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Post election commentary

Written By: - Date published: 11:51 am, December 2nd, 2011 - 51 comments
Categories: labour, leadership - Tags: ,

A lot has been written in the aftermath of the election. I want to quickly note two excellent pieces that you might have missed in the rush.  The first is by Nick Hager at Pundit:

I’ve just been internalising a really complicated situation in my head

Here’s the bullet-point version, to begin:

  • National won about the same number of votes it did three years ago (it got a higher percentage of the total vote owing to falling voter turnout)
  • National has an almost unmanageably thin majority in Parliament; party insiders are not at all happy
  • Winston Peters is back as a fly in the National Party’s ointment, in a large part because John Key and Steven Joyce mucked up over the Epsom tea party
  • MMP is here to stay, meaning governments need to win a real majority and not just a high single party vote
  • 50% of voters voted against National, despite its popular leader
  • Many National votes were won because of its apparently easy-going and centrist leader, not because people necessarily support its policies
  • Well over 50% of the public opposes key National Party policies such as privatisation (‘asset sales’)
  • The ACT Party, National’s most important coalition partner, died on election night
  • There are signs that National has passed the high point of its popularity and will now start to decline
  • There are signs that National leader John Key has passed the high point of his popularity and will now start to decline.
  • The coming three years will be the playing out of these things. It is going to be very different to National’s first three years in government.

That’s the summary. If you’d like the long version, read on.

Read on indeed, it’s well worth your time.  The second piece of note was by Bryan Gould in The Herald:

Labour must fight smarter against Key, starting now

There are never any final battles in politics. No one should begrudge John Key his moment of triumph on Saturday but – as he will be well aware – the campaign for the next general election has already started.

A 48 per cent share of the votes cast was, on the face of it, an outstanding achievement. But we should bear in mind that fully two-thirds of New Zealanders eligible to vote did not give their support to National, either failing to register or vote, or voting for someone else.

This was not, in other words, a coronation. Not everyone loves Key. Yet we can already see the “elective dictatorship” syndrome in Key’s claim that he has a mandate for asset sales, despite the incontrovertible polling evidence that the policy is opposed even by National voters.

The election campaign was at times an unhappy experience for Key. It revealed to his supporters, among voters and in the media, a politician whom many may not have seen before. The images of an uncomfortable and defensive Key, clearly irritated at being challenged and having to answer questions he would prefer to have ignored, will remain in the memory for a long time.

Nor is it the case, as some have suggested, that Labour’s poor showing means that the next election is already a lost cause. We should not forget that, in 2002, National’s share of the vote dropped to just 22 per cent, yet three years later, under the leadership of that “strange fellow” Don Brash, National very nearly pulled off a win. …

Labour’s new leader needs to think hard about the politics of being in Opposition. If they are to do better this term than last, there has to be a carefully planned, developed and staged strategy so that, by the time the next election campaign starts, the groundwork has been properly laid. …

There are, in other words, three stages in a successful campaign.  First, changing – through hard work and relentless pressure – the public perception of Key as a leader who can be trusted. Second, taking enough time, well before the election, to build support for policies that opponents can easily misrepresent. And third, launching vote-winning policies so as to generate momentum through the election campaign.

A new leader and a strategy like this could make for a very interesting election in 2014.

Once again well worth reading the original to fill in the gaps, there’s plenty in there for Labour to think about.  As we go through the process of choosing a new leader, the most important question that I think the candidates can be asked is – what are your plans for Labour over the next three years?  No waffle allowed, let’s hear a detailed plan.

51 comments on “Post election commentary ”

  1. queenstfarmer 1

    Yet we can already see the “elective dictatorship” syndrome in Key’s claim that he has a mandate for asset sales, despite the incontrovertible polling evidence that the policy is opposed even by National voters.

    Absolute nonsense from Gould (and others). The only “incontrovertible polling evidence” was the General Election last Saturday that handed a huge victory, with an increased majority, to National. Despite Labour basing almost it’s entire campaign on blindly ideological opposition to asset sales.

