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Mt Albert By-Election

20 May

From ex Leader to next Leader.

Some notes for a wider project piece I am trying to put together …comments welcome ….

The New Zealand political environment was still trying to come to terms with the resignation of Prime Minister John Key when only 2 days later it was reported that former Labour leader David Shearer was to resign his seat and take up a job as United Nations special envoy to South Sudan[1]. The Mt Albert electorate was to have its second MMP by-election to allow a former Leader to safely parachute out for an international job. Perhaps MMP by-elections had found a purpose after all.


Shearer had not formally resigned his seat, nor been confirmed in the role and the thinking about whether there would be a by-election was advancing. Some commentators, and even the Labour leader Andrew Little, wondered if there might be cause for an early general election if Mr Shearer were to resign alongside the potential departures of the Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson, the New Lynn MP David Cunliffe and the former Prime Minister and Helensville MP John Key. [2]

Within days of becoming Prime Minister Bill English announced that the by-election would be held on 25 February 2017 and that National would not contest the seat (even before David Shearer had resigned the seat). This seemed to end any speculation of a super Saturday for replacing sitting MPs or an early election. English wanted National to focus on winning the 2017 General Election, a decision aspiring Labour candidate Jacinda Ardern noted as “surprising”[3] and the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, Annette King, went on “I think he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat, he doesn’t want to look as if he’s not successful and he doesn’t want to have a defeat at the beginning of the year, “That’s fair enough, but it’s very strange that he wouldn’t take the opportunity to run a candidate and put out their policies and what their achievements are, if they can identify them.”[4] Nationals campaign manager Steven Joyce hit back and said that Labour’s decision not to stand in Northland had been fine for them. When challenged with the reality that Labour had stood in Northland, Joyce called this a “ relative term “[5]  The Green Party announced on 23 December that they would contest the seat, to give voters a choice. Given they had previously not contested the Mt Roskill by-election to assist the Labour party it was a decision open to some interpretive criticism. [6] Green co-leader Meteria Turia said the party were committed to standing but accepted that the Labour party would win. Quite how her reality of accepting defeat and standing was any less or more rational than English’s view of accepting defeat so refusing to stand will be for others to consider. What was clear, even before Shearer had officially left his seat, was that Labour would win.

2014 Election Result

Mount Albert was held at the 2014 election by David Shearer. Shearer had won the seat in a by-election in 2009 making it the first seat to be contested twice as an MMP by-election. There had been some initial excitement that given National had gained a larger share of the party vote than any other party in the 2014 election, that they may be able to win the seat.

David Shearer Labour 20,970 58.17%
Melissa Lee National 10,314 28.61%
Jeanette Elley Green Party 3,152 8.74%
Jeffrey Johnson CNSP 525 1.46%
Tommy Fergusson ACT 321 0.89%
Joe Carolan Mana 290 0.80%
Anthony Van Den Heuvel 76 0.21%
Michael Wackrow 68 0.19%
Informals 336 0.93%
Votes Cast 36,052
National Party 14,359 38.89%
Labour Party 10,823 29.31%
Green Party 8,005 21.68%
New Zealand First 1,512 4.10%
Conservative 719 1.95%
Internet Mana 603 1.63%
ACT 356 0.96%
Maori Party 178 0.48%
ALCP 93 0.25%
United Future 57 0.15%
Ban 1080 12 0.03%
The Civilian Party 11 0.03%
Democrats Social Credit 7 0.02%
Focus New Zealand 6 0.02%
NZ Independent Coalition 5 0.01%
Informals 176 0.48%
Total 36,922


For the Labour party the obvious strength of a high profile sitting list MP who lived in the Mt Albert constituency saw Jacinda Ardern emerge as the only person to put their name forward for selection. Her candidature was confirmed on 22 January at a local party meeting. [7] Ardern had stood in the neighbouring Auckland Central seat at the last general election.

