28 November 2011

New Zealand election 2011 - Verdict 2 - how I'd advise the parties

My pre-election review of the parties set out what I thought of them and where they are placed, now I have reviewed them one by one according to what I'd advised them strictly politically, rather than philosophically.  After all, I'd be telling all but one of them to pack it in if I was being true to myself.   So I'll give them a score for result.

ACT:  Game virtually over.  Epic fail.  Loss of three quarters of your vote, which would have looked worse had turnout been better. You couldn't even get Don Brash to outpoll the Green candidate in North Shore, not that you tried.  Some will blame Don Brash for this, even Lindsay Perigo, others will blame John Banks and all those who resisted that strategy.   You know what I think, but bickering wont be helpful, digging deep into why a party that once got 7% now has 1% of the vote will be critical.  The campaign was abysmal, you couldn't control the fallout from the "cup of tea" meeting which the left were feral on (yes it has become more occupied by conspiracy theory baiting hate mongerers) and John Banks stopped you being liberal.  You now have two issues.  The first one is what John Banks extracts for his support of National.  Even Peter Dunne extracted maintaining his Families Commission and building Transmission Gully, what will ACT get?  If John Banks is just going to be another National MP then you have to wonder why you bothered?  There needs to be a new strategy, one that is consistently about less government, lower taxes, private property rights, choice in public services and rejecting Nanny State solutions to every problem.  John Banks is not the man to lead this.   I'll write more about my ideas later, but for now you need to be open, honest and discover what went wrong, and be aware how you can't rebuild based on John Banks, unless he can, chameleon like, be quite different from his past.  Time for some honest self-reflection to determine a new strategy for the libertarian/free market right.  Score 1/10 Future prospects bleak

Alliance:  For a brand that once commanded nearly 20% of the vote, you must now consider packing it in. From 1909 votes in 2008 to 1069 this time, the future is not bright. Unless you want to be a Dunedin based Marxist ginger group, you know your policies and philosophy are represented much more clearly and successfully in the Greens and Mana Party.  Hard left supporters know they can vote for either of those and make a difference.  I know far leftwing organisations struggle to acknowledge they are little more than a social club for people wishing people thought like them, if that's ok to you, then fine.   However, with the exception of Wigram and Dunedin (the former because some probably still think Jim Anderton leads you, the latter being family and friends), you have virtually no support and its been in free fall decline since 1993 without exception.  Consider this, what are you an Alliance of?  The Greens are gone, Mana Motuhake has been usurped by the Maori and Mana parties, the Social Creditors are gone, the Liberals were never really there and Labour is closer now to New Labour than at any time since New Labour was formed.  Yet its quaint that you bother, so keep the red flag flying, especially if you think the Greens going centrist mean they are revisionist capitalist roaders.  Although I am convinced your lives could be better spent in other ways.  Score 1/10 Future prospects irrelevance

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party:  Once a party that gained well over 1% of the vote, it was a place people who wouldn't usually vote could cast a vote for something they cared about.   However, you seem to have reached your base, which remarkably is 9516 votes, one vote more than 2008 (although you will get a few on specials).   Yet whilst you have once hoped to get 5% you have to realise by now that most people don't vote on one issue.  I wondered if the departure of Nandor Tanczos from the Greens would have driven more your way, but it appears to have had little effect.  I expect many of those who support your issue vote Green, but there are more than a few who are on the liberal right, voting National, ACT and Libertarianz. You are more likely to be effective as a lobby group, with NORML, but that has been less than stunning in its success.  Unless you can highlight how grossly unfair the law is and get media attention for that, you're unlikely to provoke enough outrage to get enough votes on this issue.  So I think you need another strategy.  I think you need to seek the views of candidates of all parties on this issue and promote people supporting candidates (and parties) that share your view.  All Libertarianz and a few ACT candidates agree with you, but you need to shift the image of this issue from being bucolic stoners wanting to light up, to being about failed policies, reducing demands on the taxpayer and shifting police effort from cannabis to real crime.  There is no majority who will support endorsing cannabis, but you may be able to get support for those who say the status quo has failed, that it hands the product to the criminal gangs and has failed to reduce usage.   Many of you are not libertarians, have no time for free market liberals, but we actually are your greatest allies - for whilst you can convince Green party supporters, only people on the right can convince conservatives or sceptics that there is a better way to deal with drugs issues than throwing users in prison.  Reach out to those you might otherwise disagree with, and you may get more results. Score 4/10 Future prospects treading water

