Trusting the voters

May 8, 2015

The United Kingdom has voted in an election which polls suggest will be a cliff hanger with the Scottish National Party which doesn’t want to be part of the UK holding the balance of power.

In spite of that political commentator Janet Daley trusts the voters:

. . . I have to say that this tedious, seemingly endless campaign has not been unprecedentedly terrible. Nobody has made any fatal errors. And yet, we are where we are: with a Government that has succeeded against all the odds in a flat-out tie for national support with a quite absurd, cartoonist’s dream of an Opposition leadership. Or are we? Are we on the inevitable verge of a stalemate that threatens not just indecisive government but a full-blown constitutional crisis? Do an almost identical number of people really believe that it would be a good idea to put Labour back in charge, as would want to keep the Tories (or a Tory-led coalition) in power? And could this be the case, even given the startling SNP threat to kidnap a Miliband government and hold it hostage – which is a quite new element in the equation and should, by all rights, have made at least a significant difference to people’s views? 

Surely, this is very strange. And it brings me to another observation that arises from watching politics here, and in the country of my birth, for much of my adult life. I have never ceased to be in awe of the pre-eminent common sense of British voters. Time and again, I have watched them come through with an unimpeachably sagacious electoral judgment in the face of (indeed, sometimes in open defiance of) noisy bullying, fashionable pressure and apparent inevitability.. . .

But what I do know is this: the threats by the SNP to “lock the Tories out of office” even if they win the largest number of seats, combined with their sneering boast that Ed Miliband “will have to change his tune” about making a deal with them after the election, has made English voters angrier than I can ever remember seeing them. I find it simply incredible (in the literal sense of the word) that this outrage is finding no clear reflection in public opinion – which makes me feel that the polling process is missing something big.

The numbers and the logic are clear and indisputable: Labour cannot win a clear majority. Ergo, a Miliband government will have to rely on the support of the SNP to pass any legislation. Ergo, if you vote Labour, you are voting to lock in the influence of the SNP over the entire country. If there are as many people who are furious about the SNP’s presumptions as there appear to be, how can this be having so little impact on the Labour voting intention?

Another thing that I know is that those who are very angry indeed about the march of imperial Scotland are going to be absolutely certain to vote. Nothing – and I do mean nothing – will keep them from the polling stations on Thursday. And that collective resolve may interfere with the accuracy of the polling predictions just as it did four years ago when so many more people than expected wanted to give the smug Progressive Alliance a bloody nose.

Maybe even the SNP will get a mild surprise on its home turf. Friends of mine in Edinburgh report that those of a pro-Union persuasion are afraid to admit their views for fear of getting a brick through their window or having their children persecuted at school. The aggressive onslaught has effectively silenced opposition – but has it extinguished it? Are there Scots who secretly resent the ferocious pressure, or fear the economic consequences of its success?

The way for a movement to gain apparent influence and power is to appear unstoppable, so that its rise seems like an historical inevitability. It is remarkably easy to be persuaded of this when you are in a crowd of shouting activists. The problem is that you are making so much noise that you don’t hear the silence of those outside the crowd.

But here’s the thing: the British do not like being shouted at. They particularly dislike being threatened – as a number of foreign aggressors have learnt to their cost. Nor do they like being taken for fools – as Miliband appears to do, when he insists that he will make no concessions to the SNP. As often as not, they give no sign of their disgust. They do not shout back. They just wait quietly for the sanctity of the voting booth and then they do what they think is right without fear or favour.

It’s Thursday morning in the UK.

We’ll know this evening, our time, what the voters think is right.


Which issue matters most?

June 5, 2014

TVNZ is asking which issue matters most this election?

It is always the economy.

Only with sound economic management can we afford sustainable investment in education, health and anything else we expect the government to provide to a first world standard.

 


Nat voters non-voters

May 6, 2014

One of Labour’s strategies for winning this year’s election is to motivate the million or so people who didn’t vote.

That’s obviously based on the assumption that most of those non-voters would have voted for them, or at least one of their potential coalition partners.

A Kiwiblog reader has done some analysis which suggests many of the non-voters were National voters and concludes:

. . . Contrary to “received wisdom” it was National that suffered from the reduced turnout in 2011. Additionally, the NZ First vote was boosted primarily by defections from National. Uncontroversially, it is confirmed that Conservative votes came overwhelmingly at National’s expense.

My theory that the above phenomena were a result of complacency in the face of the widespread expectation of National waltzing home with a win remains only a theory. But it is one that fits the facts quite well.

However, it seems to me that if true, the greatest danger for National in 2014 is, again, complacency and a failure of potential supporters to vote for the party (whether by staying home or by risking a vote for other parties that may not meet the threshold criteria or may not support National after the election).

There is absolutely no complacency in National.

As Deputy leader and Finance Minister Bill English warned on Sunday, there is a very real risk that Labour and whoever it needs to get at least 51% of the vote, could win.

Last election’s 47% support was a very good result, but it won’t be enough to guarantee a National-led government this time.

National has a good record, but voters wont vote on what’s been done, they’ll vote on what they can believe will happen in the next term.

The Opposition hasn’t come up with anything workable that will make a positive difference to most people yet.

But there’s still a danger they could cobble together a coalition unless National convinces even more people to support them than voted for them three years ago.


