Sunday, September 18, 2005

A dead heat, but one Labour can win

Having watched the results come in, it seems like we have almost a dead heat - though I think the numbers favour Labour. Labour is simply better at MMP than National, and Clark is better at compromise and cutting deals than Brash. I may have to eat these words later, but I think Helen has secured her third term.

But what sort of third term will it be? With no clear majority, Labour will have to go begging for support on every piece of legislation. They will have to consult widely, and build a broad consensus in order to get anything to pass. While I want them to pursue a more left-wing agenda, I cannot really say that this is a Bad Thing. Disparate parties signing off on a policy gives it legitimacy far greater than a bare majority would suggest. And at the worst, it means policy stasis, which isn't so bad. For all my criticisms, current policy settings aren't too bad - and they're certainly a damn sight better than National's preferred one. Tonight's result means the Revolution won't be restarting - and that is something worth celebrating.

The exact numbers will have to wait until the special votes are counted. The Greens traditionally do well in these (browsing the 2002 numbers they frequently do as well as National), so I think Labour's position will strengthen slightly. But this will not change the need for consultation and consensus.

As for winners and losers, the first point is that (as the Doctor said the other night), everybody lives! No-one fell below the threshold, and so we've had the most democratic election ever, with only around 1.2% of the electorate disenfranchised due to the threshold. That's as good as we are ever going to get, and it is something to celebrate, even if it means we have people we hate back in.

Helen is an obvious winner; as mentioned above, she'll probably get her third term. So is Don - he's rebuilt his party to a position where it will be a strong contender in 2008. While the only way to go was up, he's still done a good job of it - and hopefully some of his 22 new MPs will do a better job of holding the government to account than his present tired old faces have done. The Maori Party obviously deserve congratultion - in 15 short months they've gone from nothing to four seats, and fulfiled the promise of an independent Maori political party which can negotiate across the table rather than from under it. And Rodney Hide of course, who worked hard for Epsom.

The losers are sadly the Greens - who are back in reduced numbers, and may very well lose Nandor if the specials don't go their way - and Matt Robson. He will be sadly missed, and I hope he finds some other way to continue his good work. I won't be shedding any tears however for John Tamihere (cat-beater!), or for Stephen Franks, Murial Newman, and the rest of the ACT MPs. While claiming to be liberals, they were voted conservatively on the important issues, and I'm glad to see the back of them.

Finally, while Brash is a winner, he's also a loser. Sure, he's rebuilt for 2008, but this will just encourage his underlings to roll him so they get a crack at being PM then. Gerry is probably already sharpening the knives. Be warned. The other loser is the National party as a whole: while they may have won Tauranga, they'll have to put up with the embarassment of Bob the Builder scratching his crotch and talking about his testicles in Parliament for the next three years. And I don't think the Standing orders are going to stop people from putting it on TV...


Any bets on how long John Belgrave lasts under a Labour coalition Government? Rt. Hon. Michael Cullen very pissed off. Watch........

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 05:05:00 AM

Rodney Hide did well winning Epsom but I think this will be Act's swan song. I'd be suprised if he can win it another time. Unlike Jim Anderton or Peter Dunne, who have safe seats, he is unlikely to be able to hold on for years there.

I'm glad the cat abuser is gone too.

Posted by Amanda : 9/18/2005 09:39:00 AM

Never been so pleased to be so wrong. It is all up in the air but Peters cannot back away from the "We will deal with the winner" statement in any logical way ...bugger.
Congrats to the Maori party, a great result, but I liked the bit on TV3 when Hone Harawira had to go off camera, "Your mum's here".
It will be interesting to see which way Dunne jumps, he apparently hates the Greens but he may want to be inside the tent.
It is still the most interesting election for 25 years.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 11:17:00 AM

Fudrucker: Cullen can't sack the Ombudsmen. They are appointed and reappointed by the G-G on the recommendation of Parliament - not the government.

