UK Labour had the data and expert advice

There’s been a lot of discussion about the supposed inaccuracy of the UK polls. And there’s been many claims that the Conservatives with the help of Crosby Textor have an insurmountable advantage in data gathering and expert advice.

But a BBC article shows that Ed Miiliband and Labour had an expert pollster assisting them (it’s obvious they would be have but this puts it into facts).

James Morris, a partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, worked for Labour from when Ed Miliband was elected leader in 2010 until the election last week.

And according to the BBC Labour leadership thought public polls were too optimistic.

Morris  told Newsnight that…

…while “the lead in the public polls suggested Labour had got past the issues that sunk the party in 2010 – its record on the economy and immigration – we knew we had much more work to do and were still dogged by a loss of trust.”

That is why, he said, the party ran a campaign based on a more “pessimistic scenario” than was the political consensus.

He continued: “While the public polls had Labour ahead until the spring of this year, in our polls cross-over [when the Tories overtook them] came right after conference season in 2014. A four-point Labour lead in early September turned into a tie in October, followed by small Tory leads prompting the party to put reassurance on fiscal policy and immigration at the heart of the campaign launch.”

And Labour also used focus groups.

Mr Morris said: “As focus groups showed the SNP attacks landing, we had Labour behind in the marginal seats.” This was, he said, despite the fact that “a public poll in a similar set of seats at the same time showed a three-point Labour lead”.

Using internal polls and focus groups sounds just like the Crosby Textor/National approach here.

So if Labour in the UK had the data and they had expert advice why did they do so badly?

Economic credibility (of the major party plus coalition options) and public perceptions of leaders are probably the defining factors in elections.

UK result versus proportional representation

There’s been comment here about the disparity between votes and seats in the UK election, which operates under first the post.

David Farrar has tried a ‘what if’ exercise at Kiwiblog – The UK result under proportional representation and concludes:

So under PR the UK Independence Party would have 83 seats, instead of one. The SDP would hold 31 seats instead of 56 and the Lib Dems 52 seats instead of eight. And the Conservatives and Labour would have fewer seats – and the Greens 25.

If you look at the blocs, the right bloc would still have a majority under proportional representation. They’d be just 10 seats down. However it would be a Conservative/UKIP Government, not a majority Conservative one.

The left would do worse under PR with Labour and the SNP both losing seats, but the Greens picking some up. They’d be 33 seats down compared to FPP.

The Lib Dems in the centre would be best – going from eight seats to 44.

But I think this is an exercise in futility. In the UK they voted for 650 separate electorates. There was no party vote, and I don’t see any way of assuming the total vote as if it equated to party support.

And if there was a party vote that would ultimately decide the proportion of seats then voters would have had quite different considerations and could easily have decided differently, on individual electorates (which under our MMP can influence outcomes) and overall.

So Farrar’s speculation is kinf of interesting but it’s really quite meaningless.

Delusions about Labour defeat

Gosman posted a link to this at The Standard, saying “Much of that can be applied to what people here state about why the left in NZ is not doing so well.”

10 delusions about the Labour defeat to watch out for

As Labour tries to explain its defeat, look out for the following untruths

1. THE MEDIA DID IT No left-wing account of this defeat will be complete without a reference to the Tory press (bonus drink for “Murdoch-controlled”) and its supposed inexorable hold over the political psyche of the nation. Funny: the day before the election everyone decided The Sun was a joke and nobody reads newspapers anyway.

Blaming the media for unfavourable political outcomes is common here too, especially from the left but also from some on the right.

2. THE ESTABLISHMENT STITCHED IT UP Obviously related to (1). but with a wider scope. The forces said to be ranged against a Labour victory will be described as powerful and subterranean. They will include bankers.

Blaming ‘the establishment’, the capitalists, the 1% or aliens for unfavourable political outcomes is common here too.

3. CLEVER TORIES It will be said that the Tories, in their ruthlessly efficient way, pinned the blame for austerity on Labour and Labour allowed it to stick. Clever Tories. Few will mention that the Tories were, for the most part, a hubristic and directionless shambles, divided amongst themselves, the authors of several howlingly stupid own goals that would certainly have sunk them had they not got so lucky with their opponent.

That doesn’t apply as much here because apart from a few embarrassments National are widely seen to have managed the economy well in difficult times. But National are helped substantially by a lack of a credible or palatable alternative.

4. VOTERS ARE STUPID AND VENAL You will hear much wailing about the selfishness of voters, their hard hearts and closed minds.

This has been a common claim at The Standard – the voters who vote for their unfavoured party must be stupid or duped or selfish or greedy or or…

5. THE SNP STOLE OUR VICTORY It is true that nobody, but nobody, foresaw the SNP tidal wave. But it’s not true that Labour would have won or even done OK without it. Labour saw a net gain of one seat from the Tories in England. One. Seat. One seat, in an election where everything favoured them. One seat, after five years of a shabby and meretricious government making unpopular decisions and a third party that virtually donated its voters to them. An epic failure.

Labour went backwards here last election, as did Mana, and the Greens stalled. And yes, there’s been claims along the lines of “XXX stole our victory”.

6. LABOUR WASN’T LEFT WING ENOUGH Many of your drinks will be prompted by variations on this perennial theme. Labour accepted the austerity narrative. Labour weren’t green enough. Labour weren’t radical (which has somehow come to be used as a synonym for left-wing). Given that the last time Labour won an election without Tony Blair was 1974 it’s hard to believe people still think the answer is to move left. But people still do. I sort of love these people for their stubbornness. But I don’t want them picking the next leader.