The Green party also choose a sitting list MP in Julie Ann Genter. Genter had stood in Epsom in the 2014 General Election. Genter saw Nationals absence as a way to show politics could be done differently, and that the campaign would not be negative.[8]

The New Zealand People’s Party who had formed in 2016 as a party focused on Indian and Asian immigrants decided to contest the by-election and chose Vin Tomar as its candidate. Tomar was a former Green Party member and lived in the constituency.[9]

The recently formed but yet to be registered The Opportunities Party announced that it would contest the by-election. The party founder and leader Gareth Morgan announced the candidature of Geoff Simmons, a Wellington based economist and the party Chief of Staff, under a barrage of analogy. Simmons would be the “rose between two thorns” and “David against Goliath”. Labour and the Greens were “Sisters in arms”. Simmons even referenced a recent cricket match result to show that anything could happen. [10]

By the close of nominations there were thirteen candidates, including four independents, the Communist League, People Before Profit, Cannabis Party, the strangely named Not a Party and the Human Rights Party. [11]


In many respects the absence of the National party took the wind out of the campaign before it began. Whilst this may have been the intention from a political perspective it again raised questions about the financial cost of running a by-election in an MMP environment.

The Opportunities Party began their campaign with another bizarre analogy session. Simmons, perhaps anticipating the result, said he didn’t want to be a career politician. He then went on “Every politician promises you a nice pair of underwear but what you find after three years is, really all you had is, you’ve taken the old underwear, turned them inside out and put them back on again,”[12] He went on to say “We the party, we actually want to do ourselves out of a job – that’s what we’re setting this thing up so we don’t have to do it anymore”. Simmons father who lives in the constituency attended the launch, waving a Julie Ann Genter campaign sign and said he had yet to make up his mind which way to vote. [13]

The Opportunities Party were later subjected to a complaint on behalf of ACT (also not standing in this election) about the use of a van for “treating “. This is a legal concept alleging that voters were being given a free ride rather than a fun concept as no one could really imagine going for a spin in a van with Gareth Morgan’s face on it as a treat ! Thankfully the Electoral Commission cleared them of the allegation.  [14] [15]

The three main candidates all featured in a debate hosted in an Indian restaurant in Sandringham Media coverage seemed to focus on the absence of any difference between the three candidates and that they were all candidates of the left (though its questionable where The Opportunities Party and the Labour Party sit ). The Auckland housing market was a key question raised for the candidates. Simmons advocated a Capital Gains Tax on first homes. Arden disagreed with this while Genter advocated for planning zone changes. Simmons made another of his now familiar odd comments by asking that he was elected on the basis that he’s the only one not already in Parliament. [16] Whist’s it’s an odd campaign slogan there is of course a wider issue ( see below ).

The campaign seemed to focus quite quickly on the size of victory that Ardern would achieve and the potential impact that would have on the Labour party for the 2017 general election. Arden’s campaign was a personalised one, whilst there was some logic to this in a one-off election it also highlighted the candidates favourable image. Or at least a more favourable image than her party and leader. Electors were being asked to back team Jacinda rather than vote Labour. The perceived inevitability of the result made for a rather lack luster time.  Her main opponent even referred to her as “ own to earth and friendly, even though she’s a superstar in Parliament”.[17] Indeed the closeness of the two candidates ( they even apparently car pooled while canvassing !) took any potential edge out of the campaign. It even prompted what might be the worst piece of election writing ever by the New Zealand Herald when they declared “ The least bitter rivalry in New Zealand politics has broken out in the Mt Albert by-election” [18] Not only had they car pooled and canvassed together they had shown off dance moves. Genter said it had been “fun”.

As election day arrived, Labour leader Andrew Little campaigned with Ardern and downplayed discussion of a future reshuffle. Ardern toyed with idea of recycling her first name billboards for the General Election and discussion seemed to be on how low the turnout would be. [19]


One observer who had witnessed many elections (Mike Williams) observed it was the “most low-key byelection I’ve ever seen” However it was thought the Labour party were testing a new campaigning strategy. The strategy was claimed to be adopted from the Victoria Labour Party and the recent Wellington Mayoralty. They established a network of field officers and volunteers who data mine whether a voter is persuadable and what issues they care about.[20] Some may question why they had never thought of this before.

Result and aftermath

The preliminary result surprised no one and Ardern received over 77% of the vote on just under 13,000 votes cast. Genter was second but distant and The Opportunities Party came in third. Turnout was only around 27 % at the preliminary stage. [21]

The official result published on 8 March with little change to the result.

