Trying to get our head round what Saturday's results mean, we survey the outcomes for each party. You can add your own positives and negatives...

It's Monday after the election. So, at first glance, what's the good and bad news for each of the parties as the dust begins to settle?

 

The good news for National:

  • They're back in power after nine years. As it was described to me this morning, there are good times and bad times to enter the housing market, but it's always better to have a house than not have one. Same with being in government.
  • They got a a clean right-wing majority on the night, allowing them to hit the ground running.
  • Although they may be reluctant to admit it, Michael Cullen's stewardship has left them in better shape than most western nations.
  • The more diverse faces they bring to government this time.
  • The have the Maori Party where they want them. National can attempt to build its outreach to Maori if it so chooses. Or, more cynically, it can use them as a fig leaf when needed. But John Key isn't reliant on them, so if they're looking too radical for the National base, they can be dumped.

The bad news for National:

  • There could hardly be a less propitious time to take over the country. The decisions they are likely to have to make in the next year could make them very unpopular very quickly.
  • I wouldn't want to be National list MPs Cam Calder or Aaron Gilmore. The Nats are likely to lose one, maybe two, seats once special votes are counted. Going by recent elections, Labour and the Greens are best placed to increase their share of seats.

 

The good news for Labour:

  • The above – what's bad for National is good for Labour.
  • There will be some relief too that when the inevitable loss finally came – as it had to come this election or next – it was no decimation. They kept their core support of roughly 35 percent. They appear to have held onto their proportion of the Pacific vote (although Brent Edwards was interesting on Morning Report this morning, noting that voter turnout in the South Auckland seats was well down on 2005. Thousands of Labour's base chose not to vote.).
  • A dozen new MPs who will move the party beyond its 80s-era dynamic. I don't know many of them, but Grant Robertson has been good value since his days as NZUSA president and I've been impressed with Phil Twyford the time or two I've met him. The party has the chance to re-build removed from the pressures of governing.

The bad news for Labour:

  • They lost. Around a quarter of a million votes disappeared in three years.
  • They were abandoned by chunks of their base. At first blush, many Pacific voters stayed home and many white, working class voters switched to National.
  • The loss of Helen Clark. Whatever your view of her and her politics, she embodied the brand in recent years and was a huge asset to the party. Clark was a shrewd campaigner and astute political manager, and ehr skills will be sorely missed. (Maybe Labour MPs should start wearing rubber wristbands with WWHD written on them: What Would Helen Do?").
  • Phil Goff seems lined up to be Labour leader without competition. Experience matters, especially when you're moving into opposition, and I've nothing against Goff personally (except his predilection for building prisons). But it's damning commentary of Labour's succession planning.

 

The good news for the Greens:

  • The specials. The Greens have a habit of adding an MP after special votes are counted. That would welcome in Doug Graham's kid brother, Kennedy Graham.
  • National will re-craft the Emissions Trading Scheme. Most of the changes will make it worse to the Green's way of thinking, but it does open the slightest crack for them to add some Green-friendly details at the fringes.
  • The party has the chance to flex its muscles as a true opposition party, claiming ownership of some issues and gaining some traction from making some stands.

The bad news for the Greens:

  • Labour lost. Finally, they had Labour where they wanted them. Finally, Clark couldn't ignored them. Finally, they would have been in Cabinet. Except they lost.
  • Poll support once again didn't translate in to votes. Why is it people toy with them so?
  • National will re-craft the Emissions Trading Scheme. See above.

 

The good news for ACT:

  • Around two percent of right-wing voters gambled on National's momentum and in the last week of the campaign, with very little media scrutiny, moved their support further right. They will be hoping the governmenrt tracks the same course.
  • Five MPs. The party doubled its vote from 2005 and now has enough MPs to get some work done.
  • No New Zealand First. Rodney Hide now has a free-run as New Zealand's populist politician, now that Winston Peters (in many ways the politician Hide most resembles) has departed the scene. It also opens there are a few percent of elderly voters who, nervous of a changing world late in life, will be open to a party that can play the fear card. Peters had immigrants, Hide has crime.
  • Sir Roger Douglas. He knows how the place works, how to influence and cajole and win arguments.

The bad news for ACT:

  • It's not 2005. John Key is not Hide's god mate Don Brash and National's policies haven't been written in yellow ink. Sure, there are plenty of ACT sympathisers all around him, but Key has won a centrist mandate.
  • Sir Roger Douglas. He now claims the crown as New Zealand's most divisive MP. People either love him or hate him.

 

The good news for the Maori Party:

  • They won an extra seat. Their vote-splitting, love-us-in-the-Maori-electorates strategy still seems sound.
  • National still wants to talk to them. The potential exists to gain some real power, associate minister-ships and who knows what else from a Key-led government as National seeks to broaden its appeal.

The bad news for the Maori Party:

  • Three weeks ago polls and pundits alike were picking them to be the king-maker. The swing right robbed them of that power and leaves them with little heft in negotiations with a bunch of rich, pakeha men.
  • They won only one extra seat. They had hoped for all seven Maori seats, but a popular minister and a Mahuta proved too hard to topple.
  • National wants to talk to them. If the Maori Party MPs are tempted by the lure of power and National turns right or cuckolds them in some way, it could see their support turn to ashes.
  • Their share of the party vote actually fell by about 2000, from 48,000 in 2005 to 46,000 this year. They're not eating into Labour's popularity.