Conservative Party:  This has been a great start for those on the conservative right.  Colin Craig's effort has been well rewarded with a platform to build upon for next time.  The history of conservative minor parties has been poor, with the failure of the Christian Coalition to cross the threshold (I am sure many of its supporters, in retrospect, will say thankfully given the entity who led it), United Future's dabble with it, the Kiwi Party and the Family Party.  Your biggest competition is NZ First, but you do have several prospects for growth.   Peter Dunne took the Outdoor Recreation Party under his wing, which could do well to take back, since United Future's vote is ever shrinking.  NZ First is an obvious target, since it represents 21st century Muldoonism, but you have a fresher look, less personality cult and should, naturally, be able to fight on immigration, crime and one law for all.  Your hardest battle is a media keen to paint you as Graham Capill Mk. II or Brian Tamaki Mk. II.  The less you say about religion the better, the more you say about values, principles and policies, and have people who have good CVs standing for you, the better as well.  Bear in mind the media is looking for bigotry about homosexuality and hypocrisy about sex and money, if only because Capill's hypocrisy was breathtaking, and Brian Tamaki's predation of the poor and ignorant is repulsive.  Your medium term goal must to be National's next coalition partner, but you must also seek to court Pasifika and Maori votes.  Many of them are naturally conservative, and NZ First supporters.   To get further, you need to work hard,  everywhere, and find more platforms for your views and call out National whenever you can where it matters, and call out NZ First and Winston Peters.  By the way, you also need to ask that opinion polls include you too. You haven't come close to reaching your ceiling yet, but be aware of the mistakes of those before you, New Zealand is not as socially conservative as you may hope and indeed it is that matter that is perhaps the biggest impediment to the Republican Party winning office in the US.  Score 7/10 Future prospects promising

Democrats for Social Credit:  No doubt some of you think there has been a media conspiracy organised by banks, sharemarkets, multinational corporations and the like in cahoots with John Key to deny the truth of Major Douglas's amazing discovery, and if only the public knew what you knew, they'd never look back. You're probably hoping that there is global financial meltdown and the fiat fractional reserve currencies you despise go with it. While the Alliance may be a social club, I don't doubt you are.  Any of you, any at all, need to get out and have some open, listening focused conversations with economists on your own (not with other believers who will tell you that they don't understand or they do and they wont admit it because they are part of the conspiracy) and find out why not even the Occupy movement, Anti-Capitalist movements or others embrace Social Credit.  Don't be embarrassed when you find out, just move on. Yet I know many of you will be celebrating how you got over 200 more votes this time, no doubt fuelled by campaigning in a few spots, but no.   There is no future in this movement.   If you want to focus on monetary policy then look elsewhere, read Detlev Schlichter's book "Paper Money Collapse".  His answer is not social credit, but commodity backed money.  Throw away Major Douglas's work, start again, but if you want to build a political party on it then think hard.  Score 4/10  Future prospects fading away

Green Party: Around 54,000 more votes and 4 (maybe 5) new MPs, you'll be pretty stoked with that result.  However, bear in mind that it is in part due to Labour's lack of inspiration and the value of your brand that you did well.  Think yourself lucky too that you're not in government where you can easily get tainted by having to prove your policies in action and sell out others in coalition.  Still you can't be unhappy with a focus on simple messages and being positive.  You are going to have National talk to you, because it wants to lure you to the centre.  This is where you have to choose.  Do you aim to be a bigger centrist party that straddles the two major ones, or do you want to remain with your hard left roots?  Hard left roots will mean you scorn the Nats, have agreements to discuss on legislation case by case and that is it.  Centrist means you form an agreement on one or more policy areas to work on.  Big wins for you could be energy or transport, the Nats will be more likely to offer you conservation or to help on poverty issues, if you can give up asking for more welfare money.   Being seen to please your supporters with National will be valuable, but you can't offer confidence and supply to the Nats without risking Labour saying a vote for Green is a vote for National.  If you can keep your identity clear and find an area to work with the Nats, then you can play being centrist on that policy area while remaining left elsewhere.  Bear in mind your biggest electoral competition is Labour.  Score 9/10  Future prospects growing influence with National, Labour's inevitable future partner

