This post is dedicated to John Key; new chairman of the board of ANZ bank which recently announced record profits due to "efficiencies"
We now get to the nuts and bolts section of our analysis, the “hard” data, so to speak, because elections generate a lot of data in the form of polls, votes and policy analysis/costings.
And the most important data at the end of the day is the following:
Final vote/seat count
National – 44.4% and 56 seats
Labour - 36.9% and 40 seats
NZ First - 7.2% and 9 seats
Greens - 6.3% and 8 seats
ACT Party - 0.5% and 1 seat (good God Epsom!)
TOP Party - 2.4% no seats
Maori Party - 1.2% no seats
Mana - 0.1% no seats
Other Parties - 0.4% no seats
First and foremost the current Labour/Greens/NZ First arrangement comes to a grand total of 50.4% and even if National got to add in Act and the Maori Party (due to their previous association) they still only get 46.1% of the vote.
So yes National got the most votes but this is not a FFP system we live in, it’s MMP and inter party politics is important here so it’s not your individual total that matters but the grand total of all parties that are forming any coalition and on that front National lost.
Also, and lets not be coy here, National was still getting such a level of votes mostly due to the fact that up to two months before the election Labour was in such a state in the polls that many voters were clearly turned off voting for them. That all changed of course after Jacinda Ardern took over (see below) and had it happened earlier I suspect there would have been a bigger shift.
Now let’s compare those figures with the 2014 election outcome:
National – 47.04 and 60 seats
Labour - 25.03 and 32 seats
NZ First - 8.6 and 14 seats
Greens - 8.6 and 11 seats
ACT Party - 0.69 and 1 seat (again, good God Epsom!)
United Future - 0.22 and 1 seat
Maori Party - 1.3% and 2 seats
Mana - 1.42% no seats
Other Parties - 0.86% no seats
What stands out when you compare these two sets of figures is that between 2014 and 2017 is that almost every single party in 2017 had a decline in vote share compared to their outcomes in 2014.
The only major party to buck this trend was Labour.
Importantly also is the level of decline and its proportion to the actual vote base of each party. National lost 2.6%; New Zealand First lost 1.4%; the Greens lost 2.3% and Maori lost 0.1%.
While Nationals loss was the biggest in actual terms, when taken in proportion to the sheer numbers the biggest loser was the Greens who lost over a quarter of their vote base in 2017 when compared to 2014.
And this loss is even worse when compared what the Greens got in 2011 (11.6%), which should be ringing alarm bells in Green HQ as the current trend is a party haemorrhaging voters. This may be reversed due the Greens now getting into government (Eugene Sage is Minister for Conservation is a big win) but as noted in previous posts the Greens need to work hard to avoid electoral oblivion by slipping below the 5% threshold.
Also when you place this information on the political spectrum we see that there was a distinct and marked shift of voters to Labour from all other parties (or voters shifting through parties). Which in electoral terms means that Labour acted like a vote sink, sucking in voters from across the political spectrum at the expense of all other parties.
Labours 11.6% jump in vote share is far greater than the 6.4% combined losses from the main parties (and including Maori) is a massive surge which means that those voters did not just come from the current vote spread and in fact also came from those who had previously not voted deciding to vote (up to 79.75% from a nadir of 74% in 2011 and 77.9% in 2014).
Another interesting nugget is that NZ has gone from having seven parties in parliament to five and the majority of votes sit with only four of them, which leave power centralised much more than any previous time since MMP started (previous elections had either six or seven parties make the cut).
Some of this is attributable to United Future vanishing as soon as Peter Dunne cut and run as well as the electoral mauling both Maori and Mana received this time round for behaving like idiots.
Admittedly these numbers are raw and do not reflect many of the nuances that can (and have been) found coming out of the 2017 election (for example the discrediting of the rural/urban divide theory and the data for Auckland showing a marked shift towards National this election) but the data does clearly show the following things:
1. All parties except Labour got less votes than the previous election
2. There was a marked shift to Labour (and by extension the Left)
3. Fewer parties made it into parliament and any previous MMP election
The first two on this list are directly connected and show a resurgent Labour under Jacinda Ardern (more on that in a moment) while the last indicates that the era of one person/one issue parties under MMP is probably over.
