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Some consequences of Chloe Swarbrick’s win

Written By: - Date published: 9:49 am, October 22nd, 2020 - 41 comments
Categories: election 2020, greens, labour, uncategorized - Tags:

Chloe Swarbrick’s win is noteworthy. It’s notable that Helen White’s vote share pretty much didn’t change upwards despite the largest swing to Labour across the country we’ve seen in multiple decades.

The result will stand Helen White as the Hilary Clinton of New Zealand politics: how in hell was it possible for her to lose an absolute gift of a seat? How little vote share was gained for that candidate despite Nikki Kaye leaving with just weeks to go and a fresh candidate having to get slotted in?

Was Helen White’s campaign that bad? More likely Chloe’s was that good. Chloe Swarbrick’s attribution to the ‘ground game’ of her team was more powerful in Grey Lynn than that of Jacinda Ardern. That’s remarkable in 2020.

Maybe the reasonable list placing meant she knew she was going to get in anyway: Helen White was just too posh to push.

Well that’s the first consequence: complacency from the moderate left is powerful enough to even fully negate The Jacinda.

As the first win for the Greens in an electorate seat since Jeanette Fitzsimmons won Coromandel a couple of decades ago, there’s an illustration of the rise of the Grey Lynn Tribe as the most networked, most influential, most politically aware group in New Zealand. The centre of the Greens has shifted from the rural periphery to right in the heart of the city. That follows the trend of Melbourne and other major centres.

You can see that tribe at play in their local markets on Saturday, in the time they take to select bread, in the frission of networks connections between social media and mainstream tv and radio agents living and working in the area.

Consequence two: The Grey Lynn Tribe is real and its power is truly on the rise.

A freaking obvious conclusion is that young people can engage successfully with politics, and be successful. And to be more pointed: the Greens are pretty good at encouraging young people to be more than campaign helpmeets and grunts which is what Labour and National do. Young people can stand for politics and win.

Consequence three: Chloe Swarbrick is the new Jacinda Ardern. Not identical, sure. But rising fast.

So just to spell out the obvious: the Greens owe Chloe. If they hadn’t made 5% they would have owed their parliamentary existence to her.

They can have more longer term parliamentary assurance because of her performance.I thought Ardern was far too young to be leader in 2017. So with that 2017-2020 evidence, I’m more accepting of younger people that they really can perform and deliver on the national stage.
Someone had better get Chloe a Select Committee job at least, or her supporters in that Grey Lynn tribe will start beating the drum on both social and mainstream media: why not?

Consequence Four: Get this woman a job, or she will continue to rise and eat more of Labour’s left vote.

That left vote is mobile in central Auckland. The urban wealthy liberal voter was not scared off by talk of a wealth tax from the Greens. They wanted this candidate a lot. Chloe’s win party in Auckland’s waterfront was the place all the in-crowd will say they were at for the summer.

To me Chloe Swarbrick is the warning Labour needs to bring the Greens into the government. Because if they don’t, next in the crosshairs is Rongotai or Wellington Central. The left vote is mobile, not loyal to Labour, and looking for politicians who are charismatic and who they believe in and who connect with them.

What a win Chloe!

41 comments on “Some consequences of Chloe Swarbrick’s win ”

  1. Phillip ure 1

    Fully agree…playing the long game could well advantage the greens…so if ardern locks them out their support will only grow ..and ms swarbrick would be the touchstone for that unused-assets gripe….as I noted the other day the voters in grey lynn did not vote for Chloe to have her/the greens frozen out for the next three years…labour could well reap a whirlwind if they do that…and could we pause to give ms swarbrick her due for her sterling work on ending the decades long madness of cannabis prohibition..'cos even if the legalised referendum fails what we will have is a california-style de-facto legalisation..with prescriptions easily available…so prohibition is a dead duck..I have never met ms swarbrick…but I hope one day to be able to thank her in person..

