Big election night win for Labour

Labour did 2-3% better than polls suggested and got 49.1% of the advance and election day votes, equating to 64 of 120 seats. Special votes are still to be counted but they shouldn’t change the overall result much, although it may alter total seats won slightly and may change one or two electorate results.

This is a very good result for Labour, the party’s best result since 1946, and is the first time one party has won a majority of seats under 24 years of MMP (while they got just under half the total votes about 8% of votes will not count for small parties who got under the 5% threshold). This unprecedented result is largely thanks to Jacinda Ardern’s popularity, her and the Government’s handling of Covid, and also Grant Robertsons management of the economy to date.

National did 2-5% worse than polls suggested and had a disastrous outcome, having 26.8% of the vote before official counting and specials. The also got hammered in electorates, losing 15 of them, including Gerry Brownlee, Nick Smith and Chris Bishop (they all get in via the list but Brownlee and Smith and a few others must be seriously considering their political futures).

The other parties got results similar to recent polls. One possible explanation for the shift from National to Labour is that a number of normally National supporters voted Labour to increase the chances of Labour getting a sole majority to significantly reduce the leverage of the Green Party.

Notable election night outcomes – Green MP Chloe Swarbrick has also defied polls and currently leads Labour’s Helen White in Auckland Central by 492 votes. If this result stands after the final count it is a major achievement for Swarbrick and the Greens.

And Māori Party candidate Rawiri Waititi is ahead by 415 votes in Waiariki. If this result survives the final count it gets the Māori Party back into Parliament. Tamati Coffey is the only Labour MP to lose his seat (in a Labour landslide) but will keep his job in Parliament via the list.

As expected David Seymour retained Epsom and ACT got 8% of the votes, which means Seymour will be joined by nine other ACT MPS. That’s a big turnaround of ACT fortunes, in part due to Seymour’s sterling efforts and in part due to National’s poor term and leadership turnover.

A few months ago the Green Party looked like they may struggle to make the threshold, but they fought strongly and came out of election night with 7.6% of the vote and 10 MPs, plus the bonus of their first electorate in fifteen years. They will be celebrating, but may also be disappointed that Labour won’t need them to form a government. They are likely to still be included in some form of governing arrangement but won’t anything like the policy leverage holding the balance of power would have given them.

So for now it looks like a five party Parliament.

The polls were right and Winston Peters was wrong. There was no late surge, and NZ First ended up on 2.7%, with Shane Jones a distant third in Northland. Peters looked and often sounded like a last century politician and was dogged by the SFO investigation of donations. Is this the end of Peters as a politician? Is it the end of NZ First? We will have to wait and see.

No small parties came anywhere near the threshold, with only the Maori Party succeeding by winning one electorate (probably) but will get no other MPs.

Full interim results here: 2020 General Election and Referendums – Preliminary Count

David Farrar has put together an interim list of MPs here: The provisional Parliament.

Also of interest from him:

Interesting to see the difference in support between advance and election day results. This makes the polls for Labour and National look even less accurate.

I’m quite happy with this result. Labour have underperformed on things like housing, poverty, social welfare and tax reform and climate change, but did very well dealing with crises, especially the Covid pandemic, and Grant Robertson has managed the economy reasonably well (the full impact of Covid is yet to be seen).

National had a poor term, a bad year dumping two leaders, and a terrible campaign. They were always going to struggle against Ardern but they made a mess of things regardless. They have a lot of soul searching and rebuilding to do over the next three years.

I’m happy to see ACT in as a party rather than a sole MP, and I’m happy to see Greens surviving and in the mix as well, but without too much influence.

I’m very happy to see Chloe Swarbrick and Rawiri Waititi hopefully win electorates. This is good for smaller parties generally, and should serve as a warning to Labour that they didn’t get everything their own way (they showed some arrogance in the Auckland Central campaign).

And I have no problem with Winston Peters and NZ First dropping out of Parliament. While he has done some good things I have never been a fan of Peters, I just don’t like how he does politics.

Electoral Commission: 480,000 special votes to be counted (in 10 days’ time). Voter turnout est. to be 2.88m or 82.5% of those enrolled, cf 79.8% turnout in 2017.

Election night 2020

Voting is over and the counting has begun – actually they began counting advance votes from 9 am today, and with almost 2 million of them having been cast before today (3 October to 16 October) we should get results coming in quite quickly.

Electoral Commission: How are general election votes counted?

Counting votes cast before election day

From 9am on election day, we can count advance votes. We count them at secure electorate headquarters across New Zealand.

Counting votes cast on election day

After voting closes at 7pm, we count ordinary votes. The manager of each voting place opens the voting boxes and counts the party votes and electorate votes.

We publish the preliminary count results as they come in

After 7pm on election night, we enter the preliminary count results into our national election results system. We then publish the results on and give them to the media.

Our target on election night is to have:
– 50% of results available by 10pm
– 95% of results available by 11.30pm.

Official count gives the final election results

We start the official count the day after election day. The chief electoral officer declares the official results 20 days after election day.

We need to allow time for counting the special votes, which can come in up to 10 days after election day.

While it already looks obvious Labour will be in a position to form the next government, we may or may not get to find out tonight how much leverage the Greens have, and whether NZ First might also have a say or will miss the cut.

