Whilst I traditionally write about the political parties and their relative interest in freedom, that might read a bit like a cracked record. It's obvious Libertarianz is the party most committed to individual liberty, private property rights and economic liberty, setting aside that the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party would leave everything the way it is, except for legalising cannabis. If freedom matters to you, your vote will really only be a debate between whether you support Libertarianz or ACT (or ALCP if cannabis is all you care about), which is a matter of whether you support a pure vision of individual freedom or a diluted vision, which has a reasonable chance of getting MPs elected.
That decision is one for another post. For now, I want to quickly go through the parties that are standing lists, with a summary of my view on what they all mean, and their chances, in alphabetical order:
ACT - Most have forgotten that ACT stands for the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, and I suspect most forget ACT was spawned by defectors from the Labour Party. As much as the angry left might seek to ex.communicate them all, the simple fact is that Roger Douglas convinced more than David Lange and Richard Prebble of the wisdom of free market reforms. Stan Rodger, Koro Wetere and yes Phil Goff, along with David Caygill, Michael Bassett and Bill Jefferies all bought into it. Helen Clark willingly entered Cabinet and supported the reforms at the time. Since then, ACT has picked up political refugees from National and most recently has been remodelled after a coup against Rodney Hide.
The decidedly mostly libertarian Don Brash (his remarks on cannabis are notable) faces tension from the more conservative wing of the party in a final dash to make a real difference, given that the past three years have been disappointing (indeed was the greatest achievement voluntary membership of student unions?). A party vote for ACT is, first and foremost, a vote for Don Brash to help keep the Nats from going backwards (John Banks is not first on the list, but rather fourth), with Catherine Isaac deservedly in second place (notwithstanding the late Roger Kerr's passing), and Federated Farmers' ex.leader Don Nicolson in third. ACT is finally with a leader who is unafraid to talk publicly about personal freedom (and with considerable personal integrity). An honourable vote for the freedom lover, if you can hold your nose regarding John Banks and the odd policy about Fiji. My prediction is ACT will scrape through, with three seats, one being Banks.
Alliance - Oh how the mighty have long fallen, and the true believers keep the faith. Again, I am sure few remember the Alliance was a merger between Jim Anderton's New Labour Party, the Greens, the Democrats (followers of the wacky "Social Credit" faith) and the "original Maori party" Mana Motuhake. The so-called "Liberal Party" of the erstwhile Gilbert Myles also joined in. Of course it was the Jim Anderton party, and in 1993 Jim won his seat, along with Maori radical Sandra Lee, and the party gained its highest ever support that year - when those who voted Alliance knew it wouldn't mean the party getting into a position of power with 18.2% of the vote in a First Past the Post election. The Alliance dropped to 10.1% in 1996 under MMP with 13 seats (including such intellectual giants as Pam Corkery, Liz Gordon and Alamein Kopu), in 1999 it dropped to around 7.7% and 10 seats having lost the Greens in the first divorce - but gaining coalition with Labour. However, then the solidly socialist ideals proved too much. In 2002, there was a second divorce, with Jim Anderton setting up his own
personality cult party taking his seat with him, leaving the Alliance to the power crazed Laila Harre (that's another story) who failed to get the workers excited enough to do more than steal her billboards, with only 1.3% of the vote. 2005 and 2008 have been disasters.
The Alliance faces too much competition on the left, with the Greens and now the Mana Maori Party both likely to get elected, why vote Alliance if you're a socialist, unless you're neither a radical environmentalist nor a Maori ultra-nationalist? Still there is buckets of force and state violence in the manifesto, with much more tax, renationalisation of Telecom, airports and power companies, bans on any serious foreign investment, compulsory wage rises to match inflation and masses of new regulation and massive expansion of welfare. Hilarious to think people believe this. However, with the competition it faces, I predict the Alliance will have its worst ever showing and wont manage 1,000 votes this time. The party list and leadership says it all really.