Yes, that’s been repeated here too. Alongside other claims that Labour was too right wing and was too much like the Conservatives. Similar claims are common about Labour here. There are some more perceptive people who say that Labour didn’t look competent enough.

7. TONY BLAIR Rule number one of left-wingery: it is always, somehow, Tony Blair’s fault.

I haven’t seen Blair blamed for Labour’s failures here, but the third way and neo-liberalism sometimes criticised on the left.

8. POLITICS IS TOO SUPERFICIAL This seems to have been Ed Miliband’s understanding of the problem. He made a speech last summer in which he bemoaned the primacy of image in modern politics. Then last Sunday he stood for the cameras in front of a giant limestone monolith. So perhaps he’s ambivalent. But undoubtedly we’ll hear his supporters declare sadly that we live in shallow times. A man can’t even talk about pre-distribution any more without being pilloried. This one is essentially a variation on (4).

Politics is too superficial. Media coverage is too often too superficial. This affects all parties. Of course there are some here who say that the right and their compliant media deliberately keep things superficial to stop the voters thinking about the real issues. Meanwhile this is what the voters are currently most interested in at NZ Herald: NZHMostPopularThere doesn’t seem much interest in an in depth analysis neo-liberalism in the 21st century.

9. ED WAS THE WRONG MESSENGER This explanation will be expressed with ruefulness and come garlanded with references to the former leader’s decency and integrity and intellect. The thing is, they’ll say, he really wasn’t suited to TV (refer to (8) here). In person, my God, it was like Elvis was in the room. Now, this is a tricky one to stand by because the day before the election everyone agreed that Ed being weird wasn’t a problem any more. People who cling to this reason are committing the very sin of which they accuse the voters and media. Labour lost (mainly) because of the message, not the messenger.

Phil was the wrong messenger. David was the wrong messenger.The other David was the wrong messenger. The political experts at The Standard are the right messengers but the media, the establishment, the capitalists, National and Uncle Tom Cobley prevent the voters from hearing their truth.

10. ANTI-POLITICS Ed Miliband somehow ran smack into a wave of anti-political sentiment that David Cameron somehow managed to sidestep. Mystical visions of a new kind of politics rooted in the real lives of working-class people will abound.

And again, same here in New Zealand. Most people are anti-crap politics and there’s far too much of that – including from the excuse making political activists.

The non-delusional explanation is simple. It was proffered, some time before 7 May, by a former Labour leader. When a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, you get a traditional result.

But but but but…a bit of that – but a lot of “the other lot look worse”.

Labour, Lib Dems and pollsters lose badly in UK

The polls showed a tight race right up until election day in the UK and they got it horribly wrong.

Labour also got it horribly wrong, especially in Scotland where they lost all but one seat.

The Scotland National Party gained probably 50 seats, up to 56 from 6.

The Conservatives may get as many as 329 seats, just enough to govern alone (they need about 324) for that). That’s up from 302.

Labour are forecast to get 233 seats, down from 256.

And the Liberal Democrats have collapsed from 56 to about 8 seats.

UKIP has won one seat and could get another.

It’s not just in New Zealand that Labour parties are struggling to be relevant into the 21st century.

For more detail see the BBC: Election results: Conservatives on course for majority

And for what was see: Current State of the Parties

Can Greece lead the post-neoliberal revolution?

Greece has voted in a far left party that campaigned on ‘anti-austerity”  and have threatened to give more to their people and less to their creditors.

Can they show how a country can succeed by rejecting neoliberalism and going it alone in Europe? Or will it prove that socialism sucks in practice?

If you haven’t heard here is one report:

Greeks hand stunning victory to anti-austerity Syriza

Greece set itself on a collision course with the rest of Europe on Sunday night after handing a stunning general election victory to a far-Left party that has pledged to reject austerity and cancel the country’s billions of pounds in debt.

Colin James – the election in a bubble

Colin James, one of the most astute political journalists, analyses the 2014 election.

An election in a bubble
But within New Zealand as the election campaign wended through August and September there was no general public sense of impending or actual tectonic change, either at home or abroad. So to examine the election we need to put aside the seismic instruments and reach for the GPS locator and the microscope.

New Zealand was in a little bubble of fortuitous economic growth. Rapidly expanding demand for dairy, and to some extent other primary, products, coupled with sky-high dairy prices was one factor. The rebuilding of Christchurch, by early 2014 fully in gear, was another. They generated numbers that built very strong business confidence. The commentary was optimistic.

This fed into improved household finances, which are the marker for how the economy plays in elections. There had been modest gains in income and jobs and there was cautious to modest confidence the improvement would continue. Consumer confidence was strong through 2014, though it peaked midyear.

And the government projected confidence in itself and competence.

At its apex was a tight trio. John Key was the presenter. Bill English was the fiscal manager and policy wonk who at the ministerial level was associated with most reforms, including the public service (“more with less”, then a set of quantified “results” stretching out several years and in some cases crossing portfolio boundaries), tax, water policy (using the “collaborative governance” technique involving all interest groups to generate a consensus), education and social assistance (welfare). For welfare English imported from ACC the actuarial-investment approach which may be the National-led government’s most important innovation. Steven Joyce was the project manager, focused on short-term measures designed to lift GDP growth (a way of thinking akin to business quarterly reporting) and quick to heavy those who got in his way, overshadowing the ministers in related economic development portfolios such as energy and ensuring other initiatives didn’t get in the way of GDP growth.

These three formed a strategic inner cabinet with Gerry Brownlee, who brought the “ordinary person’s” perspective, and Murray McCully, billed as a political strategist though actually more of a tactician with a touch of Rasputin in his manner. Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges occasionally looked in.

