Election 2017

While they're still getting used to being taken seriously and driven around in limos, we've already seen some fumbles and fair play by the new government

The early days of a new government are always a bit unreal. A new Prime Minister has a good advice stream from day one, with the support of a well organised department.

I prepared this for a US audience; hence its more American perspective. But it may also inform New Zealanders about their politics and about MMP politics.

Ben Mack’s ‘How the far right is poisoning New Zealand’ was such a distorted account of New Zealand politics that it was initially considered satire.

After a wee holiday, some thoughts on how the new government should play its hand... and reflections on some good decisions that laid the ground for the 'coalition of losers'

In case you've been wondering, yes, I've been away for a bit. Taking Winston Peters at his word, I felt comfortable planning a holiday in the US from October 13. Well, that'll learn me! I got to watch him announce New Zealand First's choice of coalition partner sitting up in bed in Los Angeles.

Coalition governments are a consequence of MMP. They may better reflect us and our democratic aspirations than the Winner-Takes-All ones of the past.

The public understanding of election outcomes remains dominated by a misunderstood account of the old electoral system which was not based on proportional representation. One commentator said confidently that the party with the most votes should form the government. That certainly did not happen in 1911, 1928, 1978 or 1981 when the party with most votes ended up in opposition.

New Zealand will not fall apart while we wait for a government to be negotiated. But that does not mean we have to just accept a lack of respect for transparency and shouldn't expect better

Well, I hate to say 'I told you so'. But, this. As frustration builds over the way our new government is being built - amidst casual abuse, secrecy and over-reach - we really only have ourselves to blame, for the way this administration is being born in darkness, at least.

It has been 21 years since the first Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) election. But we do not seem to be learning how to get the best from the system. We are treating it like First-Past-the-Post (FPP). It is time to relax and play to strengths of MMP. 

It is an unfortunate feature of the 2017 coalition negotiations that the country seems to be a mad rush to form a government. "Here we are", lament commentators, "days after the election and we still don't know who is going to run the country!!' (Actually, it is the job of the public service to "mind the store" in the absence of a government in all democratic countries). 

Amidst a pletohora of speculation around the government coalition talks, this weekend's final results made one thing very clear and Winston Peters knows it

It is a time of rune-reading, navel-scrutinizing and Winstonology. A time when little is said and those few words that escape are picked over with elaborate pontification and freighted with meaning they are too slender to bear. A time when we are often better to listen and wait than to guesstimate. And then, a speck appears.

New Zealand’s electoral system gives it a parliament which represents voters. Its winner-takes-all executive government, however, remains unrepresentative.* (This is a follow on from the earlier column on coalitions.)

This paper tries to evaluate various coalitions on the basis of their political ideologies. It uses the scores given to parties by the TVNZ website Vote-Compass, which identifies two dimensions: Right-Left and Social Conservative-Social Progressive.

This was written before the election outcome is known. It looks at the part of the executive which is not elected: the public servants and advisors.

Steven Joyce, National’s campaign manager, must have thought he had Labour out cold when he claimed that its spending plans announced during the election were enormous and unsustainable. He proved to be very wrong, as economists – of a variety of political persuasions – have said.

While we wait for the specials to be counted and negotiations to begin, we can review what happened in Election 2017. A determinedly glass half-empty view of the results shows the big two parties have plenty to fret about

Bah and humbug. It could be just that I'm a producer by profession, and as such have been trained to trouble-shoot constantly and prepare for the worst. It's an occupational hazard driven by the fear of missing guests, unprepared hosts and dead air. But when I look at this year's election results I tend to see the downside for each party. So I thought, hey, why not write a post about that?

Pundit can reveal an exclusive report from inside Winston's head... We see what he's actually thinking

... And now we cross live, to the internal monologue playing out in Winston Peter's brain...

On the one hand, go with the biggest party and the two-party coalition provide strong, stable government. It's simplest to negotiate and manage because you're dealing with two agendas, not three.

The vote this election was quite predictable, but the journey of the campaign was not and whichever new government we get, it will be very different from the John Key years

I've just reviewed my Pundit post from August 28. It then seemed obvious to me that neither National nor Labour would be able to command a single party majority and New Zealand First and Winston Peters would end up being the king- or queen-maker.

