Day after analysis

The victor takes the stage and eloquently frames the  historic moment for the cheering masses. He understands the grave economic and other perils facing the nation, and the need to tackle the problems collaboratively, and extends a bipartisan hand to his beaten opponents.

The sad thing for NZ is that, bar the odd kiwiblogright fanatic who has strayed this way, no-one reading this would mistake it for NZ last night. Our new prime minister’s delusions notwithstanding, the difference between this week’s two victors is measured in light-years, and is captured in the contrast between the election night speeches.

NZ’s new leader has demonstrated little grasp of the economic situation confronting the country, or of what leadership entails. He sleepwalked his way to power, winning an election notable for the lack of excitement and charisma on display. The small parties provided the interest. Otherwise, it was a tawdry, uninspiring affair.

His party’s win was not a triumph of policy. National has spent the last couple of years frantically trying to convince people it would not undo much of what has been achieved over the past nine years. The party won, but its ideology lost. (Although not completely. Labour’s third-way social democracy has been a corporatist compromise with neo-liberalism rather than a repudiation of it.)

Nor was it that the “men couldn’t cope with the idea of being led by an intelligent, idealistic, free-spirited woman … voted [her] out of office” as Chris Trotter argues. Certainly Clark has benefitted from the devotion of a generation of women (and some of their daughters) who were socialised in the 1960s and 1970s. There may be an element of male chauvinism, but if it were simply about that, how to account for three election wins in a row (albeit against weak opponents)?

If anything, the electorate succumbed to Helen-fatigue, or was repulsed by the arrogance with which initiatives such as the anti-smacking and electoral finance bills were imposed rather than sold, and economic policy rolled out. Clark’s not the only culprit there, but her own superiority complex did not equip her to rein in such behaviour by others. NZ voters will put up with a lot if they perceive competence and decisiveness (rightly or, as in the case of Muldoon, not), but inevitably there is a corrosive effect.

For the meantime though, John Key has the helm, and he will need our goodwill and support if he — and we — are to manage the issues that beset the world. He has a great deal to learn. I sincerely hope that he is up to the challenge.

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19 Responses to “Day after analysis”

  1. underground Says:

    I like the phrase “sleepwalked his way to power”. That is very apt.
    It’s going to be hard for those of us on the Left to support Key, especially when as you rightly say “the party won, but its ideology lost”. If Key does revert back to the National’s core ideology, with the help of Act, he will be governing without the support of most, even many of those who voted him in. He is going to have to walk a tightrope, and as much as I hope the economy comes right and he doesn’t mess everything up for the country’s sake, part of me wants to see him fall.

    Yeah, I know. But if we don’t give him a chance, then we’re no better than the kiwiblogright. Well, maybe a still a little better, but not much better.

    I’m hopeful that, since the Nats were clever enough (okay, it took them three election losses) to figure that they could only win with modified Labour policies, they’ll be clever enough to know that they’ll get punished if they put all the same policies on a bonfire. They’ll try to erode them by attrition over time. We won’t see the bonfire that Clark talked about.

  2. truthseekernz Says:

    I’m prepared to give Key the benefit of the doubt on every issue but one: MMP.

    There is no room for compromise with respect to National’s stated intention to seek a path to taking away the only vote we have that really counts: our MMP party vote.

  3. macdoctor01 Says:

    If you are going to compare Obama’s victory with Key then you should appreciate the fact that Key has done everything he can to lower expectations while Obama has done the very opposite. The net result is that almost anything remotely imaginative or decisive will make Key look good and almost anything that Obama does, short of walking on water, will disappoint.

    I know which of the two I would rather be today.

    TruthseekerNZ: John Key has already stated that he does not favour a return to FPP. Apparently he prefers the Supplementary Member system, which has the major advantage of avoiding constitutionally dangerous overhangs.

    MacDoc, lowering expectations or trying not to “scare the horses”? Also, Barry Gustafson (perhaps not always likely to get things right) is reported as saying that: Mr Key would encounter early problems after setting expectations “very high”.

  4. showmethetaxcut Says:

    You want lack of excitement, I give you the EFA.

    This election was never going to be about policy substance. It was always going to be about political style and the people of NZ have quite rightly rejected the arrogance and highmindedness of Labour.