Down the cabinet Tony Ryall squeezed more from hospitals and kept the pips from squeaking too much, Chris Finlayson set a cracking pace in Treaty of Waitangi settlements and Tim Groser did trade, with aplomb, and climate change, hampered by conceptual and Joycean difficulties.

Failures and lapses of oversight management of weaker or blinkered ministers didn’t detract significantly from public confidence (though did raise questions about Key’s management). Likewise, growing agitation about “inequality” didn’t translate into a shift in support for opposition parties riding that issue. And when something went badly wrong, as in the collapse of the badly managed Pike River coalmine in 2010, the response was remedial legislation.

Moreover, Key proved remarkably adept at getting underperforming or ageing ministers and MPs to contemplate life after politics. Come election time 2014, 15 of those elected in 2011 had moved on, with zero fuss. No such regeneration of a major party has been done in “peacetime” (that is, while in power) before.

And a macro-personality
Key himself was the fourth main factor working for the government. He is likeable, blokey and jokey and at home with radio “shock jocks”, good with his family, an easy mixer, moderately pleasant-looking and plausible. He was trusted to get things more or less right, even if some things he did were not entirely in accord with proper process. (That is how trust works in politics: Australian Prime Minister John Howard was re-elected in 2007 despite being exposed as having larded the facts in the 2004 campaign over an incident involving would-be illegal immigrants.)

Key, in short, is a macro-personality. A macro-personality personifies the party and attracts votes to him/herself, including many who would not otherwise vote for the party. [Anderson 2014]

Voters are prepared to give such macro-personalities the benefit of the doubt – as they did in Key’s case over the revelations by the self-regarding Nicky Hager in his book of emails detailing grubby behind-scenes National party machinations, launched on 13 August [Hager 2014]. This was despite Key’s evasive responses to the book’s charges and his implausible labelling of the controversy it caused as a “leftwing conspiracy” and despite, or because of, his firing of Judith Collins on 30 August when a rightwing blogger publicised claims (not upheld in the subsequent government inquiry) that she had helped undermine a senior public servant. Voters told focus group pollsters they didn’t understand the implications of the Hager assertions and their relevance to the election and few deserted National on that score. (The relevance to the election is that proper conduct and process according to the rules – that is, a well-functioning democracy – is the issue in an election [James 2014, 1]. But that would be likely to play a decisive part in people’s decisions as to how to vote only if it stripped trust off a party or leader.)

The improved economy and household finances, the picture of government competence and Key’s macro-personality added up to very strong positive readings in the UMR and Morgan polls that the country was on the right track, going in the right direction. Such a high reading normally points to re-election of the incumbent government in some form, though possibly with a more complicated coalition than in the first two terms.

And no visible alternative government
There was a fourth factor: the lack of a clearly visible alternative government.

Through 2013 the combined polling by Labour and the Greens headed National’s polling by 0.5%. This suggested there was a genuine choice between a Labour-Green-led government and a National-led one.

It also suggested, given reasonable polling for New Zealand First, that the outcome could very well depend on the choice Winston Peters made after the election.

By April or May – and certainly by July – Peters was looking more likely to go with National. This was even though he harboured a deep resentment at Key’s treatment of him in 2008 over his acceptance of business donations, which probably contributed to New Zealand First party’s exit from Parliament in the 2008 election. The likely choice of National was also despite New Zealand First’s manifesto being much close to Labour’s policy line than National’s, its conference-delegate-level rank and file likewise being nearer Labour than National and some serious sticking points with National, including over immigration and inward foreign investment.

Labour could at best offer Peters only third in a Labour-led lineup after the Greens – and even then might need Internet Mana votes for a majority. With National, New Zealand First would have been second biggest, far ahead of National’s three micro-party supports.

Moreover, by April-May Labour’s support was sliding. There is a range of reasons for that but one is that David Cunliffe as leader fluffed his lines on several high-profile occasions, was exposed as having a secret trust to fund his campaign for the Labour leadership in 2013, accused Key of having a house in a leafy suburb when he did too and said different things to different audiences. Cunliffe, though personable, a capable debater of Key on television and an orator with presence, was no macro-personality. If anything, he was a negative factor.

In addition, Cunliffe had drawn back from the cooperative relationship with the Greens that had been developing in 2013 under the previous leadership of David Shearer. When the Greens tried to resuscitate the cooperation in May, proposing the two parties campaign as a coalition, Cunliffe rejected that – but then did not fill the void with a formulation that would have given a clear voting option to those looking for an alternative government to vote for.

That turned away those looking for an alternative government and set a spiral. Labour slid in the polls and the more it slid the less attractive it looked and the more it slid.

Populism and poison
And as Labour slid, some voters wanting a brake on National shifted to New Zealand First, which climbed from a poll average of 4.9% at mid-August to 8.7% in the election. There may also have been an element of brake-seeking in the Conservatives’ 4.0%: while the Conservatives were to the right of National on moral and social issues, they were not market-liberals: they were against open foreign investment and asset sales and wanted binding referendums as a restraint on governments.

There was also probably an element of populist response in the rise in these two parties’ votes: populism is a channel for voting “against” policies and people, especially the elites, or just in protest at financial and other stress. But, compared with the populists waves in Europe and the United States, the 2014 election in New Zealand was very mild. (Unless Key’s macro-personalisation of National could be interpreted as a brand of populism.)

Might the Hager exposures have generated a quasi-populist surge to Labour away from National? If anything, polling suggested Labour was damaged as much as National. Voters seemed to read the phrase “dirty politics” as a tautology: all politicians do it, so what? Key rode it out, even though initially handling it ineptly.