Many factors seemed to be pointing in that direction. 

This is a series of quantitative thoughts on the election outcome. It is based on the 2017 election night vote. Specials are likely to change precise voting shares and even seats. However potential changes do not invalidate the column’s overall conclusions.

Summary (which is less numerically challenging)

With so much analysis it can be easy to miss the wood for the trees at this point. While there's still nothing certain about our next government, we can look back to look forward and recognise the historic nature of this result

It's the nature of MMP that as we try to make sense of the public will expressed in last night's results, that we dive into the entrails. We ponder paths to power and what might be in Winston Peter's mind. But in doing so we risk missing the headline number: 46.

So who might be able to work with whom after this weekend's election? Well, it's complicated...

So it all comes down to this: It's close. While the the lack of polls this election means it's hard to pick trends, it looks clear that Labour's Adern-tastic August has hit a September slump. Momentum has stalled. It may have even swung behind National, but on the available data it's impossible to say. Thus, all we can say is that it's close.

What the Electoral Commission’s attempt to boost turnout gets wrong about voting, and what we can learn from it.

As is customary in the run-up to an election, there is some hand-wringing going on about what turnout is going to be like.

In election week, it all depends on what you see when you look around the country that will determine who gets to celebrate on Saturday night

I was walking out of a meeting with two fine people the other day, one a National Party supporter and one a Labour Party supporter. The centre-right man reckons his team has lost it, but he sighed, "the economy's going so well, we should do as little as possible. Just keep it the same".

The lack of transparency in this campaign is galling, but it's not just around tax and water. Under MMP we're voting for a coalition government and it's time politicians started acting like it

Tax, tax and more tax. Jacinda Ardern has been fending off questions about tax nearly every day since she became Labour leader. Depsite all the questions, her position is anything but transparent. But she's not alone. New Zealanders are heading into a knife-edge election blindfolded by almost all the parties.

As often as they say "let me be clear", politicians from both major parties this election are being anything but clear with voters. In a lolly scramble election, we deserve better

The campaign is getting down to the business end. Of all the previous general elections I recall, 2017 will go down as the biggest lolly scramble election. Every day brings a new multi-million dollar promise from one side or another.

So is Gareth Morgan going to go to court to force his way onto TVNZ's minor party debate? That story is a familiar one to me, but it also will be a defining moment for TOP

Well, this brings back memories. A colleague tonight tentatively asked, "now I don't want to trigger anything, but what happened with you and Colin Craig?". I assured her nothing but frustration was triggered, but it did take me back to 2014 and The Nation's day in court against the Conservative Party.

National and Labour leaders show just how close it is and how much is at stake, by upping the risk factor with new policy announcements live in the second leaders debate

Bill English has taken to calling this election a drag race between the two big parties, but that doesn't do justice to the twists and turns it's already taken. Today, those two main parties added significant risk to the campaign - they're taking those corners at high speed now, as we enter the final 18 days.

It was a wonkish, nervy, tepid debate, but the political earthquake had come earlier and it changes the way we look at Election 17

Timid, vague and exposed on tax, she still did enough. The morning after the first prime time TV leaders debate, Jacinda Ardern will be the happiest of the two party bosses, not because she won the debate in any signifcant sense, but simply because she didn't lose. And because of more important things that happened earlier in the evening.

The just published PREFU, Treasury’s assessment of the economy, raises more important questions about our fiscal stance than what the election is talking about. Have we the right borrowing strategy?

 

It was amusing how the Minister of Finance, Stephen Joyce, had to present the PREFU (Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update) as both an optimistic account of how well the economy was doing, and yet caution that it was not doing so well that the opposition parties could spend or cut taxes big.

Just under a month out from Election 17, the former deputy Prime Minister looks at the state of the parties and makes some picks

While it has been easy to see the headline goings-on in the lead-up to the election campaign proper - you can barely blink before something else happens - beneath the leadership froth more fundamental things are underway. 

One party leader wins the feel-good vibe from the first TV leaders debate, while another actually resets his party's campaign and lays down a new bottom line

The first TV leaders debate of the year on Three's The Nation this morning was full of zingers and a reminder of the diverse and vital political views our minor parties offer, at a time when their relevance has suddenly dwindled. It allowed Marama Fox to shine, but more importantly provided a reset platform for the Greens.