If we have to wait until special votes are counted it could take a couple of weeks, unless Labour and the greens just decide to go ahead and negotiate a governing arrangement anyway.

There will be some interest around some of the electorates, and there may be one or two left in limbo until special votes are counted, but that is very unlikely to change the overall result.

  • Estimated eligible population: 3,772,100
  • Total enrolled: 3,487,654
  • % enrolled: 92.46%
  • Advance votes: 1,976,996 (last election 1,240,740)
  • % advance votes: 56.69%

Enrolment statistics

Advance voting statistics

Long campaign but still a fairly predictable outcome

The election campaign was extended due to Covid lockdown, and seems to be dragging out, but little seems to have changed in party support over the last few months.

Recent polls have been fairly stable, and with over 1.1 million advance votes already cast it looks very unlikely there will be any major swings in support in the last few days of the campaign.

Labour look like coasting to victory after a cautious campaign. They didn’t have to do much to maintain a big lead, and they haven’t done much. The only question seems to be whether they will get enough votes to be able to rule alone or not, and if they do whether they do whether they will take on a coalition partner (Greens).

Jacinda Ardern and by association Labour have received a lot of praise for their handling of the Covid pandemic, and Ardern has campaigned hard and adeptly on that record.

Greens are still fighting hard for every vote, which they may need to make the 5% threshold, but they aren’t offering anything compelling to voters. Labour have done their best to diffuse any leverage Greens may hope to have. Labour may or may not need the Greens to form a Government, but going by what Labour are saying that may make little difference to policies negotiated.

NZ First look rejected, polling between 1.4% and 2.5% over the last six months. Winston Peters is trying but looks far from confidence – he most often looks grumpy, and has offered little apart from promising to stop Labour doing things. It’s possible all the polls are wrong as Peters always claims, but even if NZ First sneak in over the threshold there is little incentive for Labour to form another coalition with them unless they really have to.

National have had a difficult year, changing leaders twice. They has also have a poor campaign, with Judith Collins failing to make much impression against Ardern, a series of sloppy policy announcements, and electorate MPs putting their own jobs head of the good of the party, sometimes poorly. National seem to have recovered a bit after plummetting to polling in the twenties, but now look stuck in the low thirties. There’s been nothing in their campaign to suggest they deserve moore than that,

ACT have had a good year and a good campaign. Last year they polled mostly less than 1% and just started to rise at the end of the year, rising to 1.6%. They have kept improving through this year, with their last two poll results being 8%. Even if they drop back a bit they will still have a very good result, jumping from 1 MP to 5-10 MPs.

National look to be in a hopeless situation. Even with ACT they are barely getting into the forties, a long way short of Labour. Some wishful thinkers have been saying ‘if Labour drop 5% and National jump 5% it’s all on’ but that looks very unlikely, especially with National lurching from mistake to embarrassment.

What if NZ First defy the polls and make the threshold? National have ruled out doing a deal with Peters, and while Peters has defied pre-election indications in the past it would be aa huge stretch even for him to now form a coalition with National, let alone National+ACT.

So most likely we will have a Labour+Green government next term, with Labour exerting dominance shown already though the campaign. Or possibly a Labour alone Government. It would be a major shock if the result is outside these possibilities.


There is an outside chance the Maori Party manage to pull off one or two surprise wins in Maori electorates. Polls suggest they are close in some – probably not close enough, but Maori voters have been generally much better at tactical voting than the rest.

Labour+Greens+Maori would likely help Labour dominate.

But Labour+Maori would make an interesting coalition. It may embolden the Labour Maori caucus.

Trump battles trade and Covid effects, but stokes a bigger battle

It looks like Donald Trump has an uphill battle to retain the presidency. Contracting Covid has been an obvious setback, but trade tariffs imposed by Trump as well as his general behaviour had already made re-election difficult for him.

But militia style battles, encouraged by Trump, may pose major problems post-election.

FiveThirtyEight currently forecasts a 15 in 100 chance of Trump winning in Biden is favored to win the election – and this has dropped from 30% on 1 September, 24% on 15 September and 20% on 1 October just as he tested positive for Covid.

There does appear to be a Covid effect. Reuters: With pandemic dominating U.S. election, older voters turning away from Trump

Many older Americans have turned away from President Donald Trump this year as the coronavirus ravages the country, eroding an important Republican support base that helped propel him into the White House in 2016, Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows.

Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden now split American voters aged 55 years and older almost evenly: 47% say they are voting for Biden on Nov. 3 while 46% back Trump, according to Reuters/Ipsos national surveys in September and October.

Trump won the 55-plus age group by 13 percentage points in 2016, according to exit polls. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, achieved the same margin.

Biden is beating Trump among older voters in Wisconsin by 10 points and drawing about the same amount of support as Trump is with that demographic in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Arizona, according to the state polls conducted in mid-September and early October.

Four years ago, Trump won older voters in each of those states by 10 to 29 points.

But before Covid Trump already had problems in some key states that helped him win the 2016 election.

Reuters: Trump steel tariffs bring job losses to swing state Michigan

President Donald Trump promised a new dawn for the struggling U.S. steel industry in 2016, and the lure of new jobs in Midwestern states including Michigan helped him eke out a surprise election win.