 

Good and bad news for United Future and the Progressives:

United Future and Jim Anderston's Progressives will take survival as a victory. Dunne will be able to brand himself as uniquely centrist, willing and able to sit around the Cabinet table with both Labour and National. Anderton has already promised to be a "guerilla fighter" against National, and while he's getting on, that's something Anderton's rather good at.

 

... Bad news for us all:

Voter turnout fell from 81 percent in 2005 to 78.7 percent on Saturday, despite around 95 percent of us being enrolled. That amounts to the second-lowest proportion recorded since 1987, and that was an election that was Labour never looked like losing.

It means that 634,262 enrolled New Zealanders failed to show up on polling day. That's comfortably more than all the minor parties put together. It's also worth nothing that the gap between National and Labour was around 245,000. If you ever need it reinforced, there's your evidence that every vote matters, and it's sad those voice weren't heard.

 

Alright, Pundit punters, let's have your analysis of where things stand. What are the good and bad points for each party that you see?

Comments (9)

by Graeme Edgeler on November 10, 2008
Graeme Edgeler

Voter turnout fell from 81 percent in 2005 to 78.7 percent on Saturday, despite around 95 percent of us being enrolled.

Perhaps "because"? Maybe if only 90% of us were enrolled turnout would have been 85.5%?

it's sad those voice weren't heard.

I'm pretty sure Labour heard those voices on Saturday.

by Tim Watkin on November 10, 2008
Tim Watkin

Fair point Graeme. If people choose not to vote as a protest, that's a statement of its own. But we can only suppose why those people didn't turn out. Boredom with a government, if it was that for some, seems to me a poor reason to avoid the polls. And if some simply didn't care or couldn't be bothered, then that is a sadness.

by Bernard Hickey on November 10, 2008
Bernard Hickey

Tim

Excellent roundup. I agree with Graeme that the low turnout may have been part of the 'mood for change' that led to the change of government.

I suspect there were some grumpy Labour voters who couldn't quite bring themselves to vote National (or Labour again).

I also agree that the blogs have covered the election campaign and its aftermath better than the MSM. Good stuff.

cheers

Bernard

by Craig Ranapia on November 10, 2008
Craig Ranapia

and it's sad those voice weren't heard.

Up to a point, Tim.  It's one of those known unknowns Don Rumsfeld used to be so fond of, but how many of those voices were actually saying 'a plague on all your houses'.  While I'm very much of the 'don't vote, don't whinge' school, I think it's also a valid and honourable call to say that voting for the lesser of two (or more) evils, or going into the ballot box feeling you don't have enough information to make a good call, isn't a choice at all.

The last thing I want to see is compulsory voting a la Australia.

And while it's not exactly "bad news", Labour (and to some extent the Greens) have a pretty delicate balancing act ahead.  I've seen some chatter that all Labour has to do is sit back, watch the economy turn into a giant pile of canine faeces, and they're in laughing in '11.  Don't know if that;s an approach people outside the hardcore left are going to look kindly on, or be inclined to reward at the ballot box.

by Craig Ranapia on November 10, 2008
Craig Ranapia

Poll support once again didn't translate in to votes. Why is it people toy with them so?

Strategic blowback?  This is totally unscientific, but I know people who would have party voted Green if (in the last week or two of the campaign) they weren't  convinced that the polls were seriously skew-whiff, and Labour were in with a chance but only if Labour's vote was maximised.   I think they just assumed the Green vote would be around 8-10 points without their help.

by Tim Watkin on November 10, 2008
Tim Watkin

But Craig, voting either Labour or Green was voting for different limbs of the same government. I hope you told those people that switching from Green to Labour was moving their vote around within the same government. Sure, vote Labour or vote Green, but this year it was going to make no difference to government share. That was exactly why the Greens declared their preference for Labour.

And compulsory voting is the last thing you'd want to see? Come on... Why so concerned?

by Craig Ranapia on November 10, 2008
Craig Ranapia

Tim:

If voting preferences were always rationally explicable, we'd be out of jobs wouldn't we? :)

And I'm concerned about compulsory voting because it strikes me as the wrong answer to a question.  If you're that concerned about declining turnout, then you need to ask yourself why people disengage from the political process in the first place, not use the threat of criminal sanction to force them to the ballot box.

 

 

by J Keenan on November 11, 2008
J Keenan

I think the Green party suffered from this election's economic imperative, it shifted the environment and associated issues to the peripheral.

I think principled opposition when the economic conditions are tough will be good for the Greens, when the world economy gears up again by 2011 (think increasing not decreasing oil prices as an election back drop) they will have many angles to attack the right's apathy on; scrapping retro-fitting, ETS, RMA, public transport and foreign policy (Kyoto).

They need to find a quality economic spokesperson for electoral credibilty (perhaps Kennedy Graham/Kevin Hague?) and Metiria Turei to replace Jeanette Fitzsimmons as co-leader in the lead up to 2011.

by Tim Watkin on November 12, 2008
Tim Watkin

Good points J, especially about the personnel. Getting that extra seat and the reasssuringly white, older, male, pakeha face of Kennedy Graham pushing the Green agenda could be vital to their 2011 hopes. I know, I know, it shoudn't need to be like that... but just as the major parties have needed to act to look diverse, the Greens need to look, well, less diverse.

I'm not sure about the economy pushing Green issues off the voters' agenda, though. Off the media agenda, sure. But voters knew about the financial crisis since September, and their vote almost doubled in the polls through October. Maybe the polls skewed things in some way, maybe at the last minute some moved for economic reasons, but I'm not at all convinced we understand what happened there yet.

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