All politicians, even those who say otherwise, raise taxes and spend money. The question this election is - what do they spend the money on? Politicians need to tell us not just what they will do but also explain why it will make a difference.

It was an odd thing to say. During an interview with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking labelled her a "tax and spend" politician. It wasn't a compliment. But doesn't that label apply to all politicians? They raise tax and spend it. 

A stark difference has arisen between the two major parties in recent days - one doubling down on old ways and another bursting with new generation vibes. Peter Dunne's resignation reinforces the sense that generational change is coming. But when?

So is this it?

Jacinda Ardern and Labour have time on their side for a change. It may allow New Zealanders to think it's their 'turn', but only if they can avoid distractions like, oh, trans-Tasman squabbles

Timing is just so important in politics, as in so much of life. Plenty of able people don't have the luck – or planning – to be in the right place at the right time. But right now, timing may be Jacinda Ardern's greatest gift.

Policy is important, but the 2017 election is now about leadership. Change versus the status quo. Who has the X-factor? In six weeks we will know

James Carville, President Bill Clinton's campaign manager back in 1992, famously coined the phrase "it's the economy, stupid" to explain their election strategy. Fair enough, but not that profound. Almost all elections are about the economy. People vote with their hip pocket in mind.

The 2017 election campaign hasn't properly started, yet it has taken another twist as two Greens MPs chose their conscience over party strategy and broke ranks. But who's really been the most indulgent and how might voters react? 

Strategy vs integrity. The long game vs the short. Individual conscience vs the collective good. These are tensions at the heart of politics, tensions that create drama, and which can engulf a party, as they have the Greens right now.

What looked like a campaign set to be dominated by third parties now has suddenly been tilted back towards the big two. Jacinda Ardern's election to the Labour leadership makes many new things possible, but one key thing even more likely

Beware cries of a Labour miracle. While Jacinda Ardern is "a young proposition", she's not just been pulled from the bullrushes, and while the past 36 hours have seen a remarkable 'Jacinda Effect', she's not the saviour. But she has changed this election campaign utterly.

It's late in the day, but the Colmar Brunton poll finally put the question of Labour's leadership front and centre. Under MMP the answers are complex, but it recalls the twists and turns of 1990

In 1990, Mike Moore took on the Labour leadership from Geoffrey Palmer to "save the furniture", as polls suggested they faced a brutal loss that could see them lose a bunch of what were considered safe Labour seats. Tonight, the Labour Party is again agonising over such a decision and what might be rescued just seven weeks from election day.

It must be just about campaign time, because the dirty deals to game MMP are back in the news. But are they as dirty as they used to be? And do they still matter?

This time there's no cup of new and sod all intrigue. Bill English has simply and directly told National Party supporters to vote for someone else. Or rather, to give their electorate vote to United Future in Ohariu and ACT in Epsom. Even though he seemed to almost forget the name of Peter Dunne's party, the message was clear. More of the same, please.

Some have rallied behind her. Some want to 'lock her up'. But Metiria Turei's confession of potential welfare fraud raises more complex questions for her and her party

The response to Greens co-leader Metiria Turei's admission that she lied to Work & Income (WINZ) while she was a solo mum in the 1990s seems to have split, rather predictably, along ideological lines. Saint or sinner, criminal or victim. But it's just not that simple.

Winston Peters won't mind the Greens showing a bit of fight. Rather, Metiria Turei's attack on his "racist" politics is more likely to rattle the cage of another party and send a 'pragmatic' message to voters.. 

Well, you can't say the Greens haven't had plenty of time to mull it over. And it looks like they've decided they're not going to die wondering. Metiria Turei's crack at New Zealand First's "racist, divisise politics" looked like a calculated attack at a time the cameras would be on her, and it sent a message to more than just Winston Peters.

Alfred Ngaro appears to think the Government can stop its critics taking part in government programmes. That's not just wrong from a political morality standpoint, it's flat out illegal.

Given the speeches at the National Party's Auckland regional conference, New Zealand's housing situation/challenge/imbroglio/anything-but-a-crisis appea