Secondly, of course, Labour has some commitment to constitutional convention. Unlike the right, who seem to think its perfectly acceptable to fire people who disagree politically with the government of the day.

The best Cullen could hope to do would be to "clarify" the OIA. But I couldn't imagine him getting such an amendment through the Parliament we had before the election, let alone the new one.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/18/2005 11:59:00 AM

I don't see this as a big move to the right - more like a rearrangement on the right - National's basically grabbed back seats from the Right/Center right (ACT/NF/UF) while the left (Labour/Greens/Prog) has basically lost only a couple of seats to the right (and the rest to the Maori party - you can argue if they're on the left/right).

I think that National has played a zero-sum game - canibalising it's potential coalition partners for its own growth but not building a real mandate with the public at large.

What's really interesting is the number of (still uncounted) special votes - 10% of the on-the-day vote - a lot could still change. I don't have a good feeling for how close the various parties are to gaining an extra seat (except for the progressives who have to be very close) - how much more do the various parties need to get another seat?

By my math there were 2.25M votes cast (including specials), 120 electorates, so ~18.7k votes/electorate (I know I should be fudging here for the Maori seats somehow) but Labour's ahead by ~22k votes so the only reason they aren't 2 seats ahead of National has to do with the rounding math inherent in MMP - small changes in the specials could result in Labour gaining a seat, or National losing one (but much less likely the other way around because they are more than an electorate's worth of votes apart).


Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 12:04:00 PM


Ok so I'm a worrier, but it wouldn't surprise me if things tilt back to National a little on specials. The reason I say this is that there was a hell of a shift back to Labour on the urban seats over the night (more than would usually be expected). And, according to one commentator on TV1, (who may or may not be correct) this was because Labour did some major organising amongst state-housing tenants etc.

And good on Labour for that, because these were the people who would suffer most under a return to market rents. However, I doubt that the same organising effort would be mirrored across special votes. And so, assuming that the TV commentator was right, special votes may therefore tilt to National somewhat.

Hopefully, I will be wrong on this. Indeed, usually, whenever I make public predictions ahead of an event they end up wrong. Which is part of the reason I am making this post...

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 12:14:00 PM

To clarify the above - what I meant was: there was a major shift in results over the night from when the first (rural) booths came in to when the later large urban booths came in. Something like this always happens apparrently but this time it was large than usual.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 12:18:00 PM

I think that at least part of what you saw was TV - they need to keep an audience, so keeping up the tension is important, that's just them putting on a show (even if they get wrapped up in their own theatrics)

Yes it was depressing until the end, esp for that period when the Greens dropped below 5% and you realized that Labour couldn't make a coallition - but in reality it makes sense - the physically big electorates have more polling places and as a result fewer people vote at each of them - at 7 the people working there count the votes, there aren't many so they're done first. In the cities we don't need as many polling places (I passed 3 walking out to get coffee yesterday) so they have more votes to count and come in later


Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 12:42:00 PM

If you accept last elections National voters as dyed in the wool who would vote for a donkey with a blue rosette on it away from this years vote, it appears that only 1 in five of the electorate fell for the biggest bribe on offer.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 01:17:00 PM

what a night, i am still exhausted 12 hours later. i feel like i have a hangover, even though i don't drink.

i accidentally live blogged it, if anyone is interested. it will be a nail-biting wait for those specials. i actually hope, and this is hard for me to admit to, that Robson gets back in. it would help the big picture and although i don't like him personally he is really good on the human rights stuff. i'd also like to see the Greens pick up another, although I don't really want a reshuffle amongst the centre-left seats, as it's crucial that Fenton is in for Labour.

Posted by Span : 9/18/2005 01:17:00 PM

Terence, both Labour and the Greens have had people in Sydney campaigning at places like union meetings. The special votes may work out OK for the left...

Posted by Chris : 9/18/2005 01:42:00 PM

What a night - have to think that no matter what the outcome, the next 3 years will not be nearly as smooth as the last 6.

