US: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies?

Polls are trying to analyse the wrong things – that’s why they can be inaccurate.

This is from the US two party polarised political system and may not apply so much under MMP in New Zealand, but it’s an interesting theory – it’s not swing voters who decide elections, and it’s not so much candidates and policies. US elections can be decided by which voters are most motivated to get out to stop the other side winning.

This would mean that in 2016 right wing voters were motivated more against Hilary Clinton winning than for Donald Trump. And left wing voters were more ambivalent, with many seeing both Clinton and trump as undesirable.

The 2018 mid-term election favoured Democrat candidates because the motivation to react against trump had strengthened (and there was no ‘Clinton’).

Politico: An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter

Rachel Bitecofer’s radical new theory predicted the midterms spot-on. So who’s going to win 2020?

What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless?

What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House?

What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?

To the political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, all of that is almost certainly true, and that has made her one of the most intriguing new figures in political forecasting this year.

Keep in mind that they invented political forecasters to make economic forecasters and weather forecasters look good.

Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor at Christopher Newport University in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, was little known in the extremely online, extremely male-dominated world of political forecasting until November 2018. That’s when she nailed almost to the number the nature and size of the Democrats’ win in the House, even as other forecasters went wobbly in the race’s final days

And today her model tells her the Democrats are a near lock for the presidency in 2020, and are likely to gain House seats and have a decent shot at retaking the Senate.

Bitecofer’s theory, when you boil it down, is that modern American elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote in the first place.

If she’s right, it wouldn’t just blow up the conventional wisdom; it would mean that much of the lucrative cottage industry of political experts—the consultants and pollsters and (ahem) the reporters—is superfluous, an army of bit players with little influence over the outcome. Actually, worse than superfluous: That whole industry of experts is generally wrong.

The experts do seem to be more often wrong than right.

The classic view is that the pool of American voters is basically fixed: About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of “swing voters” who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side.

“The idea that there is this informed, engaged American population that is watching these political events and watching their elected leaders and assessing their behavior and making a judgment.”

“And it is just not true.”

In 2016, the election that truly embarrassed the experts, Bitecofer was teaching in her new job and didn’t put together a forecast. She doesn’t pretend she saw it coming:

She says she was as surprised Trump won as anyone else, but what struck her in examining the results, and what she saw as getting lost in the postelection commentary, was exactly how many people voted third party—for the Greens, the Libertarians or Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative who was running on behalf of the “Never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton had run an entire campaign built around classic assumptions: She was trying to pick off Republicans and Republican-leaning independents appalled by Trump. So she chose a bland white man, Tim Kaine, as a running mate; it also explained her policy-lite messaging and her ads.

But in the end, almost all of those voters stuck with the GOP. The voters who voted third party should have been Democratic voters—they were disproportionately young, diverse and college educated—but they were turned off by the divisive Democratic primary, and the Clinton camp made no effort to activate them in the general election.

The anti-Clinton vote was stronger than the WTF anti-Trump vote.

When 2018 rolled around, she saw what was coming: “College educated white men, and especially college educated white women,” she said, “were going to be on fucking fire.”

It didn’t matter who was running; it mattered who was voting.

Negative partisanship

Bitecofer’s view of the electorate is driven, in part, by a new way to think about why Americans vote the way they do. She counts as an intellectual mentor Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University who popularized the concept of “negative partisanship,” the idea that voters are more motivated to defeat the other side than by any particular policy goals.

In a piece explaining his work in POLITICO Magazine, Abramowitz wrote: “Over the past few decades, American politics has become like a bitter sports rivalry, in which the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose.

Republicans might not love the president, but they absolutely loathe his Democratic adversaries. And it’s also true of Democrats, who might be consumed by their internal feuds over foreign policy and the proper role of government were it not for Trump.”

Bitecofer took this insight and mapped it across the country.

“In the polarized era, the outcome isn’t really about the candidates. What matters is what percentage of the electorate is Republican and Republican leaners, and what percentage is Democratic and Democratic leaners, and how they get activated,” she said.

But it must be more complex than this.