Labour Party:  Quarter of a million voters abandoned you this time, less than half of them went to the Greens and NZ First, the majority stayed home.  The focus on asset sales wasn't inspirational enough to anyone but the faithful, the simple point is you don't yet look like a government in waiting.  You have lost the party vote in most electorates and have little presence in Auckland or the provinces, and your rump in Wellington and Dunedin is not enough.  Capital Gains Tax was a loser as was your policy detail overall.  Not enough clear simple messages on things people care about.  The Greens got an easy ride from the media, but also exploited their brand and were optimistic and issue focused.   You needed to argue party vote Labour was the only way to change the government, and chip away at a few of the Green policies that would scare the mainstream, like attitudes to the Treaty of Waitangi and the hectoring desire to tell people what to do.   However, you're probably confused moreso about NZ First.  Wakeup.  New Zealand is not seen by unionists and academics, but lots of hard working ordinary people who eschew the politically correct measured language used by you.  Winston plays them easily and you need to bring them home, by having them not feel alienated by you.   Have a leadership battle, make it a time for self-reflection and be careful to pick people who your provincial hard working core might relate to.  Meanwhile, bear in mind the next three years could be very hard for any government, be grateful it isn't you and be ready to be there if it gets so bad, you're a shoo in by default.   You also need to work on Maori voters.  You might be winning the party vote, but you need to combat the Mana Party's radicalism and the Maori Party supporting National in consecutive elections.  Score 2/10  Future prospects the only way is up, but it depends on the new leader and the economy for now

Libertarianz:  Nearly 300 more votes than last time is proportionately not a bad result, but Libertarianz still faces a series of very difficult barriers.  The wasted vote syndrome (especially with ACT's presence offering a watered down alternative), almost complete absence of media exposure and the inherent fear of radicalism by so many.   A party with good people that was once beset with infighting and being its own worst enemy by its lack of willingness to be more measured in its use of language and more focused and optimistic.  This campaign was actually quite good for what it was worth and the demons of the past are largely behind it, but with 1400 party votes it is still the "members plus family, friends and a handful" club.  Noticeably, in electorates the candidates typically do far far better than the party vote.   I will write about this later, but I believe Libertarianz and the liberal wing of ACT need to sit down and talk, and determine how to move forward.  There is a bigger constituency for having less government and to pull the Nats towards their principles.  However, those who think that way have been unwilling to throw away their votes on a party that rarely appears in the polls, and have gone elsewhere with their votes.  Spend a weekend talking about objectives and options, and look to rebuild, merge, create something new or dissolve.  The Conservative Party shows how a clear philosophy, consistent team (and some money) can achieve results.  We can do so as well. However, it is not a time to gloat, point score or be closed minded or to reject those who are less ambitious.  Think Gramsci.   The left didn't succeed by insisting on a communist party as the source of all its efforts. Score 5/10  Future prospects if it can bring on board some of ACT, be open minded and inclusive, a chance for a step change rather than a step forward.

Mana:  Given you'll see me as part of the Pakeha colonial conspiracy of capitalists, you will think I'm out to get you with this.  However, you've done ok to get 1%, but you must have hoped you'd pick up Annette Sykes's seat and some more votes. You've bruised the Maori Party and created solidly leftwing credentials beyond the Maori vote.  You can point at the Maori Party doing deals with National and be comfortable on your patch, and you can blame Labour for not embracing the poor as much as you want.  Obviously you have a core now and you can build on it, but it need to be more than Hone and needs to woo Maori Party members and supporters more and more.  You know you'll only have real effects when Labour needs you to govern, but you know Labour has some sympathisers within.  At a time of global economic crisis you can always play the anti-capitalist card louder than any others and grab the hard-left vote consistently, bearing in mind if the Greens move further to the centre, you'll pick up some of them too.  Your cleverest move is to look wider than a Maori party, but to avoid some of the more outrageous comments of some of your leading candidates being held against you, and to avoid being seen as a one man band.  Score 6/10 Future prospects Disturbingly bright if it can nurture the Maori nationalist ideology that has been getting pushed through some educational institutions.  Labour's possible coalition partner that might push the Maori Party into oblivion.

