Reassessing election prospects

Last week changed the political landscape significantly, with saturation coverage of one candidate, the political demise of one leader and the lame ducking of another.

Election prospects have changed, but at this stage it is difficult to predict by how much. I’l have a go at assessing how things look now.

National 38-48%

They were always going to struggle to maintain last elections 47% with John Key retiring last year and switching to a solid but uninspiring Bill English and a so far uninspiring campaign.

If Labour retains their resurgence the question shifts from where in the forties National will end up to whether they stay in the forties. They are still probably good for low to mid forties but if the stuff something up badly could easily slip.

Labour 29-40%

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern has made a big difference to Labour’s prospects. They looked like they were heading to 20 or less under Andrew Little, but now a return to the 30s looks likely.

Labour now look able to pull votes back from the Greens and NZ First, finally compete seriously with National for the floaters, and the effect of the lift in excitement on turning out younger voters shouldn’t be underestimated.

And don’t underestimate the Kelvin Davis effect – his elevation makes Labour more competitive against the Maori Party and NZ First.

I think the only question is how far into the thirties they can climb – as long as Ardern doesn’t trip up significantly. On the other hand, given the volatility of modern elections I wouldn’t rule out Labour sneaking into the forties.

Greens 8-12%

As dramatically as Labour’s fortunes have turned for the better, Green prospects have probably dived from record highs in the polls.

Metiria Turei’s beneficiary gamble looked like it was a winner but has turned to custard. James Shaw looks worn and weak. Turei and the Greens still have some staunch support, but the icing looks like it has disappeared of their cake.

Of course this could change if Turei bows to pressure and steps down as co-leader, but a lot would then depend on who replaced her. Marama Davidson would probably only appeal to the dedicated Greenies and lefties, but Julie Anne Genter would have wider appeal.

NZ First 6-16%

A week or two ago Winston Peters was confidently counting his electoral chickens. He disappeared last week, with the media preferring to pander to someone young enough to be his granddaughter.

Winston versus English and Little looked competitive, to media and to a growing number of voters.

Winston versus Ardern is a completely different look. The stuffing seems to be knocked out of the old codger. He’s a determined campaigner, but can he revitalise himself for another shot at glory?

Another factor is the Shane Jones card – he is now going to have to compete with Kelvin Davis for attention and may be exposed. The direct speaking Davis will give Jones some real competition up north.

Maori Party 1-3%

I think that Te Ururoa Flavell still has a good chance of retaining his electorate, Maori have been good tactical voters and returning Flavell and party voting Labour makes more sense than throwing the Maori Party out.

But winning more Maori seats, and getting enough party vote to retain Marama Fox, has probably got harder.

ACT Party 0.5-2%

David Seymour has been trying hard to attract attention and voters but doesn’t seem to be getting any traction. He should be good to retain his Epsom electorate, but ACT’s lack of known candidates other than Seymour doesn’t help their chances.

The media doesn’t usually care about new candidates, unless it’s plucking someone like Chlöe Swarbrick out of nowhere to try to inject some interest into a boring mayoral campaign. And the media seems to not fancy ACT unless it’s negative news. Seymour is likely to remain alone.

United Future 0.1-0.3%

It’s hard to see United Future attracting any more party votes. The media gave up on there being a party behind Peter Dunne terms ago, nothing there for headlines. The party has continued to wither.

Dunne already had a major challenge in trying to retain his Ohariu electorate. Labour have recruited a known candidate, Greg O’Connor. Greens are helping Labour by not standing a candidate.

National have made it clearer than ever that they want National voters to support Dunne.

But what looked like 50/50 prospects for Dunne may have turned against him with Labour’s resurgence. Ardern has not only revitalised Labour campaigners, she may encourage reluctant voters to turn out. This will work against Dunne.

Mana Party 0.1-0.5%

The Mana party is a one man band this election, without the money or distraction of Kim Dotcom. The party vote looks irrelevant.

Hone Harawira was always a chance of winning back Te Tai Tokerau, but with Davis’ elevation that probably got a lot harder.

There looks to be an outside chance only of Harawira getting back into Parliament, and even more of an outside chance that Harawira could make or break a Labour led coalition, but it shouldn’t be discounted entirely.

The Opportunities Party 1-4%

Gareth Morgan had a chance of picking up votes from those who wanted something different and not Winston, someone to ‘keep the big parties honest’. And picking up disheartened Labour voters. Until last week.

If Labour jumps back into contention then TOP will find it really difficult to attract enough media attention, and they will find it really difficult to get the polls up enough to encourage enough voters to get them over the 5% threshold.

The Rest

The nature of New Zealand politics and the reluctance of media to give any credibility to new parties and outsider candidates means that no other parties will have a chance of getting more than crumbs.

But…

There could be another shock wave.