In addition, Kim Dotcom administered what he himself on election night called “poison”. The more Labour slid in the polls, the more it looked to voters it would need Dotcom’s faustian Internet-Mana concoction: Dotcom’s lavish funding of a joint campaign in return for leveraging some seats on the back of Hone Harawira’s Te Tai Tokerau seat. The poison killed Harawira’s hold on his seat. It attracted few of the young freedom-and-idealism voters whom Internet leader Laila Harre (ex-Alliance, ex-Green) discerned as potential recruits (as the Pirates had briefly in Germany). Those it did attract were mainly in the “university” seats where the Greens do best. At one of the rock-concert parties Dotcom put on to attract young people he got them chanting “Fuck John Key”. His trumpeted king hit on Key on 15 September which featured United States spy leaker Edward Snowden, Snowden write-up journalist Glenn Greenwald and Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange detailing spy cooperation with the United States fell flat. An alleged 2010 Warner Brothers email of a secret plan involving Key about Dotcom’s extradition appeared to be a fake.

Dotcom’s achievement, apart from destroying Mana and tainting Labour, appears (from discussions with National activists) to have been to add weight to National’s campaign to persuade National-leaning potential non-voters to vote. That, plus dumping Mana’s support into the wasted vote, was likely the difference between National forming a government with its three lapdog support parties and needing New Zealand First.

Targeting the vote
After the 2011 election there was much talk, especially on the Labour side, of the “enrolled non-vote” and of declining overall voter turnout. On 29 May 2014 the Electoral Commission sponsored a one-day conference to discuss this and promote, especially to young people, the value of voting.

In the runup to the 2014 election National worried that its supporters might become complacent and deprive it of the votes needed to form a stable government post-2014. At the party’s annual conference on 28-29 June John Key and campaign manager Steven Joyce hammered home the need to activate every possible National vote. That message was repeated at the launch on 24 August. According to party officials, twice as many phone calls were made to actual and potential supporters as in 2011. By using electorate demographic data from the election study and coupling that with the party’s own extensive canvassing data, National was able to target its calls and the content and vehicle of its messages and follow-up contact better.

Labour drew on United States techniques [Issenberg, 2013] to run an even more targeted campaign than National, trialled successfully in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Christchurch East by-election campaigns in 2013 and drawing on meshblock-level data (as described in detail elsewhere at this conference by Rob Salmond). The voters targeted were those who had not voted in 2008 and/or 2011 who had characteristics likely to tip them into the Labour camp if they voted. Labour officials say around four times the calls were made than in 2011.

Logically, if the two main parties were equally effective in getting sympathetic non-voters to vote, Labour should add more votes to its total than National. That is because past experience indicated more Labour-leaning people were likely not to vote than National-leaning voters. One argument is that those in lower socioeconomic and minority ethnic groups perceive less of a stake in the system than those in higher socioeconomic and those of mainstream ethnicity, as evidenced, for example, in the low turnout in successive elections in Maori electorates and general electorates with a high proportion of Maori and Pasifika.

But the broad results suggest National was more effective than Labour: the biggest swing to National in a block of seats was in its strong seats on the Auckland isthmus. Labour could not counter the strong tide running for National and against itself.

The Greens also did far more canvassing, in keeping with their status as clearly the third largest party and their greater political professionalism.

National’s small parties – and the going home of the Maori vote
In the election voters did serious damage to National’s three small support parties.

ACT, which early in 2014 had grandiose visions of nine MPs, [ACT 2014] finished with only the Epsom seat, by grace of National indicating to its supporters that they should cast their electorate vote for ACT’s David Seymour, and 0.69% of the party vote, down from 1.07% in 2011. United Future got Peter Dunne’s Ohariu seat, also by grace of National’s nudging its supporters Dunne’s way. But Dunne won only narrowly and United Future won only 0.22% of the party vote, so low that Dunne’s is an overhang seat. ACT might well survive and even possibly grow a bit in 2017. But United Future is close to extinction, which was in effect acknowledged by Dunne himself in an address to the United Future board on 15 November in which he said the party needs to go back to basics and focus afresh on core principles – though Dunne also said in that address that membership had grown. [Dunne 2014]

For the Maori party the election spelt near-asphyxiation: down to two seats and only one electorate seat from a high point of five of the seven Maori electorate seats in 2008. The Labour party is in control with six of the seven – or is it?
From a Maori perspective the logic is that a Maori party or grouping holds the Maori electorates. This has been the case three times in the past 100 years: after 1935 when the Ratana movement progressively won all four seats (the total at the time); in 1996 when New Zealand First’s “tight five” held all five seats (the total at that time) in a party led by a Maori, Winston Peters, who was endorsed by Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Hepi te Heuheu; and in 2005 and 2008 when the Maori party won four, then five, of the seven.

In each case the Maori grouping lost its independence. Labour over time absorbed the Ratana movement and the seats became Labour seats that happened to be Maori, not Maori seats that happened to be Labour-aligned. Labour lost one of the seats in the 1993 election, then all five in 1996. Four of the “tight five” split from New Zealand First when it left its coalition with National in 1998 and all five lost their seats in 1999. The Maori party, which entered National’s governing coalition in 2008, split in 2010 when Hone Harawira formed Mana, then lost support.

The bulk of voters in Maori electorates, if pushed to a choice between Labour and National, choose Labour, as the party votes since 1996 reflect. In effect, New Zealand First’s “tight five” and the Maori party delivered Labour-side votes to National.

The Maori party’s decision to formally support the National-led governments of 2008 and 2011 was logical. It gave the Maori party some influence with the government and it used that to advance specifically Maori cultural or self-management ambitions. Among the gains were: the whanau ora Maori-run social services programmes; New Zealand’s signature to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and a rewrite of the 2004 Labour-led government’s legislation which overrode the Supreme Court decision that iwi and hapu could argue traditional ownership of stretches of foreshore and seabed – the trigger for then Labour MP Tariana Turia’s defection to form the Maori party.

