Labour and Greens surge in post election poll


Three weeks into her first term as Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern can smile at the poll gods, who yesterday signalled that Labour and the Greens would be able to govern alone if elected today.

Perhaps the public are finding the sour grapes of National and A.C.T. too much to swallow, so they are relishing the more pleasant ones on offer from the Greens, New Zealand First and Labour. For the last few weeks, National has been relentlessly attacking Ms Ardern and her new Government – be it on taxation, Pike River or their first days in Parliament as the new Government.

This is realistic. Normally the public are happy to give a new Government a few months to settle in, during which time mistakes are simply considered part of the settling process. A new Oppositions’ initial attacks are usually not that effective as its M.P.’s will be still smarting at the election loss and – if it was a big one – they might well be looking for a new leader. During this time the new opposition parties can normally just bide their time, look at what they did wrong in the election.

And that is what makes this situation interesting. National only lost the election because New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had to make a choice – prop up a Government out of ideas and out of touch with the socio-economic needs of New Zealanders. The risk here is that would perhaps tear N.Z. First apart whilst ensuring National and A.C.T copped a right thrashing in 2020.

I can understand how National M.P.’s and their supporters might be bitter. They had the numbers to clearly form a coalition without A.C.T if Mr Peters had come on board. But this was a Government ignoring concerns that Labour and the Greens were able to capitalize on about housing, about mental health, about education and welfare among a host of others. Those concerns were being ratcheted up to deafening levels. The other point is that National should be well aware by now that there is an unwritten rule in Parliament that only a truly exceptional Government survives to have a fourth term.

The alternative was the one that Mr Peters choose: to support a new untested combination in Jacinda Ardern and Green Party leader James Shaw. Whilst untested and the Greens barely starting to recover from Metiria Turei’s gamble, Ms Ardern clearly had the charisma, the attentiveness to public opinion and a few ideas on addressing what the public sees as major issues.

The agenda is ambitious. And new expenditure plans are being announced at regular intervals. People on the centre right want to know where the money is going to come from, but seem to forget that under National and A.C.T. we borrowed tens of billions of dollars and nary a word got said by these critics then. The Government has announced details of its tax committee just like what was promised when Ms Ardern first mentioned it. Steven Joyce’s attacks on their expenditure are those of a man with sour grapes who does not want to admit he is wrong.

But the polling gods seem to approve of the plans laid out so far, or Labour and the Greens would not have achieved the support they did in the recent poll.

 

Government to end “Three Strikes” law


Today Minister of Justice, Andrew Little announced that the Three Strikes law, which was presented to Parliament by the National-A.C.T. Government in 2009, will be replaced.

A.C.T and National have savaged the Government. A.C.T. leader David Seymour claimed Little has created the “evilest clean slate law”. He further said that it was a green light for offenders to go on to commit further serious crime because the deterrence of a harsh sentence would no longer be there.

Mr Seymour is jumping the gun. The announcement was that the law would go and that the legislation to repeal it would be presented to Parliament late next year. It did not say that Mr Little has created new legislation, when it was acknowledged no thought had yet been given to a replacement law. Mr Seymour further ignores the fact that a disproportionately harsh sentence is as dangerous in dealing with an offender in terms of rehabilitation and understanding what s/he did, as a weak sentence that fails to recognize the gravity of the offence/s.

I support its removal as the “Three Strikes” law has led – just like it has in the United States, where the inspiration for the law came from originally – to some grossly disproportionate sentences, such as the case of a prisoner who committed indecent assault in prison on his third strike and had the book thrown at him.

If the Three Strikes system is removed though, I do wonder what will replace it.

What I believe is more urgent is for the legislation governing sentencing to be amended. It is all very well to hand down a sentence, but to have it the accused then only do a fraction of it is to undermine the whole point of that sentence in the first place. For example, if someone commits murder and the sentencing judge hands down 20 years, but the accused is out in 10 years, where is the justice in that. The family and friends of the dead person will be understandably aggrieved by what has happened as they will never see their loved one/friend again. To then be told that the offender will be out after only serving half of the sentence will be seen as a miscarriage of justice.

This announcement is a positive one. However much wider reform is needed. Better allowance for the rights of victims needs to be made; sexual abuse victims need to have greater confidence in the justice system and the police – whilst the latter has made good progress in the last decade, there is still work to be done.