Trump’s strategy centered on shielding U.S. steel mills from foreign competition with a 25% tariff imposed in March 2018. He also promised to boost steel demand through major investments in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

But higher steel prices resulting from the tariffs dented demand from the Michigan-based U.S. auto industry and other steel consumers. And the Trump administration has never followed through on an infrastructure plan.

Biden leads Trump in Michigan by 8 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos state opinion poll of likely voters conducted from Sept. 29 – Oct. 6, widening his lead from a few weeks earlier.

Nationally, the steel industry has been shedding jobs for the past year – since before the wider economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and now employs 1,900 fewer workers than it did when Trump took office, according to U.S. Labor Department data. 

While the tariffs failed to boost overall steel employment, economists say they created higher costs for major steel consumers – killing jobs at companies including Detroit-based automakers General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.

The tariffs had a profound impact on steel consumers, industry experts say. All three Detroit automakers – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV – have closed a plant in Michigan since January 2018, according to Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. Both General Motors and Ford reported $1 billion each in increased steel cost in 2018.

Nationally, steel and aluminum tariffs resulted in at least 75,000 job losses in metal-using industries by the end of last year, according to an analysis by Lydia Cox, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University, and Kadee Russ, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis.

In all, they estimated, the trade war had caused a net loss of 175,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs by mid-2019.

Trump made similar 2016 campaign promises to revive the ailing coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations. But that industry’s employment has dropped 9% since 2016, to about 46,000, as 66 coal plants – nearly a fifth of the U.S. total – have closed. The economic losses come despite the administration’s moves to ease restrictions including limits on carbon emissions and dumping coal waste into streams.

One (loose) group of voters does seem to support Trump.

FiveThirtyEight: How Trump And COVID-19 Have Reshaped The Modern Militia Movement

While established militias are kind of like a heavily armed scout troop — formal organizations with ranks and membership dues and training programs and regular meetings — some academics argue that many people who are falling into the militia movement’s orbit these days are more like loosely affiliated individuals.

So a crowd like the one that showed up in Kenosha can be made up of individuals, even strangers, with little connecting them except a shared interest in gun rights and a sense that they’re the only ones who can protect their community. And in these trying times — amid a pandemic and protests against racial injustice, plus a president who is giving them more public support than they’ve ever had from the national political establishment — those individuals are taking a collective turn in a direction that, experts fear, is likely to result in more violence.

The rise of President Trump, and the tumultuous events of 2020, have made it even more difficult to untangle what militias are doing and what their individual adherents believe. From the beginning of his candidacy, Trump’s rhetoric — his attacks on the “deep state” or the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant insults that peppered his tweets and speeches — have resonated with and garnered public responses from people within the militia movement.

When Trump tweeted about an impending civil war or warned about threats from the left, it brought extremist theories and conversations into the national conversation. 

The pandemic — and the racial injustice protests that have roiled cities throughout the summer — appear to have brought even more people into the militia movement’s orbit. Suddenly, people were at home all day, feeling anxious and fearful about the future and spending a lot more time online. Many in the militia movement chafed at state lockdown orders, and started appearing, heavily armed, at state capitols across the country to protest what they saw as an assault on their individual freedoms. 

Fear and anxiety are predictors of people — particularly young people — turning towards extremism and violence, said Miller-Idriss. In that context, the conditions of the pandemic are a perfect culture for radicalism to grow. “We know from the research that unemployment itself does not lead to greater risk of engaging in extremist behaviors but economic precarity does,” she said. For the last six months, the entire country has lived on the edge of economic and social precarity. What if our institutions crumble? What if we can’t get our normal lives back? Extremist ideologies can offer meaning, purpose and a narrative of control when everything feels out of it.

The president’s rhetoric has fed into that, experts say. By the time he was elected, Trump was a hero to many in the militia movement. “Donald Trump has succeeded in being at once the head of government and the head of anti-government,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a remarkable thing, actually.”

With Trump saying both implicitly and explicitly that militias or even just armed individuals are the only thing standing between America and the chaos of a leftist takeover of the country, the promise of control becomes even stronger. It becomes a call to arms — one that more young Americans, sitting at home without school or even work, may try to answer.

This is a real problem for the US.

Inquirer (1 September): Trump’s promotion of armed militias risks stoking civil war

Claiming to be the law-and-order president, Trump is stoking racial tensions rather than seeking to calm them. He is encouraging armed supporters who show up in racially troubled towns and cities with their rifles at the ready.

He cheered on a pro-Trump caravan of trucks that drove into downtown Portland, Ore., Saturday as “GREAT PATRIOTS,” even though video showed them hurling paintballs and pepper spray and driving into protesters, leaving one dead from an unsolved shooting.

The Atlantic: A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans

Stewart Rhodes was living his vision of the future. On television, American cities were burning, while on the internet, rumors warned that antifa bands were coming to terrorize the suburbs. Rhodes was driving around South Texas, getting ready for them. He answered his phone. “Let’s not fuck around,” he said. “We’ve descended into civil war.”

…Rhodes had been talking about civil war since he founded the Oath Keepers, in 2009. But now more people were listening. And whereas Rhodes had once cast himself as a revolutionary in waiting, he now saw his role as defending the president. He had put out a call for his followers to protect the country against what he was calling an “insurrection.” The unrest, he told me, was the latest attempt to undermine Donald Trump.