Despite the cost to its support, the same logic continued to apply even after the 2014 election – principally to preserve and develop whanau ora, out of respect for Turia whose policy it was and for fear that if the Maori party was absent from the ruling coalition, National would let whanau ora atrophy. Yet there was a strong view within the party, expressed vigorously at the post-election annual general meeting on 1 November, that the National link was toxic, that the Maori party was seen as in effect an arm of a National-led government which had not operated in the interests of lower socioeconomic strata where the bulk of Maori electorate voters were. That only 55% of Maori opted for the Maori electorate rolls after the 2013 census compared with 58% in 2006 (from 55% in 2001 and 54% in 1997) may reflect disenchantment with the Maori party; the percentage had been expected to rise, not fall; the eighth seat hoped for did not eventuate.

Come 2017 it is possible the Maori party’s vote might lift a bit if some of Mana’s voters return. More likely, it will either stay at two seats or contract on to Te Ururoa Flavell’s Wairiki electorate or even possibly lose that seat if Labour continues to pick up votes there and if Mana’s Annette Sykes is not a contestant. If Flavell were to hold his seat and join a Labour-led government, that would de facto deliver that seat to Labour.

But that is not to say that Labour has the seats back for good. There will be more Maori movements. To develop a durable hold on the seats, Labour will have to learn to treat those it holds as Maori seats that happen to be Labour.

From Colin James to the Victoria University post-election conference, 3 December 2014 DRAFT – MAYBE SUBJECT TO ADJUSTMENT

Chris Hipkins on the election result and Labour’s future

Chris Hipkins, MP for Rimutaka and Labour’s Chief Whip, gave a speech in today’s Address In Reply – he congratulated National on an election win that gave them a clear mandate, he acknowledged Labour’s poor result and some of their poor efforts over the past few years, and he detailed what he thought Labour needed to be and needed to do do.

Speech – CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)

Draft transcript – Wednesday, 29 October 2014 – Address in Reply debate

CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka): Thank you very much, Mr Assistant Speaker Mallard. Can I congratulate you on your elevation to your new role, and can I congratulate the National Party members on their re-election as the Government. It is not the election result that I was out there campaigning for, but I do want to acknowledge that it was a clear election result and congratulate them on that.

I would also like to thank the people of Rimutaka for once again investing their trust and confidence in me to be their elected representative in Parliament. It is a tremendous privilege and an honour to represent the people of my home town, and I look forward to doing so again over the next 3 years.

As I mentioned, it was a disappointing election result for the Labour Party, and I want to acknowledge that, and I say to the New Zealand public “message received”.

Clearly, the Labour Party in recent times has not been speaking to the hopes and aspirations of a wide enough section of New Zealand society, and that is a challenge that we need to take on board as we head through the rest of this parliamentary term.

New Zealanders want to hear us talking about the issues that matter to them, but New Zealanders also want to know that if they work hard they will be able to get ahead, and that there is a Government in place that rewards the hard work and effort of all New Zealanders, not just those at the top.

New Zealanders want to see the Labour Party being a voice for the people who are struggling at the moment and working hard but not able to get ahead to create a better life for themselves and their families.

That is what the Labour Party has always stood for, and that is one of the challenges that we face in this Parliament—to return back to some of those basic principles upon which the Labour Party was founded, and to speak to the hopes and aspirations of a much broader range of New Zealanders.

I said that we should be celebrating success and we should be ensuring that those who work hard are able to get ahead. I want to quote, rather unusually perhaps, or rather controversially, Frank Underwood, the chief whip in the American television series House of Cards.

Hon Maggie Barry: Now you’ve got our attention.

CHRIS HIPKINS: That is right—he is a great role model. Frank Underwood said that those of us who have done well in life have a responsibility to send the elevator back down. I think that that summarises a lot about what the Labour Party does stand for and what we should stand for.

Yes, we should be celebrating the success of those who have done well in life, but having done well in life we then have responsibilities to others around us to ensure that they have those same opportunities that we have enjoyed.

I have little time for people who boast about being born in a State house and then seek to sell off State houses and remove those vital social services from future generations.

I have little time for people who talk about how they dragged themselves up by their bootstraps, raised themselves, and relied on the State support that was available to them, and then seek to limit those same State supports to future generations of New Zealanders. That is pulling up the ladder behind them and it is blatantly unfair.

There is nothing wrong with them being proud of their success—they have every right to be. My challenge to them and my challenge to everybody else is to ask what they are doing to share opportunity around so that others have that same opportunity. That is the challenge for this Government.

I similarly congratulate people who have done well in business. I think that creating a business, building a business, and being successful in business is a fantastic thing, and it is something we should encourage and reward New Zealanders for doing. But we should also recognise that businesses exist within communities.

Yes, it is great that somebody has built a business and has made him or herself into a successful business person, but we should never forget the fact that they are using a workforce that was educated by the rest of us. The education of their workforce was paid for by the New Zealand taxpayer. They transport their goods on roads paid for by everybody. They have their property rights protected by law enforcement agencies paid for by all of us.

So, yes, it is great that we celebrate the success of businesses, but businesses exist within communities and businesses and those who create them and run them have responsibilities back to those communities as well. We should be looking at both sides of that equation.

It is great to celebrate success and we should do that more often, and I have no hesitation in saying so, but we should also talk about the reciprocal responsibilities that come with that. We should do that as well. There is no doubt that New Zealand faces some big challenges, and we are going to have to address some of those over the life of this Parliament and beyond.