Anyone placing bets on how long Brash will be there? He's practically the saviour of the party but now that the campaign is over and he's gotta do some real work he'll be vulnerable. I give him 9 months.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 01:49:00 PM

Actually Brash is in an interesting situation - about half of his MPs are new (and maybe not the list ones he'd probably had more say in choosing) - they may not toe his party line, may have very different ideas about what the national Party is about ... on the other hand they probably see themselves as owing him a lot for their election ... I give it 18 months before the war breaks out

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 02:37:00 PM

i agree with the last Anon - what Brash has proved on the campaign trail is that he is not good at political gamesmanship, and with a caucus of that size life will be very difficult indeed.

Posted by Span : 9/18/2005 05:54:00 PM

I think it's a pretty depressing result. Is there really only 5% of the NZ population to the left of Labour? I'm no big fan of the Greens, but I voted for them as the only party left of Labour likely to get into Parliament (sorry Span), and I figured there'd be plenty more where I came from. Wrong! The Greens' own support base plus people like me comes to 5%. I have a hangover and I didn't even drink.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 05:56:00 PM

no worries PM, i nearly did that myself. and i totally know what you mean about the hangover, sans alcohol, i feel totally jetlagged.

Posted by Span : 9/18/2005 07:04:00 PM

are the progressives officially to the right of labour now?
And the Maori party also?

Posted by Genius : 9/18/2005 08:34:00 PM

Hi all, first-timer here

Re- specials - I've been playing with the seats calculator ( and it seems National are closer to losing a seat (to the left) than gaining one. Also: although I don't think the Greens will go under 5% (and hope they don't), if they did then Labour would still be ahead of National on the re-distribution, and ironically it would be even easier for Clark, as Peters and Dunne would then have no excuse not to support Labour. So Brash is screwed anyway.

I'd love to see Clark+Greens+Progressives form a minority gov't, and say to the others "bring us down if you dare face the voters". Winston and the Maori party wouldn't risk it, I bet.

But Clark is cautious by nature, so I expect she'll go for a bigger tent.


Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 09:07:00 PM

Genius: Progressives is a vanity vehicle for Jim Anderton - it's distinguishable from Labour principally in that Jim gets to be the boss. As for the Maori Party, Tariana Turia's enthusiasm for tribalism ought to be anathema to any socialist, Maori or Pakeha. And as a Pakeha I'm by definition not a Maori Party voter.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 11:26:00 PM

The majority of special votes are made by people out of their electorate (not people overseas) and people who move around often. ie young people, I made one myself as did most of my friends. Young people are more likely to vote left with an even bigger bias towards the greens. This bias should be larger with Labour's student loan policy

For a statistical breakdown of the likely changes check out David's post at kiwiblog.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/18/2005 11:44:00 PM

Just to follow up what I said above, the numbers of special votes posted in each electorate seem to back up my hypothesis...

Akl Central: 5,261
Wellington Central: 6,353
Dunedin North 5,148
Epsom: 4,344
Mangere: 3,907
Mt Roskill: 3,810

Kaikoura: 2,815
Otaki: 2,748
Port Waikato: 2,443
Taranaki-King Country: 2,208
Rangitikei: 2,035
Clutha-Southland 1,353

Clearly more special votes in my sample in the urban seats which mostly voted Labour than in the rural National voting seats. Anyone want to do the entire analysis and report the results?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/19/2005 12:06:00 AM

PM: I think many Green voters ended up voting for Labour in an effort to put them ahead of national on the night and so get first call on the centrists' support. And this has neatly covered their loss to the Maori Party.

What I'm really wondering is where the Alliance's support went. They got 1.2% last time, now they have a tenth of that. Did they stay home, or did they vote Labour (and cover that party's losses to the Nats)?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/19/2005 01:22:00 AM

Simon: I think you're probably right. Clark isn't stupid, and will be thinking about long-term stability. Not to mention denying National support in 2008. We may see a LUP minority government supported on confidence and supply by NZFirst and the Greens, or possibly even a Labour-Progressive minority coalition backed by everyone else. Either way, they will have to consult and horse trade on policy.