In Trump, the Patriot movement believed it had an ally in the White House for the first time. In 2016, when Trump had warned of election fraud, Rhodes put out a call for members to quietly monitor polling stations.

When Trump warned of an invasion by undocumented immigrants, Rhodes traveled to the southern border with an Oath Keepers patrol. He sent members to “protect” Trump supporters from the protesters at his rallies and appeared in the VIP section at one of them, standing in the front row in a black Oath Keepers shirt.

When Trump warned of the potential for civil war at the start of the impeachment inquiry last fall, Rhodes voiced his assent on Twitter. “This is the truth,” he wrote. “This is where we are.”

The race riots have happened since then.

As Rhodes told the people in the crowd to be ready for war, I sized them up. Some looked hardened, but many more did not. One man rested a hand on a cane. When Rhodes asked what their concerns were, several said they feared that rioters would show up in their neighborhoods.

His comments became more inflammatory as he began to warn about antifa and protesters. “They are insurrectionists, and we have to suppress that insurrection,” he said. “Eventually they’re going to be using IEDs.”

“Us old vets and younger ones are going to end up having to kill these young kids,” he concluded. “And they’re going to die believing they were fighting Nazis.”

It could start with a protest gone wrong, he said, or shots from a provocateur. Someone mentioned a young mother in Indiana who’d been shot and killed after reportedly shouting “All lives matter” during an argument with strangers.

“We talk about being attacked,” another man said. “Now, I have a question. What if you’re attacked in subtle and consistent ways over a period of time?”

This was a different kind of crowd than Rhodes had drawn to the VFW hall. Many were in their 20s and 30s and had come in uniforms—some Three Percenters wore black T‑shirts and camouflage pants, and members of another group stood together in matching woodland fatigues. From the latter, a man climbed onto the flatbed and introduced himself as Joe Klemm, the leader of a new militia called the Ridge Runners.

He was a 29-year-old former marine and spoke with a boom that brought the crowd to attention. “I’ve seen this coming since I was in the military,” he said. “For far too long, we’ve given a little bit here and there in the interest of peace. But I will tell you that peace is not that sweet. Life is not that dear. I’d rather die than not live free.”

“Hoo-ah,” some people cheered.

“It’s going to change in November,” Klemm continued. “I follow the Constitution. We demand that the rest of you do the same. We demand that our police officers do the same. We’re going to make these people fear us again. We should have been shooting a long time ago instead of standing off to the side.”

“Are you willing to lose your lives?” he asked. “Are you willing to lose the lives of your loved ones—maybe see one of your loved ones ripped apart right next to you?”

Guardian: ‘Our worst nightmare’: will militias heed Trump’s call to watch the polls?

In the final minutes of last week’s televised presidential debate, a few days before he tested positive for Covid-19, Donald Trump was asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, whether he would call on his supporters to stay calm and desist from civil unrest in the immediate aftermath of next month’s election.

Trump pointedly declined the invitation. Instead, he replied: “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it.”

For those who monitor the activities of far-right militia groups and white-supremacist paramilitaries, Trump’s remarks were as welcome as jet fuel being used to quell a wildfire.

“The militias will absolutely seize on [Trump’s comments],” said Steven Gardiner, who tracks militias at the progressive thinktank Political Research Associates. “The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling.”

FBI background checks – a direct indicator of gun sales – almost doubled year-on-year this summer, a reflection of the jitters that abound. As America arms itself, deadly weaponry is increasingly finding its way on to the streets, borne by self-styled private militias and culminating in violent clashes that have caused bloodshed in several US cities.

With the most ferociously-contested presidential election in modern times now less than a month away, there are signs that heavily-armed militia groups, many of them finely attuned to Trump’s every whim, are setting their sights on the ballot.

Burghart’s research group has been tracking the escalation of militia activity especially in key swing states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, groups have been detected discussing what they call “voter integrity” efforts on polling day.

“We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here,” Burghart said.

In Montana, a popular base for libertarians and militia members, there are similar signs of militia groups assiduously retweeting Trump’s falsehoods about mail-in voting fraud, circulating the lies widely among themselves.

Burghart’s research group has been tracking the escalation of militia activity especially in key swing states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, groups have been detected discussing what they call “voter integrity” efforts on polling day.

“We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here,” Burghart said.

In Montana, a popular base for libertarians and militia members, there are similar signs of militia groups assiduously retweeting Trump’s falsehoods about mail-in voting fraud, circulating the lies widely among themselves.

It’s not just the rightwing paramilitaries that pose a mounting danger. Anti-fascist and radical left groups have shown a growing recourse to guns too, as was seen with the shooting by a self-styled anti-fascist activist, later himself killed by police, of a member of the pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer in Portland last month.

The arming of African American and anti-fascist factions has contributed to the volatility of the times. But the overwhelming bulk of militia activity falls firmly on the other side of the country’s widening racial divide – with the overwhelmingly white far-right.

It’s a daunting task, made none the easier by Trump. “When he talks about ‘poll watching’ and fraud, and refuses to urge his followers not to engage in civil unrest, that’s a thinly-veiled dog-whistle for armed groups to coalesce.”

It isn’t just an election at stake in the US. It isn’t just democracy at stake.