We have a significant change in the demographics of our population, as our population gets older. Our older New Zealanders have the right to security in retirement, and dignity in retirement, but we also have a responsibility to ensure that our settings around that are sustainable into the future.

As we have more and more New Zealanders leaving the workforce and into retirement, and as we have more and more New Zealanders living longer, with the pressure that brings on the health care system , we need to make sure we can continue to pay for that, so that it is not a hollow promise.

And yes, it might be politically convenient to push those debates aside in the short term , but in the longer term we are going to have to address those, and it is better to have an honest and open discussion about that now rather than pushing that away for future generations to have to confront.

We do need to talk about how we lift New Zealand’s economy up the value chain so that we are creating higher-value jobs.

I have lost count of the number of people whom I have spoken to in my electorate who say: “We are willing to do the heavy lifting. We do not mind getting out there and working hard, because we want a better life for ourselves and our families, but no matter how hard we work at the moment we cannot get ahead. We cannot get a foot on the property ladder. We cannot provide all of the things that we want to be able to provide for our kids.”

Those are ordinary, everyday New Zealanders who are happy to do the hard work, they are happy to get out there. They just want a Government that makes sure they have the opportunities. And that is what the Labour Party stands for. We want to say to those New Zealanders: “We stand beside you.”

In the Labour Party we want to make sure that the opportunities are there so that those who work hard can be rewarded and can get ahead.

In the Public Service we have a challenge here with a Government that is overly focused on measurement and is only focusing on the things that can be easily measured, rather than on many of the things that are important. In education, for example, it is easy to focus on what can be measured.

So we can have a measurement that says that every child has to achieve national standards and get National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 . What happens if they leave school and still end up going on the unemployment benefit at the end of it? Surely the thing that we should be focused on is the outcomes, and the outcomes are more difficult to measure, and therefore manage, than the outputs, if you like, in the form of qualifications.

These are the honest and real debates that we should be having. We in the Labour Party will be holding the Government to account in this term of Parliament.

We recognise the election result that has delivered the National Party a clear mandate to be the Government, but we have a responsibility to hold the Government to account, and we will do that.

We will hold it to account when it sells off State housing, as National has done in the past.

We will hold the Government to account when it tries to inflict employment law changes on the vast bulk of the working population that benefit the few and penalise the many.

We will certainly hold them to account on issues around foreign policy and stay fast and true to the principle of New Zealand being a proud independent country that makes its decisions on foreign policy independently.

We will hold the Government to account on issues around child poverty, because in a country that is as rich as New Zealand—and although we might not always feel it, we are a rich country—there is simply no excuse for children to be growing up in this country living in poverty. I want to acknowledge over the last few years that the Labour Party has not always put its best foot forward.

We have sometimes struggled with the challenges of balancing Opposition with proposition.

We have two roles here. One is to point out where the Government is going wrong and hold it to account, but the other is to be proposing alternatives, and we need to make sure that we do that in a positive way.

I also want to acknowledge that it has been difficult to provide space for robust internal democracy whilst also presenting a unified and coherent vision to New Zealanders, and I think we will need to redouble our efforts there.

We need to make sure we look outwards to the half a million New Zealanders who used to vote for the Labour Party and now vote for someone else.

My message to all of them is: the Labour Party is back, we want to talk to you, we want to engage with you, and we want to know, quite frankly, what it is going to take to get you to reinvest your vote in the Labour Party. I think that is the discussion that we will have over the next 3 years.

To conclude—it is a fantastic honour and a privilege to be back in the House representing the people of the Rimutaka electorate. I thank them once again for the opportunity to serve and represent them.

I would be dishonest if I said I was not disappointed with the election outcome. I would far rather be sitting on the Government side of the House than on this side of the House, but I have received, like all of my colleagues, the message that the voters of New Zealand have sent to us, and I can tell this Government that it is in for a tough 3 years.

We will be rigorous in holding it to account, and we are absolutely resolved and determined that in 3 years’ time we will be over there on the Government side, and they will be over here.

That is the challenge that is ahead of all of us. We will certainly be focused on that because I believe that New Zealanders deserve better. John Key has failed to deliver them the brighter future that he promised them, and the Labour Party will be holding him to account for that.

Labour denial and delusion continues

NZ Herald asks What’s wrong with Labour? Len Richards, Service and Food Workers Union organiser, provides some explanations, but not in the way he intended.

What went wrong?

More than a decade of dirty politics aimed at demonising and destabilising the Labour Party by well-organised and well-funded opponents have taken their toll.

The ‘dirty politics’ excuse is wearing thin. Attempts at “demonising and destabilising” opposing parties have been a part of politics forever. Nicky Hager overplayed the ‘dirty politics’ hand to swing the election and failed – it helped National more than the left.

I don’t like dirty politics but that’s a criticism aimed as much at Labour and the left as National and the right.

The opinion polls reflect the public mood deliberately created by the spin doctors of the right, and the very poor election results for Labour over the last three elections reflect the polls.

“The polls are rigged” is another tired old excuse. Like David Cunliffe Richards is avoiding responsibility, but poll conspiracies tend towards nut-job territory.

In response, our last two campaigns were run by many electorates as if MMP did not exist. Labour tried to win electorate seats rather than the party vote.

Blaming some electorate MPs is indicative of the factional rift that is tearing Labour apart. It’s up to the party leader and organisation to lead the campaign for party votes.

This time Labour received 200,000 more candidate votes (34 per cent) than party votes (25 per cent).

Perhaps that’s an indication that while some candidates are well supported by voters the party as a whole was not seen as a viable lead party in Government. Failure from the top again.

With 34 per cent of party votes we would be in government.

