Prue Hyman’s Column

1a prue hymanThe NZ Election and its aftermath

By Prue Hyman 

So much for the dreams of myself and the majority of voters in our village of Paekakariki.

The 723 party votes cast in its two booths were (for the three largest parties) Greens 36.8%, Labour 25.7%, National 26.5% – what a different government we would have if New Zealand overall was like green Paekakariki!

Man would have delivered a centre-left government

Kris FaafoiEven in Mana generally, with some strong National areas, the results if reflected in NZ overall might, depending on negotiations with NZ First, have delivered a centre-left government – the final party vote percentages were National 40.4, Labour 36.8, Greens 12.7.

The most striking result for Mana though, similar to many other constituencies, was the contrast in Labour fortunes in the electorate and party votes.

The party vote proportions are only just worse for Labour and better for National than in 2011, and virtually the same for Greens, yet Kris Faafoi’s majority for Labour over unpopular Education Minister Hekia Parata increased from 2230 to 7953.

Serious mistakes cost Labour  the party vote

David CunliffeBut it’s the party vote that matters. Sadly for the centre left, many voters country wide separated their liking for their local Labour MP from their dislike for the party overall and its strategy, tactics, and disunity.

And this, together with Labour’s rejection of the Greens Party approach to work together as a government in waiting, was a factor costing the Greens from approaching their aim of a 15% party vote. National know how to do competition and mutual support simultaneously: Labour do not.

The Greens party vote did at least increase substantially as usual on the special votes, from 10.0% to 10.7%, maintaining their representation in Parliament at 14, while Labour’s share also rose, from 24.6% to 25.1%.

The National fall from 48.1% to a still very substantial 47.0% lost them one seat to the Greens. In reality there was very little change from 2011 on the final party vote proportions of National or the Greens, but Labour’s decline of over 3 percentage points in net terms towards the Conservatives and New Zealand First made the election feel like a landslide.

Other issues affecting the election outcome

To be fair to Labour, there were other factors in addition to its ineptitude contributing to the election result. There are many post-mortems already, more to come and little space here, so I’ll just refer to a couple of factors and the best article I have seen.

Election 2014And before that to the turnout issue where the so called missing million voters may well also cost the left more than the right. The final turnout of enrolled electors was 77.9% (up a little from 74.2% in 2011 but below 2008 and 2005 levels), while the enrolment rate was 92.6% (93.7%, 2011).

The 2,446,279 actual party votes includes 10,861 informal and 29,798 disallowed votes. Working backwards, I calculate that 3,061,676 were enrolled, of whom 615,397 did not vote — while 3,306,346 were eligible to enrol of which 244,670 failed to do so.

Hence in total (including informal/disallowed) 900,726 adults failed to cast a valid vote, close to the ‘missing million’, despite major efforts at publicity and persuasion.

There is therefore increasing pressure for electronic voting. Whether, as Hone Harawira suggests, there were systematic factors preventing people, particularly Maori, from voting, may or may not be clarified by his constituency recount – certainly turnout was below average on the Maori Roll at 65.07%, 

Martyn Bradbury highlights the bias of the mainstream media

Martyn BradburyMy favourite post-mortem article was from Martyn Bradbury at http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/09/24/can-labour-be-saved-why-whaleoil-national-won-and-why-we-need-a-new-media/.

He dismisses the claims that Cunliffe’s policies were too left-wing or out or touch with middle New Zealanders. To argue that affordable housing, increases in the minimum wage or extended maternity leave are left wing, he says, just shows that 30 years of neoliberalism has moved the centre appallingly far to the right.

Instead, in addition to the Dotcom Internet Mana debacles, he rightly blames particularly the biases of the whole of the mainstream media, calling for the left to find a new communication strategy to compete effectively with its right wing propaganda.

Key’s centrism a facade

KeyJohn Key is already in this term of government pretending to look more centrist than he really is. Talking about a concern for child poverty and affordable social housing while his policies actually make both issues much worse is hypocrisy of the highest order. And Bill English takes the biscuit.

Blaming local government for poverty and inequality through not releasing enough land for housing, while his government plans even further state housing selloffs, anti-worker union legislation, and ongoing brutal welfare changes is beyond belief. It is of course designed to shift the blame and push his changes to the Resource Management Act which are actually designed to minimise environmental concerns in business decisions rather than gain low income housing.

But there are substantial dangers from Labour’s disarray and the belief of many of its remaining leaders that they have to move right rather than left.

The Greens set good examples on environmental policy and gender equity

Russel NormanEven the Green Party is being urged by false-friend commentators like Duncan Garner and Gareth Morgan to concentrate on the environment and forget its social justice arm. That would lose many of us who care equally about both, and their relationship, even if it gained some blue-greens.

Russel Norman’s trenchant reply was excellent and included: ‘Greens and National are polar opposites on environmental policy – Greens for protecting the environment and National for degrading it. Greens are building a third force in global politics committed to justice, sustainability, peace, democracy and te Tiriti.’

And from Iona Pannett: ‘This kind of argument ignores the obvious linkages between the Greens environmental and social justice objectives. Good public transport and warm dry homes obviously benefit everyone but they benefit the marginalised the most.’

One other lamentable aspect of this election result is the negative impacts on gender equity. First the decrease in female representation in Parliament to 30%, with the Greens a shining exception at 50% female (as are Maori –but that is only one out of two).

National’s women cabinet members not impressive

Paula BennettAt least Labour have some new Pacific women members who could have a positive influence. While wanting more, I have no enthusiasm for the National women in government – Paula Bennett’s extended roles at number 5 in the rankings, Anne Tolley running Social Development and Amy Adams at Justice are scarey prospects.

Also on gender equity, I have seen no commentary or even publicity on the fact that Louise Upston, ranked 24th out of 25 Ministers, is the new ‘Minister for Women’ (previously Jo Goodhew was Minister for Women’s Affairs as were earlier politicians with that portfolio). Apart from the ranking, does this mean a threat to the Ministry? – not that it has been doing much under National but still it should be there.

John Key claimed with respect to changes to the title for this and for Maori Development that it was ‘modernising the language’. Louise Upston even voted against Marriage Equality for lesbians and gay men. There was a time when equality for lesbians was a part of MWA’s policy areas.

New Labour leadership: Grant Robertson?

Grant RobertsonFinally one point on the Labour leadership, on which I feel no desire to have a definite opinion. I am not sure how good a leader Grant Robertson would be (or Andrew Little).

But I will say firmly that being gay should not count against him, even if it is through fear of the possible biases of some South Auckland Pasifika labour voters.

Retiring Labour MP Darien Fenton rightly pointed out on Facebook that ‘Maori and Pasifika voters elected two strong gay Labour women in Manurewa and Ikaroa Rawhiti, Louisa Wall and Meka Whaitiri.  So stop with the brown people are anti-gay already.’

A positive note on which to end a rather miserable column!