Electorate accommodation could backfire on both parties

October 18, 2017

Is an electorate accommodation on offer in an effort to woo Winston Peters?

Many commentators think this will be his last term. That has been said    before and while each time it’s said he’s a bit older, there’s no certainty he’ll be any keener on retirement in 2020 than he has been before.

Whether or not he stands again, the party is at risk of slipping below the 5% threshold and out of parliament unless it wins a seat.

But even if Peters wants to contest another election, it’s unlikely he’d risk standing and not winning an electorate. He’s won three but also lost them, he won’t want to lose another.

His repeated criticism of National for allowing electorate accommodations for Act and United Future, would open him to criticism should he ask for one to give him a better chance. But doing what he’s criticised others for doing isn’t usually a problem for him.

However, the people of Northland tired of him in less than a term and voted for Matt King instead. He will spend the next three years doing the hard work a good electorate MP does and winning the loyalty of voters by doing so.

They are unlikely to show enthusiasm for ignoring that and voting Peters back in, even if they’re given a very strong message from National to do so.

Other electorates that have been suggested where National might stand aside are Whangarei and Wairarapa.

Accommodations worked in Ohariu and Epsom. But Peter Dunne already held Ohariu when National’s then leader Jim Bolger gave the wink and nod to voters to give his party the party vote but vote for Dunne as the electorate MP.

Act’s Rodney Hide didn’t need an accommodation to win Epsom the first time. He won the seat from Richard Worth without any help from National.

In successive elections, National’s candidate campaigned only for the party vote making it easier for Hide and then David Seymour to win the electorate vote.

But that is very different from asking voters to drop support for a sitting MP to allow a New Zealand First candidate to win the electorate.

There will be no enthusiasm for that from National members and absolutely no guarantee that enough voters would be prepared to turn their backs on their MP in favour of the NZ First candidate.

It would be a very risky move which could backfire on both parties.



Mañana = not today

October 16, 2017

Mañana translates as tomorrow.

But a Spaniard told me when referring to a time commitment it means not today which effectively means an undefined, and often distant, time in the future.

Winston Peters allegedly posed as an Italian at university. He might not claim Spanish blood too, but his attitude to time has a similarly frustrating elasticity to that of the Spanish mañana.

In July he said:

“I make this guarantee that whatever decision New Zealand First arrives at post-election, it will be made public by the day the writs are returned, which is within three weeks from polling day.”

Writ day came and went last Thursday and negotiations were wrapped up between Peters’ party and both National and Labour but there was no decision.

All parties have to run what was agreed past their boards before anything is made public. That shouldn’t be difficult but of course nothing with NZ First is simple.

Given Peters’ guarantee, about the date, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that his board would have made travel arrangements earlier and been prepared to meet on Friday or over the weekend.

But they hadn’t and weren’t.

. . . “We are doing the best we can in the way we can best organise it … this country is the same size as Japan. The same size as the UK. We are not a little island nation. It takes people time to organise things, particularly since we are coming up to Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Peters told media this afternoon. . . 

Instead, the board is expected to meet today.

Whether they’re able to come to the serious consensus Peters said would be required, is open to question.

Little in known about the board members and Peters declined to give their names.

Such secrecy from any other party would have Peters advancing conspiracy theories and thundering about the need for transparency. But of course, it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else.

RNZ found a list of probable board members and Newshub got some brief information on most of them.

But whoever they are, only Peters’ biggest fans would believe that they wouldn’t agree to whatever he says.

So it is possible there will be consensus and maybe we’ll know the makeup of the next government soon, though that might be not be today, or even tomorrow, which could mean the Spanish not today rather than the day after today.

But whenever he makes his decision and announcement, Peters’ propensity to mean anything but what he says, leaves me thinking that no government is preferable to one with him in it.

That isn’t a long term option which leads to the question I think people on both the blue and red side of the political spectrum are wondering about:  is being out of government preferable to being in one with NZ First?

Compromise more likely than consensus

October 9, 2017

One of the supposed virtues of MMP is that it could lead to government by consensus.

In practice it’s much more likely to require compromise.

The Green Party doesn’t  understand this.

If it did, it would be negotiating from a position of strength with both National and Labour.

Instead, its been sidelined, leaving policy gains for New Zealand First with the possibility of some crumbs only if Winston Peters opts for a Labour-led government.

It might look like a principled position to its left-wing supporters.

It looks more like impotence to those for whom the environment isn’t partisan.

Whatever permutation we end up with in government, there will be a strong focus on the environment in general and water quality in particular.

If the Greens moved into the real world and accepted the need for compromise, recognising that some gains are better than none, they could play a leading role in policy development.

Instead, they’ll remain marooned on the far left of the political spectrum, a powerless outpost of Labour, having to accept New Zealand First policies which could well be even less palatable to Green supporters than many of National’s.


Why are we waiting?

October 8, 2017

The official election results left National with two fewer seats than on election night and Labour and the Green party with one more each:

  • The number of seats in Parliament will be 120.
  • The National Party has 56 seats compared with 58 on election night.  
  • The Labour Party has 46 seats compared with 45 on election night.
  • The Green Party has 8 seats compared with 7 on election night.  
  • There are no changes to the number of seats held by New Zealand First and ACT New Zealand which remain at 9 and 1 respectively.
  • All electorate candidates leading on election night have been confirmed as winning their seats.
  • The total number of votes cast is 2,630,173.  47% of votes were cast in advance.
  • The turnout as a percentage of enrolled electors is 79.8% (2014 – 77.9%).  This is the highest turnout since 2005 (80.9%).
  • The final enrolment rate is 92.4% (2014 – 92.6%).

This still leaves a possibility of National and NZ First governing with 65 seats or Labour, NZ First and the Greens governing with 63 seats, or NZ First giving confidence and supply to one of the bigger parties while sitting on the cross benches.

The difference between the numbers has got a little smaller but nothing else has changed about the options since election night so why couldn’t negotiations have started sooner and why are we still waiting for an outcome?


Environment isn’t partisan

September 27, 2017

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger nails it:

He said the Greens might be quietly reflecting on whether they should only link themselves to left-wing politics.

“The environment is neither left wing or right wing, frankly. The environment is the environment, it’s Mother Earth we’re talking about.” . .

If the Greens weren’t really reds they would be in a much stronger position than they are now.

They could sit in the middle, as the Maori Party did, able to go left or right.

It would be they, not New Zealand First, that would be being courted by the major parties.

The Green Party’s environmental policies were lost in the controversy over its radical left-wing social policy regarding welfare. It was delivered by Metiria Turei who lost her co-leadership and ultimately her seat because of it.

The environment isn’t partisan. A party which recognised that would be far more attractive to voters and in a much stronger position than the red Greens are.

Is this really what NZ wanted?

September 26, 2017

Preliminary election results give no certainty as to which party will lead the next government.

Prime Minister Bill English led National to 46% support, an astounding result for a party seeking a fourth term in office.

But that 46% is only 50 seats which is not enough for a majority government.

Labour’s 35.8% was far more than its supporters could have hoped for before its leadership change but even further away from a majority. It would need both New Zealand First and the Green Party.

This means that Winston Peters, and it is the leader not his party who counts, has almost all the say on what happens next.

NZ First got only 7.5% of the vote. Polls before the election showed that its supporters were fairly evening divided on whether Peters should choose National or Labour should it be in the position to do so.

A criticism of First Past the Post was that voters in marginal seats had too much power.

But MMP has given more power to fewer people by allowing a minor party to choose the government and half of  its supporters will be disappointed regardless of whichever it is.

Is this really what New Zealand wanted?

It’s only another poll

September 20, 2017

This is a good boost for Prime Minister Bill English as he heads into the final leaders’ debate:

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