    • froggleblocks 1.1

      playing the long game could well advantage the greens…so if ardern locks them out their support will only grow

      You act like that is a problem for Labour.

      Greens aren't going to deal with National. If Labour becomes a centrist party and the Greens can routinely poll in the 12-15% range, then we can see an endless Labour-Green government until 2040.

      That's not bad thing for Labour, or the Greens.

  2. Craig H 2

    Chloe had Select Committee jobs in the last Parliament so I can't see her not being on Select Committees this Parliament – do you mean as chair perhaps, or just on more of them?

  3. Devo 3

    Give her Peter Dunne's old job – Associate Minster of Health responsible for drugs, mental health, and suicide prevention

  4. Sanctuary 4

    There is a joke amongst us all on the left that National has a factory somewhere stamping out identikit candidates who look like variations of Chris Penk or Todd Muller. Well, if Labour had such a candidate factory one of those off the production line would be Helen White, slightly brittle, a bit entitled and "to posh to push" and not at all keen to get her hands dirty in the political trenches, preferring to hang around with the technocratic Captain Darlings in a nice house somewhere.

    I agree Chloe is a warning to Labour – Labour is quite partial to selecting soft left, liberal candidates who tick certain boxes and who often make excellent technocrats but wilt and make pratfalls at their actual job – being a politician. Chloe has impeccable liberal credentials that are just assumed with her generation and has shown herself to be an excellent politician who is not to proud to put on her apron and work the party shop front. That combined with some ambitious policies makes the perfect foil for a entitled generation x, liberal, establishment candidates.

  5. Andre 5

    Because if they don’t, next in the crosshairs is Rongotai or Wellington Central.

    Said like it's a bad thing. Three electorates in which the Greens are solid contenders would simply be another step in the evolution of the Greens as a permanent stable forceful presence in New Zealand politics. It would also remove any sneering false equivalence to ACT's reliance on a gifted electorate lifeboat for most election cycles.

    • woodart 5.1

      yes, greens having multiple electorate seats would be fantastic.possible with good local personalities.

  6. Peter 6

    Observers commented that to me that Helen White had the irredeemable common qualities of National candidates and weren't surprised she bit the dust.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    To me Chloe Swarbrick is the warning Labour needs to bring the Greens into the government. Because if they don’t, next in the crosshairs is Rongotai or Wellington Central. The left vote is mobile, not loyal to Labour, and looking for politicians who are charismatic and who they believe in and who connect with them.

    I wonder if you are not mistaking opportunity for crisis. Chloe is a strong, smart, committed New Zealander, the kind of person who should be permitted to work constructively in the public interest as a matter of course in any democracy – not merely to defend the interests of a party that often cannot be bothered to do its job.

    • solkta 7.1

      Chloe is a strong, smart, committed Green. Your comment reads like nonsense.

      • Stuart Munro 7.1.1

        By all means explain to me why any elected MP who meets those criteria is not set to some constructive task.

        • solkta

          Effective opposition is a constructive task. Labour should be seriously concerned to have Chloe as an adversary.


          • Stuart Munro

            Agreed – just that one might hope a Jacinda-led Labour would choose a less adversarial role – preparing for a constructive partnership in 2023.

  8. Sanctuary 8

    One other slightly tangential thought on all this.

    The thing about Covid is it shows (like the GFC) that a crisis doesn't – at first – favour political polarisation. New Zealanders were persuaded that Labour offered excellent credentials to manage the crisis – technocratic establishment competence and the authority of an excellent leader won them the election.

    Voters therefore re-coalesced in the centre, especially as the global and local right has utterly flubbed it's reaction to an actual disaster. Also it seems to me that the covid crisis has – unlike the GFC & neoliberal managerialism – reinforced the credibility and authority of experts, rather than diminishing it.