  5. MikeG Says:

    Well said Pete.

  6. truthseekernz Says:

    macdoctor01: FPP was nothing BUT overhangs!! The party that won the most seats got a fraction of that percentage when measuring their actual party support. :-)

    SM creates two classes of vote. A vote for a major party is one vote, while a vote for a minor party is some (small) fraction of that value. In an SM system with proportionality restricted to 20% of the seats, the liions share of those seats goes to the two major parties as bonus seats and some tiny fraction of them would go to minor parties at a rate 5 votes being equal to one for a major party. Preferring an abomination like that over a couple of overhang seats is bizarre.

    Overhangs are easily addressed. The Germans expand the Parliament to maintain proportionality. Every vote remains equal to every other vote.

    SM gives bonus seats to National and Labour while converting votes for minor parties into Zimbabwean dollars.

  7. underground Says:

    The overhangs can be fixed by ditching the threshold. Yesterday 88,000 voters will go unrepresented in parliament because NZ First could not make five per cent and Winston couldn’t win Tauranga, yet Act has five in despite far fewer votes, and United Future and the Progressives got their leaders in even though they got fewer than 20,000 each. Shame on a society that disenfranchises the elderly!

    Also, without the threshold the Maori seats could arguably also be dropped. They got over two per cent yesterday, which would have given them probably three seats, which is a fair representation. I would expect they would get more party votes anyway if voters believed they wouldn’t be wasted, as would other small parties.

    Maybe, underground, but what about the downside? Poland. Wouldn’t it be better to do away with counting party votes in the event that a party gains an electorate, unless they meet the threshold? ACT would have one seat and NZ First none. Sounds great to me. Seriously, they don’t have this additional provision in Germany, and I think it’s time to rethink that point.

  8. macdoctor01 Says:

    TruthseekerNZ: Yes SM can be unfair. It would be important that at least half of the seats were proportional and that there is no threshold. For example, in a 100 seat parliament 50 seats would be proportional and 2% would get you a seat. NZ first would have 2 seats in an SM system and ACT would have 3 (one electorate and two proportional (assuming rounding up). The greens would also have 3.

    In a 150 seat parliament with 100 proportional seats you would have 4 NZ first, 5 Act and 6 Green. It is your mix of proportional to electorate seats that determines how much the system favours larger parties.

    Underground: If you have no threshold then there is virtually no point in going for an electorate seat, as the result is determined by the party vote only. This is why Supplementary Member, as I have described, is a much fairer system that retains the best of FPP and MMP.

  9. Ed Snack Says:

    JP, oh dear, sour grapes don’t taste, or look, that good mate. You guys hammer on at the inexperience of John Key because it makes you feel good. At least he doesn’t have the doctorate plus extra honours in bile, spite, arrogance, and lust for power that so marred Helen Clark and Michael Cullen this last 4 years.

    And Lies-seeker (a better description given your falsehoods), of course you know that’s not what National promised (I know, I know, secret agendas and you know better what they “really” meant). No, a referendum it was, something most people understood that we were promised back when MMP was first foisted upon us. What is about the left that they so doubt the sense and ability of the common herd (that they so readily disparage in private) to actually be capable of making up their own minds on such weighty matters as voting for governments ? You know, if the general populace actually WANTS FPP, why should they not have it ? Do they want it, in practice I doubt it, but why not have the conversation in public. Frankly, I trust New Zealanders as whole enough to let them work it out, why can’t you ?

  10. underground Says:

    It seems as though there is no perfect system, but there are some certainly better than others. SM reduces the value of votes for smaller parties. I don’t believe it is fair to give extra weight to electorate seats. Why should 20,000 who live in Okaihau or Wigram get an MP whereas 88,000 old folk get no one? As someone who lives in Helensville but does not support National, there is no point voting for a candidate. The same applies for a conservative living in Mt Roskill or Mt Albert. So why should my neighbours ballots be more worthy than my own? It comes down to where you live. People would have to move house to somewhere which typically votes similar to themselves in order to get a fair vote.