Jacinda Ardern Labour  10,495 76.89%
Julie Anne Genter Green  1,564 11.46%
Geoff Simmons  623 4.56%
Vin Tomar New Zealand Peoples Party  218 1.60%
Joe Carolan People Before Profit  189 1.38%
Penny Bright  139 1.02%
Abe Gray Cannabis Party  7 0.05%
Adam Amos  81 0.59%
Dale Arthur  54 0.40%
Anthony Van Den Heuvel Human Rights  34 0.25%
Peter Wakeman  30 0.22%
Simon Smythe  19 0.14%
Patrick Brown Communist  16 0.12%
Informals  90 0.66%
Total 13649
Turnout 30%

By the Wednesday following the poll, despite rejecting the idea a week earlier, Annette King resigned as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Jacinda Ardern was backed for the vacancy. [22]

The Green party went off to contemplate what the result really meant for them. Could the poor showing undermine its chances of being in Government? Labour may cannibalize the Greens vote where it can and be left holding hands with New Zealand First. The expectation of gaining 30 or even 40 % of the vote seemed woefully optimistic. [23] The Opportunities Party were reflecting on achieving 4.6 % of the vote as being near its target 5%. It seemed rude to point out the absence of National and New Zealand First negated that effort somewhat. [24]

Three months after David Shearer indicated he was leaving there was a new MP in Parliament. However, this wasn’t the victorious candidate Jacinda Ardern. She had been in Parliament throughout the campaign as had her main rival. The new MP was declared elected on 15 March 2017 following Arden’s resignation from the list. Raymond Hau was the ultimate beneficiary of the poll result.[25] So what was this all about?

There a debate to be had over the role and purpose of by-elections under MMP. Nigel Roberts returned to this debate during the Mt Albert contest. He points to the wide range of countries that don’t hold by-elections yet still have stable and useful democracies.[26] Would we have been any worse off to have replaced David Shearer with Raymond Hua without reference to the electorate? Does it diminish the role of by-elections on Parliamentary arithmetic? Well it’s a different world under MMP. Electors vote for party preference as well as individual MPs. There a desire to keep that party balance in place over the three years, which is a relatively short electoral cycle. Could we survive without another by-election? Well certainly without one as lackluster as MT Albert we certainly could.


[1] Audrey Young “ David Shearer to quit for UN job: Mt Albert by-election Looms” 8 December 2016,at

[2] RadioNZ “ David Shearer to quit, Labour ready for early election” 8 December 2016, at,-labour-‘ready’-for-early-election

[3] RadioNZ “ National won’t contest Mt Albert By-election” 19 December 2016, at’t-contest-mt-albert-by-election

[4] RadioNZ “ Bill English accused of chickening out in Mt Albert ‘ 20 December 2016, at

[5] ibid

[6] Stuff “ Green Party to stand against Labour in Mt Albert by-election” 23 December 2016, at

[7] Stuff “ Jacinta Arden Labour’s sole nominee for Mt Albert by-election” 12 January 2017, at

[8] Nicholas Jones” Mt Albert by-election:Its Jacinda Arden vs Julie Ann Genter “ 12 January 2017,at

[9] Sandeep Singh”New Zealand People Party to spice up Mt Albert By-election, announces candidate”,26 December 2016, at,-announces-candidate

[10] NZHerald “ Gareth Morgan’s Opportunities Party to run in Mt Albert by-election” 1 February 2017, at

[11] RadioNZ “ Thirteen candidates for Mt Albert by-election “ 01 February 2017, at

[12] Troika Tokelau-Chandra “ Mt Albert by-election Candidate Geoff Simmons makes unlikely comparison at launch “ 4 February 2017, at

[13] ibid

[14] Treating is defined in the Electoral Act 1993 (Section 217 ) as the provision of food, drink, entertainment or provision with the exception of a post meeting light supper, with the intention of influencing or procuring the recipients vote.