And the risks are real. Reuters: F.B.I. Says Michigan Anti-Government Group Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Authorities charged 13 men, some of whom were accused of plotting to storm the State Capitol building and planning to start a civil war.

Storming the State Capitol. Instigating a civil war. Abducting a sitting governor ahead of the presidential election.

Those were among the plots described by federal and state officials in Michigan on Thursday as they announced terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against 13 men. At least six of them, officials said, had hatched a detailed plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has become a focal point of anti-government views and anger over coronavirus control measures.

The men spied on Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, even looking under a highway bridge for places they could place and detonate a bomb to distract the authorities, the F.B.I. said. They indicated that they wanted to take Ms. Whitmer hostage before the election in November, and one man said they should take her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin for a “trial,” Richard J. Trask II, an F.B.I. special agent, said in the criminal complaint.

That’s quite alarming. Sadly, predictably, the stoker-in-chief continues fomenting devision.


It could become a very ugly election, and it could also get a lot worse, especially if Trump loses the election.

Voting in NZ starts today

While voting from overseas in this year’s general election (plus two referendums) began a few days ago, today marks the opening of voting in New Zealand. We can vote from 3 October through to ‘election day’ on Saturday 17 October.

Some links to help with deciding and voting:

Sites to help learn and decide:

On The Fence
Wondering who to vote for this election?
Discover which parties best match your values.

Vote Compass
– a tool developed by political scientists that calculates how your political views compare with party platforms.

Policy makes voting easy: all the policies, parties and candidates, all in one place. See where the parties stand on key issues, find out who’s running in your area, and pick the policies and candidates you like most to help you decide who to vote for.

Policy states “On 17 October, NZ will vote in the most important election of a generation” – this is inaccurate, voting starts today and runs for 15 days, and claiming it is “the most important election of a generation” is very subjective and debatable.

Under MMP we get two votes.

The vote for a party is the key one because that determines the number of seats each party will get, and therefore effectively determines which party or parties will form a Government.

As we saw for the first time last election the party with the most seats and votes doesn’t necessarily get to lead the Government. Getting a combined party majority is what matters.

The vote for an electorate candidate has no effect on the overall number of seats in Parliament, so you can vote for the candidate you think will best represent your electorate regardless of which party they belong to.

Election date and governing through the campaign

Questions have been raised about whether the election can go ahead next month – probably not if under level 3 lockdown – and how much public governing the Prime Minister should be doing through the campaign – Jacinda Ardern insists her priority is dealing with Covid and the safety of the people.

Jane Patterson (RNZ) – Election date debate: Collins willing to risk antagonising voters

There’s now serious pressure to push out the election date, starting with slowing the next steps taken to end the parliamentary term and trigger an election. It’s in the hands of the prime minister for now but other parties say it wouldn’t be a fair race.

According to Ardern the latest it could be held is 21 November.

The date would have to allow enough time to release the final election and referendums results, and for the formation of a new government, before Christmas.

The main consideration will be: “Is it safe to vote?”

The Electoral Commission has been planning for an election in a pandemic but under current guidelines would only go ahead under alert level 2; an election could not go ahead under the level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland.

That is based on people being able to safely access polling booths with sanitising and social distancing – if they cannot it is up to ministers and political leaders to decide what would happen from there, with an obligation to put the interests of New Zealanders ahead of any political considerations.

This close to a general election the governing parties have a responsibility to work constructively with others when it comes to any major decisions – especially in a crisis – and to make sure the race is as even as possible.

National is calling for the 19 September election to be delayed, with Collins accusing Ardern of not consulting as fully as she should, and withholding key information about this week’s decisions.

Decisions will have have to be made soon, with a set timetable that has to be followed in the weeks leading up the election.

National says it is a health crisis and should be handled by the director general of health, not a politician.

Campaigning has been suspended while all parties watch the developments in Auckland carefully – what happens there will determine not only how politicians take their message to the electorate but potentially the election date itself.

National is fighting to keep itself in the story, by taking on Ardern over her treatment of the main opposition party.

But Ardern insists her right and responsibility to front the Covid crisis.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern keeps options open as Judith Collins attacks

On Wednesday, Ardern announced the Government would be delaying the dissolution of Parliament until Monday, in order to give itself the flexibility to delay the election or bring the House back into full session.

She did not commit to any delay of the September 19 election date, however, saying more information about the cases was needed.

Collins rejected this later in the day and called for a delay of the election until at least November, saying a locked-down campaign would be impossible and any kind of mass postal voting would not be legitimate democracy.

“It is simply unsustainable to expect there to be a fair and just election at a time when opposition parties and other parties of Government are not free to campaign, but also when people have no certainty about whether they would be able to cast their vote on election day,” Collins said.

Ardern said she was focused on the immediate response, but decisions around election timing would be made before Parliament was set to dissolve on Monday.

Collins also criticised the Government for making the lockdown decision after advising her, instead of consulting her and the Opposition directly.

She said there was a convention in New Zealand that the Opposition be consulted on major decisions this close to the election.

“It is always part of our pre-election convention that a Government does not make major decisions without consultation with the Opposition. Clearly advising the leader of the opposition just before making a public announcement does not count as consultation,” Collins said.