Not all over yet

March 12, 2014

Chris Trotter thinks the election is all over bar the counting:

UNLESS SOMETHING HUGELY DRAMATIC HAPPENS between now and polling day, 20 September, the General Election of 2014 is all but over. The National-led government of Prime Minister, John Key, looks set to be returned for a third term by a margin that may surprise many of those currently insisting that the result will be very close. What may also surprise is the sheer scale and comprehensiveness of the Left’s (especially Labour’s) electoral humiliation.

By which dark paths must one travel to reach these gloomy (for the Left!) conclusions? Simply stated, one has only to follow the basic precepts of psephology (the study of elections and electors).

No matter whether you approach the forthcoming election from the perspective of the socio-economic context of the contest; contrasting styles of political leadership; the policies of the major players; the parties’ organisational heft and their respective financial resources; or the many factors influencing turnout; the advantage lies decisively with the National Party. . .

The advantage does lie with National.

It can campaign on its achievements, Prime Minister John Key is the most popular leader in recent political history, National’s caucus is united, several retirements mean the new one will be refreshed, and it will be presenting some big new ideas with small price tags.

The unity isn’t only in caucus, the membership is also united and supportive of the parliamentary wing of the party.

Photo: Election date: September 20. Like and share if you back John Key and National for #3moreyears http://nzyn.at/3moreyears

Labour by contrast has achieved little in opposition, has a leader who is less popular than the unpopular one he replaced and who doesn’t have the confidence of his caucus which is divided. With only one retirement announced it looks old and stale, and policies presented so far have been botched in their presentation and come with big price tags.

If we were voting under First Past the Post, National could be looking forward to a landslide.

But under MMP, it’s not enough for the major party to do well, it will almost certainly need coalition partners and none of those who might fit in a National-led government are particularly strong.

It hasn’t happened yet in New Zealand, but the smaller of the big parties could cobble together enough votes to trump the bigger one and lead a government, albeit a potentially very unstable one.

The six months to the election isn’t long for a divided and dismal Labour to climb higher, but it’s plenty of time for even a very popular government to falter.

If a week is a long time in politics, six months is far longer.

National has the record, the talent and the policies to win a third term and Labour does not.

But there is no complacency about the election outcome.

Good things might come in threes, but there’s absolutely no guarantee enough voters will support  a third term.

The omens are good for another National-led government, but there’s no certainty.


Knowledge is power

March 11, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has called on the wee parties to be upfront about which party they might support after the election.

. . . Announcing the election date on Monday, Mr Key said he is the only New Zealand prime minister to have been so upfront about an election date – and he challenged the minor parties to be, in his words, equally forthright about who they would work with post-election.

He said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters could announce right now that he would go with the largest party, but he won’t.

Mr Key said all the anecdotal evidence he has heard is that Mr Peters would partner with Labour and the Greens: “That’s what I hear,” he said, “so that’s what I’ve got to work on.”

For his part, Mr Peters says the Prime Minister is scaremongering. “He’s never talked to me on the matter,” says Mr Peters, “and whatever his planning skills are, mind-reading is not one of them.” . . .

Peters always insists that who he’ll support will be up to voters.

It will of course, but without telling us which party or parties his would support he’s leaving voters in the dark and expecting them to vote blind.

Knowledge is power – giving voters a clear indication of their intentions helps them make an informed decision.

Peters’s refusal to be clear is simply playing politics.


With respect

March 11, 2014

Prime Minister John Key gave plenty of notice for the 2011 election and he’s done the same for this year’s:

Prime Minister John Key has announced the 2014 General Election will be held on Saturday 20 September.

“I’m announcing the election date well in advance as I believe this gives New Zealanders some certainty and is in the country’s best interests.”

“It is my practice to be up-front with the New Zealand public and provide plenty of notice about election timing.”

National will be campaigning on its strong record in Government and its plans to continue the good progress New Zealand is making over the next three years.

“I am proud of the work we have done to protect vulnerable New Zealanders and help strengthen families and communities through difficult times.”

Mr Key says, “I have already contacted the Governor-General to advise him of the election date.”

The Government’s intention is that the House will rise on Thursday 31 July and Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 14 August.

Writ day will follow on Wednesday 20 August, and nomination day will be Tuesday 26 August.

He is not indulging in the gaming previous Prime Ministers did in an attempt to give themselves an advantage over the opposition.

By going early he’s treating the election and the public with the respect they deserve.

He’s putting all parties on an even footing in giving politicians, would-be politicians and party volunteers the date around which they’ll need to plan and execute campaigns.

It also helps political tragics plan whatever else we might have going on in our lives.

The early announcement makes  life easier for the Electoral Commission and others involved in the administration of the election too.

It would be easier for all involved if we had this certainty every election year, as we would if there was a set date for an election:

. . . His personal view was that elections should permanently move to a “September to September” cycle as international summits tended to be held in November. The time it took for coalition agreements to be struck meant the House could be required to sit in January, he said. . . .

A September election does mean campaigning through winter and early spring when calving and lambing are underway.

But a set date which avoided the late September/early October school holidays would give plenty of time for coalition negotiations before November and allow the house to sit and a new government to get down to work well before the end of the year.

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Sept 20 election?

March 10, 2014

Ipredict has  a 95% probability of  a September 20 election.

I have no inside knowledge on this, but the sooner, the better for me.


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