“It’s the big discussion in election forecasting and political science right now,” said Kyle Kondik, communications director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and an editor at its forecasting site, Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “As I look at it, there are just a lot of different things going on in the electorate. There are a lot of folks who switched from Obama 2012 to Trump 2016. I think that’s pretty clear, but there also were turnout problems for Democrats in these places, and you had people switching or defecting to third parties. The more you learn about this stuff, the less you feel like you have a grasp on it.”

Sam Wang, a neuroscientist at Princeton University who since 2004 has doubled as an elections forecaster…agrees. The percentage of people who swing in and out of the electorate is closer to 10 percent, according to his data, which couldn’t explain the massive swings some counties saw from 2012 to 2016.

As for Bitecofer’s overall theory, Wang says, “It is the detailed version of something that is generally appreciated—that over the last 20 years the big phenomenon in American politics is that Americans have become much more predictable about who they vote for,” he said. “The broad insight is the deep truth of our time, but it is not that novel.”

This bit seems odd – election results are virtually decided before candidates are known.

“What I am saying is that almost all of this shit is set in stone for three years, that almost none of the shit that people are hanging onto, in terms of daily articles, or polls, or the economy or incumbency or ideology is really worth that much.”

Once you know the shape of the electorate, she argues, you can pretty much tell how that electorate is going to vote. And the shape of the electorate in 2018, and 2020, for that matter, was determined on the night of November 8, 2016. The new electorate, as she forecasts it, is made up mostly of people who want a president named anything but Donald Trump, competing with another group that fears ruin should anyone but Donald Trump be president.

But if Hillary Clinton suddenly entered this year’s presidential nomination race and was selected surely that would change things considerably. Maybe. Now left wing voters have experienced Trump in action as president voting against him may be stronger than voting against Clinton.

Although the ranks of independents are growing, up to 40 percent by some surveys, Bitecofer says campaigns have spent entirely too much time courting them, and the media has spent entirely too much caring about their preferences. The real “swing” doesn’t come from voters who choose between two parties, she argues, but from people who choose to vote, or not (or, if they do vote, vote for a third party).

The actual percentage of swing voters in any given national election according to her own analysis is closer to 6 or 7 percent than the 15 or 20 most analysts think are out there, and that larger group, Bitecofer says, are “closet partisans” who don’t identify with a party but still vote with one.

It should be easier to motivate people to vote who already lean your way than swinging someone from one side to the other.

This year’s election?

Bitecofer has already released her 2020 model, and is alone among election forecasters in giving the Democrats—who, of course, do not yet have a nominee—the 270 electoral votes required to claim the presidency without a single toss-up state flipping their way.

And in a view that goes against years of accepted political wisdom that says the choice of a running mate doesn’t much matter, the key she says, to a 2020 Democratic victory will lie less in who is at the top of the ticket than in who gets chosen as veep.

The reason Trump won in 2016 was not, she says, because of a bunch of disaffected blue-collar former Democrats in the Midwest; it is because a combination of Jill Stein, Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin pulled away more than 6 percent of voters in a state like Michigan. These were anti-Hillary voters, yes—but they were anti-Trump voters especially, and they are likely to come to the Democratic fold this time around if they’re given a reason.

Trump appears to understand Bitecofer’s theories as well as anyone in politics. He leans into the divisions and negative partisanship. In 2018, Trump turned the midterms into a referendum on him, warning that Democrats would bring crime and chaos into their neighborhoods if they won. There was a turnout surge among Trump voters in some places, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Democratic gains.

Bitecofer already sees the Trump playbook coming together for 2020: warning of a demographic takeover by nonwhites in order to boost turnout among noncollege white voters, and trying to sow chaos in the Democratic ranks so that supporters of a losing primary candidate either stay home or support a third-party candidate.

Bitecofer doesn’t see much of a downside to a candidate like Bernie Sanders. But she doesn’t see much of an upside either, since ideology isn’t as big a motivator as identity, and since Sanders did not in fact bring hordes of new voters to the polls in 2016.

There is some risk to nominating Joe Biden, who could be seen as a candidate of the status quo against a disrupter like Trump, but either way, the key will be to do their version of what Trump does to them every day: make the prospect of four more years of Republican rule seem like a threat to the Republic, one that could risk everything Democratic-leaning voters hold dear.

“If you want to win the election, you have to be able to frame your candidacy in a way that reminds voters that Trump is an abnormality that must be excised,” she said.