    Any attempt by Labour to normalise the post-covid world simply trying return to quasi-austerian neoliberalism via the shibboleths of an elite managerial class could easily turn to disaster, with disillusioned voters turning to charismatic rising starts like Swarbrick and the Greens, or fleeing to the newly radicalised and socially reactionary right of National and the new conservatives. Of course, under MMP the centre could hold on a bit longer in NZ than in other countries – think liberal Nats defecting to create a new party to prop up a centrist Labour rump, similar to the decayed Federal politics in Germany's MMP government – but that would only delay the inevitable.

    • Mack 8.1

      "technocratic establishment"

      "neoliberal managerialism"

      "quasi-austerian neoliberalism via the shlbboleths of an elite managerial class"

      "newly radicalised and socially reactionary right"

      Aahahahaha…I love reading your rhetoric. You must have got all As at university for Political Science. The academics have indoctrinated you well.

  9. Anker 9
    • Firstly Chloe victory is impressive and she is to be congratulated.
    • should Davison and Shaw do a deal with labour, there is a chance this could split the Greens.
    • i think it was Chloe who got the referendum on the going. If I am wrong I apologise for what I am about to say. If the no vote wins, this will put back the case to legalise cannabis years, if not decades. Just like the flag referendum it will die in a ditch. Chloe did an excellent job of lobbying for reform, but this is a good example of what happens if you don’t take people with you. The idea of reform should have been promoted by an outside group, like health professionals or scientists.
    • Anker-you have been listening too much to disgruntled and outdated ex-Greens like Sue Bradford.

      Nowhere on the horizon is there the slightest chance of the Greens splitting.

      They have a clear "brand" with their solid green and social policies (especially the WT) and they are successful, having just confounded the so-called experts by increasing their vote while being part of a coalition, despite having been targeted by Tova et all with manufactured scandals.

      Chloe was the icing on the top. (I drank a little too much IPA after that result became clear.)

      • anker 9.1.1

        BG the Greens splitting was my own idea, but I am just an interested political junkie and would never claim my views are right!

        I did wonder from the point of view of James and Marama looking to be keen to be in with Labour and further down the list are people with perhaps more radical approaches. but happy to be contradicted about this

        • Bearded Git

          Anker-a week is a long time in politics….

        • arkie

          Both the make-up of the list, and the decision following the outcome of post-election negotiations are determined by Green Party members, not by the MPs.

          • Phillip ure

            It is slightly more nuanced than that..as in I have never heard of the membership going against what the leaders/mp's want..so yes..it goes thru that process..but y'know..! ..what the mood is..is what rules..and this is how it should be…usually…but good to have that check and balance there..just in case of a manchurian candidate..eh..?

    • solkta 9.2

      It will not be up to Davidson and Shaw to do a deal with Labour, these things are managed by the party. The negotiation team and advisory team are made up of old time party members as well as MPs, and the support of at least 75% of branch delegates is required for any deal.

  10. Barfly 10

    AFAIK a hell of a lot of voters who party voted Labour chose Chloe as their electoral candidate – it seems likely to me that many if not most of those wanted a backstop in case the Greens didn't get the 5% threshold as they understand the long term importance of the Green Party as a long term ally to the Labour Party.

    • Marcus Morris 10.1

      Thanks Barfly. Having waded through comment after comment I was hoping someone would make this point. I have a very old friend who lives in Auckland Central who has voted Labour all his life. In conversation with him a month or so ago he expressed a genuine concern that the Greens would not make the 5% threshold and so would need an electoral seat to ensure that Labour had a support party. He was determined even then to give Chloe his vote. I suspect that many Auckland Labour voters voted the same way. That is not to say that Chloe is not a very worthy electorate representative.

    • Visubversa 10.2

      The Greens were wailing that they wanted a lifeline in case they did not get the 5%. They were prepared to bucket emotional blackmail all over progressive people in Auckland Central to vote for Chloe in case the Green party did not crack the 5%. Your "too posh to push" comment is sexist and disgusting when used against a woman who has been an employment lawyer for years, used to work in the Union movement and has been great for Labour in Auckland Central in the last 2 campaigns.

