Home > The Body Politic > Election ’17 Countdown: The Strategy of Ohariu

Election ’17 Countdown: The Strategy of Ohariu

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(Or, “It’s only ‘hypocrisy’ when the Left do it!“)

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The Labour-Green New Deal

On 14 February, the Left finally woke up to the realities of MMP. A deal was brokered and the only possible, logical  outcome arrived at;

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rnz-green-party-will-not-stand-in-ohariu-election-2017

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The Radio NZ story is correct; Dunne retained the Ōhāriu electorate by only 710 votes.

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ohariu-2014-election-result

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Had Green voters given their electorate vote to the Labour candidate, Virginia  Andersen would have won Ōhāriu by 2,054 votes and National would  have lost one of their coalition partners.

With the subsequent loss of Northland to Winston Peters in March 2015, National would have lost their majority in Parliament and would have had to either rely on NZ First for Confidence and Supply – or call an early election.

A major victory for the Left (and all low-income people in our community) would have been the abandonment of National’s state house sell-of. (Current state housing stock has dropped from 69,000 rental properties in 2008 to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased) by  2016.)

National has sold off  7,400 properties. Meanwhile, as of December last year, there were 4,771 people on the state house waiting list;

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msd-housing-nz-waiting-list

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Had Dunne been ousted from Ōhāriu in 2014 our recent history would have been completely altered.  Anyone who believes that the Labour-Green accomodation was a “dirty” deal might ponder the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ whilst spending the night in a car or under a tarpaulin. Preferably in winter.

Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, rightly pointed out the obvious;

“I think New Zealanders will understand that, in an MMP environment, it makes perfect sense for us to not stand a candidate in Ōhāriu. Ōhāriu has a significant impact on the makeup of Parliament.

Not standing in Ōhāriu increases the chances that we will be in a position to change the government in September – it’s as simple as that.

I would actually argue that we’re being more transparent here by actually simply saying we’re not going to and it’s within the structure of the memorandum of understanding with the Labour Party that we signed last year, where we actually held a press conference saying that we were going to work together to change the government.”

Shaw has rejected any suggestion that this is a “dirty deal”. Again, he is correct. the Greens and Labour are simply working by the rules of MMP as National determined in 2012/13, when then-Dear Leader Key refused to eliminate the “coat-tailing” provision.

Shaw should have thrown the description of a “deal” right back at critics such as right-wing blogger and National Party apparatchik, David Farrar, and TV3’s faux-moralistic Patrick Gower. Shaw’s response should have been hard-hitting and ‘in-your-face’,

“Damn right it’s a deal. Those are the rules set by  National and we  play by them. If people don’t like it, take it up with the Tories.”

Some context

In 2012, National followed through on an earlier government committment to conduct a review into the MMP electoral process. The Commission called for submissions from the public, and over 4,600 submissions were duly made on the issue. (This blogger made a submission as well.)

As a result, the Commission made these findings;

The Commission presented its final report to the Minister of Justice on 29 October 2012 with the following recommendations:

  • The one electorate seat threshold  [aka “coat-tailing”] should be abolished (and if it is, the provision for overhang seats should also be abolished);

  • The party vote threshold should be lowered from 5% to 4% (with the Commission required by law to review how the 4% threshold is working);

  • Consideration be given to fixing the ratio of electorate seats to list seats at 60:40 to address concerns about declining proportionality and diversity of representation;

  • Political parties should continue to  have responsibility for selecting and ranking candidates on their party lists but they must make a statutory declaration that they have done so in accordance with their party rules;

  • MPs should continue to be allowed to be dual candidates and list MPs to stand in by-elections.

 

The first two recommendations were a direct threat to National’s dominance in Parliament, and then-Minister of Justice, Judith Collins rejected them outright;

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govt-rejects-recommendations-to-change-mmp-system-nz-herald-mmp-review

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Key offered a mealy-mouthed excuse for not accepting the Electoral Commission’s report;

“If you’re really, really going to have major change to MMP you’d want to have either consensus or to put it to the people.  It’s not a matter of blame – it’s just a range of views out there.”

Yet, submitters had been fairly clear in their views and failure to obtain “concensus” from the smaller parties in Parliament said more about their own self-interests than public-interest.

A NZ Herald editorial pointed out;

All of National’s present allies, Act, United Future and the Maori Party, take the same view of the single electorate entitlement and all but the Maori Party have benefited from it at some time. Self-interest may be their underlying motive…

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National seems not to want to disturb the status quo because it discounts its chances of finding stable coalition partners under the simplified system proposed.