    Gould and others are now claiming that a Government’s mandate in a general election is somehow limited by pre-election opinion polls involving anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand people at best, and (from what I’ve seen) not actually asking about National’s specific policies. And these are the same opinion polls that many here claim are based on “dodgy methodologies” etc.

    If Gould is saying we should be using binding citizens referenda , then he should say so – and I would agree with him. Until then, a certain phrase of Michael Cullen’s comes to mind.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      “…an increased majority…”

      Yes, because dropping from 69 to 61 is an increase, isn’t it? No wonder the National Party finds you so easy to deceive.

    • Blighty 1.2

      what increased majority?

      What majority?

      • queenstfarmer 1.2.1

        Forgotten after only 6 days?

        • Lanthanide 1.2.1.1

          For National to have had a “majority”, they would have needed more than half the seats in the house. They did not have this before the election, and they do not have it after the election.

          • queenstfarmer 1.2.1.1.1

            You have asserted one meaning of “majority” as the only meaning.

            Meaning 3(c) in the Merriam Webster is “the greater quantity or share”.

            The two meanings in the Cambridge Dictionary of British English (which I think it’s fair to assume is the prevailing language we are using) defines it as: “the larger number or part of something; in an election, the difference in the number of votes between the winning person or group and the one that comes second”.

            • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1.1.1

              So now you’re using a definition of ‘majority’ with which National can pass no laws in the House?

              Clever.

              No wonder National strategists are pissed.

              • McFlock

                With any luck, they will have a similar “majority” next time: 54 seats, no coalition partners.

              • queenstfarmer

                I don’t know about clever, but it is correct. National would certainly struggle to pass laws if every other party in the House opposed them. Same with every other post-MMP government. Is this news to you?

                • felix

                  “National would certainly struggle to pass laws if every other party in the House opposed them”

                  Unless they had a majority in the house. Which they don’t.

                • Ari

                  Since when can majority be used for anything less than 50%? A quick search for “48% majority” finds nobody agreeing with you- they’re all talking about 48-year trends or 48 votes requiring a majority. Whoops.

                  While nobody denies that National won the election fair and square, it was because voters were not engaged or excited to turn out, not because they have some sort of commanding support.

                  • queenstfarmer

                    Since when can majority be used for anything less than 50%?

                    I don’t know, you’d have to ask Merriam Webster and Cambridge University who say it can.

        • aerobubble 1.2.1.2

          MSM coup continues after the eleciton, first never criticizing Key, then after the election downplaying the obvious talks Key is having to have with Dunne and Maori Party.

          Only a fool would believe Key has enough votes to get his budget past alone.

          All it takes is one Natonal MP to say no to asset sales.

          • queenstfarmer 1.2.1.2.1

            All it takes is one Natonal MP to say no to asset sales.

            And all it will take is a few more National MPs to defect to Labour and install Shearer as Prime Minister! Each scenario is equally as plausible.

    • RedLogix 1.3

      Your idea of a ‘huge majority’ qstf is rooted in obsolete FPP thinking.

      Let’s hypothetically tweak last weeks result a little. What if National’s party vote was reduced a small amount to say 45% and Labour’s increased to 30%? And every other result remained the same. In other words a mere 3% swing from National to Labour.

      Still a “huge majority” for National according to you … but of course significantly short of being able to form a government. In fact on the result above a left wing coalition would pretty much romp in.

      So no.. not much of a majority at all. But then I guess either you know that or choose to say the opposite for some other reason only you understand.

      • Lanthanide 1.3.1

        “choose to say the opposite for some other reason only you understand.”

        Same reason he insists on saying partial privatisation isn’t privatisation, I guess.

    • Below is a petition to demand a binding referendum on asset sales.

      http://www.averagekiwi.com/?p=674

  2. Tiger Mountain 2

    Nicky is great, one of NZs few public thinker/researchers. Even though his talents are usually employed on the nats and spooks he sometimes gets less than his due from the left. He is not doctrinaire enough for marxists but doesn’t cosy up to Labour either.