Ardern disagreed with this assessment, saying the “caretaker convention” only applied following an election, before a new Government had been called.

Victoria University Associate Professor of Public Law Dr Dean Knight said the Cabinet manual showed no “caretaker” period applied in New Zealand and the Government was free to make major decisions.

“The Government has full power to take decisions prior to the election and is under no legal or customary obligation to consult the Opposition about major decisions such as Covid-19 alert levels,” Knight said.

Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer) on this:

Our conventions for the period without a Parliament evolved over generations as bi-partisan commitment to democratic bottom lines. Incumbent rulers in corrupt countries use state resources and power to stifle and overwhelm challengers’ communication with voters.

In NZ election period Govt advertising with taxpayer purse is strictly limited. Conventions confine Ministers, most strict before a handover after the election. But honourable self-restraint is also expected pre-election after Parliament can’t scrutinise for abuses of power.

In NZ incumbent power is restrained to protect values that need bi-partisan loyalty past an electoral cycle, e.g. consulting the opposition on senior enduring appointments. An honourable government recognises the purpose of the principles and applies them to new circumstances.

We have unprecedented issues. The PM is inserting herself daily into announcements that could easily be made by trusted non-politician leaders, like Dr Bloomfield. Meanwhile inflicting on democratic rivals losses of freedoms to meet, and to associate for political discussion.

I wish I could believe her media omni-presence is just to ensure we all get the right info from someone we are most likely to trust, so there is maximum voluntary compliance/cooperation. But now 40% of the population will be tempted to mistrust and oppose or even frustrate.

Worthy public purposes were served by her daily lessons during the first lockdown. I eventually tired of being addressed as an infant, but clearly many more were reassured. Now, however the electioneering purpose looks too blatant.

That might be less counterproductive if she’d scrupulously reassured us by balancing her political spotlight with conspicuous respect for electoral integrity. If she wants full emergency media now she could inject balance by returning the election to its traditional November.

It is unprincipled to insist on her chosen early election while gagging political challengers with lockdown. Abusing the emergency’s saturation attention may suck media oxygen from critics/rivals. But will it look so smart if it prompts resentment/disobedience and failure?

Deferring the dissolution for as long as possible to leave some chance of a period of normal election challenge and freedom, would be a gesture to minimise the numbers who will see and hear only cynical manipulation in her Covid statements from here on. Trust matters.

David Farrar promotes the Collins approach in Collins calls for election delay:

Judith Collins has called for the Prime Minister to use her powers to delay the election until November, or failing that for Parliament to meet and vote on delaying it until 2021.

Collins points out that early voting is due to start in two and a half weeks and opposition parties are unable to campaign or even have their campaign launches.

But it is “Now that the boot is on the other foot he supports delaying New Zealand’s election.”
Well, a few days ago delaying an election in the US by Trump was described by DPF’s headline as “Trump verges on fascism”, so by that standard, today DPF and Judith must also be verging on fascism.
And there was this by DPF, “If you can hold elections during a civil war and a world war, you can hold one now.” That didn’t age well.

“Now that the boot is on the other foot he supports delaying New Zealand’s election.”

Well, a few days ago delaying an election in the US by Trump was described by DPF’s headline as “Trump verges on fascism”, so by that standard, today DPF and Judith must also be verging on fascism.

And there was this by DPF, “If you can hold elections during a civil war and a world war, you can hold one now.” That didn’t age well.

The country is in an unprecedented and very awkward position over Covid and with the complication of the election.

Ardern not openly election ‘politicking’ (but slyly doing it anyway)

I think that through her ongoing Covid-19 PR Jacinda Ardern has obviously got one eye on the election, but she has claimed she ‘her mind hasn’t been focussed’ on the election.

Henry Cooke (Stuff): Jacinda Ardern looks to stay above electoral politics – and Judith Collins

After a speech setting out how New Zealand would respond if another Covid-19 outbreak was to occur, the Prime Minister was asked about the front-page news of the day: Judith Collins.

Jacinda Ardern demurred, offering neither congratulations nor commiserations for the National Party and its new leader.

“I’m spending more time about New Zealand’s response and economic recovery from Covid-19.”

“I accept there will be politicking this year. I accept we have an election. But if I’m being brutally honest, my mind hasn’t been focused on that to date.”

“I absolutely accept that there is an election this year – and there is no avoiding that – but at the moment it’s taking up a bare minimum of my attention.”

Yeah, right.

This is a bit of a change from her message when National last changed leaders two months ago. At that point Ardern sent barbed commiserations, saying the party was “recovering” and was “not the party of Key and English any more”.

It’s also quite an odd way of putting it. Ardern doesn’t have the choice to “accept” whether there is an election this year. Elections are the means by which the Government has legitimacy and power; not minor inconveniences on the path to Covid-19 recovery.

The election this year is as important – and vital for democracy – as ever. Ardern is not above elections.

This kind of language plays into a wider strategy that is emerging from Ardern and Labour to basically pretend there isn’t an election. With the global pandemic continuing to dominate the news cycle it makes total sense to stick to governing, or at least look like you are.

“Politicking” is something other parties who are in trouble do, what with their leadership changes and leaking drama, you just get to govern. After all, people like Prime Minister Ardern much more than Labour leader Ardern, and the best campaign is a well-governed country.