[15] Issac Davidson “ Gareth Morgan accuses ACT Party of petty complaints.” 21 February 2017, at

[16] Simon Maude “ Mt Albert electorate left to the left wing parties to fight it out “ 15 February 2017, at

[17] Ricardo Simich, “ By-election front runners guide to Mt Albert” 18 February 2017, at “

[18] NZherald “ Greens’Julie Anne Genter and Labour’s Jacinta Ardern strike up friendship in Mt Albert “ 22 February 2017, at

[19] NZHerald “ Mt Albert byelection:Andrew Little joins Jacinta Arden for final day of campaigning “ 24 February 2017, at

[20] Issac Davidson “ Candidates brce for the polls..wait,what ? There’s a byelection?” 18 February 2017, at

[21] NZherald “ Landslide win for Jacinta Ardern in Mt Albert by-election “ 25 February 2017, at

[22] Nicholas Jones “ Labour’s new deputy:JAcinda Ardern’s ‘pay-it-forward’ politics” 2 March 2017, at

[23] Simon Wilson “ The GReens’ mediocre Mt Albert result reveals the hill they have to climb in 2017” 27 February 2017, at

[24] Nicholas Jones “ Gareth Morgan’s party happy with Mt Albert by-election result” 26 February 2017, at


[26] Nigel Roberts “ We should do away with by-elections, 14 February 2017, at


Incumbency in NZ Local Elections

10 Dec

Incumbency in New Zealand Local Elections

New Zealand Council elections operate in what at times feels like a vacuum. There are no party names to guide voters intentions, though this is slowly being chipped away at.One issue considered of significance,though little analysed or understood is the power of incumbency. The low number of candidates, the lack of party infrastructure to “ get out the vote” and the relatively low-level of political combat means that those studies that have been undertaken have indicated that incumbents do well.

Graham Bush tested the idea that incumbents did well even in partisan contests looking at the 1980 Local Body Elections. (Bush, 1981). In the late 1970s Auckland had a 59% incumbency rate, and other cities were showing that Councillors left by death or retirement not through voters at the ballot box. Bush showed that in the main cities in 1980 incumbents had a 79.2% success rate whereas non-incumbents had a 26.6 % success rate. Where party or group labels were not applied to candidates then he found the advantages of incumbency were compounded. “Notability will normally be the leading criterion, and being a sitting councillor is an obvious mark of this characteristic.” (Bush, 1981) Bush found nearly 90% of non-partisan incumbents were re-elected. He also found a high proportion of sitting members offered themselves for re-election, making entry into local body politics restrictive.
Whilst there are more complex models for  measuring the impact of incumbency, Bush’s crude analysis provides something of both a framework and also poses some interesting questions.(For example Boyne et al ). However caution needs to be held over attributing a lot of weight to the comparison between incumbents success rates and non incumbents success rates. Generally there is 1 incumbent and 1 seat, and a higher proportion of contestants than incumbents.
Updating Bush’s figures to look at the 2013  elections for Auckland City Council shows that 17 of the 21 members stood for office and 14 of them won.So 66.6% of the Council returned and of those that chose to stand 82% were successful. In 2016 the figures were similar with 17 members standing for election, but this time 15 winning, or 88%.

Having taken a rather unscientific look at District Councils in the Upper North Island at the 2016 elections we find an even greater correlation between incumbency and re-election.

District Members Stood Elected % success % incumbent
Far North 10 9 9 100% 90%
Whangerai 14 14 11 79% 79%
Thames Coromandel 9 6 5 83% 56%
Hauraki DC 13 10 8 80% 62%
Waikato DC 14 9 8 89% 57%
Matamata piako 12 7 7 100% 58%
Hamilton city 13 8 8 100% 62%
Waipa 13 11 11 100% 85%
Waitomo 7 6 6 100% 86%
Otorohanga 8 5 5 100% 63%
South Waikato 11 6 6 100% 55%
Tauranga 11 8 6 75% 55%
Kaweara 9 7 6 86% 67%
Western Bay of Plenty 12 9 7 78% 58%
Whakatane 11 11 9 82% 82%
Taupo 11 9 8 89% 73%
New Plymouth 15 9 8 89% 53%
Wanganui 13 9 6 67% 46%
South Taranki 13 7 6 86% 46%
Stratford 11 6 6 100% 55%
Total 230 166 146 88% 63%

Some stand out things here, firstly 88% of those that choose to stand again were successful. This is a challenge to democratic renewal. You would also wonder why out of the 20 Councils looked at 8 returned all those members who chose to stand . Fine I guess if the public are 100% satisfied with what those Councils are doing.

I haven’t looked at the number of contestants in these seats which may also be a bearing on contestability and choice. I was struck though by a recent essay which considers that Local Government is now more Governance than representation ( Johnston 2016 ). Theres something to ponder here ?