While the Trump campaign playbook is well known now, the Democrats are just getting into the serious part of nominating a candidate. How they will campaign is unknown. Surely they can still stuff things up as the Clinton campaign did.

But those who may be motivated to vote against Trump may already be largely determined. Perhaps.

 

Waitangi Day 2020

I’m a long way from Waitangi day geographically  – it seems to be a northern Māori and politician dominated event.

I’ve always been quite  distance from it emotionally as well, never having felt much of a connection to the occasion.

And I’m not much into pomp and ceremony either.

That’s the context for a few talking points.

I presume most of the political posturing is over, that seems to be what some of them do in the preceding days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has read ‘her prayer’ at the dawn service.

“Today we pray for our people, our history, and our future”.

I guess she has to say something like that, but I’ve never been into praying, I’d prefer religion was left out of things in a secular country.

“On this 180th Waitangi Day let us pledge to take us across the bridge between two peoples”.

“Give us the courage to learn to walk comfortably in each others shoes”.

“May we unite in kindness and care toward one another”.

‘Pledge’ sounds better. This sounds a bit flowery but ok, except that “across the bridge between two people” suggests quite a divide, and I think things are a lot more complex “two peoples” – there are many families of ‘two peoples’, or three or more.

There’s some pretty stark ‘them and us’ stuff obvious in places like Kiwiblog comments, but we would be better off for looking at common ground and common purpose more. This means accepting more Māori culture and input but I think that is good and necessary, to go with whatever other cultures that have been imported and have evolved.

And problems that affect Māori more, and have struggled with imported type solutions that haven’t solved things, should try more of a Māori orientated approach, including al of health, education, social welfare and crime.

What does Waitangi Day mean to you? He aha te tikanga o te Rangi o Waitangi ki a koe?

As I said, not much, but Stuff give Mai Chen, Jim Bolger, Jeremy Wells, Meng Foon, Matthew Tukaki, Mike Smith, Jeremy Corbett and Georgina Beyer a say.

Election date announced – 19 September

The prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the date for the 2020 general election – 19 September. It will include two referendums, one on euthanasia, the other on legalising the use of cannabis.

PM announces election date as September 19

The 2020 General Election will be held on Saturday 19 September, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“I’ve always believed that announcing elections dates early is fair. It improves the opportunities for New Zealanders to take part in the democratic process and gives a greater degree of certainty to the political landscape.

The practice of an early announcement of election dates was started by John Key for the 2011 election and it has continued since then. The old practice of game playing with late date announcements was ridiculous.

Ms Ardern has advised the Governor-General of the election date.

The Government’s intention is that the House will rise on Thursday, 6 August 2020 and Parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday, 12 August 2020.

Writ day will follow on Sunday, 16 August 2020, and nominations will close at noon on Friday, 21 August 2020. Advance voting will start on Monday 7 September 2020.

Subject to the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the House, the last day for the return of the writ will be Thursday, 15 October 2020.

As well as being early the announced date was no surprise.

“When it comes to the campaign, I’ve set out Labour’s plan to give New Zealanders an election contest that is positive, factual and robust.

She didn’t indicate when the positive, factual and robust campaign period would begin. It may take a while to get the positive message through to all the Labour MPs and troops.

End of a decade

We’re nearing the end of the twenty tens, with 2020 coming up next week. There seems to be no fanfare for the turn of a decade.

The change of millennium understandably got a lot of attention, with the addition of the ‘y2k bug’ (which was a real issue but with plenty of warning and preparation didn’t cause many problems beyond normal program/date issues).

In some ways that doesn’t seem long ago, twenty years on. As one gets older time often seems to speed up. In a way this may be age relative to a year – for a 5 year old a year is 1/5 of their life, for 50 year old it’s 1/50, so more of a blip in a lifetime.

But if I think back over the last twenty years a lot has happened. I separated, divorced and remarried. Both my parents died (2000 and 2010). All five children/stepchildren finished school and have partners now. Ten grandchildren (the first in 2015, the latest in September this year).

I survived a number of end of world ‘predictions’, including the Mayan calendar expiry in 2012.

Having hardly ventured out of the South Island last century I have now travelled to ten countries around the world.

In a major slowdown UI have worked in the same job in the same office since 2001, having worked in numerous jobs and locations last century.