It’s hard to see any other positive leadership change, unless Genter adds some solidity to the Greens.

Who knows what Winston will try to have probably his last shot at the big prize?

Ardern may keep Labour’s resurgence going, or she could trip up. Kelvin Davis could stuff things up, his agttack on English and other National ministers on Q+A yesterday looked ugly and counter productive to Ardern’s clain of positivity.

National still have the benefit of incumbency plus very good economic conditions, relatively low unemployment, and a record of steady management – but may have trouble attracting media attention.

National also have the advantage of being by far the biggest party, and they will probably only need one other party, or a repeat of the current handful of insignificant parties, to get over the line.

But housing. Auckland is shaping up as a big influence on the election.

And National has to find an effective way of countering ‘the Jacinda effect’ and the current media obsession with her.

The elephant in Labour’s room

Ardern has eliminated Labour’s biggest millstone, Andrew Little. Labour look to be on the rise.

But they have a major challenge too – Labour + Greens + NZ First

I think that many voters have real concerns about how this triumverate could possible work in a coalition.

Unless Labour can rise enough in polls to look like they might only need one of NZ First or the Greens then this remains an issue.

There could even be a voter resistance to Labour + Greens – many like a Green influence but have strong reservations about Greens calling the shots too much.

In any case for Labour to get close to 40% it’s hard to see Greens also keeping their current share.

The NZ First factor

Whether Winston finds a way to dig up something that gives him a last burst of hope or not, voters have to consider and compare National + NZ First versus Labour + NZ First as likely alternatives.

Both National and Labour can’t ignore this – the one of them that does best at convincing voters they can work with Winston but resist baubling him may succeed.

Here it is advantage to National.

National 45% + NZ First 6% looks quite different to Labour 35% + NZ First 15%.

But of course this balance of probabilities could change over the next few weeks.

What to do about obesity?

The obvious answer to what to do about obesity is to eat less and to eat better foods. But many people obviously have difficulty with this, to the extent that obesity is being called an epidemic. There have been claims that due to obesity the trend of increasing life expectancy will reverse.

Stuff: For our Food for Thought series, we asked each party currently represented in Parliament how to improve Kiwis’ diets.

David Seymour: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor

One in three Kiwis are obese.

New Zealand’s biggest problem is our ease of access to cheap, delicious, high-calorie food. We’re a victim of our own success.

The strange reality of obesity is that it’s an epidemic of choice.

The problems start when kids are affected, when the poorest communities suffer disproportionately, and when healthy taxpayers have to fork out for other people’s heart surgeries.

Some suggest removing GST from fruit and veges.

Another popular idea is advertising restrictions.

And that brings us to the real issue: shielding people from real-world decisions sends them the message that they are dumb, and government is smart. “Don’t take responsibility for yourself, or your kids. Nanny state will handle that.”

So what can politicians do?

ACT’s solution is the same as our solution to other social problems: empowering people with greater opportunity. That includes, but is not limited to, a useful education, an engaging job in a growing economy, and a realistic shot at a place of your own for every single New Zealander.

There is no “solution”. There could and should be more done to reduce the problems of poor health due to overeating. But it is a very very difficult thing to deal with in practice. Going cold turkey isn’t an option.

Peter Dunne: Education the key to improving Kiwis’ food habits

The answer to attaining healthier eating habits is not to have the Government become the parent of our nation’s parents. Rather, UnitedFuture endorses education as the pathway to empowering New Zealand consumers to make choices that are the best for their and their family’s circumstances.

UnitedFuture has three key policy areas we want to see changes to ensure that information is both freely available and publicised:

* We would develop a national fund to sponsor programmes to promote better nutrition, particularly for children and youth;

* We would use the tools of Government to facilitate public education campaigns that emphasise the importance of nutrition and exercise and the consequences of poor nutrition, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature aging;

* We would support stronger consumer information rules by encouraging more information about food products to be published that are easily accessible by consumers (such as calorie count);

UnitedFuture has confidence in New Zealanders that they can make decisions that are right for them and their families when they are equipped with full information.

I see two major problems.

How do you educate the many people who are beyond school age? Compulsory night classes? Teaching kids at school is one possibility but for many school age is already too late, eating habits have already been established.

And education and knowledge doesn’t stop people from eating too much and it doesn’t stop people from making poor choices about what food they eat.

Many people know full well that scoffing junk food and gutsing too much is not good for their physical or mental health – depression and lack of self worth is a major factor in overeating, and it has a snowball effect as people approach the shape of a snowball.

Can growing obesity be stemmed? I really don’t know what would be effective.

It is very difficult to have any success telling someone not to eat as much.