G Boyne,O James,P John and N Petrovsky, Democracy and Government Performance : Holding Incumbents Accountable in English Local Governments,

GWA Bush “ Incumbency in the 1980 Local Body Elections”, Political Science 33,1981

Karen Johnston, The Nature of Governance in New Zealand’s Local Government , in Local Government in New Zealand eds Drage and Cheyne 2016


Does the Mt Roskill by-election matter

1 Dec

..the answer is of course not.

The Mount Roskill by-election seems to be a reasonable bit of light entertainment . Caused by the long serving MP deciding to get a golden parachute into the Auckland mayoralty ( theres a bit more to it than that but not much more ). There have been periodic flutters of excitement about the seat. In the 2014 General Election although Goff won the seat, National won the most second preferences. Could there be an upset ? Unlikely though it seems the statistics were, and are, plausible. Some are arguing that this could come about by a low turnout. What constitutes a low turnout may be below 35%. Who knows.

The ethnic diversity of the seat has also thrown in question whether Labours candidate ( a white european male who has previously worked for Phil Goff ) is quite offering the type of candidate the electorate wants, or more importantly perhaps the type of candidate it needs. This has created a vacancy, at least in his head, for Rohan Nauhuria and his Peoples Party. A party focussing primarily on  voters with Indian or Chinese ethnicity. The Peoples Party may be set to be 2017’s Internet Party. Should they prove to be successful though, which I am doubtful of, I won’t eat my hat. I will however eat something either Inidan or Chinese which would be more appetising,tasty and palatable. But I digress.

National then with the potential glimmer of winning, a glimmer that would probably see the end of Andrew Little chose a rather tame candidate. She’s currently a list MP and although Parmjeet Parmar may reflect the constituencies ethnicity with greater accuracy than Michael Wood, she’s hardly come out as a dynamic go-getter. Today she is touring Pak N Save with John Key – what a life.

There may have been a punch up, we don’t really know. Some claim there was, there are many others who deny it. What could be more exciting than a punch up at a by-election. A lot it seems. Even if National win it and cement their custard cream capitalism onto the Nation for another 9 years, the by-election is still meaningless. If Labour win , well so what. But the broader question if you excuse my lack of concern around the outcome is that by-elections have an odd place in MMP. Theres a set of problems we never got round to resolving. The last review of MMP raised some, though not all.

Historically by-elections were more important. Firstly because all MPs were directly elected. We were never more than a heartbeat away from one. Under MMP many Mps come and go without ever having to refer this to the electorate. Aaron Gilmore is a good example of tucking away an embarrassment and moving on. Mike Sabin is one from the old school ( the exception proving the point you understand ). Under MMP parties can replenish whenever they feel like it, and often do.  The last review of MMP considered how the replacement of List MPs allowed for proportionate representation to remain. However that becomes a mockery if, as in Northland in 2015, a seat changes hands in a by-election. Why then bother to replace List Mps to keep proportionate numbers, when we didn’t bother to hound Brendan Horan out of Parliament when he shifted his allegiance from New Zealand First to Independent Weathermen.

The issue that really exercised the MMP review was that list MPs, such as Parmjeet Parmar, can contest by-elections without having to resign. I have to say I am less exercised by this than by the ability of List MPs to change allegiance or to top up dead list MPs but not dead directly elected ones. If Parmar wins, incidentally, she is replaced by Misa Fia Turner. Turner it is claimed thinks Trump is anointed by God. This may be true, God is hilarious at the best of times. She may actually not be a Misa, and lists her interests as praying,reading and networking. I am reminded of the old Mars bar ads “ Work,rest and Pray “

So its been great entertainment, theres possibly a twist in the tail, but even if there is who cares ? Its time I think to have a re-think on the role of by-elections under MMP and create some consistency across the spectrum.


Election Billboards …still hanging on !

28 Sep

Last week Stuff ran an article headed ” Election sign designs fail to excite “. In the article a design lecturer commented ” They are all fine, but there is nothing new ” after looking at signs in Palmerston North. Simplicity seemed to be the message. The Lecturer suggest ( though perhaps not as her as the article leads us to think ) that candidates need to re-think marketing.