  3. Thomas Forrow 3

    General Election last Saturday that handed a huge victory, with an increased majority, to National

    Hm About the same vote to National as last time and National will end up with 59 seats out of 121
    with with UF and Act. that is 61 out of121
    That is as close as it could possibly be.. 1 seat…
    I can”t see how that is a huge victory, a very narrow victory methinks
    half a percent more to the Greens and it would have been a different story

    • nobody has mentioned that they also have to vote in a speaker . that makes one less seat .
      Im picking they may pick Sharples .

      • queenstfarmer 3.1.1

        Not under MMP. The speaker votes as per usual under MMP.

        • I think you will find Mr Speaker only has the deciding vote .However if you are right Mr Speaker still is not allowed to take part the debate. In other words the Nats are one down in debating Chamber. Lets also remember that after the special votes the figure may change.

          • queenstfarmer 3.1.1.1.1

            No, my statement was correct (naturally :-)). From the Parliament website:

            The Speaker’s vote is included in any party vote cast and the Speaker votes in a personal vote, though without going into the lobbies personally – the Speaker’s vote is communicated to the teller from the Speaker’s chair.

            So the speaker gets a normal vote. And you are also mistaken about the casting vote. The speaker does not have a casting vote under MMP.

  4. mikesh 4

    Labour needs to bring into the light of day its core values. I would suggest
    1. A fair tax system, which would in principal mean a progressive tax system. eg Get rid of GST which as far as I can see serves no useful purpose other than to make the overall tax system less progressive.
    2. Ensure that infrastructure is owned by the state and operated for the benefit of the people and not for profit, not even government profit. I would be thinking in terms of buying back state assets already sold and, perhaps, replacing the current banking system with a state owned system.
    3. A commitment to welfare.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      “1. A fair tax system, which would in principal mean a progressive tax system. eg Get rid of GST which as far as I can see serves no useful purpose other than to make the overall tax system less progressive.”

      GST is a consumption tax. It helps discourage wanton waste of resources. In the bleak looking future when we have to do more with less, waste is something we’re going to want to control wherever possible. Most countries in the world have some sort of sales tax.

      Removing GST of fresh fruit and vegetables was stupid, though. They should’ve removed GST off all food sold in supermarkets – essentially GST on food would be relegated to restaurants and fast food only.

      Removing GST off local rates is something I’d also support, although it could be limited to only the family home to reduce the foregone revenue while also targeting the support at where it is really needed.

      • mikesh 4.1.1

        I doubt if \GST discourages consumption if income tax rates are reduced to compensate. Technically it should encourage saving. but we still have a savings problem so it hasn’t solved that problem.

      • Anthony 4.1.2

        I’d argue to remove GST off everything deemed a base necessity of modern life: food (supermarket), water, and power.

        • Ianupnorth 4.1.2.1

          +1 – remove it from rates (why are you taxed on a tax?), remove it from domestic power.
           
          Whilst we are at it, I would like them to firstly do away with car rego’s – put the cost on the price of fuel, that way all the evaders pay their share, also clamp down on ‘perks’ – the company car and fuel cards; both abused, both paid for by those who don’t have them (indirectly)

      • Ari 4.1.3

        Actually, I like the GST removal policy as it is. An incentive for people to become vegan or vegetarian.

  5. ianmac 5

    At 7687 readings it suggests credibility for Nicky Hagar at Pundit.

  6. Anthony 6

    I agree with Nicky tbh, definitely resembles the left’s 2005 result (if not worse), and lack of any coalition partners will be very worrying for the Nats come 2014. National needed about 55% and a stronger showing by their coalition partners in this election to get good odds in 2014.

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    The interesting bit is that when all the votes are counted National will have about 2.5% more of the votes cast than 2008

    Which was the same increase Labour got in 2002 !

  8. tc 8

    so 48% of was it 68% turn out is 33% of eligible voters…..no surprise it’s a money trader claiming that as a mandate to plunder.
    1 + 1 is whatever you want as I’ve got an opinion that says so, probably differs from yours but it’s a dinimmic world.

  9. Peter 10

    I think the most fun will occur, when New Zealand doesn’t return to surplus and just gains a larger deficit. Nationals claim they can reduce revenue, and cut taxes and produce a surplus is just as silly as their claim they could fix the ‘underclass’ or reduce the wage gap with Australia. ROFL @ National voters, that think John Key will save the country, let alone provide the economic growth his corporate masters crave.

