Kicking the tyres

12 Feb

Unsurprisingly for a small country there are few books written about New Zealand politics and fewer about the electoral process. Now that Auckland University are no longer producing their excellent electoral studies , which were mainly written by psephologists, the Victoria University press series , gamely edited by Johansson and Levine is the last man standing.

Once again the editors have pulled together a fine volume , trying, perhaps because of the lack of options , to cover many bases. there’s an academic overview where I only lost Colin James detailed numerical analysis seven times (or 6.95 with overhang ). A section on party perspectives , then some detailed analysis of the election and the role of media or TV etc. In addition this volume also covers off the referendum on the electoral system. Sadly there is no concise statistical analysis of the results which would add greatly to the books all round scope.
Whilst the quality of the analysis has gone up over the years the party political section had seemed to go down, but ill get to that.
The analysis of the election is fascinating in that policy seems to have little role. The National party had this in the bag before the start, all that remained was the partnerships needed. And here lies the recurring story of the 2011 election. Alas we have to always append a gate to any minor scandal these days and Teapot gate was the story. The fact that I don’t think a teapot ever reached the table seems irrelevant. That meeting shaped the election. For three reasons. Firstly it opened the door for NZ first , secondly it created a battle at last. But not between Key and Goff but Key and the media. Thirdly it seemed the started the descent of Key. He looked unassured and possible heavy handed in his handling of the fall out.
The other recurring issue is the rugby World Cup. It seems foolish to assign any impact on the election , but almost every commentator feels obliged to mention its impact or lack of.
The partnership thread runs through this book. Despite the significant vote the National party received at the 2011 and 2008 elections its chances in 2014 look slim. The reason for this is that it’s MMP partners are all fragmenting or shrinking. United Future and ACT may dissapear. The Maori party have shrunk and may need to disassociate with National to survive. So the options look slim next time , unless the relationship with NZ first thaws.

A final comment on the book must be the sections on party political perspectives. Joyce’s chapter on Nationals campaign is bland and offers little in how the campaign really went. Both Peters and Dunne use their chapters to bash the media , settle scores and generally point out how well they did and how we all got it wrong. Maybe future books should get campaign managers to write these chapters , they used to add to our understanding of the campaign ..this is no longer the case.

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