Hang on though, these are local body elections. Most candidates will be spending in the hundreds of dollars, if at all. Hoardings don’t win elections, they may make a confirmation or connection. But is that the point ? The 2016 elections have seen local hoardings make a bit of a comeback even if the political effect will be limited. From Vic Crones early and illegal use of them outside the prescribed period, which led to a bizarre exchange about underwear pictures ( not hers I must add )., through to the shocking revelation that marlborough candidates are ignoring safety advice in placing hoardings at intersections. And to think they may be responsible for …well something.

More artistically and without any real logic Invercargill has seen hoax billboards for Harambe, the Gorilla shot in a US Zoo. I love the quote from the Invercargill election officer that ” these were not in accordance with the district plan ” clearly an oversight around signage for dead zoo animals during the prescribed election period. He then went on to say the signs would probably not distract from the real candidate signs. Lets hope the residents of Invercargill aren’t spending too much time searching voting documents for a silverback.

In Auckland there has been a fight between candidates over a phrase used by Manurewa – papkura action team , that they are opposed to 9.9 percent rates increases. Now this isn’t because they dislike 9’s or that they don’t like 9.9 , its unclear if they want more or less ( ok it is clear )

2 Whangerai candidates have been displaying works of art  because they didn’t want to do political billboards. The art looks really neat- whether it will help them who knows.There have also been mock boards for a candidate who isn’t running – make your own joke up there.

Thieves in Auckland stole a trailer of billboards from a candidates house – again insert own joke here, but anything about them returning twice as many the next day is mine. ( The herald used the line Greg Mckeown woke up this morning to find his home had been targeted, which is a really bad attempt at writing a blues song ) .

Thieves were also stealing Tessa Bergers signs , though quite frankly they are awful in terms of political messaging. The real sadness though is that many billboards still create an opportunity for racist graffiti. Though that is not the point. I don’t really care about the message, billboards are art. They are a Gilbert and George esqu art for sure, and not the kind you’d want in your living room. But they are still here, and the local elections allow us to escape the vanilla national ones …long may they continue.

Can Crone win the Auckland Mayoralty ?

23 Jan


Ok let me expand .

But first a caveat, or two.

I fully expect Phil Goff to win the Auckland Mayoral race and can’t wait for the Mount Roskill By-Election.

Secondly I am not a supporter of Goff or Crone. I have no personal interest in the outcome.

There are a few background points Team Crone Team need to understand. The last Election had an appallingly low turnout and Brown as incumbent up against a candidate who was , to be honest , just awful didn’t exactly romp home. His vote share was good but certainly not insurmountable. Brown also had an in built advantage of office and prior office. Goff does not have this.

Team Crone need to concentrate on the corridor from North through to Central and out East. Palino won the Northern districts but some on low margins and turnouts. A good campaign could easily add to this. This should be strong territory but Palino didn’t appeal.

Out East is more fertile ground for Crone. Palino  did awful in Howick, they should add votes just on mobilising turnout in that area.

Central- strong ground for National , strong ground for Brown. Maybe they need to lean on the establishment to win this area.

Turnout- maximising core vote won’t be enough. However low turnout is likely to favour Goff as the unions and labour establishment will ensure they get the vote out. Crone needs something similar.

Messages – Crone needs to drop quickly the anti-politician vs politician line. No one needs spoon-feeding that Goff has been on the inside of Politics for 30 years. Its out there, labouring away at this won’t increase vote and Palino managed to get core vote only for his dog whistle ” I hear you ” campaign. Goff is going to remembered as someone who lost an election as Labour leader. You don’t need to message that.

Crone needs to also avoid overplaying her business background. Firstly because its going to be open to attack and secondly , well to be frank not many business people have made good politicians. Its not a badge of honour. She is better to relate to people as a Mother and Auckland. Someone who traverses daily the traffic the bills and Auckland life. Not someone who spends 4 days a week in Wellington with expenses.

Housing is not an issue they should go near…because frankly they don’t have an answer or a toolbox equipped for it. Understand and empathise but what can you do ? The people who vote in local elections tend to be homeowners and ones who haven’t moved in a while. Do they want to know the house they own is in need of a correction ?


So I am not writing Crone off – particularly if she distances herself from Michelle Boag, but if I was a betting man I would still be backing Goff. And if I was a voter I would back neither !




A moment of truth

11 Dec

Steven Joyce has a barber, ponder this. It is a fascinating insight gained from Victoria University Press’s excellent new book on the 2014 New Zealand election ” moments of truth”.

