliant electorate candidates are about as politically naive as Bomber was in expecting Kelvin Davis to give up his hopes of gaining the Northland Te Tai Tokerau to facilitate his opponent’s political hopes. As Rob said on the ideas from Mana that Bomber was munting then and ever since…
All this, you understand, comes from the excellent starting point of wanting to replace the current government with a united, powerful left-bloc of Labour, the Greens, and Internat MANA. Yet the analysis is designed to split the left, not unify it; and the recommendations would help the left lose, not win. Top work.
That kind of rubbish political thought and the denigration that went with it simply resulted in a massive increase in Labour activism in reaction, and the thousands of extra votes in Te Tai Tokerau. Most of the additional votes going to Kelvin Davis voting against such stupidity.
Voters, especially on the left, make up their own minds who to vote for. A lot of the marking around with parties that are roughly on the same ‘side’ is simply offputting to voters. That is hopefully a lesson that Mana (and some in Labour with their dumbarse attacks on the Greens) learnt from this last election, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it.
Candidates and political parties should damn well fight their own corner and not expect other parties to help them. That is what the voters expect. Sure, point to policy differences between yourself and your opponents and point to the omissions of the government and previous governments. But leave out the attacks on possible coalition partners. They aren’t required and it just makes it all too easy to paint those coalitions as being too divided to work together.
Voters are going to make up their own minds about their tactical voting.
Personally, as a voter who normally votes Labour and sometimes Green, I can’t see myself ever voting NZ First. Their brand of nostalgic social conservatism is simply something that has little or no appeal to me. Their policy positions that are generally reactively critical rather than suggesting forward looking solutions don’t interest me either
I also can’t see myself voting for Mana when they have “spokespersons” like Pat O’Dea and ardent advocates like Bomber either. People who are far more intent on actively attacking possible partners rather than building partnerships are deeply unappealing to voters (and to me). I suspect that kind of political stupidity didn’t help the opposition in the last election.
If one of those two parties were my only available choice, I’d be likely to simply not vote. I suspect that I am not alone amongst left leaning voters, and not alone in my dislike of a lack of choice of candidates. That is the type of strange self-indulgence that generated games like fantasy football, but translated into the political sphere. It is lazy and ignores the actual behaviours of real voters.
BTW: For the usual conspiracy idiots. I dropped out of being a Labour party member at the end of last year because it was interfering with running this blog. Weirdly, some dipshit fools started complaining to the NZ council (who have nothing to do with our trust) so I dumped my membership to make it clear where my primary political affiliation is. But I haven’t been particularly active inside Labour since early 2010. I actually party voted Green last election. If anyone starts on the usual personal attack malarkey about me being a Labour hack, then I consider that they just gave me permission to abuse them as I ban them.