So the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on the MMP Review; seeking submissions; listening to submitters; and providing the Report to Parliament was all an utter waste of money.

The “coat-tailing” provision would be set to remain because without it National would find it harder to find potential coalition allies, and therefore govern.

It also meant that all political parties now have to play by the same rules, or else be disadvantaged.

(Hypo)Crit(ic)s

— Gower

Patrick Gower (with Jenna Lynch sharing the byline) writing for  TV3 News was obviously having a bad coffee-day with this vitriolic comment, condemning the Labour-Green accomodation;

Labour and the Greens have just done the dirtiest electorate deal in New Zealand political history – and it is all about destroying Peter Dunne.

The tree-hugging Greens will not stand in Ōhāriu to help the gun-toting former cop Greg O’Connor win the seat for Labour.

This is dirtier than most electorate deals because for the first time in recent history a party is totally giving up on a seat and not running rather than standing but giving a ‘cup of tea’ signal for its voters to go for a minor party candidate.

The degree of hypocrisy to Gower’s comment is breath-taking.

Note that he suggests that it is preferable to “giving a ‘cup of tea’ signal for its voters to go for a minor party candidate” rather than withdrawing a candidate and openly declaring an accomodation.

In effect, a journalist has advocated for “open deception” rather than transparency. Think about that for a moment.

Gower antipathy to left-wing parties using current MMP rules is not new. Three years ago, Gower  made a scathing attack on Hone Harawira and Laila Harré over the alliance between the Internet Party and Mana Movement;

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patrick-gower-twitter-laila-harre-mana-internet-party-alliance

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By attacking parties on the Left who choose to work together (but not parties on the Right), Gower is either displaying crass ignorance over how MMP works – or undisguised political bias.

I will not be surprised if Gower eventually ends up as Press Secretary for a National minister.

Postscript: Re Gower’s comment that “for the first time in recent history a party is totally giving up on a seat and not running“.

This is yet more ignorance from a man who is supposedly TV3’s “political editor”. Political parties often do not yield a full slate of candidates in every electorate.

In the 2014 General election there were 71 electorates; 64 general and seven Māori electorates;

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party-and-candidate-lists-for-2014-election

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The Green party had only 57 candidates out of 71 electorates. Notice that even National did not offer candidates in every electorate.

Only Labour fielded a candidate in all 71 electorates.

So as usual, Gower’s political knowledge is disturbingly lacking. Or partisan. Take your pick.

— Farrar

Soon after the Greens announced their accomodation deal, National Party apparatchik, pollster, and right-wing blogger – David Farrar – was predictable in his criticism. Cheering for Patrick Gower, Farrar  wrote;

…Labour and Greens have spent years condemning deals where National stands but tells supporters they only want the party vote, and now they’ve done a deal where they don’t even stand. I don’t have a huge issue with them doing that – the issue is their blatant hypocrisy.

They’re so desperate to be in Government they’ll put up with that, but the irony is that if Winston does hold the balance of power and pick Labour, he’ll insist the Greens are shut out of Government.

Yet, in 2011 and 2014, Farrar had different thoughts on deal-making when it came to electoral accomodations;

This is sensible and not unusual. Off memory most elections there have been some seats where ACT doesn’t stand a candidate to avoid splitting the centre-right electorate vote. One of the nice things about MMP is that you can still contest the party vote, without needing to stand in an electorate.

And,

I think Epsom voters will vote tactically, as they did previously. But the choice is up to them. National may say we are only seeking the party vote in an electorate – but they still stand a candidate, giving voters the choice. Epsom voters are not controlled by National. If they don’t want to tactically vote, then they won’t. All National will be doing is saying we’re happy for people to vote for the ACT candidate, as having ACT in Parliament means you get a National-led Government.

So, according to Farrar, it’s ok  that “ ACT doesn’t stand a candidate to avoid splitting the centre-right electorate vote“. He describes it as “one of the nice things about MMP“.

So as long as a deal is presented dishonestly – “All National will be doing is saying we’re happy for people to vote for the ACT candidate, as having ACT in Parliament means you get a National-led Government” –  then that’s ok?

Both Labour/Greens and National/ACT have presented electoral accomodations – but in different ways.

One was transparent.

The other was doing it with a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”.

It is unreasonable and hypocritical to support one side to exploit current MMP provisions to their benefit – whilst expecting others to work to a different set of rules. Perhaps Mr Farrar should look at how National/ACT presents their accomodations to the public – or else do away with the coat-tailing provision altogether.