This political culling of the smaller players may show that after the “deregulation” of NZ politics, by the introduction of MMP in the 90s (thereby breaking the two party stranglehold under FPP and allowing many new players to enter the game), the “market” has reached a state of stabilization and cartelization with the smaller and independent operators driven out of the “marketplace” and the remaining actors operating at the level of informal agreement to “regulate prices”.
And with the heady days of early MMP behind us and the public now able to recognise a one man band masquerading as a larger political cause when they see it (are you listening Winston?) the four remaining survivors of this election (because Act does not count in any meaningful way) get to fill seats in the house previously held by now extinct political parties.
But why stop there when there is more data to crunch, so try this one on for size.
For those who bemoaned the lack of policy discussion at the expense of a relentless focus on personality there is data to show why that was.
In looking at both party and preferred leader poll data is was possible to link changes in various party personalities with clear shifts in the polls.
The most obvious example is the sudden and massive shift in polling for Labour after Jacinda Ardern took over, but we can also see noted shifts in party fortunes when Meteria Turei disclosed her benefit fraud; when Shane Jones joined New Zealand First (this was reflected in the tumble in Winston’s personal polling going from 10+ percent to five and six percent) and even in the slower and less drastic shift in National’s fortunes after John Key bailed out (although credit to Bill English for actually increasing his personal polling during the same period) and when the Todd Barclay scandal broke.
Add in the fact that this election we did not have any flashpoint issues to galvanise public opinion as previous elections (think Dirty Politics and media personalities like Kim Dot Com sucking up all the public’s attention and emotion) and it’s clear that any sudden shift in party fortunes was almost always tied directly to some individual’s behaviour or circumstances.
And while the jury remains out on the increasingly tabloid manner of much of the NZ political press as the driver of such a view it is indisputable that media coverage of the election almost always returned (like a gossipy magazine) to the person rather than the policy and usually left those who wanted the debate to be about the issues (ie policy) out in the cold.
Issues like clean water, child poverty, house prices and anything else which could have been the hinge of this election only ever got a secondary part as either some sort of political garnish to the main course of Jacindamania, Winston’s Super payments, Meteria’s benefit fraud, Todd’s criminality, Bill’s memory loss or Andrew’s ineptitude or lost in the static (or should that be statistical) haze of unfocused public discord which could never focus on an issue long enough to deal with it.
Thus in the final few weeks of the election the normal stable political polls started to jump around very wildly with National sub 40% and Labour above 40% and preferred PM polling starting to look like a coin toss as Bill sank to 28% in July and Jacinda peaking at 35% in early September (where she had been at 6% in July). Even Winston during this period skipped around like a drunk fairy (hitting 10% in July and diving to 4% two months later when National tried to take him out with their clumsy reveal of his Super data).
By election day on the 23rd of September the polls were scrambled both for party and leader and what had been a rather staid and predictable (as well as depressing) electoral outcome of National for another three years (and possibly perpetuity) changed to a an exciting 26 day game of “Where’s Winston?”.
So at this point we have the numbers showing a shift to the Left, personality politics dominating, 1/5th of voters not voting, the near extinction of minor parties and it’s no wonder that some people howled when National got the most votes but failed to make a government as while not a traditional FPP environment it was certainly not the MMP environment we were used to either.
Add in the backdrop for all this being 33 years of Neoliberal politics and an electorate constantly saying “F**k it!” (every six or nine years) as it tried to rid itself of the affliction that such an ideology was and what was a guaranteed win when John Key was leader had become something else with distinctly populist overtones, albeit through a Kiwi lens, when Jacinda became leader of Labour.
Finally, with National having nothing left to foil the meteoric rise of Jacinda Ardern but a table full of Dead Cats (via the advice of professional muckrakers like Crosby Textor) and it was clear in the final month, that despite its high polling, National had lost the election as scumbag moves like Steven Joyce’s outright lying about Labours costings and scaremongering about their tax plan had National starting to look like a child molester caught out on To Catch a Predator and showed that they had nothing positive to offer New Zealand and thus Winston decided to go with Labour.
No outcome is ever a given but all of the above adds up to a mood for real change, not just a change of government but one of ideology, a change away from land sales to foreigners, billionaires buying citizenship and pay as you die health care to something more for the People and less for the dangerous class of parasites whose feeding on the flesh of this nation had gone from a simple itch to full blow infestation and possible death (given how corrupt elites usually end up destroying any society they afflict).
And that’s how it happened…
Next week - Part III - We are all socialists now, Comrade