    • aerobubble 10.1

      Assets sales will only buy time for the private debt problem, by pushing up the currency as foriegn investors (and kiwi expats) buy NZ dollars to pay for the assets.

      • Peter 10.1.1

        I doubt kiwi expatiates will buy into assets (only wealthy NZ’ers who will then sell their shares on for profit to foreign multinationals), and if last time is the judge then the assets will likely end up in the hands of the personal friends of the government (or the National party), and foreign multinationals. Prepare for more price gouging than ever before i.e. higher electricity prices.

  10. swt…so we’ve seen the last of Mallard as a strategist then ?

    Give Robertson the job i reckon.

  11. Im picking utter chaos in about a year. Even the great unwashed non voter is going to rise in anger. Facism is not far away. Just consider .Unemployment out of control. Kids being paid slave wages , police armed with guns .pepper spray.and stun guns. The likes of Garth McVicar telling the police what to do. I hope I’m wrong but I am seeing the signs of disorderly mass uprisings on the horizon. So what do we do ?
    Key will just piss off to one of his mansions ,most likely as Sir John.He wont care a stuff.How did we deserve this lot?

    • Peter 12.1

      All we can do is get out and vote next time, so there isn’t a repeat of this years election, if National stuffs up the country too much it might die off with the Act party…if we are lucky (but there will still be those that believe in the mythical free market paradise where human resources are squashed under foot by the boots of big corporations).

  12. The Auckland figures are interesting.  Labour lost 3.15% of the vote in the Auckland urban area and the greens gained … 3.21% of the vote in the Auckland urban area (excluding Maori seats).
     
    National’s increase was 2.31% which was about what ACT lost.  NZ First gained at the expense of Labour.
     
    All in all it was better than anywhere else in the country.  I predict that Auckland will be where all of the action is next election.

    • gingercrush 13.1

      Its always been presumed that the dominance of the three South Auckland seats would be damaging to National and no doubt they can. But electorates such as Tamaki and Epsom and to a lesser extent Pakuranga and Botany (still a bit unsure of Botany as it has a very large Asian population who have a tendency to swing) can be or are just as strong for National as South Auckland is to Labour.

      Next election the West Auckland electorates will be a primary factor in who gets the Auckland vote. Northcote too has been prone to swings. Maungakiekie is always prone to swings. Though if I was Labour I’d be more concerned with its lost of vote in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin than I would be with Auckland. Its those three cities that I suspect will determine the 2014 election.

      The mistake for Labour would be to simply consolidate the left-wing vote and regain those votes that came from the Greens.

      • mickysavage 13.1.1

        Agreed GC in that the South Auckland seats (bless them) now have the problem of turn out rather than proportion.  All Labour has to do is make sure people get to the polling booths in these areas.

        West Auckland is now more complex.  Parts of each of the seats have become much wealthier and these areas vote National.  The Henderson Heights area in the Waitakere seat for instance may have saved Paula.  Everywhere else voted Carmel but this area voted heavily for Paula.

        It reminds me of the saying about the first Labour Government.  The people waked to the polls to vote them in and drove to the polls to vote them out … 

        Agreed also that Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington in that order need to be focussed on and that Labour needs to make inroads into the soft National vote rather than the Green vote. 

        • lprent 13.1.1.1

          We had to solve that problem in Mt Albert in the 90’s and did. The trick is really really knowing your electorate using databases and numbers. Use it to focus the people contact where it will do the most good doing what Labour does best. Turning up and talking to people who don’t vote regularly or who swing a lot.

          To do that effectively you have to canvass for knowledge rather than forever chasing votes. Chasing your own supporters all of the time is an exercise in futility. You have to canvas Nat and swing voters so you know who they are likely to be. You need to know what combinations of factors indicate or will push people one way or another. Then you can target your candidate and volunteers a lot more effectively.

          And you need to treat getting electorate votes as being a side effect of getting party votes. Paradoxically it is the easiest way of getting electorate votes.