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party - Michael Appleby perenially standing for legalising cannabis. No other policies. Yes, it is one I agree with, so yes if for you freedom just means legalising cannabis, then tick the leaf. Honourable mention to Richard Goode, number 9 on the list, former Libertarianz candidate and a principled man. However, the ALCP peaked in 1996 with 1.66% of the vote, since then the Greens have cannibalised the cannabis liberalisation vote, although there was a minor gain in 2008 given the departure of Nandor Tanczos. As sympathetic as I am to the single issue, I think having MPs who will spend three years on one issue as a waste, and I'm unconvinced that there is any point voting ALCP. I expect ALCP might pick up a few more votes this time, given Labour has little chance of being in government and the Greens are ignoring the cannabis vote, but the impact will be zero. Yet if ALCP members joined ACT or Libertarianz? (but then they would have to reject the welfare state)
Conservative Party - Effectively the successor to the Christian Heritage Party, Family Party and the Kiwi Party, without the disconcerting branding (and hypocritical leader). Besides the second party with a Kevin Campbell as candidate (the Alliance has one), and the unremarkable ex. United Future MP Larry Baldock on the list, it has not much of note. To be fair, I agree with some of what it says, some useful points on welfare and law and order, and there is a distinct lack of much to do with religion, abortion and sex. However, the war on drugs is on as far as this lot is concerned. On top of that, Colin Craig's intellectually lazy press release in response to independent candidate Stephen Berry says a lot - a new bunch of control freaks who want to criminalise alcohol consumption. There is nothing new here. The law and order emphasis already sits with ACT, along with being tough on welfare and repealing ETS. What's left is smacking kids and toughening the law on alcohol. Given the Kiwi Party gained 12,000 or so votes last time, this party may well get quite a few votes, but it wont come near getting a seat in Parliament. Frankly, unless telling people what to do with their lives is your thing, I can't really see the point of voting Conservative. I estimate it will pull in about 10,000 votes though as it reaches through churches and with a lot of money to spend on electioneering (and because there are easily that many frustrated busybodies around).
Democrats for Social Credit - Not to be confused with fascists for Social Credit of course. It is an oddity that New Zealand has sustained a movement based on the bizarre ravings of the vaguely anti-semitic Major Douglas (if you haven't heard of them, don't worry, he only got a following in parts of New Zealand and Canada). If you study the "A+B theorem" long enough you will go mad. So are the policies of this lot. It include some heavy handed xenophobia (foreign investors beware, except this lot have no chance), and yes it is funny money. You'd have to believe in conspiracies to think this all makes sense and that the only reason it doesn't happen is that there are forces out there stopping it. It's an embarrassment of New Zealand's political history that doesn't die and was only sustained because nobody else could be bothered sustaining a third party during the hey day of First Past the Post, other than these "true believers". Ironically, the global financial crisis will have given this lot some backbone, so expect another 1,000 votes or so to be thrown at this, truly one of the religious based parties. If you encounter one of this lot, try debating and see how far you get before he or she resorts to conspiracy based arguments.
Green Party - The most successful big government, pro-state violence party, which is getting a boost as leftwing statist voters abandon Labour and go for what they really want. The Greens benefit from a friendly cuddly brand that suggests panda bears, trees, clean air and oceans, whereas behind that is a rampant series of policies designed to tax and regulate, including state supervision of whether newspapers are acting "in the public interest". If that doesn't send a chill down the spine of any human rights advocate or believer in freedom, what does? The Greens have advocated nationalisation of children as promoted by neo-Stalinist Cindy Kiro ("cradle to grave monitoring of people"), includes the obnoxious prick Russel Norman, the woolly headed lunatic Catherine Delahunty and with Marxist Keith Locke and control freak Sue Kedgley retiring, adds new lovers of big government such as Eugenie Sage (environmental radical), Sue Bradford acolyte Jan Logie, anti-American Steffan Browning, unionist Denise Roche and spin advisor Holly Walker. Not a long list of achievers, but certainly a bunch to support the Marxist "we know best" policies the Greens promote. I suspect the Greens might pull off around 8% of the vote this time, a record amount, but will only do better if they aren't seriously confronted and Mana doesn't siphon off votes on the left (along with ALCP now the Greens are quiet on cannabis). It will largely depend on how much of a free ride they get from a docile sympathetic media. There is nothing honourable about voting Green, unless you get a thrill out of pushing other people around and feeling self-satisfied.
Labour Party - The government in waiting, which will still be waiting. A solidly centre left-wing party, believing in government providing solutions, led by a man who isn't too unsympathetic about ACT, but who has hoisted himself to a career that he probably suspects, has reached its nadir. Andrew Little, an annoying little leftwing unionist, is the highest placed non-MP on the list. Labour may claim to be more frugal, but is trying to sell capital gains tax, which will be one of its downfalls. Still, it has a chance of governing, if a coalition of perhaps the Greens, Maori Party, NZ First (!), Mana and Peter Dunne might be cobbled together. Labour is partly dependent on unionised civil servants and on welfare beneficiaries who want to keep the tap. It does have an honourable history of reform. Let's be honest, Labour makes more reform than National when in power. However, only in 1984-1990 did it largely do any good on that front, and the results were mixed. Labour has a large tribal vote, by that I mean hundreds of thousands who vote Labour because it's in the family and because they think the alternative means National - a party they instinctively think is "for the rich" and "against them". If only many of them started to realise that the only person they can rely on is not a politician, and certainly not a political party that says it will "do things for them", but themselves. Yet, I think Labour will be lucky to reach 30% this time round, although Helen Clark survived getting 28.2% in 1996, Phil Goff must know his role is almost certainly to be the fall guy.