New and unfamiliar homes for National and Labour


When Parliament sits for the first time, there will no doubt be a new round of maiden speeches, as new Members of Parliament are asked to tell New Zealand and the world about their journey to Parliament. There will be the swearing in of the Members and the new Government. All of which may seem a bit disconcerting for people who were in some cases people holding down regular Monday to Friday jobs just a few weeks ago.

Spare a thought for the new Opposition and the new Government, suddenly sitting in seats in the House that – depending on which one part one refers to – were either dreading, or long for. Without a doubt there will be humorous moments where someone forgets their allocated seat and sits somewhere else, only to have to move.

For a time there is no doubt it will seem strange to National Members of Parliament to find themselves sitting on the Opposition benches, which just seven weeks ago they had every reason to believe they would avoid sitting on for another three years.

The enthusiasm for replacing Leader of the Opposition-designate Bill English seems minimal at this time. National, having had the advantage of watching Labour churn through Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little before settling on Jacinda Ardern, will have understandably little appetite for its own inquisition. Perhaps that might come later, should the polling suddenly drop out from under the new Government.

Instead, National will no doubt focus on using its formidable resources and 56 M.P.’s to mount a devastating counter attack. The three years in Opposition will be long and they will no doubt cause a few Members of Parliament to reassess their priorities, but many – having witnessed what they thought was a growing arrogance – will be pleased to see Members of Parliament such as Jonathan Coleman, Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett among others being forced to eat humble pie.

Its traditional support partner, the one man band of David Seymour, called A.C.T. will find plenty to be frustrated with. Impotent as a one person band, wondering why National did not follow more of its suggestions and wondering how to grow, there will be plenty on its plate. On top of all this, A.C.T. has Mr Seymour’s euthanasia bill before the House. Given it is one of the few things A.C.T. sees eye to eye with left leaning M.P.’s on, this could be its one chance to do something useful.

Likewise for Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens, those first few weeks on the benches normally reserved for the governing party or in this case parties, will seem equally unfamiliar. For the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand it will be a completely unfamiliar – albeit very welcome – feeling.

Going from a party that was dead in the water and sinking at the end of July to holding office with the Greens and New Zealand First – I am sure in all three parties there will be M.P.’s pinching themselves, wondering how they managed to pull this off. Given that most of these M.P.’s have never been Ministers before, including the Prime Minister-designate, it will be a period of steep learning as they come to grips with their Ministerial portfolio’s and responsibilities.

For the Greens this will be the start of a whole new chapter, there will be only a few instances around the world of a Green Party holding ministerial portfolio’s. Having waited nearly 20 years to hold the ones that they will be handed, the incentive to be careful will be strong.

For New Zealand First, this is just the second time they have been the King (or in this case, the Queen)maker. The memories of 1996, where New Zealand was made to wait for 9 weeks was not lost on them, and this time despite having a much more fractured Parliament, it was able to reach a decision after just 26 days. Like the Greens, the incentive to be careful will be strong as it is unlikely Mr Peters will get another chance to be in such a role.

M.M.P. not to blame for decimation of minor parties


Once again we are seeing the detractors of Mixed Member Proportional voting trying to suggest that the system is flawed and that New Zealanders want a new one.

The election on 23 September 2017 resulted in the decimation of the minor parties. Of that there can be no question – it was a dreadful night for them.

For some of the parties, their demise was was natural – Greg O’Connor, who used to be a top policeman in New Zealand stood for Labour in Ohariu electorate. This is the same electorate where United Future self destructed with the resignation of long serving M.P. Peter Dunne, whose departure left no one with any street credibility left in the party..

Likewise Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party fatally shot itself when Mr Morgan described Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern as lipstick on a pig. Perhaps not being a cat lover with a declared vendetta against them, also cost him many votes as cats make wonderful pets for those living alone or who are elderly – and at the same time, as my family discovered with our three cats, excellent bird killers as well. Mr Morgan’s party had been seen by some as the next big opportunity to create more of a peoples movement and Mr Morgan – like Colin Craig with his Conservative Party – threw huge sums of his own money at the election

A.C.T failed to get to 30,000 votes whereupon with its leader David Seymour retaining his Epsom electorate seat, it would have been able to bring Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke into Parliament. Many will say the A.C.T. brand ¬†was probably destroyed by its M.P.’s conduct in the first term of the Government of Prime Minister John. Certainly since then it has consistently polled at no more than 1-2% in the polls.