So to an extent at least it is a smart strategy.

Another part of Ardern’s strategy is to frequently personally present information and ‘good news’, but to leave the not so good Covid news to others. I think this clearly has the election in mind.

But it can be taken too far. Thus far Labour has released a single election policy, which deals with afforestation of farmland and seems mostly engineered to give Kieran McAnulty a good shot in Wairarapa. When you ask about other policy areas, MPs either say “maybe soon” or point to wider government policy on an issue.

But the Government is not the Labour Party, it is a set of compromises between Labour and two parties with wildly different views.

Kiwis can’t vote for “the Government” – much like they can’t vote for Ardern herself. They can vote for a party, and they deserve a coherent set of values and promises to make that decision on.

Maybe Ardern and Labour will eventually front up with some policies and priorities if the get back into Government next term.

Collins is not likely to stick with the vague business-speak.

I suspect this is why some people seem to be frantically trying to discredit Collins. With Collins leading National Ardern is more vulnerable to be called out for a lack of policies and details.’

Collins promised to not underestimate Ardern as a foe. Ardern is unlikely to be underestimating Collins in return. But she can only float above the partisan fray for so long. At some point she will need to dig in and fight a real ideological battle with the National Party – especially as its leader is now making promises to “take our country back”. That’s what elections are for.

And it is important for the people of New Zealand that a decent election battle is fought, on substance rather than just on ‘celebrity’ status.

I hope Collins forces Labour into doing justice to the campaign. And I hope Ardern steps up and argues over far more than her current popularity.

And I hope the capabilities of both the Labour and National front benches in particular get a lot of scrutiny, as well as the potential effects of any coalition arrangements.

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.


Will we have an election year ‘culture war’?

Politics in Aotearoa is quite different to Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA, so it is difficult to know how much we will move towards the fractious and divisive politics of those countries in this election year.

Bryce Edwards suggests New Zealand voters must prepare for an ugly culture war this election

Trump, Morrison and Johnson have found fertile political ground in the backlash to being woke. Simon Bridges is likely to ape them

Bridges is already trying a bit of this approach, but he’s not very popular so it’s difficult to judge whether he is shifting support – National has generally maintained good levels of support regardless of their leader’s lack of appeal.

Some say the New Zealand insistence on fairness goes back to our colonial history. Many escapees of industrial Britain embraced a life in a less class-ridden country. Of course the idea that New Zealand is an equal and “classless society” was always a myth, but this egalitarian ethos endures.

It creates a particular problem for politicians of the right. As a former prime minister, John Key, told US diplomats in a private briefing, New Zealand’s “socialist streak” means it can be difficult to push rightwing policies. Key later elaborated: “New Zealand is a very caring country. I think New Zealanders do have a heart.”

In 2017 this helped the election of Jacinda Ardern’s government, made up of parties that channelled concerns about the lack of fairness under the then National-led government. The new government promised to be “transformative”, rolling out a fairness agenda in programs from KiwiBuild to child poverty reduction targets.

This all presents the National party with a dilemma. There are few votes in criticising the government’s fairness agenda – in fact the opposition is reduced to complaining that the government has not delivered on its left-leaning program.

As the election nears, National will try to paint itself as better economic managers and Grant Robertson as an irresponsible and incompetent finance minister, but this is unlikely to cut it with many voters.

I agree. Robertson has largely been successful at avoiding scaring the economic horses.

So where can it differentiate? National increasingly relies on stoking “culture wars” and law and order. It is these fertile new hunting grounds that give Simon Bridges his best chance of painting Ardern and her colleagues as out of touch with mainstream New Zealand.

I doubt that Bridges will get very far there – one of Ardern’s strengths has been her ability to show empathy for how ‘mainstream New Zealand’ feels, especially during high profile times of deaths and emotions.

Culture wars are concerned with debates relating to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, human rights, discrimination, free speech and civil liberties. Elements of the political left – especially in the Labour and Green parties – are increasingly associated with campaigns in these areas, and often their stances are not shared by many mainstream voters.

But I think they are just niche elements of the left.

Ardern knows very well to keep her government as clear as possible of contentious social issues. Instead, if Labour and its coalition partners can keep public debate around traditional egalitarian concerns about inequality, housing, health and education, the New Zealand notion of fairness will probably also ensure her government will get another chance.

But Ardern probably needs the Greens and possibly NZ First to retain power. Winston Peters tends to appeal to a quite small ‘unfairness’ demographic which is quite different to the type of ‘fairness’ voters Greens will be trying too appeal to.

National’s best bet might be to provoke an ugly culture war. Expect to see Bridges attempt to start debates on these issues and paint Labour and the Greens as “woke” elitists, or just soft on law and order. This might be desperate and opportunistic – National MPs genuinely don’t care that much about many of these issues. But National knows that they are the sort of emotive and divisive concerns that might change votes.

This would be high risk. While it may appeal to some they are likely to already lean towards National. The more moderate voters that are seen as essential to winning elections are less likely to be attracted to divisive politics. They are more likely to be repelled by it.

There’s a cultural backlash ready to be fostered – as Donald Trump, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have found to their benefit. Such debates, whether over identity politics, hate speech, minority rights or gender can be explosively divisive. That could end up being the ugly story of the 2020 general election.