Maori Party:  Lost more than half of your vote, two thirds seem to have gone to Mana, the rest to Labour or didn't turn out.  Hone has taken your radical wing, which is a positive for you in terms of future relations with the major parties, but you need to keep focusing on policy and seeking to be different.  Supporting National again is pragmatic and may get you some wins, but they must be sold to your voters many of whom wont want the idea that it is you keeping National in power.  National didn't need you last time, but this time is almost certainly will.  Unlike most minor parties, you can be presented as being focused on serving the interests of your voters rather than a philosophy.  Bear in mind you need to convince voters you'll support Labour if it will deliver for Maori, or National if it will.  Take on Hone when he preaches separatism and expresses outrageous and divisive views, and always be optimistic and forward looking.   Yet remember your core is the Maori seats and you need to have candidates who will inspire against strong challenges from Labour and Mana.   You need Tu Tangata candidates in their own right that can position you against being part of the larger Labour party and against the divisive Mana Party.  Score 3/10 Future prospects Hard work not being seen as National's patsy, and also fighting radical attacks from Mana.

National:  You'll all be gloating, but don't be too smug.  You have 50,000 less votes than before and was only really saved by mass defection of ACT voters to National.  You now need not only ACT and United Future but also the Maori Party.  Imagine if you needed NZ First.   Now you need to focus on message and communicating to more ordinary people.   Labour is in disarray for now, but will be back. You lost 1-2 seats to the Conservative Party, so you might think about how to appeal to some of the issues of that party.  However, in an MMP world you need coalition partners, you may prefer to leave some room for them to flourish.   Prove the part-privatisation is no big deal.  Do a deal with the Greens on conservation and energy efficiency, but be ready to attack the Greens when they are so obviously hysterical or quite separatist on Maori matters.  It's up to you, if you don't attack the Greens, nobody will.  The left attacked you through attacking ACT.  You doing the same hurts Labour, don't expect you can woo the Greens to the centre, because you wont - it is fundamentally a leftwing party, not an environmentalist party.  Winston will make a lot of noise, but you have little choice but to ignore him as he scrambles for issues, but bear in mind it is your voters he is after.  You can't cover all his conspiracies and stories, but you can say a vote for him is a vote for the Labour party.  Finally, your success is in part due to being seen to be competent with the economy.  The more waste and failure that can be found, the more you play into the hands of your opponents.  Score 8/10 Future prospects Reasonably good if the economy holds up, but a third term will depend even more on coalition partners and wooing back voters from NZ First.

NZ First:  Yes yes, bugger the pollsters.  Don't be too smug, there is the issue of your constitution and the rules.  I'd worry about that first if I was you. You might not have your Dear Leader anymore.  Otherwise, do you really think there is a future in this personality cult?  I know for some of you this is the best job ever, but it wont last.  You'll be widely laughed at for three years.  Have you figured out what life is like after Winston? No? It's called oblivion.  Your success depends on Labour remaining incapable of winning an election, but since you don't want to go with National ever again, you're rather trapped in no man's land, which is where Winston likes it I think.  However, surely you have something better to do than remain an Opposition minor MP for three years don't you? Yes you can grow by playing the one law for all card, the bash an immigrant card and reintroduction of capital punishment as well, but is that really you?  Score 9/10 Future prospects  Up to the Dear Leader baiting people's prejudices and the media going on about him.

United Future:  Oh dear Peter it is down to you more and more.  Come on, you know it's going to be like Jim Anderton's Progressive Party, it will go when you retire.  Unless you get leverage on any wider issue than Transmission Gully or the Families Commission, you'll be stuck in the middle with nothing interesting to offer.  Pray you get a chance at another worm and get seen as moderate and sensible again, otherwise sit tight and focus on Ohariu,  Score  4/10  Future prospects Comfortable retirement, but oblivion for the party

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