And I have lived in two houses since 2001, the current one since 2006, a major move towards stability for me (I lived in about 24 houses last century).

In Aotearoa we’ve had just four Prime Ministers in the last two decades. The slowness of ‘reform’ and the lack of revolution seems to irk some but most prefer political and social change to be slow.

The best thing about the last twenty years is that I am still healthy and happy with my life.

It’s a bit of a calendar change to 2020. I hope to make the next step to 2030 but that doesn’t like a sound significant.

Calendar’s are just man-made constructs anyway. The Julian calendar took effect in 45 BC, and was modified by the Gregorian calendar in 1582, While it’s the predominant calender used around the world it’s not the only one.

But every day is valuable no matter what the calendar says.

Clinton rules out 2020 run for presidency a win for Putin?

Hillary Clinton has ruled out another run for the US presidency in 2020. This may be seen as a win for Vladimir Putin, with it being pointed out “how much Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton” – the misogynist versus the sort of feminist.

Could Russia target Ardern and New Zealand democracy? Have they already done this?

CNN:  Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 run, but says ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Hillary Clinton said Monday that she is not running for president in 2020 but will continue to speak out about politics, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m not running, but I’m going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee told CNN affiliate News 12 Westchester.

“I want to be sure that people understand I’m going to keep speaking out. I’m not going anywhere,” Clinton said.

When asked if she would consider running for governor, mayor or any elected office again, Clinton told News 12, “I don’t think so,” adding that she loves living in New York and is grateful for the time she spent as senator of the state.

“What’s at stake in our country, the kinds of things that are happening right now are deeply troubling to me.” She said the country has become “not just polarized, we’ve gotten into really opposing camps unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my adult life.”

Clinton said that “we’ve made a lot of progress” but “we still have a long way to go on women’s rights, on gay rights, on making sure that every person has the same chance to have their dignity and their identity respected.”

This may be why Russia got so involved in the 2016 US election. Whether Trump’s campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia, or whether Russia used Trump to dump on Clinton, are still unanswered questions. The Robert Mueller report may or may not provide answers.

More from Erynn Brook:

It’s basically impossible to say HRC’s name without being bombarded with memes and trolls and propaganda. And that’s all intentional. I’m not talking about her policies. I’m talking about the interpersonal dynamic between Putin and HRC playing out on a world stage.

Oh the dog incident with Merkel isn’t just “related”, it’s more evidence. It’s in the intelligence briefings that’s she’s afraid of dogs. He gave Merkel a stuffed dog the year before. It’s straight up psychological warfare.

Foreign Policy: Putin uses dog to intimidate Merkel

Remember that Hillary Clinton was First Lady when Putin became Prime Minister and then President. Remember that Hillary is widely cited as being the driving force behind her husband’s political career.

Remember that she had an objectively successful political career, AFTER her husband’s impeachment. I don’t mean a while after, I mean like while it’s happening she’s running for state senator in NY. Which she won. That should have been impossible.

Love her or hate her, that’s not what I’m talking about.

Hillary Clinton is demonstrably, a very, very good politician. It’s likely she decided she wanted to be president when she was a kid and that influenced a large majority of her life choices.

So Clinton becomes Secretary of State when Putin is Prime Minister for the second time, and she is a force to be reckoned with. AND she’s the wife of his former American counterpart. She’s the woman he used to tell his wife to entertain. She’s fucking decor to him.

I am begging you to get this: refusal to see the role misogyny played in all of this, in the state of our world right now, is making things worse.

Don’t take my word for it, do your own research. Do some real, substantial research.

And ask yourself: if the richest, most powerful, most dangerous misogynist in the world, thought that the woman who had been coming for him for decades, who saw through all his shit and wasn’t afraid of him, if she was about to get the one job she could get to take him down.

If he saw that coming towards him, if this dangerous man who built a career on crushing political dissidents iduring Cold War, if this “world class misogynist” felt threatened by a WOMAN…

What would he do? What could he do?

Here, I’ll even give you a few places to get started. By all means, if you can show me I’m wrong while still addressing all the Russia crap, without resorting to more misogyny, and with actual, demonstrable, critical analysis, I’d love to hear it.

Brook links to another thread:

And it’s a wider problem.