      • Marcus Morris 10.2.1

        Hey Visubversa, you make it sound as if I wrote the comment "too posh to push". I too was not happy with that comment. Cheers.

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    Consequence Four: Get this woman a job, or she will continue to rise and eat more of Labour’s left vote.

    It's not Chloe. Sure, she helps, but the actual issue is the fact that the Baby Boomers are dying off:

    What will be the legacy of their 50-year dominance of NZ politics? Change agents for sure, but to what end? Parasitic, sociopathic or nation builders?

    They have two more elections to turn around a track record of malignant neglect.

    Basically, the young have realised that the Baby Boomers were all a bunch of selfish arseholes and are working to change the failed legacy that the Baby Boomers, whom Labour represent, have left.

  12. Tiger Mountain 12

    Ms Swarbrick’s beautiful win echos the legacy of Sandra Lee in old Auck. Central, and in the US, of AOC, Rashida Tlaib and other recent successful young woman Congressional rep campaigns in the Democrats for Justice orbit.

    And I agree with the esteemed Editor of The Daily Blog that the 2020 General Election signals a significant weakening of “born to rule” Tory boomers and Provincial farmers political influence.

  13. observer 13

    This is creative writing, not hard analysis. "Grey Lynn tribe"?

    If anyone is interested in solid stats, the details for each booth are here:

    Scroll down for the candidate votes in every booth (PDF).

    The home-owners in pricey inner suburbs of Auckland Central are not the main reason Chloe won (Emma Mellow got more votes in some big booths). Her supporters are the students and young apartment-dwellers paying rip-off rents, and more likely to be serving a coffee on minimum wage than sipping a soy latte. There's a reason her office is in K-Road.

    Also, this is meaningless …

    "If they hadn’t made 5% they would have owed their parliamentary existence to her."

    But they got well over 5%. If we knock one third off their party vote, then let's knock off some votes in Auckland Central too. Doesn't need to be a third, to let in Helen White. We can't just pretend the electorate is entirely isolated from the wider election.

    I could go on (Hillary Clinton? And Wellington Central? Because Grant = Helen?) but the whole thing is a head-shaker.

    • lprent 13.1

      I'm going to find some consistent time over the next three years to help to see just how soft that Green Auckland Central vote is.

      Should be more fun than helping out in Mt Albert.

      Like observer I'm seeing more of a vote from transient areas in the booths. Not to mention that the actual suburb 'Grey Lynn' has been in Mount Albert electorate since 2014 (?) – which makes Ad's primary thesis even more of a myth than reality. There wasn't a boundary change in 2020.


      The Auckland Central electorate comprises the inner city communities of Herne Bay, Ponsonby, Freemans Bay and along the waterfront to Mechanics Bay in the east. Due to projected population growth Westmere and most of Grey Lynn has been transferred to Mt Albert. The western boundary is now largely defined by Richmond Rd, while the eastern boundary now includes Auckland Hospital and the Domain. The southern boundary now includes parts of Grafton and Newton.

      • Ad 13.1.1

        The Grey Lynn Tribe is not a place; it's a way of expressing difference from other kinds of groups within New Zealand. The name is a container for a complex interplay of attitudes, values, prejudices and pretensions.


        Now that you know it's not a geographically defined area, but instead a Tribe, we can frame it up. If New Zealand has an intelligensia, the Grey Lynn tribe would like to think that it is i t. They are university-trained people who find ideas stimulating and fulfilling. They regard the opinions you hold as a direct reflection of your intellect, which in turn measures your worth as a person.

        Belief in the common good, paying tax and a genuine belief in the public education system and the public health system is a hallmark of their preference for the common good. They dream of the time when New Zealand's social infrastructure was the best in the world.

        They believe the government is responsible for solving social issues through legislation, education programmes, and social marketing campaigns.