After writing this I found more:

Jonathan Coleman, National: Tackling obesity is a priority for the Government
David Clark, Labour: Food labelling flaws make healthy eating hard for Kiwis
Julie Anne Genter, Green Party: Government must help kids, not food corporations to tackle obesity
Barbara Stewart, NZ First: Healthy eating a struggle for Kiwis
David Seymour, ACT: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor
* The Maori Party did not take up our invitation to participate

Considering a minority government

A minority government hasn’t been tried under MMP, but perhaps it is time to seriously consider the option.

If the other parties call Winston Peters bluff, take him at his words on his bottom lines, it is unlikely either National or Labour+Greens will be able to form a majority coalition Government.

MMP was designed to provide a more representative Parliament, which it has. But this could be taken further and give us a more representative governing arrangement. This could be done with a minority government.

Here is a feasible outcome of seats from this year’s election:

  • National 56
  • Labour 28
  • Greens 16
  • NZ First 16
  • Maori Party 2
  • ACT 1
  • UF 1

This puts Labour+Greens+NZ First > National, and Greens+NZ First > Labour, and NZ First=Greens so there is no clear majority in any situation. If the result is approximately along these lines similar uncertainties will exist.

National with twice the MPs of Labour could form the Government, perhaps with the small parties in formal confidence and supply arrangements, but they would still have to rely on either of Labour, Greens or NZ First to pass any legislation. This means successful bills would have a clear majority rather than a bare majority as happens often now.

For Government to be truly representative ministerial positions could be given to opposition party MPs. The best of each party could then participate in running the country.

Some suggestions for portfolios:

  • Andrew Little: Minister of Labour – he has a good background for this and it would allow him to focus on his party’s roots.
  • Grant Robertson: Minister of Foreign Affairs -David Farrar has recommended him for this role, perhaps he has done polls on it.
  • David Parker: Minister of Economic Development, Associate Minister of Finance
  • Jacinda Ardern: Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of Communications – she has an affinity with women’s magazines and I couldn’t think of what else she could do.
  • Metiria Turei:  Minister of Social Welfare – giving her experience with the reality of fixing all of our social problems within a budget.
  • James Shaw: Minister of the Environment – something most people expect the Greens to be experts in.
  • Winston Peters – Minister of Workplace Safety, Minister of Mines.
  • Ron Mark: Minister of Defence – it would be good for him to work on the opposite of attack).
  • Te Ururoa Flavell: Minister of Māori Development, Minister of Whanau Ora – makes since for the Māori Party.
  • David Seymour: Minister of Education – time he stepped up to a real challenge beyond his Partnership Schools agenda.
  • Peter Dunne: Associate Minister of Health, Associate Minister of Justice, Associate Minister of Corrections -it would be interesting to see what changes he could make in drug law reform without being hobbled by National.

Being the largest by far National would be the dominant party but would have to work with the whole of Parliament to get things done.

On confidence and supply, with all parties contributing to Government they should be responsible for ensuring it doesn’t fall over.

Those on the right and the left who want radical reforms may complain about a representative arrangement like this, but if they want ideological lurches they need to build sufficient support in Parliament to achieve this.

They won’t do this by sitting on the sidelines complaining, they need to do what everyone else does, build a big enough party with enough MPs to achieve what they want.

A minority government as suggested is unlikely to be a radical reform government, but that’s not out of the ordinary under two decades of MMP anyway.

Incremental change with clear majority support in Parliament is the most sensible way of operating a government – and I believe it is what most voters prefer and want.

Minority government may seem in itself a bit radical but I think it is something well worth trying. It’s really just a step further than what we have now, and a logical step under MMP.

Dunne to stand again

Peter Dunne has confirmed his intention to stand in Ohariu again this year.

NZ Herald: Peter Dunne will contest 2017 election

Dunne today confirmed his intention to stand again in the Ohariu electorate in Wellington in this year’s general election.

“It is certainly my intention to stand again based on the many strong messages of encouragement and support I have been receiving from my constituents over recent months,” he told the Herald.

It will be interesting to see how this is dealt with by other parties:

  • Will National contest the seat or effectively support Dunne’s re-election? This term (since National lost the Northland by-election) Dunne’s support has maintained a government majority along with ACT as an alternative to the Maori Party.
  • Will Greens stand aside in a deal to help Labour try to win the seat?
  • Who will stand for Labour?

Labour’s Ohariu candidate at the 2014 election, Virginia Andersen, lost to Dunne by 710 votes and has since been confirmed as the party’s Hutt South candidate for 2017.

After coming close in 2014 this was a curious shift for Anderson to what may be a more winnable seat, but she is by no means assured of success against Chris Bishop.

Former Police Association president Greg O’Connor is rumoured to be interested in becoming Labour’s Ohariu candidate. Nominations close on February 3.

O’Connor did not respond to a request for comment today.

O’Connor has a public profile so would have to stand a reasonable chance against Dunne, especially if Greens don’t stand a candidate.

However they are both older white dudes – O’Connor is 58, Dunne is 62 – so lack in contrast in some respects.