A forlorn “what if”. If Labour had got 34% instead of 25% (a huge reality gap) with Green’s 1-11% they would still have relied on Winston Peters to choose Labour over National.

How can Labour fix it?

A leadership change now will do more harm to Labour than good. David Cunliffe is more than a match for John Key. Our problems lie elsewhere.

The current lack of leadership – Cunliffe barricaded himself at home after the election, emerged to take a battering from his caucus on Tuesday and then disappeared back home for the rest of the week.

Cunliffe was far from a match for John Key, talking over him in a few debates didn’t win anything.

(NZ Herald)

Heads in the sand won’t revive Cunliffe’s leadership. Who wants a Prime Minister who goes into hiding “to contemplate his future” when the going gets tough? Cunliffe was unpopular with voters last Saturday. That has likely deteriorated significantly since then.

Labour’s policies are not “too left wing”. We lost votes to NZ First because Winston Peters outflanked us on the left. Labour pulled its punches.

Peters outflanked Labour on the left and right.

Labour needs to build its base among the people it represents. We need to turn outwards, to recruit, and to organise.

Yep. Should have been working on that after their 2008 defeat. Now it’s hard to know what people Labour represents apart from some out of touch unionists.

We need to go on the offensive and put up a credible alternative to the domination of society by the pursuit of profit at any cost. And campaign for the party vote.

“The domination of society by the pursuit of profit at any cost.” Out of touch with reality unionist. There’s a few on the left who believe this bull but most voters don’t see it as anything other than ideological nonsense.

If a business pursues profit ‘at any cost’ it will probably cost them their business.

Is the party prepared to do it?

The party showed over the last period that it is prepared to take a strong stance. The change in rules to democratise the election of the leader and the election of David Cunliffe is evidence of this.

This resulted in the election of a leader that didn’t have the support or confidence of his caucus. That’s proven disastrous for Labour in the election and this week.

The party needs to continue to stand firm and deal with its internal discipline problems.

Deal with it’s internal discipline how? Sack the majority of caucus? That’s not even possible, they are elected for another three years.

Whippings and unityI posted this when things were much better in Labour.

The Labour Party has a rock-solid social base. We can take heart from these supporters who gave us more than 60 per cent of the party votes in some electorates.

Rock solid?

  • 2002 – 41%
  • 2005 – 41%
  • 2008 – 34%
  • 2011 – 27%
  • 2014 – 25%

Very few electorates gave Labour more votes than National last Saturday.

As the problems of a system in crisis worsen and proliferate, Labour solutions will gain support if we organise and mobilise around them.

This is tragically ironic as the problems of a Labour in crisis worsen and proliferate.

The people see through old Labour and old unions with their forlornly fading fulminations.

Sorry to Len Richards for picking on him but he’s symptomatic of the entrenched old guard at The Standard and elsewhere in social media and the Cunliffe residence.

Labour needs something different, new and forward looking. That won’t happen if they continue to be dragged down by denial and delusion.

Predictable result

In the main the election result and sub-results were quite predictable.

Polls were a reasonable indicator but only look backwards so show trends that have happened. They can’t predict to late campaign shifts that are common.

This election was peculiar in that many decisions were put on hold until Kim Dotcom’s big reveal. When it came to nothing it strengthened resolve of swing voters to ensure National retained it’s hold on Government.

Labour dropping below poll results was not surprising. They were obviously not going to do well and non-committed voters either change their minds or simply don’t bother voting.

Claims like “but Cunliffe ran a good campaign” have been proven wrong. As David Shearer said, the end result was tragic for Labour. Cunliffe may have appeared to be campaigning strongly but he puts on a variety of acts. While they might be slick acts voters see through this lack of genuineness. Cunliffe also has a problem that is probably unresolvable – too many people simply don’t like his persona (or personas).

Greens will be disappointed to have struggled to maintain their level of support while Labour were shedding votes. Greens weren’t able to pick them up. This suggests that 10-12% is the upper limit for them. This also shouldn’t be surprising outside the Green bubble. People like to have a party promoting environmental issues but most don’t like the extreme Green stances like no drilling, no fracking, no motorways.

And Greens misread public sentiment if they think that handing out more money to poor people with no responsibilities applied will be popular. Middle New Zealand see this as imposing costs and taxes on them. Socialism is fringe ideology these days.

Winston Peters is adept at picking up protest and shedded votes. NZ First gained vote, gained MPs but otherwise gained nothing. Most of the 91% who didn’t vote NZ First will be happy with this outcome.

The 5% threshold always looked a very high hurdle for Conservatives and so it proved. This was a failure of MMP. The threshold should be no higher than 3%. I don’t personally support the Conservatives but their missing out is a travesty of democracy.

Hone Harawira losing his electorate was a bit of a shock but not really surprising given the severely compromised position of Harawira and Mana hitching their ambitions to Kim Dotcom. Dotcom’s expensive disaster was Harawira’s failing.

Internet-Mana was always a high risk alliance. They might have succeeded as a combined party but Dotcom realised too late that his brand was toxic and he couldn’t resist being prominent. His final week failure to deliver on his promises to hit John Key compounded the problem.

Laila Harre severely compromised her credibility and was still blind to this yesterday, blaming everything but reality. Her political future is very limited.

The Maori Party lost two of their three electorates as widely predicted. For the first time they had sufficient party vote to pick up a list seat to go with Te Ururoa Flavell’s retained seat. Flavell was a minor star of the campaign but will have a difficult job keeping the Maori Party afloat.

David Seymour retained Epsom as expected but also as expected ACT failed as a party. Jamie Whyte failed to step up as leader in a challenging attempt to rebuild a battered brand.