          The paint by the numbers campaigning during the election campaign with numbers of volunteers is simply not viable any more regardless how many electorate organizations cling to the 70’s techniques. Having ‘feel’ for an electorate is massively enhanced by using numbers to look at them as well. It is the story of the 21st century.

          You get best results using small teams of volunteers working throughout the election cycle collecting and storing information. Where the selection of what information to collect is always designed to enhance your knowledge about the changing electorate. Then when you have larger numbers of volunteers available, you target them in on the types of people you need to contact to get them to go and vote for your party and maybe even your nice candidate.

  13. After the fiasco performed by Epsom voters I can only asume that the majority of Epsom voters are a bit short of Grey cells. Im just glad I dont live among these far right racist anti working class bigots. However they do as they are told dont they .?big brother is watching them so they better keep in line.

  14. DS 15

    2008:

    Right (National + ACT + United Future): 64
    Left (Labour + Greens + Progressives): 53
    Other (Maori Party): 5

    2011 (before specials):

    Right (National + ACT + United Future): 62
    Left (Labour + Greens + Mana): 48
    Other (Maori Party + NZ First): 11

    Noting that National may well lose a seat on specials, 2011 was a small swing away from the Right, and a larger swing away from the Left, with NZ First benefiting. So National’s ability to control the House has actually got weaker.

    That said, on the question of asset sales, Key campaigned on them, and emerged with a parliamentary right-wing bloc in favour of them, so regrettably he does have a mandate to do it. At some point NZers have to take responsibility for electing a government which *said* that it would sell the family silver.

    • Ari 15.1

      I don’t buy this BS that winning an election gives you a mandate for your unpopular policies. If he can’t even convince his own supporters on asset sales, there’s no way that’s the reason people voted for him. If he pushes them through it will be highly undemocratic, and IMO, the death blow to his hopes of a third term.

  15. mikesh 16

    I doubt if United Future favours asset sales.I think Peter Dunne, who is opposed to the sale of Kiwibank, is supporting the policy in order to keep onside with National. If National falls back to 59 seats Dunne has an opportunity to block the sales, but probably won’t for purely venal reasons. If this is how things pan out I would say shame on Peter.
    ps: Under current rules a motion is lost on a tie, and the Maori Party are also opposed.

  16. GW 17

    Now I’m not saying these elections have been fiddled with, but how does a record low voter turn out
    result on voter loses for parties that aren’t national. Shouldn’t they have taken a hit as well?

    I have been fascinated with the finer points of the less than fair elections that seen to happen in other countries, but boy it seems to be hard to find much online about NZ’s boundry antics under national when Piggy Muldoon was around.

    One this we could do to increase public confidence is to physically publish the actual totals at every polling station on a visible sign outside, that is updated regularly as counting progresses.

    As far as I’m aware there aren’t any real exit polls in NZ, is that right? Should there be?
    I think the above idea is great as you only need to publish a picture online of the count totals for all to see and these can be compared to the centrally counted ballot.

    For those who are interested, there is a doco about Texas election boundaries that goes through the methods, which it seems are all about chasing the close counties and close margins.

    Thoughts?

    • lprent 17.1

      It is a paper election, so running totals won’t work. It is also disturbingly honest – I have been around enough to know.

      The shenigans occur outside of the vote, and these days are very limited by a proportional system. Mostly sweetheart deals on the electorate seats to bypass party threshold limits – which failed miserably as an effective tactic this year. Voters gave the sweetheart parties a party vote of almost exactly one seat in a collective sense of ironic humor.

      Broadly speaking, the left vote split between the Greens and Labour. The right vote effective consolidated into National and the other right parties remained or became shells.

      The usual protest votes of the populist NZFirst and not voting increased a lot. The NZF vote was probably in part due to a collective response to the political machinations that knocked it under the party vote threshold last election.

      National at best (they are still ironing out agreements with other parties and special votes), have wound up with a coalition that is smaller than last time and much much more fragile. The parties that they are going into coalition with know that they have to differentiate themselves from National, or they will fully probably die next election. National are likely to really struggle to pass much of their policy agenda.

      Between now and the next election, we get to review the few flaws of our MMP system

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  • Speech to LGNZ Conference
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