O’Connor stood down as head of the Police Association last year and a year ago said he had ‘no plan’ for politics: Outgoing Police Association president Greg O’Connor has ‘no plan’ for politics:

Perfect grooming, one might speculate, for a 57-year-old former cop to embark upon a political career – given all that time spent making contacts and grabbing headlines in the shadow of the Beehive.

“It is a reasonably political job that I’m in, but I can give an absolute guarantee that there is no plan.”

O’Connor bats away the very thought of it: “A lot of people don’t believe me – they think there’s a masterplan. But there’s not.”

So if politics isn’t a goer, might his next move be to lend his voice to another section of society?

“Never say never. There is a workforce out there that work with disabled people who work for very little remuneration [out of] absolute devotion. That is just humbling. That is a group of people that are very special.”

But that was a year ago. O’Connor stepped down from the Police Association in October.

Whether O’Connor stands for Labour or not the outcome in Ohariu is likely to depend a lot on what other parties do. The Labour party vote was poor there in 2014, below their low total vote.

ohariu2014

National got better than their country-wide party vote and Labour got less than their’s, but Greens were well above theirs. Many of those who party voted Green tactically voted for the Labour candidate.

If Greens don’t stand a candidate at all they risk  losing party vote. Same for National.

Dunne is the longest serving MP in Parliament. He first became a Labour MP in 1984 so this is his 33rd year as an MP, his eleventh term. He helped set up the United New Zealand Party in 1995 and has retained his seat for what became United Future since then, although the party is now very poorly supported.

He has been a Minister since 2005, first for a Labour led government and since 2008 with a National government.

Dunne’s last term was difficult for him. After some controversy when he refused to hand over emails with a journalist in relation to allegations he had leaked a GCSB report he stood down as a Minister, but was later reinstated. His party was de-registered until it could prove it had sufficient members. This will have impacted on his reduced majority in the election.

This term has been fairly uneventful for Dunne. He is strongly criticised by pro-cannabis activists but has no chance of changing drug laws under a National government. He has been criticised for not allowing easier access to medicinal cannabinoids but he has encouraged applications for use under existing laws and procedures.

He is also strongly criticised by left wingers who don’t like his electorate arrangements with National because it helps keep Labour out of government (and because he deserted Labour).

He is also not liked by some on the right who want one party rule.

As the incumbent MP who does a lot of work in his electorate another Dunne win can’t be ruled out, but it is also far from assured.  Much may depend on what other parties do as much as who ends up standing for Labour.

NZ political parties in 2016

Brief reviews of the mid term political year for New Zealand parties.

The main issues have been:

  • Continued shortages of new house building and an escalation of housing prices, especially in Auckland, and an increased focus on homelessness
  • Growing attention given to ‘poverty’ as it is in New Zealand, and the income gap  despite the first increase in benefits in forty years.
  • The Trans Pacific Partnership got a lot of attention early in the year but that fizzled as it became evident that the US was unlikely to ratify it.

National

The National Party would probably have thought they had survived the year quite well, chugging away without doing anything radical, and staying  extraordinarily high in the polls most of the time for  a third term government.

An improving economy along with improving dairy prices have helped.

But Key resigned in December. National selected the Key anointed Bill English to take over, but how a new look National will be seen by the public won’t be known until next year.

Labour

Andrew Little consolidated his leadership, kept the Labour caucus under control and appears he is safe until next year’s election, but he failed to lift his appeal to the public, and Labour must be worried to be stuck in the twenties in the polls.

Labour entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and they tried to rebrand as a two-party alternative government but that didn’t change the polls much and may have created as many problems as it solved.

Labour finished the year buoyant after successful local body and Mt Roskill by-election campaigns, and noticeably raised in confidence when John Key resigned, but they have failed to impress as a potential lead party in government.

They survived the year and hope to benefit from a Key-less National but haven’t done enough to make a positive impression.

Greens

New co-leader James Shaw settled in without standing out, but Greens have lost one of their most respected MPS, Kevin Hague.

Their big play was the Memorandum of Understanding with Labour but that doesn’t seem to have  been the game changer they hoped for.

Metiria Turei seems to be dominant, and that probably limits the Greens’ electability, but they have at least stayed in a 10-15% support band in the polls so have a base to work from next year.

NZ First

Following Winston Peters’ big win in Northland NZ First have benefited from unusually good poll support for most of the year (it tailed off towards the end).

But it looks like Winston is catching his breath before election year. The party has done little of note apart from Peters occasionally trying to appear as the anti-politician, even though he’s one of the longest serving members of Parliament. He tried to capitalise on the Trump success in the US but that doesn’t seem to have done much.

Maori Party

The Maori Party has been working towards more complementary campaigning with the Mana Party in an attempt to create a stronger Maori bloc in Parliament. They are targeting the Maori seats held by Labour.