Ōhāriu Green Voters

Following the 2011 General Election, I noted that Green voters had failed to make full use of strategic voting under MMP;

Dunne’s election gave National an extra coalition partner  and his win  therefore assumes a greater relevance than a “mere” electorate MP.  In effect, 1,775 Green voters sent John Key a second Coalition partner, after John Banks.

And again, post-2014;

Some Green supporters are either woefully ignorant of MMP – or have been smoking to much of a certain herb. Or, gods forbid, they are so desperate to remain ideologically pure in their principles, that they are willing to allow a right wing candidate to be elected, rather than supporting a candidate from another party on the Left.

In  Ōhāriu (as well as other electorates) Peter Dunne was returned to office because Green Party supporters cast their electorate votes for Green candidate Tane Woodley, instead of the Labour candidate. Preliminary election results for Ohariu yield the following;

ANDERSEN, Virginia: (Labour)11,349*

DUNNE, Peter: (United Future) 12,279*

WOODLEY, Tane: (Greens) 2,266*

Had supporters of the Green Party given their electorate votes to Viriginia Andersen, Peter Dunne would have been defeated by 1,336* votes.

The Greens need to get it through to their supporter’s  heads that giving their electorate votes to their own candidates is a waste of effort and an indulgence we cannot afford.

When elections are close-fought and majorities slim, such indulgences cannot be tolerated, and the Greens need to educate their supporters quick-smart, if we are to win in 2017.

(*Note: figures above were preliminary and not final results.)

If there was an element of frustration and anger in my comments above, it was a ‘face-palm’ moment.  The  poorest families and individuals in New Zealand have paid the price by enduring two terms of National because Green voters chose to indulge themselves by casting both votes for the Green candidate, rather than strategic vote-splitting.

I can understand affluent, propertied Middle Class voting for self-interest.

I find it less palatable that Green voters cast their ballots for some bizarre feeling of political purity. That is selfishness in another form.

Beneficiaries being attacked by a souless government; people living in cars, garages,  rough, or crammed three families into one home; people suffering as social services are slashed, will find it hard to understand such selfishness.

In the United States, blue-collar workers voted for a populist demagogue. The workers who voted for Trump believed that the Left had abandoned them.

We dare not allow the same despair to flourish in our own country.

If politics is a contest of ideas; a battle of ideology; then strategy counts.

The Greens have woken up to this simple reality.

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References

Radio NZ: Green Party will not stand in Ōhāriu

Electoral Commission: Official Count Results – Ōhāriu

Radio NZ: Winston Peters takes Northland

Radio NZ: Thousands of state houses up for sale

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Fairfax media: Samoan family stuck in makeshift, mosquito-ridden tent – ‘through no fault of their own’

Ministry of Social Development: The housing register

Radio NZ: Labour-Greens deny deal over Ohariu seat

NZ Herald: Political Roundup – Embarrassing but strategic deal for the Greens

Electoral Commission: 2012 MMP Review

Electoral Commission: What people said on the MMP Review

Electoral Commission: The Results of the MMP Review

NZ Herald: Govt rejects recommendations to change MMP system

NZ Herald: Editorial – National too timid on MMP review

Electoral Commission: Financial Review

NZ Herald:  Govt rejects recommendations to change MMP system

Radio NZ:  Collins defends not trying for changes to MMP

Fairfax media:  Government’s MMP review response slammed

Scoop media:  Minister’s response to MMP review a travesty –  Lianne  Dalziel

NZ Herald:  Editorial – National too timid on MMP review

TV3 News: Patrick Gower – Labour-Greens do double dirty deal in Ōhāriu

Electoral Commission: Electoral Commission releases party and candidate lists for 2014 election

Kiwiblog: The double dirty deal in Ohariu

Kiwiblog: Marginal Seat deals

Kiwiblog: National’s potential electoral deals

Additional

Electoral Commission:   2017 General Election

Other Blogs

The Standard:  The coat-tail rule and democracy (2014)

Public Address:  Government votes not to improve MMP (2015)

The Standard:  Greens stand aside in Ōhāriu

Previous related blogposts

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Judith Collins issues decision on MMP Review!

Judith Collins – Minister of Talking Crap

Letter to the Editor: Mana, Internet Party, Judith Collins, and “coat-tailing”

Letter to the Editor – Dom Post editorial off into LaLaLand

John Banks: condition deteriorating

The secret of National’s success – revealed

Election 2014 – A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

2014 Election – Post-mortem Up-date

Post mortem #1: Green Voters in Electorates

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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 February 2017.

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