The Greens' consolation prize from this is that even if they don't get cabinet seats, they have significantly influenced Labour policy. Look at their energy policy; look at the money being put into public transport. I don't think the direction will change that much - though they may have to give Dunne Transmission Gully as the price of his support (which IMHO is worth it if it means Auckland gets that train system they're talking about).

And for the left in general, the ERA stays, the Treaty stands, and we'll probably get zero-interest student loans. That isn't too shabby, especially when you compare it with the alternative.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/19/2005 01:33:00 AM

I understand the progs are very close to getting Robson back (and a 2nd seat) on the specials. It looks like a Labour/UF minority government, with conficdence and supply from Greens/NZ First/Maori.
IMHO, Labour has to start looking after its base in the working class, then sell itself to the provinces if it has any hope of keeping the Right out of power. As for the Right, they will come back, hungrier and greedier than ever.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/19/2005 10:45:00 AM

I'd suggest that if Dunne is vetoing any Green cabinet ministers, the Greens do the same to him. A Labour-Progressive minority government means that none of the minor parties gains any particular advantage.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/19/2005 11:26:00 AM


To damn right. You'd think that the first thing that Peter Dunne might consider (given that he didn't even make it near the threshold) would be a little bit of humility. Instead, he's still going at the Greens. Given that Labour + NZ First + Progs + UF doesn't make 62 (on current results). But L + NZF + JAP + Greens does, he may find himself re-Dunne-dant before he can say "big tobacco". If I were the Greens I would absolutely be insisting on no cabinet place for Dunne.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/19/2005 01:57:00 PM

Trouble is, it's just too easy to include Dunne. It's like going to the supermarket with your shopping list, and there's this pile of junk with a sign saying "Cheap! Reduced! Super Saver!" and next thing you know it's in your trolley, even though it's not really what you were looking for. Dunne can be bought for a bargain price ("Minister of Silly Walks? Oh, yes please Helen!"). It will be hard to resist picking up those 3 MPs, if she feels the Greens will be there anyway.

Also his seat is safe enough that he can risk an early election and switch to the Nats. That's a strong motivation for Clark to lock him in, no matter how little he deserves it.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/19/2005 02:30:00 PM

Anon: and in the long run eating the center away from the Nats probably makes more sense. Dammit.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/19/2005 02:55:00 PM

Hope to learn more about NZ's political parties. When I get there will vote Green. Now if I could just find a job...

Posted by Anonymous : 9/20/2005 03:34:00 PM

James, why were you out of your electorate? Is your electorate the one you are at on university holidays?

> This bias should be larger with Labor’s student loan policy

Sucking green voters to labor? Or did this not happen at all?

> I think many Green voters ended up voting for Labour in an effort to put them ahead

Wow that involves some complex or a little dodgy political analysis - it implies you are REALLY a labour supporter if you are willing to sacrifice the green party entirely. It looks like the total population of "real" green supporters is tiny.

> You'd think that the first thing that Peter Dunne might consider (given that he didn't even make it near the threshold) would be a little bit of humility.

If you had an election today with only the greens and UF I bet UF would bury the greens probably about 80-20 maybe even worse. If national excludes itself from a grand coalition and the other parties otherwise refuse to neutralize the greens then UF might as well represent/"play for" these under represented votes. So as much as going for the greens might irritate you I expect it is the appropriate strategy.

Posted by Genius : 9/24/2005 07:50:00 AM

Genius: Hardly. It simply means that they judged that Labour beating National in the race for Winston's affections was a better way of advancing their political goals. There were strong arguments on both sides (and I made both in my Party Vote: Left post), and for most of us political affiliation isn't set in stone.

In practice, the Greens seem to have a fairly solid base of around 5% (to Labour's 37% - I think that's as low as they've polled the last few years). It will always be a close race to get in, and they'll probably always need to make tactical voting arguments, but its fairly reliable.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/24/2005 10:04:00 AM