The 2014 election will go down as being, well odd. Something with a lot of kinetic energy but having little impact on the outcome. This theme seems to run through the whole of this excellent book, a book that seems slightly stronger than its 2011 older sibling.

At one end we had Dirty Politics, what did that mean ? It seems the answer is not a lot. Whether you were offended , amused or enthused by it seems to only reinforce your original standpoint. And then there was the big reveal. Kim’s moment of truth. Big let-down for many.

I can’t help thinking after reading this book what is the point of John Key ? Seriously some will applaud the Nats strategy over the past 9 years. I am not one of them. The question I keep coming round to is this, is the strong mandate a kiwi way of reflecting the lack of vision ? How will future historians look back at Key ?

There’s a great blend of Media perspective, candidate perspective and academic analysis. I still don’t know of another book quite like it , and a CD !

I’m not sure that National – Key will be threatened in 2017. Some of the writers tackle the challenges lying ahead for the non-National block and particularly the role of Winston Peters. New Zealand is clearly developing its own , FPP mentality biased PR system, and in some ways it works well.

I look sometimes at the gaps in my collection of these books, it’s a look of annoyance and also a reality check on the challenges, a look perhaps that Steven Joyce’s barber gives to Steven Joyce’s head.



The First Proportional Election in New Zealand

11 Nov

Under the provisions of the Local Elections ( Proportional Representation ) Act of 1914, which remained on the statute until the 1960’s, Christchurch held a set of elections under STV in 1917. These Elections were observed by a George Hogben, who reported to Parliament on the proceedings. The elections covered 16 city councillors, 4 members of the Lyttleton Harbour Board and  7 of the Hospital Board. However the Mayor was elected by First Past The Post.  Over 17,000 people voted for the Council, 16,000 for the Harbour Board and Hospital Boards.

Local Newspapers had used a mock election to help voters understand the system, electing members of an Imperial Cabinet, which sounds so very Star Wars. Staff got to undertake a trial count, however staff came and went during this process much to Mr Hogbens displeasure. Two computers were used for the count though it is hard to see that these were anything other than calculators of some description. It was 1917 after all.

A complex system of pigeon holes with candidates names on them and cards for preferences. Hogbens report says that in the trial count a full set of directions were issued to computers, supervisors, sorters and counters. I am now at a loss as to what the computer(s) was.

There were 174 effective counts !32 of these counts saw no votes transferred due to marginal issues. Other counts were made to simply check the previous count. Even though Hogben said this was totally unnecessary, after all they had 2 computers. Distribution was done on the Clark method with a 3 stage transfer. Hogben felt this added about a third to the total counting time with little impact on the result. The final count took 33 hours, with 8 hours on top for the Harbour Board and another 13 for the Hospital.

Hogben felt the election produced proportionality in comparison to first preferences. There were nearly 5% of informal votes. Some marked papers with a cross, as they did for the Mayoral election, or crossed out the names of those they didn’t like ( which apparently was what they did in the previous election !)

New Zealand Votes The General Election of 2002.

6 Oct

The sixth of the Victoria University post-election conferences to be turned into a book was also a first. Not because it came with a cd of video and audio segments no because it featured Bob the Builder on the front cover. Bob larger than life juxtaposed next to Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton doing a passable attempt at auld lang syne with Helen. Bob , he looks so much younger then. Bob a man who makes clear deals and sticks to them. Peter Dunne what happened to him ?

Bob the builder was used as a semi campaign tool by New Zealand First – Can we fix it ? Hilarious I know. But remember back in 2002 United Future were a force to be reckoned with. Jim Anderton had a party and Nicky Hager tried to destabilise election campaign. 2002 was an eventful campaign and in many ways showed the potential of MMP. A Labour led Government was re-elected with a change in support parties. A first for the system that proved continuity could be done as well as change.

The book has an excellent audio-visual CD, which I am still surprised other books haven’t followed. It a great reminder of how quickly political campaigning and reporting moves on , yet also how much it stays the same. Was it only 13 years ago that John Tamihere had a future in politics, Hekia Parata admitted to being out of her comfort zone, ACT had MP’s plural.

Neil Roberts wrote a wonderful chapter on billboards, a subject close to my heart. Perhaps the most reflective essay is a snapshot of the Wairarapa campaign and the changing fabric of an electorate.