Maori tend to do politics quite differently to the rest. The Maori party has been the best of the rest in the polls but will want to pick that up more next year as well as pick up some electorates.

ACT Party

David Seymour has done fairly well at getting attention for a one person party and has had some small successes but his party has struggled to get anywhere. It has been Seymour rather than ACT.

United Future

Peter Dunne has had a quiet year apart from bearing the brunt of medical cannabis and recreational drug criticism, even though he is severely limited by National who don’t want to change anything on drug laws. Dunne’s party remains pretty much anonymous.

Conservative Party

An awful year for Colin Craig in the courts and an awful year for his party. Neither are credible and neither look likely to make a comeback.

Mana Party

Hone Harawira and the Mana movement are trying to make a comeback by working together with the Maori Party, so have established some possibilities this year without proving they can get back into Parliament.

Internet Party

Kim Dotcom seems to see his political influence in other ways than expensive and ineffective parties, and ex leader Laila Harre has joined Labour and wants to stand for them, so the Internet party looks a short blip in political history.

Cannabis Party

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has simplified it’s name and has tried to benefit from increasing changes on cannabis laws overseas but haven’t found the formula required to become a significant political force yet.

The Opportunities Party

Gareth Morgan launched his own party this year and gets media attention – money speaks – and has announced a couple of policies but so far it looks like him and no one else.

NZ Peoples Party

The Peoples’ Party launched as a representative of immigrants and stood a candidate in the Mt Roskill by-election but will have been disappointed by their result, despite a weak National campaign.

3 days versus 93

In the first leadership change in ten years, since John Key took over from Don Brash on 27 November 2006, the National Party took 3 days to choose their new leader, Bill English.

On Twitter Peter Dunne as described it “as quick and slick a contest as I can recall”.

In contrast Labour have had four leadership contests that have taken a total of

Helen Clark stood down on 8 November 2008, immediately after losing the general election. Phil Goff took over unchallenged 3 days later, on 11 November.

Goff announced he would stand down as Labour leader on 29 November 2011, 3 days after losing the general election. David Shearer won leadership contest against David Cunliffe and took over on 13 December, 14 days later.

During Shearer’s time as leader the Labour party changed their rules on leadership contests, stipulating a voting arrangement involving a mix of caucus (40%), party members (40%) and unions (20%). This has extended the time taken to choose leaders.

Shearer resigned as leader on 22 August 2013. After  contesting the leadership against Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, Cunliffe became leader on 15 September, 24 days later.

After Labour lost the next election Cunliffe resigned as leader on 27 September 2014.  After a contest against Grant Robertson, David Parker and Nanaia Mahuta, Andrew Little took over on 18 November, 52 days later.

That’s a total of 93 days of leadership contesting in a decade, but the time taken has become increasingly long

Going effectively leaderless for a month or two stalls progress while in opposition but they can get away with it. If Labour get back into Government and have a contested leadership under their current rules the time taken to change Prime Ministers could be more of a problem.

Greens also have a membership vote in their leadership contests but they have co-leaders so don’t go rudderless, and they are not likely to have a Prime Minister.

Which may be just as well – Russel Norman announced he would stand down as co-leader on January 2015, and James Shaw eventually won against Kevin Hague on 30 May, over 4 months later.

NZ First and United Future have never had their leaderships contested.

Rodney Hide resigned as leader of the ACT Party on 28 April 2011, and Don Brash was appointed leader by the party board 2 days later.

When ACT did poorly in the 26 November 2011 election Brash resigned on election night.  As their only MP John Banks was de facto leader until being appointed officially by the board on 16 February 2012.

Cross party support for family violence proposals

The Press editorial: Government’s $130 million family violence package is a solid start

A $130 million plan announced by the Government this week to crack down on violence in Kiwi homes has been welcomed by most victims, support and advocacy groups, and politicians on both sides of the House.

While there are some concerns and reservations, it is good to see cross party support for this.

Greens: Family violence law reforms will help

It is heartening that the Government is finally starting to address the failure of our justice system to provide protection for victims of family violence or support abusers to change,  the Green Party said today.

“Family violence is currently embedded in New Zealand culture and we all need to be brave to face the level of changes needed to address it,” Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“Too many families have been further traumatised and indebted trying to get legal protection through our courts. Changes to legal aid and the Family Court last term prioritised cost-saving over protecting victims. These reforms will hopefully go some way to addressing that harm caused.

“All New Zealanders need to hear loud and clear the message that family violence, intimate partner violence, and violence against children is unacceptable.     

United Future: UNITEDFUTURE WELCOMES OVERDUE REFORMS TO TACKLE FAMILY VIOLENCE – DUNNE

UnitedFuture leader, Peter Dunne has welcomed the changes proposed today to strengthen New Zealand’s Family Violence laws.