The Maori Party was the victim of a resurgent Labour vote in the Maori electorates, where former weatherman Tamati Coffey defeated co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell as all seven electorates swung back towards the Jacinda Ardern inspired Labour. Some will say their decision to go with National for three consecutive terms probably undid their chances of making up with the centre-left. Three consecutive terms with no notable progress on the hefty issues of school truancy, getting people on benefits into jobs or training, to say nothing of Maori being disproportionately rated in crime statistics has created many a disgruntled voter.

But there was nothing wrong with this. It was simply the Mixed Member Proportional system at work. People wanted more Labour seats in Parliament. The Greens had botched their campaign with Metiria Turei’s acknowledgement that she misled Work and Income New Zealand. New Zealand First didn’t run as convincing a campaign as they could have and it was time to make United Future and the Maori Party pay for their support of National. Those extra Labour seats had to come from somewhere.

N.Z. 2017 election in home straight: the final five days


So here we are. The final five days of campaigning are about to begin. The last rounds of flyers will be doing into letter boxes. The last radio chats will be held. The last public addresses will be before Friday. On Friday the election hoardings will be dismantled. The websites will be prepped for being taken offline by 0000 hours on Saturday. Final plans will be getting laid down for the election night celebrations/commisserations.

For A.C.T. the priorities will be rounding up enough voters to give David Seymour an A.C.T. Member of Parliament (Beth Houlbrooke)to share the workload with. Their messages will be familiar ones – simplifying and lowering the individual taxes; removing what they view as unnecessary red tape such as the Resource Management Act.

At this stage A.C.T. look like they might pick up a second M.P., which for them would be a major achievement.

For National, the priorities will be pushing the same messages about stable government; Jacinda does not know what she is doing and long term commitments. It will be trying to shore up votes on housing, economy, jobs and education. Mr English’s wife Mary, who works in the medical profession will be a useful asset winning over female voters.

At this stage I think National is trailing Labour. It will probably get 46 seats probably not be able to form a Government even with A.C.T. and New Zealand First on board.

For Labour, containing the ongoing attacks over their taxation policy, which is on their website will be the major focus. Labour will be continuing to focus on Ms Ardern’s positive message “Lets do this”, and continuing to keep up the pressure on housing, social welfare, health and jobs.

I think Labour is leading and will probably get 49 seats. It will need New Zealand First and possibly the Greens to get enough seats.

The Greens are still dealing with the fall out from Metiria Turei’s admission about her lying to Work and Income New Zealand regarding a benefit she was on. Their leader James Shaw has much work to do and is handicapped by the fact that normally Mrs Turei would pick up a substantial workload. Their messages will be about transport, clean water, housing and health. How much the public is willing to forgive them will become clear on 23 September 2017.

I expect the Greens will get 9 seats in Parliament. Unfortunately some talented M.P.’s are likely to pay a price for Mrs Turei not being honest and paying up at the same time, which would have limited the damage.

The Maori Party M.P.’s Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell have been fairly quiet in the campaign. That might be a result of having only two M.P.’s to work with rather than any slackness on their part. Their priorities will probably pushing on with the Treaty of Waitangi settlements and – I hope – some progress on addressing the dismally high participation of Maori in youth crime, unemployment and truancy.

I expect that the Maori Party will get 3 M.P.’s. In other words Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell will be returned to Parliament, but with a new face.

Last but not least, New Zealand First occupy a role they are familiar with, and I suspect they will gain more familiarity with in the next couple of weeks. Labour’s surge in the polls as a result of the Jacindanami, means it is now a serious alternative provided the remaining week in the election campaign goes okay. New Zealand First‘s familiar messages about house ownership, immigration and jobs are coming out once again, albeit probably more strongly than in the past, spurred on by a dissatisfied public wanting change.

Winston Peters is a wily old fox and has been around the halls of power for long enough now to know how M.M.P. works. He knows, provided his party does not make any election killing gaffes, it is set to be king maker again. The question is how big will the king maker be? My guess is 12 M.P.’s.