Libertarianz - Still surviving, still declaring the unabashed belief in the freedom of the individual, private property rights and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and private property. I need not say more, as I've been a member for 13 or so years. Still the only choice for those who believe in much much smaller government, so government exists to protect people from the initiation of force, not being the chief perpetrator. Libertarianz face the challenge of ACT led by Don Brash, but the opportunity presented by National looking like a sure thing is for freedom lovers to see they can vote for what they really want. Indeed, ACT voters who can't stomach John Banks have a natural home in Libertarianz. Of course I'd like Libertarianz to get 12,000 votes, a 10 fold improvement on 2008 - it would only take a small fraction of past ACT voters to give the tick to freedom. However, I suspect the actual result will be closer to 1,200 than 12,000. And no, it is NOT a wasted vote to vote for what you believe in.
Mana - The new far-left party, making the Greens look centrist and the Maori Party look not so racist. This is Maori nationalist socialism, with massive state transfers from the successful to the not so successful, serious controls on tobacco and alcohol, and if you claim Maori ancestry, expect the state to smile upon you more than others. It has Annette Sykes, who once noted a risk of terrorism in the quest for Maori sovereignty, although she reassured Maurice Williamson she didn't support such action. The same woman who said she cheered when she saw the news about 9-11. Hone Harawira himself once said "Our fight for a better world will only be won . . . when the white man comes home", and who cheered Osama Bin Laden as a "freedom fighter". This is truly the vile party, the party that isn't just about state violence, but sympathises with those who have used terrorism and has candidates that no only have cheered mass murder, but also empathise with Islamist misogynistic totalitarians. He said ACT policies are like that of Hitler. This is the politics of the gutter. Hone Harawira will no doubt get elected though, but will there be enough votes to get a second candidate? I think probably not, and if the media did its job thoroughly enough, it would treat this party as what it is - the Zanu PF of New Zealand. Mana makes the Greens look honourable, which quite frankly in comparison, they are. A case for abolishing the Maori seats if ever there was one, but that would be painted as being like the Holocaust.
Maori Party - No party list seats going to be won here, but it wont win back Hone's seat and will probably lose another. National's other partner in government, that wont tolerate talk of colourblind government, but which only exists because of the Maori seats. Is a party for Maori a racist party? Well it is a nationalist party, and a party that is driven by what it sees as the interests of one race, one nationality, by definition. Not exactly a friend of freedom. Essentially a breakaway from Labour that is more focused on pragmatism than political tribalism, but as such will probably suffer from having supported National and the loss of its radical wing to Mana. 3 seats with less than 2% of the vote.
National - If you're happy and you know it, tick National. So if you don't like change and you thoroughly approve of the confiscation of private property and the grotesque mismanagement of Christchurch since the earthquake, then tick National. Frankly if you claim to be pro-business, pro-property rights and believe in small government and vote National you're a fucking hypocrite or a fool. I am convinced this debacle is mostly due to Ministers taking the advice of officials and letting council and central government bureaucrats do as they see fit. It's a disgrace and is destroying downtown Christchurch. Don't vote National if you believe in property rights, don't vote National if you are in any city and fear what government will do in an earthquake or volcanic eruption or any other major disaster. The proof is clear - government will run roughshod over those who fund it.
NZ First - The "Asians are coming" party (with an Asian candidate just to "prove you wrong"), which so disgraced itself in 1996-1998 with politicians who were people so inept they sought and enjoyed the baubles of office, and then again in 2005 when Winston didn't want baubles, then became Minister of Foreign Affairs. By natural attrition, NZ First will probably grab 3% of the vote this time as the slippery short arse Winston proclaims how "unfair" the media is. Tired populism without the real commitment or modern campaigning skill to really get there again.
United Future - Peter Dunne might scrape through again, having survived common sense, religious conservatism and supporting Labour and National in government, but it's going to be touch and go whether the party vote drops so far that he is an overhang MP. Nothing to see here because Dunne will go whatever way the wind blows, so voting United Future means you don't care whether Labour or National is leading a government, and you don't mind either so much you want to change them, which means you don't really have strong views on anything, except maybe Transmission Gully, drugs and the creation of the "award winning" Families Commission (oh and outdoor recreation, lots of policies on that).
So that's it, the full spectrum from authoritarian racists to freedom lovers, and all sorts of blends in between. Don't vote National, it doesn't deserve it. Don't vote Labour, you're better than that. Don't vote for lunatics (Social Credit), control freaks (most of the above) or those seeking to pander to the worst in you (Mana, NZ First). A party vote should express your political philosophy, what do you want government to do. If the status quo is National, you have a lot of choices for government to do more, and it would appear only three to do less.