“Our families are the bedrock of our communities and the rates of family violence we have in this country are appalling.

“These changes signal a much-needed shift in the way we respond to family violence,” said Mr Dunne.

“The key issue that needs to be focused on in New Zealand is the alarming fact that it is estimated nearly 80% of family violence incidents go unreported.

“If these reforms make any difference towards providing help to those people who currently do not feel safe or are not comfortable coming forward with their plight, then these policy initiatives will result in positive and meaningful reform.

“UnitedFuture congratulates the government for constructively responding to this unacceptable behaviour that is a blight to our families and communities”, said Mr Dunne.

ACT Party: ACT welcomes beefed up family violence laws, but…

ACT has welcomed the boost to family violence laws announced today, but questions why non-fatal strangulation isn’t a strike offence.

“ACT believes the justice system should always put the victim first. In that spirit, we’re relieved to see new protections for victims of family violence,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining restraining orders is a no-brainer, and legislating against coercive marriage is an overdue protection of basic personal freedom.

“We also support the introduction of an offence for non-fatal strangulation. However, it’s perplexing to discover that non-fatal strangulation will not be included as a strike offence under the Three Strikes for Violent Crime legislation.

“The Three Strikes law, an ACT initiative, has been working well to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars and away from potential victims, so it’s disheartening to see it undermined by the current legislation. Strangulation, like all violent crime, is a serious offence and should be treated as such.”

NZ First via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

New Zealand First MP Denis O’Rourke said the measures were a step in the right direction.

“Fundamentally, what they’re saying is there needs to be more guidance, information and education on the one hand but also harsher penalties. I would have thought that that two-pronged approach is the right way to go,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Labour via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Labour’s associate justice spokesperson Poto Williams said tighter bail conditions would increase safety for women and their children.

But she said the government should have made it easier for offenders to access services to help them stop violent behaviour.

Maori party via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said having witnessed domestic violence as a child, he hoped the changes would help reduce the appalling statistics.

Mr Flavell said family violence was prevalent in almost every neighbourhood and changes were certainly needed.

He said it was all too often swept under the rug.

“I’ve sat on a bunk next to my cousins and I’ve heard the smashing of the walls. I’ve heard the throwing of pots around the place. I’ve seen the black eyes – and no-one talks about it.”

Cabinet documents showed police attended an average of 280 family violence incidents each day.

Mr Flavell, who is Māori Development Minister, said everyone had a part to play in bringing down those rates.

“That’s the key – you’ve got to start bringing it out of the cupboard. We’ve got to put it out on the table.”

“There’s a part to play by the actual government, by changing laws but actually families have got to talk about it and do something about it.”

Flavell is right, it is not just up to Parliament and the Government to make improvements.

Families and communities “have got to talk about it and do something about it“.

While there are details to be worked out it is promising to see all parties supporting this attempt to reduce our insidious levels of family violence.

Premature speculation on Ohariu

The Labour-Green Memorandum of Understanding has sparked speculation about whether the parties will do deals on contesting electorates. There has been particular focus on Ohariu.

Richard Harman at Politik: Labour-Green pact could see the end of Dunne

The Labour/Green pact announced yesterday may pave the way for Greens Co-Leader James Shaw to stand against Peter Dunne in Ohariu.

If Labour didn’t stand a candidate — and Labour sources say that’s a real possibility — then, on paper, based on the last election results, Mr Dunne would lose his seat.

Te Reo Putake also considers this in Stick a Fork in Him, He’s Dunne.

I think this is premature. ‘Labour sources’ speculating does not mean the Greens are on board. In any case Shaw has done very well in Wellington Central so why doesn’t Labour consider standing Grant Robertson aside to give Shaw a clear run there?

It is also unlikely to be known until the end of this year or early next year whether Peter Dunne will even stand again in Ohariu. He is the longest standing MP in Parliament, being first elected in 1984 as a Labour MP, 32 years ago.

Even ‘on paper’ is debatable. Results from 2014 in Ohariu:

  • Dunne 13,569
  • Anderson (Labour) 12,859
  • Hudson (National) 6,120
  • Woodley (Greens) 2,764
  • Conservative (Brunner) 1,038
  • Others 466

Sure Labour+Green > Dunne but it’s not that simple.

Dunne+National+Conservative > Labour+Green by a wide margin.

It is unknown how many Green voters would switch to vote for a Labour candidate, or how many Labour voters would vote for a Green candidate.

And if Labour and Greens do a deal and only stand one candidate between them it could substantially change the view of voters.

Dunne and National get heavily criticised for ‘a jack-up’ by opponents and by some media, even though National still stand a candidate.

There was plenty of nudge-nudge, wink-wink by Labour and Greens last election.

If they went further and only stood one candidate between them it would at least even up the jack-up criticism and may swing it against them.