What are the implications for New Zealand? Jacinda Ardern has positioned herself in stark contrast to both Trump and Putin. New Zealand may not matter much to Russia, but it’s possible Putin could start taking potshots at Ardern. And at our democracy.

Has it already happened? Why did Cameron Slater and Whale Oil actively promote Winston Peters in our 2017 election?

A year ago Peters was in the news here for promoting a trade deal with Russia, and for fudging around while other Western countries condemned Russia for their involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attacks.

Noted noted: What’s with Winston’s crush on Russia?

With Winston Peters, it’s the Secret Samovar. He has this thing about Russia, and no one can explain why. There was the suggestion, when he began harping on about restoring full trade relations with Russia some years ago, that his close ties with the fishing industry had made him hyper-sensitive to lost trade opportunities in seafood.

This week, Peters has repeated his scepticism that Russia shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in 2014 and expanded that refusenik-ism to cover the growing suspicion that Russia just poisoned a spy and his daughter in Britain.

He also averred that our getting a free-trade deal with Russia would be just as good, and should be just as big a priority, as scoring one with the European Union.

It may be that Peters admires Putin’s strongman approach in the way he shares some heartland electoral territory with Trump over immigration and protectionism. Among his startling comments as Foreign Minister this week was one expressing sympathy with the US’s proposed new tariffs on aluminium and steel – which had immediately to be contradicted by Trade Minister David Parker.

Anyway, Peters’ preoccupation with Putin’s Russia goes back years; it’s not something he’s just manufactured as a handy coalition prying bar. And dying in a ditch over Russia is hardly the gesture lost NZ First voters – or any other voters, for that matter – would rally around.

It may be a stretch to suggest a Russian-Peters-Slater conspiracy.

It could simply be that to different degrees Peters shares a similar misogynist view with Putin and Trump, seeing themselves as superior to female leaders, and attracted to each other in a ‘strongmen unite’ sort of empathy.

 

“What National needs to do” – a transparent envelope

‘Cameron Slater’ in  The back of the envelope analysis of what National needs to do to win in 2020 at Whale Oil:

National still has no path to 61 seats and victory.

That is the key.

They do have various paths to forming the next Government (‘victory’ is not a thing under MMP). It won’t be easy for them – and it won’t be easy for Labour, NZ First or the Greens either.

The problem is like a rotting fish for want of a better metaphor. Everyone knows the ancient proverb that a fish rots from the head down.

And so it is with National.

While Bill leads National, National has no route to 61 seats in the house.

Let’s face it, Bill English is basically devoid of personality.

English was actually credited with running a very good campaign, showing his own personality, and achieving a very creditable result for a third term party in government. He missed out on remaining Prime Minister because NZ First chose not to back them, that’s all.

He tried to emulate John Key’s blokiness and just came across as fake. You can’t spend a lifetime in the beltway scheming and plotting to counter for your own lack of ability and not have it affect your personality. When your chosen career of politician is a career actually chosen for you by your Mum then there is no real driving force inside of you…other that seeking power for power’s sake.

So it’s another attempt to trash English. Another of many attempts.

How popular National would be if they got rid of Bill English and a few other hangers-on like Nick Smith and Paula Bennett.

And others. Slater has been naming National MPs for months that he doesn’t like so wants them out.

So, what National needs to do is lop off the stinking, rotting head of the fish, and get themselves a new leader and deputy more suited to the modern political environment. That team must also show that unlike Labour, they have personality AND the necessary skills to lead the country.

Labour succeeded this year due to the personality of Jacinda Ardern.

English led the country for nearly a year, and was generally regarded as successful at that, except by extremists with their own agendas at the likes of The Standard – and Whale Oil.

All National needs to ask itself is “What is our route to 61 seats?”. As soon as they realise that Bill English won’t provide that route because of his long, long, long history then he will have his political throat cut. If he’s smart he will do it himself after wangling some offshore job somewhere…but he has only a limited time to do it.

Slater offers no analysis of what National should do except dump English and others he doesn’t like. His envelope is very transparent.

I think that English did the right thing staying on as leader of the Opposition. When Helen Clark and her deputy Michael Cullen stepped down straight after losing in 2008 Labour were rushed into appointing Phil Goff as a caretaker leader, and then struggled for nine years until the fortuitous rise of Ardern.