    Of course ditching the threshold would be messy, allowing several small parties into parliament, which could make coalitions unworkable. But votes would not be wasted. I’m no supporter of Peters, but it is not right that whilst more people support his party than others, they have seats and he doesn’t. Surely that should be rectified.

  11. macdoctor01 Says:

    Underground I don’t believe it is fair to give extra weight to electorate seats

    And yet electorate seats are the only way you can directly vote for a candidate. By abandoning the threshold without protecting the electorate seats (as in SM) you effectively discount their value, taking away the only direct vote that we have.

    You can, of course, hold separate, FPP style votes for each party list, like the Greens. But this involves only party members, thus essentially disenfranchising the majority of New Zealanders who are not members of a political party.

    As I have said above, SM does not lower the value of the small party vote significantly, if the number of proportional seats is about 2/3rds of parliament.

  12. An alternative to MMP | MacDoctor Moments Says:

    [...] John Key has promised a referendum on MPP at the same time as the 2011 election. He is currently in favour of the system known as Supplementary Member. There is currently an interesting discussion on the issue over at Jafapete’s.  [...]

  13. jafapete Says:

    Sour, Ed? Or simply less starry-eyed? When TNS rang the Sunday before the election I told them I thought that Key was “ready” to be PM, but would have preferred the opportunity to give a more nuanced answer, because the world is more complex than that.

    If you want sour, try Rush Limbaugh. He told his radio audience last Thursday, “The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen. Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression.”

  14. underground Says:

    Sure electorate candidates are the only ones directly accountable to voters, but how many voters know who they are, what they’ve done, or what they stand for? Rather, I would say the majority of people vote for their candidate depending on which party emblem is next to their name. Some MPs have a low profile in their community and are rarely seen, but still get elected. Who even knows what their representative has ever done for the electorate. It’s a question you’ll find many MPs struggle to answer.

    All MPs, whether electorate or list, are accountable to their party. If they under perform, the party risks losing public support, so will drop them. So they are also therefore accountable to the people, albeit not directly.

  15. jafapete Says:

    What underground says. It’s subjective, sure, but under FPP there seemed to be many more do-nothing nonentities in Parliament — nothing more than expensive lobby-fodder. The difference may be that the National Party in particular seems to have sharpened up its act.

    The problem was especially so in the safe seats. In Remuera, for example, Allan Highet (and I think Doug Graham) never held constituencies. When I once wanted to discuss an issue with my MP Highet, it took weeks just to get a “no”. Bob Chapman claimed that the most that an individual could add to the total by being a popular MP was 1.5% in consecutive elections, but I think that Peter Dunne outdid that in Karori by being egregiously sedulous.

  16. billbennettnz Says:

    “If anything, the electorate succumbed to Helen-fatigue, or was repulsed by the arrogance with which initiatives such as the anti-smacking and electoral finance bills were imposed rather than sold, and economic policy rolled out.”

    This is spot-on. Time and time again I hear exactly these words from former Labour voters. In my view it’s time to get rid of a leader, any leader, any party, once they start acting like they are born to rule.

    And that’s the problem. Clark, Cullen, Tizard amongst others were all starting to look and sound more like royalty than the representatives of ordinary people.

    I wonder how long it takes National’s caucus to start behaving the same way…

  17. jshi Says:

    I am pleased John won. 100% behind him.

    Yeah the witch is dead

  18. Anonymous Says:

    “Certainly Clark has benefitted from the devotion of a generation of women (and some of their daughters) who were socialised in the 1960s and 1970s.”

    Interesting revelation Pete. How were they “socialized”, and by whom??

    Socialisation simply refers to the “process whereby an individual acquires the modifications of behaviour and the values necessary for the stability of the social group of which he is or becomes a member.” (OED) In this case I’m referring to the inculcation of feminist values and ideas by educated women in particular at this time. And some men such as myself who associated with women who were feminists. In the seventies ‘consciousness raising groups’ were popular, there were books like The Women’s Room, feminist organizations, etc. It was a good thing of course — don’t get me wrong.

  19. Bill and Ben Says:

    Helen lost worse than McCain

    But the Greens did one hell of a lot better than Nader. What makes you think I voted for Labour and not the Greens? If you have anything to do with the Bill & Ben Party then you deserve to be congratulated for doing so well.

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