In 2002 Labour chose to form a Government without the Greens, the Greens have still not managed to unbox themselves from this. Only 2 more years until we do it all again.



The Antinomies of Winston Peters

2 Apr

The dust is settling. Bar some strange action against Focus NZ for advertising people to vote Winston, the election is settled. Settling. The Northland by-election will be remembered in NZ political folklore for some time. Not just because the Herald insist on the word byelection. No its the election that seems to justify whatever proposition and question you hold. Yet at the same time its the election that possibly gives nothing. Try some of the common themes.

National got a bloody nose. – undoubtedly true. The most embarrassing by-election under MMP for any government and probably for any party. Heartland National turned away. But it’s not reflected in national polling. It was a real local message. The line up of the scandal and cover up over Sabin, a poor choice of MP due to some local politics, a slow star and the throwing of national money at local projects, add the only politician outside of the Government with real name recognition and it all goes sour. Brand Winston. I doubt it will ever be repeated in my lifetime ( im not that old either before you start). Key is undoubtedly watching his Government go downhill, the wheels wobbled during the 2014 election and Key is in his untrustworthy on his way to the door phase. But Northland might not accelerate that.

It was a message to the Government. I’m not convinced. Winston’s dog whistles to send them a message is muddled. He’s more engrained in Wellington’s political culture than just about any politician around. He’s as likely to prop up a National Government in 2017 than a Lab-Green. He picks fights with the Conservatives/United Future/Greens and ACT.This wasn’t the Greek elections.

The opposition is coming together. I find this wishful thinking, putting an agenda and narrative to an event with no real logic. The greens didn’t stand but I never saw them advocate for a vote for anyone, let alone NZF. A strong NZF is a big risk to the Greens. Andrew Little fell in line when he realised the voters had switched. It wasn’t the first polls but the second ones which nudged him..even if he said don’t do it, the vote was going Winston’s way. Winston who has been rude and derogatory about Labour voters only last year. Winston the scaremonger, the anti-Asian. Does this bring together the progressive left ?

Winston is on the left. Bollocks. How on earth do people see this. Yes he’s an interventionist but so was Muldoon. Only the rabid right really moan about Muldoon being a socialist. One for Bob Jones and Richard Prebble I imagine. The left may need the numbers Winston brings but he’s a conservative through and through.

I can’t ever see the Northland experience being repeated, and at a general election it will be difficult. Can you think of any other politician who could pull this off in say Southland ? I can’t see Shane Jones riding in…or Dover Samuels…both of whom seem to be vying for Winstons heritage.



Northland By Election Weak , Very Weak 7

26 Mar


In the future this By Election will be looked back with intrigue and astonishment. Rather like when you realise Gulliver’s Travels is a satire or CS Lewis was just pushing the bible..there will come a moment when the country will say ” that’s what was going on..”. But in the present it just seems beyond belief.

A By Election caused by an MP resigning for a crime he may or may not have committed, may or may not have been guilty of, may or may not involve certain people, who was good enough to chair the Law and Order Select Ctte who resigned and became he who must never be named. McSabin. So here we are in a land of disbelief. Who better to replace the candidate who we don’t know what he did wrong with than a candidate who is not allowed to speak. Ok there’s a reason he doesn’t speak and its best articulated in reading what he did say when he did speak.

Here’s a link

SO since then he’s been paraded around in his check shirt threatening to bench press people ( whatever that means it obviously isn’t Sabin’s crime ) but having his words spoken by senior politicians who aren’t candidates.

This week it seemed there are concerns about his financial management of a trust he was GM of. Drip drip drip.

I have been disappointed that Andrew Little hasn’t fought a strong campaign to show how his Labour leadership is fighting the Nats. He could have fought a positive upbeat campaign, instead he has abdicated that role , the strong campaign aspect anyway, to Winston.

For we shall also look back and think did people get excited about Winston. Winston who wants to send them a message, but still support them in a non threatening way. Winston who is asking Labour voters to support him despite thinking they are gays and queens and having been on stand by to form a coalition with Key only 6 months ago. Winston who has been blowing more dog whistles than a sheep dog trial. Winston is supposed to be our saviour. He will get the bridges built on time.

It ends tomorrow, or maybe it starts tomorrow. Curiouser and Curiouser …but it’s no use going back to yesterday for I was a different person then ( Winston in Wonderland)