Peter Dunne held is Ohariu seat. That didn’t seem to surprise anyone but unrealistic Labourites from the electorate. As a party United Future was nowhere to be seen, and accordingly votes were nowhere to be seen, dropping to a third of the low return they got in 2011.

Just two more seats for National but this strengthens them substantially, giving them a majority vote on their own as long as they don’t lose any seats this term. They also have ACT, Dunne and Maori Party support options on standby.

Just two less seats for Labour and this weakens them substantially. The result is tragic for them and the outlook is no better. They have done very little to move on the old guard and bring in new talent. They seem out of touch with their constituency of last century. They have yet another failed leader with no obvious replacement. This was also predictable.

Labour have failed for six years to rebuild from the Clark/Cullen era. Unless someone out of the ordinary steps up their future looks bleak.

National campaigned on ‘steady as she goes’ and the voters delivered the platform for National to be a little more politically steady than expected providing outstanding issues don’t impact too much.

Judith Collins has already been sidelined and is expendable should inquiries further damage her.

Now the election is over ‘dirty politics’ should be addressed by Key. And by Labour. And to a lesser extent by Greens. Peters won’t change from his habit of attack without evidence but he will be largely impotent unless the media keep pandering to his baseless allegations.

Some embarrassments may emerge for Key and National out of surveillance and GCSB issues but they look to have been overplayed, and most people accept the need for some surveillance protection.

The simple fact is that most people don’t feel threatened by surveillance and they are concerned about about terrorism.

And it’s ironic that the supposedly net-savvy who campaign strongly against surveillance must be aware that the Google and Twitter and Facebook social media tools they willingly use are tracking what they do far more than any government.

But we can predict they will continue to fight for a free internet that gives them far more public exposure than they ever had. They claim that privacy is paramount in a very public online world.

Otherwise we can predict have much the same Government as we’ve had over the past six years. Most people will be comfortable with that.

It’s harder to predict if Harawira will make a comeback or if Mana will survive their battering and their harsh reality check.

If Dotcom pulls the plug on Internet Party funding it’s demise can be predicted. If that happens it can also be predicted that Laila Harre will find it very difficult to find another party that would risk being tainted by her lack of loyalty and sense.

It is not hard to predict that Labour’s struggle to be relevant and their lack of connection to anyone but some special interest groups will continue.

John Key has shown he is aware of the dangers to National of complacency and arrogance – it can be predicted that some of his MPs will struggle to heed his warnings. But most likely things will continue much as they have.

Gagging social media on election day

Now we have heavily promoted advance voting for two weeks leading up to the election, during which time campaigning for votes is full on, it’s more than a little anachronistic that on election day itself publishing anything that may influence how someone votes is forbidden by our electoral law.

This was originally an exclusion on media advertising or reporting. That is now extended to not only blogging but to all social media commenting.

Up until Thursday night (Friday’s figures haven’t been posted yet) the Electoral Commission report that 557,174 people had advance voted and they expect the final figure to be around 700,000.

In the 2011 election 2,278,989 voted. If a similar total votes this time that means about one third will have advance voted while campaigning and vote soliticiting was very active.

So it’s odd that the rest of us are protected from influence in election day.

The Electoral Commission states:


This guidance has been produced to help candidates, parties and third parties comply with the law by setting out the general rules for behaviour on election day and during the advance voting period.

Any activities (including advertising) promoting the election of a candidate or party, or attacking a party or candidate, are prohibited on election day before 7pm (Saturday 20 September 2014) and are a criminal offence. The full list of prohibited activities is set out insection 197 of the Electoral Act which effectively prohibits anything that can be said to interfere with or influence voters, including processions, speeches or public statements.

Summary of the rules for candidates, parties and third parties

On election day you must not:

  • Display any hoardings – all election signs must be taken down or covered up before election day.
  • Display any other election advertising – cover up or place away from public view vehicles advertising parties or candidates (this includes flags and bumper stickers).
  • Distribute any campaign material.
  • Distribute or display anything showing political party or candidate names.
  • Post election-related material online. This includes election-related posts on social media such as Facebook or Twitter. 
  • Take part in any election-related demonstration or procession.
  • Wear or display clothing that promotes a political party or candidate.
  • Conduct opinion polling of voters.

In relation to websites and social media:

Social media on election day

There are additional restrictions on election day.  On election day (from midnight on 19 September until 7pm on 20 September) there is a general prohibition of the publication of any statement that is likely to influence which candidate or party a person should, or should not, vote for. 

Election advertising does not have to be removed from social media so long as:

  • the material was published before election day
  • the material is only made available to people who voluntarily access it, and
  • no advertisements promoting the page or site are published on election day.  

If you use social media, do not post messages on election day that could breach these rules.  The Commission recommends candidates and parties temporarily deactivate their Facebook campaign pages to avoid the risk of supporters committing an offence by posting on your page.  For other forms of social media where others can post comments the Commission recommends that where possible security settings are changed so that other people cannot post messages before 7pm on election day. 

Posts on social media that are not connected in any way with the election can of course be posted on election day.

So as long as you post something prior to midnight on election eve it’s fine, even if it is prominently displayed during election day. But you supposedly can’t post anything on election day.

While most of the Electoral Commission advice relates to parties and candidates “a general prohibition of the publication of any statement that is likely to influence which candidate or party a person should, or should not, vote for” implies that these gagging rules apply to everyone.

To an extent this is understandable, if individuals were allowed to promote party and candidate voting then parties would find ways to sneak around the rules.

But when an increasingly large proportion of people vote while campaigning is in full swing this seems anachronistic.

I wasn’t going to tell you who you should vote for anyway. Just make an effort to vote if you are inclined towards voting.


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