The US is a two party democracy that is very polarised – Donald Trump exploited this to win the presidency.

But we have multiple parties and I think far less division. There are noisy minorities on the extremes, but National and Labour are generally seen as more similar than different by most, in part due to the moderating influence of MMP.

National (and NZ First and the Greens) will no doubt try to push ‘culture war’ type issues to an extent, and media will give them more publicity than they deserve, but I am doubtful that many voters will buy into the divide and conquer style of politics that has worked elsewhere in the world.

Corbyn claims “we won the argument’

The UK Labour Party had their worst election result since 1935, getting  little more than half the seats that the Conservatives won,  but twice unsuccessful leader Jeremy Corbyn claims that they “won the argument”.

Guardian: We won the argument, but I regret we didn’t convert that into a majority for change

The political system is volatile because it is failing to generate stable support for the status quo following the financial crash of 2008. As Labour leader I’ve made a point of travelling to all parts of our country and listening to people, and I’ve been continually struck how far trust has broken down in politics.

The gap between the richest and the rest has widened. Everyone can see that the economic and political system is not fair, does not deliver justice, and is stacked against the majority.

That has provided an opening for a more radical and hopeful politics that insists it doesn’t have to be like this, and that another world is possible. But it has also fuelled cynicism among many people who know things aren’t working for them, but don’t believe that can change.

I saw that most clearly in the former industrial areas of England and Wales where the wilful destruction of jobs and communities over 40 years has taken a heavy toll. It is no wonder that these areas provided the strongest backlash in the 2016 referendum and, regrettably for Labour, in the general election on Thursday.

Despite our best efforts, and our attempts to make clear this would be a turning point for the whole direction of our country, the election became mainly about Brexit.

We now need to listen to the voices of those in Stoke and Scunthorpe, Blyth and Bridgend, Grimsby and Glasgow, who didn’t support Labour. Our country has fundamentally changed since the financial crash and any political project that pretends otherwise is an indulgence.

Progress does not come in a simple straight line. Even though we lost seats heavily on Thursday, I believe the manifesto of 2019 and the movement behind it will be seen as historically important – a real attempt at building a force powerful enough to transform society for the many, not the few. For the first time in decades, many people have had hope for a better future.

I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate. But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change.

There is no doubt that our policies are popular, from public ownership of rail and key utilities to a massive house-building programme and a pay rise for millions. The question is, how can we succeed in future where we didn’t this time?

The media attacks on the Labour party for the last four and a half years were more ferocious than ever – and of course that has an impact on the outcome of elections. Anyone who stands up for real change will be met by the full force of media opposition.

The party needs a more robust strategy to meet this billionaire-owned and influenced hostility head-on and, where possible, turn it to our advantage.

We have suffered a heavy defeat, and I take my responsibility for it. Labour will soon have a new leader. But whoever that will be, our movement will continue to work for a more equal and just society, and a sustainable and peaceful world.

He says that “We must now ensure that the working class, in all its diversity, is the driving force within our party”.  It is more than a little ironic that the working class north of England rejected Corbyn and Labour more than anywhere.

So Corbyn thinks that Labour got their policies right and while he says “I take my responsibility” for a heavy defeat, he blames it more on Brexit and the media.

The media are far from perfect, but they are an overworn scapegoat for the failings of political leaders and parties.

It wasn’t so much Brexit that caused Labour’s defeat, it was Corbyn’s poor positioning on Brexit.

And in particular his general unpopularity.

New Statesman: Why Labour lost – and how it can recover from an epic defeat

Labour entered the campaign with far too many weaknesses to ever have any hope of supplanting the Conservatives.

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity – the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies.

Corbyn’s unpopularity had many facets: he was never trusted to manage national security (his response to the Salisbury poisoning did particular damage) or the economy, and even polled behind Johnson on public services. He presided over a permanently divided party, many of whose MPs never regarded him as fit to be prime minister, the scandal of anti-Semitism wounded his claim to moral authority, and his equivocation on Brexit undermined his promise of “straight-talking, honest politics”.

Labour’s belated support for a second Brexit referendum is being blamed by many for the loss of Leave seats. But the party did not only lose votes to the pro-Brexit Conservatives (to whom nine per cent of its 2017 coalition defected), it lost an equal share of votes to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens (who split the vote in some Leave seats).

In different respects, Labour’s ambiguous Brexit policy managed to alienate Leavers, Remainers and those in between.

Labour’s belated support for a second Brexit referendum is being blamed by many for the loss of Leave seats. But the party did not only lose votes to the pro-Brexit Conservatives (to whom nine per cent of its 2017 coalition defected), it lost an equal share of votes to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens (who split the vote in some Leave seats).

In different respects, Labour’s ambiguous Brexit policy managed to alienate Leavers, Remainers and those in between.

Corbyn was right about the popularity of individual policies.

Labour’s individual policies, as Corbyn and John McDonnell have been swift to point out, were often highly popular. As I noted in 2018, for instance, a poll published by the Legatum Institute and Populus found that voters supported public ownership of the UK’s water (83 per cent), electricity (77 per cent), gas (77 per cent) and railways (76 per cent). Around two-thirds of voters supported policies such as higher taxation of top-earners, increased workers’ rights and a £10 minimum wage.

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity – the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies.