Tuesday 26 September 2017

Bill To Winston: "Let's Do This!"

An Emphatic Plurality: Bill English is on course to lead National into a fourth term with a greater share of the popular vote than “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake. Bearing in mind that, 50 years ago, New Zealand elected its governments according to the rules of First-Past-The-Post, that is nothing short of astonishing.

HERE’S A TRULY SOBERING FACT to take away from Saturday’s general election. Nine years after taking office, the National Party is more popular in 2017 than it was in 2008. John Key became New Zealand’s prime minister after securing 44.93 percent of the Party Vote for the National Party. Our caretaker prime minister, Bill English, will enter into negotiations with NZ First’s Winston Peters having secured 46 percent of the Party Vote for National on election night. For the first time since 1969, a New Zealand government looks set for a fourth term.

And get this: Bill English is on course for that fourth term with a greater share of the popular vote than “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake. Bearing in mind that, 50 years ago, New Zealand elected its governments according to the rules of First-Past-The-Post, that is nothing short of astonishing.

The Labour Party, by contrast, is celebrating “a remarkable comeback” with 35.8 percent of the Party Vote. But is it all that remarkable? When the First Labour Government lost power in 1949, it was with 47.2 percent of the popular vote. The Second fell in 1960, with 43.4 percent. When the hapless Bill Rowling was turfed out of office by Rob Muldoon in 1975, Labour’s share of the popular vote had fallen from 48.4 to 39.6 percent. In 1990, Labour racked-up just 35.14 percent as National’s Jim Bolger rolled over Battling Mike Moore to victory. And, when Helen Clark surrendered to John Key in 2008, Labour’s share of the Party Vote was just shy of 34 percent.

In other words, Labour is claiming a remarkable comeback on the strength of a popular vote share which, in past elections, has betokened decisive defeat.

Then again, Jacinda Ardern’s 35.8 percent (on Election Night) is just 2.94 percentage points less than the 38.74 percent of the Party Vote which carried Ms Clark to victory in 1999.

Except that, in 1999, Labour could count on the support of Jim Anderton’s Alliance (7.74 percent) and the Greens (5.16 percent) to assemble a centre-left Party Vote combo representing 51.64 percent of the electorate.

If we perform the same calculation on the basis of Saturday’s provisional results, the Opposition parties’ numbers add up to a tantalising 49.2 percent – and that number may cross the magic 50 percent threshold when Special Votes are counted. The question we are, thus, left to decide, is whether or not it is politically reasonable to assign the role played by the Alliance Party in 1999 to the NZ First Party of 2017.

The only reasonable answer is – No.

Winston Peters’ rhetorical flourishes against “the neoliberal experiment” notwithstanding, NZ First is not the unequivocally left-wing party that the Alliance was. Nor does Mr Peters have the luxury of looking at a National Party whose share of the Party Vote is less than Labour’s. In 1999, Jenny Shipley’s National Government attracted just 30.5 percent of the Party Vote. In marked contrast to Mr English’s position in 2017, there was simply no path to a parliamentary majority for Ms Shipley’s National Party.

What is it, then, that Mr Peters is confronting? First and foremost, he’s faced with a National Party undiminished in terms of popular support; controlling close to half the seats in the House of Representatives; and with the near unanimous endorsement of the most powerful institutions of New Zealand society. The people backing Bill English are the people who own things; the people who run things; the people accustomed to having the things they say becoming the things that people do – and pretty damn quickly. What on earth could Mr Peters possibly say to the 46 percent of New Zealanders who voted for the National Party that would in the slightest way reconcile them to being ignored?

He certainly cannot point to a record turnout of registered voters. That figure will be lucky to top 80 percent – a far cry from the 93.7 percent of electors who turned out to get rid of Rob Muldoon’s National Government in 1984. Nor can he point to a mass movement of the angry poor gathered behind a radical manifesto demanding fundamental changes to the way their country is run.

No, when Mr Peters turns to face the alternative to a National-NZ First coalition government, what does he see? A Labour Party which appears to believe that revolutions are delivered by working groups; and a Green Party which, having somehow survived the near write-off of its political vehicle, struggles to believe it’s still alive. Putting an end to “the neoliberal experiment” will, almost certainly, require a tougher team than this!

So, Mr Peters will play “the cards that count” with all the skill he indisputably possesses. And Mr English, if he is wise, will clasp his newfound ally by the hand and say: “Let’s do this!”

This essay was originally published in The Press of Monday, 25 September 2017.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Winston – as always – will do what's best for Winston. He may purport to despise the baubles of office, but that hasn't stopped him accepting a few. "By such toys are men led." As Napoleon once said, and Winston isn't about to throw them out of the cot. And if my memory serves, the last time Winston went with National a majority of his supporters wanted a coalition with Labour.

pat said...

and labour/greens must negotiate publicly and hard....and not tie themselves to Winston. Then both must use the time wisely to flesh out their plan for rebuilding NZ after the next (early?) election

greywarbler said...

Is there hope for us Dr Trotter? While there is probably 100% support for National from people with assets and money who are only interested in getting their own way, they are only a small percentage of NZs. It is the bulk of the National Party, the neo lib and materialist, utilitarian fellow travellers who are the ones to hold responsible. They are prepared to drive NZ to the edge of the cliff and park near the crumbling edge.

Kat said...

"The people backing Bill English are the people who own things; the people who run things; the people accustomed to having the things they say becoming the things that people do...."

Do I see a dead cat on the table with these comments Chris, seems a good way to fire up a heady discussion with the best outcome being further electoral reform and more consensual politics.

"What on earth could Mr Peters possibly say to the 46 percent of New Zealanders who voted for the National Party that would in the slightest way reconcile them to being ignored?......"

He has already said it on Sunday: "It's about doing what is best for the country not just the National party".......

tauputa said...

Well written, its seems you and Phil Quinn are the only non delusional leftwing commentators to hit this obvious conclusion.

Well done to both Jacinda for making Labour electable some time in the future, and huge hoorays for Bill who exorcised the daemon of 2002 and eclipsed even the mighty John Key as Nationals greatest asset of modern times.

jh said...

What about the New New Zealander factor. No use looking back to the past and thinking :"we, we, we"(baizou and all that)?

Nick J said...

Interesting scenario, whoever sides with Winston will bear the wrath of the electorate next time around, I can only see grief for the "victor".

If Winnie goes with Nats is he going to demand a little "blood", Paula out of Ministerial roles for "dropping Winston's superannuate records, Joyce for "abuse". Then there is English himself for seconding the motion that ejected Winston from National. And any final "utu" for the Wine Box.

I suspect National will pay a high price, Im sure that they will make sure we all pay.

greywarbler said...

What on earth has Phil Quinn said that showed deep perspicacity?

Charles E said...

You are right I think, mostly. Except for the large element in the 46% who are not the ruling class at all. Ordinary average income people who saw two things, I would wager.
Firstly, yes a breath of fresh air in the new Labour leader, but still the rest of the team, are no great shakes. And tied to the woeful Greens. Why? Party vote National, tick.

Secondly, the certainty of the $1,000 tax cut on 1 April under National, verses, who knows what in a coalition with the Greens. Perhaps new taxes, perhaps unemployment if they stall the economy, but certainly higher tax from April 1st. Party vote National. Tick.

So collectively the same people as for the last election voted for the status quo (and solid family man Bill) since the alternative was either unattractive or uncertain. I cannot believe the new kid blew it so badly. She could have come in 7 weeks ago and said, we'll keep the tax cut for the average and a bit above average, but everyone earning over say $120k will pay 5% more, all of which will go to health & welfare .... And there will be a tax per cow on dairy farming, every penny of which will go into tree planting our river banks and buying out some farmed catchments which will go into forestry. Simple, clear and popular.
Instead she handed it to Bill & Co to easily sow doubt, but even more disastrously, it highlighted their experience, solidity & competence in contrast. Three more years .... probably.

britbunkley said...

The only problem with this meaningless assumption is that when National and NZ First last formed a coalition, it collapsed within 2 years. It was one in fact of the least stable governments in NZ history. Whereas when with Labour after 2005-2008 is was considered productive and “harmonious”. His worst attributes were softened and his best shined. That is because NZ First in fact when looking at things that matter, such as policies, it has far more in common with Labour. In fact it has a lot more in common with the Greens that the media gurus let on such as “replacing the emissions trading scheme with a carbon budget framework” and “put public benefit before private benefit in the granting water rights”.

If one considers primarily economic policies, then the ‘left” received over 52% of the vote. The right is now basically now all wrapped up in a single party- National ...with ACT as a mere shadow puppet...(ACT had almost 4% in 08 and the Maori Party showed their true right wing colours...with pay back now). The Right have just over 46% of the vote. And most expect increased left seats with the 15% specials counted (they don't watch as much NZ right wing propaganda posing as the "free press"). In spite of his Peter's ultra-nationalism that safely paces him in the “far right wing” category in the international media; his economic policies are decidedly left. One recent Newshub article suggested that he demands nationalizations such as “an immediate state asset buy-back programme, especially for the purchasing of power companies”. NZ first also is requesting a large spending increase to that in line with most OECD nations. (We are now among the lowest spending per GDP…and it shows.)

Anonymous said...

MMP, wonderul, one man chooses the govt and gets to call the shots. A dog of a system that quite rightly the rest of the world, bar Germany, have rejected. A slap in the face to everyone who voted, seven percent of the vote means more than double digit percentages. And he cannot even retain an electorate seat.

Kat said...

Mike, gimmie a minute, Hosking said Winstons holding the country to ransom. This and other idiot wind devotees just don't seem to understand simple arithmetic.

National are in dire straits and must be ruing the day they drank beer from the bottle and barbecued the life boats.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You know what, compared to FFP, MMP is fine. Partly because minor parties know that they can't actually hold the country to ransom. And they also know which way their voters are leaning. Although to be fair, that doesn't necessarily stop Winston from going the other way as we all know – but it's still better than FFP where you can form a government with a minority of the votes and ram through whatever legislation takes your fancy.

Charles E said...

Kat & JB you are utterly deluded.
The centre right got over 55% of the vote and they are delighted. Can hardly believe it.
Jacindamania was fake news. The media made utter fools of themselves in their gushing fandom coverage. Billmania was more accurate and they ignored it.

And National is sitting pretty now. They can play off WinFirst against the horror he'd experience sitting in a cabinet with a divided load of Labour & Green people, over represented now in Maori. They half want him to go for that.
Or they could even go green and make Shaw an offer which will enrage WinFirst, delight most of the nation and possibly at last drag the Greens into actually being a green party for the first time.
But are the Greens smart enough to go for it? Do they really care for the environment more than their egos? Probably not.

greywarbler said...

Anonymous 17.31 26/9
FPP was a dog of a system. A few people even one, to get that last little edge for a majority, could hold the country to ransom. Before you rave actually think how politics always works. The settings can be tinkered with more so allowing TOPS more room to advance would be wise, but not 'no threshhold'. I get so peed off with those who want to declaim the great theory of no-holds-barred.

sumsuch said...

Don't accept this stream of articles on the basis of your arguments ( apart from Greens joining up with Nats for the highest price). My multiple sibs are rationalizers, the basis of my rationality. If I can't follow your logic...? There will be a leftward move we all accept. It's not your job to be a secret squirrel--to influence things, just speak the truth. Leave Mathew Hooten to hisself. I know it's easy once you learn the tools. You have to remember honesty. Not trying to say the previous adamantinely, but you haven't convinced me. Or, I'm waiting for the arguments.