It would also mean that National could choose to not stand a candidate at all without fear of being ostracised if Labour and Greens have done the same.

Also it is impossible to judge the mood of the electorate in about 16 months time.

If voters warm up to a Labour-Green alliance then the parties may benefit. But current indications are that it is more likely that Labour looks lost.

And there is also a strong voter resistance to Greens getting into power. If given a virtual choice of LabourGreen voters may turn away from both parties.

Winston Peters is already milking Labour’s current weakness for all it’s worth, and it’s pretty much certain he will go for cream in response to the current Labour-Green arrangement. If the red and green machine cranks up more Peters will be like a cat given a term’s supply of cream.

Greens may decide they have to put all their efforts into at least maintaining their party vote, a further slip next would be quite demoralising for them.

Or they may decide to attack Labour’s weakness, refuse any jack-ups  and go for electorate seats.

A Labour collapse is currently looking more likely than a Labour revival. Greens won’t want NZ First to pick up all the spoils if they think the former will happen.

Amongst all this speculation on Ohariu is based on too many unknowns and looks premature. Especially if Dunne shakes his head and walks away from the current mess of New Zealand politics.

One thing I haven’t seen speculated on is the shell of the United Future party. That is an opportunity for disaffected and demoralised Labourites or a new force in politics (a Trump or Sanders?). It would be far easier to pick up an existing party than start from scratch.

If ever there was a gap in the political market for a new (or reborn) party it is now.

Ohariu is relatively minor in the scheme of things.

As the centre vote grows tired of National, gives up on Labour, continues to want to keep Greens out of Government and wants an alternative to Winston First there is a ready made opportunity.

Ohariu could be the cornerstone of an opportunity. If anyone can be bothered, politics in New Zealand is not a particularly attractive pastime at the moment.

Party prospects

What are party prospects leading up to next year’s election? It’s a long time in politics until we vote again so there’s many things that could affect the overall outcome and the outcome for individual parties.

Has Been and Never Been

The 5% threshold is making it pretty much impossible for a small or new party to get into Parliament on party vote. This is by design by the large parties, successfully keeping small parties shut out.

Mana Party

Mana took a punt on Kim Dotcom’s big money last election and crashed badly, losing their only electorate and failing to attract combined party vote. Hone Harawira seems to have disappeared from public view, and the Mana Party website seems to have also disappeared. Their chances of revival look unlikely, and their chances of success again are also unlikely.

Internet Party

The Internet Party had large funds and little credibility last election. Dotcom acknowledged afterwards that he was politically toxic. Without his money and presence and media pulling power the party continues – their website remains – but is ignored and will find it difficult to get anywhere, which is a shame because they had some interesting ideas on inclusive democracy.

Conservative Party

With heaps of money and media attention last election Colin Craig and his Conservatives could only manage about 4%. After last year’s major upheaval it’s unlikely they will get half that next time. Craig is severely damaged politically and socially and would struggle to lead the Conservatives to 2% next time. There is no obvious alternative leader.

The Strugglers

UnitedFuture

As a party UnitedFuture has faded just about completely. It is still operating but without a major input of money and new personal I don’t see any change. The only option for UF is for outsiders to see an opportunity to use an existing party to get a foothold in Parliament rather than start from scratch, but even then success would be dependent on Peter Dunne  retaining his Ohariu electorate. I think Dunne must be close to considering retiring, and if he does UF will retire or expire.

ACT Party

ACT have defied critics and survived the Don Brash and John Banks disasters due to the success of one person, David Seymour. I think Seymour is odds on to retain Epsom next year (deservedly) so ACT is likely to survive. National and possibly Conservative vote must be up for grabs, but it will depend on ACT coming up with additional electable candidates to make an increased party vote attractive. Jamie Whyte didn’t work out, but with Seymour anchoring the party they may attract strong candidates who would then stand a good chance of success through an improved party vote.

Maori Party

The Maori Party continue to be quiet achievers. They should be able to retain at Te Ururoa Flavell’s electorate seats and their first list MP Marama Fox has made a quick impact. They stand a chance of picking up ex Mana Maori votes so have some chance of getting more seats via their list. Further electorate prospects will depend on candidate quality. The Maori Party could also be impacted negatively by a Labour resurgence if that ever happens.

The Over Threshold Parties

New Zealand First

It’s difficult to predict NZ First’s future. It is very dependant on Winston Peters. He had a major success early last year by winning the Northland buy election but hasn’t dome much since then. He could just be pacing himself, rebuilding energy and drive for next year’s election campaign. Or he could be running out of puff – that’s been predicted before but so far he has managed to keep coming back.

Installing Ron Mark as deputy could be a problem for NZ First. The rest of the party has been generally out if sight, but Mark is an ambitious attention seeker, and the attention he gets is often uncomplimentary. He could deter voters.