It may well be that it is best for English to retire, but it would be silly to rush that. Other senior National MPs will no doubt also step aside during the next couple of years. They will do it their way, not jump to Slater’s agenda.

And despite repeatedly trashing those in National he holds grudges against, as he did through the election campaign and since, Slater is still largely failing to rouse support on Whale Oil.

Tanya Stebbing commented:

English actually did lead National to an election win, he did brilliantly, it was just that Winston had an axe to grind. Well, Winston won’t have the chance at the next election, so it will be down to Labour/Greens versus National/Act, and if the new govt continue performing poorly they may well lose more votes. We will see petrol hikes next year, no tax cuts, inflation rise, food and services go up. Once people get hit in the pocket, votes become very volatile.

I hope English stays on, he did an outstanding job, wouldn’t it be amazing if he got up yet again for third-time victory, one that is unable to be stolen and there are no coalition nonsense talks! Now, that would be sweet indeed!

That got 24 upticks.

Christie, unlike Slater, tried some analysis (4 upticks):

I have said this before. I believe NZF will be gone t the net election, as Winston has promised and failed to deliver one time too many. That will leave 3 parties in place – two of which are joined at the hip. We will effectively be back to FPP and there is no reason why National cannot govern in such circumstances.

That’s one possibility that looks reasonably likely. Slater responded (1 uptick):

There is plenty of reason. Firstly you are defying the vagaries of MMP. Nowhere int eh world that has MMP has one party ever governed alone.

That doesn’t mean it will never happen. It’s quite feasible that NZ First and Greens miss the threshold next election if they disappoint voters this term. That will leave National and Labour and possibly ACT. A one party government would be likely, unless National tacked ACT on again.

Secondly…what is National’s path to 61 seats?

That’s about the extent of Slater’s ‘analysis’, a question he fails to answer except for banging on about a purge of people he doesn’t like.

I’ll suggest some possibilities to a pathway to 61 seats for National.

Leaders and MPs not rushing into retiring. Being an effective opposition. Coming up with a sensible set of policies. Running an effective campaign in 2020.

Other things largely outside the control of National will also play a major part in any pathways, like how Ardern measures up as Prime Minister, how Labour Ministers perform, how Winston Peters performs, whether Peters retires or not, whether Shane Jones looks anything more than an maleloquent idiot, how James Shaw performs, how the Greens perform.

National did remarkably well for a party in their third term in Government in this year’s election, and they managed that without heeding Slater’s advice.

My back of the envelope analysis of what National needs to do to win in 2020 is to continue to keep as much distance as possible from Slater and his transparent agenda.

TOP for 2020, Morgan stepping down as leader

The Opportunities Party has announced a commitment to contest the 2020 election, and have said that Gareth Morgan will step down as leader – this is a wise move, Morgan did very well at public meetings but his media performance was very mixed and won’t have helped his party’s chances in this year’s election.

Announcement:

  • Our day-to-day activity will be centered around our policy development and comms unit at HQ. We will continue to engage with the public and champion the importance of best practice policy.
  • As well, of course, we’ll be providing a TOP perspective on policy developments from the new government – Benchmarking them against TOP best practice policy.
  • We will be looking to grow ‘areas of influence’; regional groups of members and candidates working mostly autonomously to help build our follower base.

On leadership:

  • While Gareth intends to remain as Party Chairperson he will not be the political leader for the party in 2020. It has always been with great reluctance that he has put his name forward in that capacity and so has decided to remove the ambiguity and let others compete for the political leadership role. He will remain as political leader until we determine a new political leadership, most probably well before the end of 2018.

TOP’s commitment for 2020

At TOP HQ our post-election “breather” is now over and it’s time to gear up for the next election. You may have heard the announcement this morning, shedding some light on TOP’s future. We are going through some pretty significant changes, however rest assured that these are all in the interests of giving us the best chance to be successful going forward.

One of the big shifts is our intention to pass some of the responsibility on to you. We’re looking forward to developing a couple more policy areas in 2018/19 in conjunction with submissions and discussion with our party members. We had some great success with this process during the election when we developed our cannabis and alcohol policies through member submission, and we plan to continue this relationship. We also want to turn TOP into a movement, starting from the grassroots, after all, having a strong membership is the cornerstone of any organisation. So, if you feel passionate about what we are trying to achieve, feel like you can help, or want to get involved in our next batch of policy, make sure you sign up here.

