Trusting the voters


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?


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


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


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

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


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


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?


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

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

Ask not what politics can do for you


A million people who could have voted didn’t.

Turnout dropped by just over 90,000, from 79.5 per cent of those on the rolls in 2008 to 73.8 per cent.

Except for an anomaly in 1978 when the rolls were inflated by outdated and duplicate entries, this was the lowest percentage turnout since 1887, when 67.1 per cent of those on the rolls voted. That was before women won the right to vote in 1893.

Moreover, only an estimated 93.2 per cent of the 3,276,000 people who were eligible to vote were enrolled, so the 2,254,581 people who did cast their votes (including special votes) leaves just over 1 million who stayed at home.


23 voter turnout 2011 election campaign NZ Politics Daily - Bryce Edwards Otago University liberation blog -

Among the reasons given by those who didn’t vote were not knowing enough about what parties and candidates were offering and none of them offering what the non-voters wanted.

The best way to address both issues is to understand your own philosophy and principles, find the party which best matches them, get involved with it and take an active part in its policy development.

Those wanting to be engaged shouldn’t be asking what politics can do for them but what they can do for a politics.

Election results


Polls close at 7pm.

The Electoral Commission will post results here.

They are aiming to have all advance results, including the referendum released by 8.30; general election results from 50% of polling booths by 10pm and resutls from all polling places by 11:30.

Official results for the election and referendum will be published by 2pm on Saturday December 10.

When life imitates satire


Tweet of the day:

He could be right, the campaign is decending to a farcial level in which Fred Dagg would have revelled.

Hat tip: Election 2011 Live

Saturday smiles


Two friends with radically different political views meet outside a polling booth on election day.

One turns to the other and says “You know, we’ve argued about policies and philosophy for months, and we’re obviously going to vote for different candidates. Our votes will cancel each other out anyway, so why don’t we just call it a draw and go home instead?”

The other woman pauses, thinks for a minute, nods her head and they part ways to go back to their cars.

A man who overheard the conversation approaches the dealmaker and says with admiration, “That’s a real sporting offer you just made!”

“Not really,” the woman  says, “That’s the third time I’ve done the deal this mroning.”

Voting starts today


Anyone who can’t get to a polling place on election day, including people overseas, can cast a vote from today.

The Electoral Commission has information here for people wishing to cast a special vote in New Zealand.

Information for people wishing to vote overseas is here and those of a blue persuasion might be interested in the National Party’s Internats.

Opportunity for renewal missed


Labour has released its full list of candidates for November’s election.

It includes several candidates who have been selected for unwinnable seats very recently and highlights the stupidity of doing its list ranking in April.

When you’re in opposition it is prudent to be prepared if the election date is unknown. But John Key announced in early February that we’d be going to the polls on November 26 which made it safe to rank the list much later.

They not only ranked the list too early they did it badly, missing the opportunity for significant renewal. That’s left them  with far too many of the tired old candidates who are associated with Labour’s failures of the noughties.

They could have learned from National’s mistakes after the 1999 election when too few of the dead wood fell on their swords. Failure to do that leaves them plummeting towards a similar forced clean out to that which National suffered in 2002 and little hope for a significant injection of fresh talent.

Two weeks and three months


It’s just under two weeks until the Rugby World Cup kicks off.

It’s just three months to election day.

It would make me feel a lot more confident about voter intelligence if so many people didn’t keep saying the outcome of the former could influence the result of the latter.

PM resigns GG calls snap election over Sky Hawk scandal


The Prime Minister has resigned and the Governor General has announced a snap election after Labour dirt-diggers uncovered a scandal.

“They always said it was the little things that get you and I’ve tried to be really careful. But I honestly didn’t think it would matter if I took one of the Sky Hawk fighter jets to play with when they’re not worth anything,” a visibly upset former Prime Minister told reporters.

“They couldn’t get the payment to the PR agency for my Letterman appearance stick. They couldn’t say anything about my decision to keep away from debates between the wee parties because they agree with me on that  so they began digging deeper.

“One of their people happened to glance up while rifling through my rubbish bin and saw the Sky Hawk sitting on my lawn. There was no way I could deny it was there so the only honourable thing to do was resign.

“The people deserve an opposition which focuses on what really matters and the longer they were distracted by attempts to attack me personally, the further away they got from what they should have been doing.

“Now I’ve resigned, they’ll have time to work on policy development, help their constituents and begin looking like a government in waiting.”

The former Prime Minister was about to say something else but his words were drowned out by the sound of flapping wings from a herd of of pigs flying overhead.

Running record of election returns

22/09/2010 is providing a running record of election returns for the 35 councils whose votes it’s processing, including comparisons with the number of votes cast at the same stage in the last two elections.

After just two days it’s too soon to draw reliable conclusions but it will be interesting to follow the trend.

Our voting papers came with Monday’s mail, I started to fill mine out but put it aside because I’m still not certain about where to put a couple of ticks.

The media is often blamed for not covering local body issues and candidates well, but a lot of candidates aren’t helping themselves.