But if Winston remains NZ First should remain after next year’s election. Peters may or may not retain Northland, but the party should be good for 5-10% party vote if he is still in the race.

Green Party

The Green Party have successfully weathered another leadership change. They had built their vote and presence but were disappointed to not gain ground last election despite Labour’s vote shrinking. Greens are assured of retaining a place in Parliament but may find it challenging to increase or even retain their current numbers if Labour recovers and increases their vote. And Greens need Labour to improve substantially to give them a chance of having their first stint in Government.

Greens should be able to stay above 10% but may be cemented as a good sized small party rather than becoming the growing force they have ambitions of being.

Labour Party

Labour have to improve their support significantly or it will either be difficult for them to get back into Government or it will be difficult for them to govern with Greens and NZ First pulling them in different directions, possible apart.

It would be unlikely for Labour to switch leaders yet again, that would be damaging, so they need Andrew Little to step up. That hasn’t happened yet. They are playing a risky strategy of keeping a low profile while they consult constituencies and rebuild policies. They really have to be looking like a possible alternate Government by the middle of this year. They need to somehow get back 5-10% support.

They are banking on Little growing into his leadership role. He can only be a contrast to John Key, but so far he looks more out of his depth rather than swimming competitively on the surface.

Labour are also banking on their ‘Future of Work’ policy development. It’s a good focus for a labour allied party, but a lot will depend on whether it results in something seen to be visionary or if it is perceived as a Union policy disguised by Grant Robertson.

Labour could get anywhere between 25% and 40% next election. It’s hard to tell what direction they will go at this stage.

National Party

National have been very successful since they won in 2008. They have increased their support since then, most parties in power bleed support. This partly to do with John Key’s continued popularity, and increasingly by Bill English’s capable management of finances in sometimes very difficult circumstances (GFC and Christchurch earthquake).

National’s support must fall at some stage but it’s difficult to judge when that might start happening. Left wing activists have been predicting it in vain for seven years. Much will  depend on whether Labour can step up as a viable alternative alongside Greens and probably NZ First.

Next election could see them get anywhere between 40% and 50%. Their political fate is in their own hands to an extent but also reliant on possible alternatives.

Recreational fishers pushing National on election promises

National has suffered from the wrath of recreational fishers in the not too distant past but seem to have learned nothing from that.

UnitedFuture has warned National of grumpiness amongst recreational fishers due to a lack of progress on promised recreational reserves – and there’s signs of a willingness for action beyond Peter Dunne.

National’s Promises To Recreational Fishers Have Gone Nowhere

UnitedFuture leader Hon Peter Dunne says the government’s promised recreational fishing reserves have gone nowhere since the election.

“One week before last year’s election National announced they would release a discussion paper in November that would consider converting the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds into recreational fishing zones.

“6 months on from November is absolutely nothing to be seen.

Alan Simmons, UnitedFuture outdoors spokesperson, says recreational anglers are angry that the promised conversation on recreational fishing has never eventuated.

“Commercial fishing interests have made it very clear that they strongly oppose any changes to give recreational fishing greater rights.

“It seems clear that yet again National are listening to their big business mates instead of ordinary New Zealanders” said Mr Simmons.

“The National Party needs to stop bending to the will of commercial interests and honour the promises it made to the recreational fishers of New Zealand during last year’s election campaign” said Mr Dunne.

Simmons, who is prominent in fishing and hunting circles, seems intent on upping the pressure on National. He has posted on Facebook:

In my opinion National were quite dishonest with this promise which was aimed at capturing any recreational fishing votes that were heading to United Future or NZ First. They made the same promise the election before and made no attempt to bring it in. 

I am not sure I want to be propping up a government which is going to do the dirty again on a recreational fishing and is so dishonest with its election promises…

Our Supply agreement with them is a case in point, if we are going to get no benefits then why are we in it… I’m seriously questioning our role in propping up this government if there is no win for our major policy ideas.

United Futures Agreement with National clearly states that National will progress with UF “giving recreational fishers more opportunities as acknowledged in Nationals recently released recreational fishing reserves”. So I am asking where is that policy and if its not forth coming then we should withdraw from the agreement as they have not met the terms agreed.

United Future have been criticised in the past for not rocking the Government boat – and for being a patsy party.

There’s been some signs this term that Dunne is more prepared to make a stand against Government policies, notably their RMA reforms, and he is also vocal on the intelligence and security review that gets under way this year.

The party has been far less visible, except when de-registered by the Electoral Commission two years ago. That prompted a surge in membership, with hunters and fishers in particular wanting to help a party advocating for their interests to survive.

Perhaps it’s time for United Future to reward that vote of faith with some action.

And perhaps it’s time for National to front up with action on their promises to recreational fishers – if they want to keep onside with their constituency outside Auckland and Wellington.