        Regulation is the hallmark of their thinking and behaviour: there is no level to which rules ought not be applied. So on the one hand the community experiences and facilities of toy libraries, street fairs and tree-planting is favoured, but on the other hand they can support a wonderful playground experience and then stop children from using because theres no safety plan in place.

        Every Grey Lynn tribe member will have a story about how his or her actions are making the world a better place.

        Who knows, maybe we've seen a few of them here.

        Remember, it's just a fun little taxonomy, and there may well be more than 8 of them by now.

        • lprent

          Who knows, maybe we've seen a few of them here.

          I live in Grey Lynn. So yes you have. However I dislike and distrust over-blown abstractions. They become a simple minded self-fulfilling prophecy. And as you have carefully pointed out are essentially meaningless.

          In my early years I grew up in Newton, Ponsonby, and Grey Lynn respectively when they were the cheapest slums in Auckland. This 'tribe' simply didn't exist in this region then or if it did it wasn't an intelligentsia. They were people who couldn't afford decent housing. So your 'tribe' was obviously not living around here then. Besides which they'd have had to have been mostly Polynesian or Maori at the time.

          I think that your 'tribe' mostly existed over in Mt Eden where the housing was somewhat less grotty.

          There was a brief period in the 70s and 80s when these areas were still cheap. They were on the bus routes that went past the university. The place deteriorated into transient students rentals, their local lecturers/gurus, and a significiant population of artists chasing cheap rents. Persoannly I tend to refer to that period as being the screwfest.

          From the 90s the price of housing here kept rising rapidly. These days 'Grey Lynn' in pretty much a haven of soccer moms and dads taking temporary leave of their professional careers with parental leave. There are also large residuals of the previous influxes. It is about as mixed set of areas as you could imagine.

          This is why National have been able to take and hold the electoral vote here, and make significant inroads on the party vote as well.

          Basically, silly abstractions like the "Grey Lynn tribe", Jackson's "The Common Man", Weber's "Ideal type" usually start as being lazy shorthand and rapidly morph into becoming generators of epicycles denying reality while trying to maintain an abstraction.

          Certainly, if I ever actually meet a member of your mythic tribe that conforms to your expectations, I will be sure to point them out to you. However I suspect that around here it is a bit like looking for a snow leopard in a tropical sea level swamp.

          • RedLogix

            Well I'd have to be a lot more comfortable with the abstraction than you are then. I recall doing the quiz years ago, and fell out as a 60/40 mix of Grey Lynn and Raglan (especially at Christmas) tribe.

            Note carefully; I've never lived in either place. The suburb naming works because, at least when the book was first written, they're easy identifiers we could all recognise and remember. Nothing more.

            My partner is an odd mix of Papatoetoe and North Shore, and I've no idea why she puts up with me.devil

  14. I'd be interested in reading an article on why Labour did so badly in Auckland. While even Rangitata turned red, Labour failed to win Maungakiekie – a marginal for fox sake – flopped in Auckland Central, got nowhere in Papakura and only just held Tamaki Makaurau. Given the swing even North Shore should have gone Labour. Surely someone would be keen on writing an in-depth piece on this failure?

    • bruce 14.1

      Living in Onehunga don't think Labour had a candidate there. Where as Denise Lee worked very hard was very much in your face and seemed to have achieved a lot for the residents there. She just offered a lot more compared to any one else, I would say there a lot of Lee for candidate, Labour for party in the electorate.

  15. GillyT 15

    The Greens are where Labour was 100 years ago: in the ascendancy. They are the future like it or not. I’ve just come from visiting friends in a rural Taranaki community. The older people are resolutely and unequivocally conservative with a small “c” but are prone to every conspiracy theory going (mosque shooting a government plot to take their guns, etc) but their children are expressing very different ideas. One was attending a farmer’s training school and talked openly about sustainability and a “Green” approach. It’s a generational change that’s underway, a la 1984. The now-retired journalist Colin James wrote about it just after JA’s win in 2017, but Chloe Swarbrick’s win is an even more potent example.

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