Local Government On Line has a website on which candidates can post photos and information which voters can find by typing in their address.

Only one of the four mayoral candidates, none of the five district council candidates, neither of the two regional council candidates and only four of the 11 health board candidates for whom I can vote have bothered to post anything.

Feds asks councils to stick to basics


Federated Farmers is asking councils to stick to basics in its first manifesto for local body candidates and voters.

President Don Nicolson says:

“New Zealand’s 85 current local councils collected in rates last year, enough money to fund the New Zealand Police more than two and half times over.  For many farmers, rates are now among their biggest working expenses,”

“The vital role of councils has been underlined by the Canterbury earthquake.  Basic services are taken for granted until the likes of water, wastewater and roads are suddenly lost.

“Our local councils also control assets worth nearly $99 billion with debts of around $7.5 billion.  Every aspiring councillor needs to understand, the huge governance role they are seeking election to undertake.

“Candidates need to understand that rates are not there to fund ‘dreams and schemes’, but come from the hard work of property owners.   This is the reason why Federated Farmers believes its Manifesto is a positive contribution to the 2010 local authority campaigns.

There hasn’t been much policy from any of the candidates standing in our area and campaign statements often combine the mutually exclusive desires of lower rates and more services.

“It provides both candidates and voters a yardstick to assess policies, pledges and positions.  While there’s naturally a rural dimension to the Manifesto, the points are pretty much universal for urban and rural voters alike.

“What we want to see emerge are councillors committed to sound and equitable policies. Yet to get them, voters actually have to vote.

Nicolson said that in the last local body election on 44% of those eligible to vote did so.

” You can’t help but suspect that most of the people who ‘demand’ more be spent on local services, come from the other 56 percent who never bothered voting.

“It’s a major reason why farmers must vote in high numbers to ensure quality candidates are either elected or retained.  Yet it’s doubly important to ensure these candidates understand the concerns of farmers and have the wherewithal to do something about them.

“While the system of funding local government is badly flawed, a bold council can take positive action that will make a real difference to the amount farmers and property owners pay in rates.

“Good councillors should focus on what the core job of their council is, no mater how unsexy it seems.  It means resisting the ‘dreams and schemes’ of interest groups who are quick to spend other people’s hard earned dollars,” Mr Nicolson concluded.

A property based tax will always disadvantage farmers but there’s no simple way to reform the rating system that would be easy to sell to voters.

However, the best way to reduce the rates burden is to increase the rating base. That requires more people and more businesses.

Stop yawning and pay attention


I turned 18 in the year of a general election and was very excited about being able to vote.

The excitement didn’t spill over into local body politics and I’m not sure if I voted in the council elections a couple of years later or the one three years after that.

I’ve taken my democratic responsibility more seriously since then. But while local body policies and actions  have at least as much impact as central government ones I find it difficult to summon much excitement about the forthcoming elections. has a website designed to increase interest and participation.

I typed my address as instructed and found the names of the candidates for whom I can vote for the Otago Regional Council, Otago District Health Board,  and Waitaki District Council.  But so far the only two  candidates – one for the health board, the other a mayoral aspirant – have availed themselves of this opportunity to communicate with voters.

The ODT is profiling mayoral candidates and holding meet-the-candidates meetings round the province. The one for this area was yesterday but  I missed it and if there are any defining issues I’ve missed them too.

But I’ve resolved to stop yawning and pay attention from now in case Credo Quia Absurdum Est is right that there’s always one  – I wouldn’t want to vote for one like that by mistake, and not just because I don’t like oysters.

Race is on for Waitaki mayoralty


Several months ago someone whose name I’ve forgotten and of whom I’ve heard nothing since, announced he was going to stand for Mayor of Waitaki.

A few weeks ago the incumbent, Alec Familton, announced he was seeking re-election.

Now there’s another contender – deputy mayor Gary Kircher has used his blog to announce he plans to seek the mayoralty too.

I might have said it’s difficult for a sitting councillor to defeat a sitting mayor because both could be judged on what the council has – or hasn’t – done.

But three years ago Alec, who was a sitting councillor, defeated then-Mayor Alan McLay.

Then there were big issues, including controversy over the Opera House development and steep rates rises.

It’s been much quieter on the local body front in the past three years which will make it more difficult to mount a challenge.

However, the race has just begun and if a week is a long time in politics, anything might happen in the four months between now and the election.

Four year terms mooted by Hide


The NBR reports Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has suggested a four year term for both local and central governments.

Answering a question at a business seminar on the super city for Auckland, he said the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommended a four-year term for councils.

But this would not be practical unless the central government term was also extended to avoid clashes of election times. Such a change would not occur without a referendum, Mr Hide said.

Elections are a check on the power of councils and governments so a three year term provides a more frequent check than a four year one, but I am open to the idea of extending the term.

A four year term would be a little less expensive for tax and rate payers who pay the costs of elections and also pay for election bribes.

It would allow more time for consultation and consideration of policy by both parliament and the public.

It would also give governments and councils more time to implement their policies – although I’d feel a lot more positive about this if National was in power than if they weren’t 🙂

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