TOP got 2.4% of the vote this year, 63,261. They need to get 5% to get into Parliament, unless they can get a current electorate MP to defect to them – no party has yet made it into Parliament under MMP without having a current or past MP.

Cannabis referendum could disappoint

One of the policy wins for the Greens is a referendum on personal use of cannabis.

A referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis by 2020. Funding for drug and alcohol addiction services will be increased.

The ‘referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis by 2020’ is both good and bad news.

Cannabis laws and enforcement of them are hopeless, and long overdue for being radically reformed, so it is good to see tangible progress on this.

But I’m really quite disappointed by this.

Why do we need a referendum apart from appeasing NZ First? Polls have consistently shown public support for cannabis law reform.

A referendum in 2020 is likely to mean that legislation wouldn’t go through Parliament until 2021 at the earliest, and if National get back in they are unlikely to put any priority on it. This means any change could be four or five years away.

A simple referendum could be hobbled or watered down by actual legislation if it’s not specific enough.

Perhaps legislation could be done in advance of the referendum so we know what we are voting on. Then the referendum could be to approve of or reject the legislation. But that still means at least a 3 year wait.

I won’t get too annoyed yet, before details are available, but I have some concerns.


Note that this addresses personal use of cannabis as opposed to medicinal use – in Labour’s Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

Ardern has not been specific but has said that most of their ‘first 100 days’ pledges remain intact.


UPDATE – there could be even more disappointment

James Shaw just said in an interview on The Nation that it hasn’t been decided yet whether the referendum will be binding or not.

So it could be in 3 years, and toothless.

 

$53m for World Expo pavilion

The Government has announced they will commit to spending $53.3m on a pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai in 2020.

It’s probably a good investment for the country and for New Zealand businesses.


New Zealand to participate in Expo 2020 in Dubai

Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges and Trade Minister Todd McClay have announced that New Zealand will participate in World Expo 2020, to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The announcement was made during Mr Bridges’ visit to Dubai.

“Through Budget 2017, the Government is committing $53.3 million to construct a New Zealand Pavilion that will allow Kiwi businesses to highlight their innovative products and services and open doors to new export markets,” says Mr Bridges.

“Showcasing New Zealand to the world is a crucial part of boosting economic growth. Expo 2020 will provide a springboard to promote us as an innovative, solution-focused economy to the 25 million visitors expected to attend from across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

“It will also allow us to build on our strong economic and transport links to the UAE which acts as a global air and sea logistics hub, providing access for New Zealand exporters to a much wider region. We’re already well connected with five direct daily Emirates flights, contributing $700 million to the economy,” says Mr Bridges.

“It makes clear economic sense for New Zealand to participate in this global event,” says Mr Bridges.

The Expo will take place from October 2020 to April 2021 with Mr McClay saying it will attract high-value visitors from all corners of the world.

“Expo 2020 is a vital opportunity to increase New Zealand’s profile amongst new trading partners as well as grow our trade with existing partners,” says Mr McClay.

We have a strong trade and economic relationship with the UAE and $3.8 billion of two-way trade with the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” says Mr McClay.

“The Gulf States also importantly provide an entry point into the wider region for many New Zealand companies and a base from which to better access the wider Middle East and beyond,” says Mr McClay.

New Zealand is close to completing a free trade agreement with the GCC, which comprises of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The UAE alone is New Zealand’s twelfth largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade exceeding $1.9 billion in 2016.

About Expo 2020

Expo 2020 has the theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. The Expo site will be around 2sq/km in size and will contain three thematic areas: opportunity, sustainability and mobility.

These three pavilions will showcase ideas and innovations, and countries that attend will have their specific pavilions spread around the thematic areas. New Zealand has been invited to participate in the sustainability precinct.

The organisers expect around 180 nations to participate. New Zealand is among the first 20 to formally confirm attendance.

More information on the Expo see http://expo2020dubai.ae

New Zealand Pavilion

The Government is about to launch an RFP process within the creative sector of New Zealand to select the best team and ideas for the design and content.