The Dim-Post

April 27, 2012

First mover advantage

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:20 pm

DPF wonders why people still vote for Labour, as opposed to the Greens. I think tribalism is a major factor – political scientists think that most voting is expressive (‘I vote for this party because of who I am’) rather than instrumental (‘I vote for this party to have these values advanced, or these policies implemented’) and so people vote Labour (or whoever), because ‘they’re a Labour supporter’.

But a huge difference between the parties is that Labour have electorate MPs and the Greens don’t, and probably won’t have any for some time. Having a well-funded advocate for an electorate who will one day (probably) be part of the government is a big advantage.

There’s a theory that the Labour Party is in decline, destined to be eclipsed by the Greens, and pretty much everything that happens in contemporary NZ politics strengthens that case. But it’s hard to see how the Greens could try to capture many/any electorate seats off Labour without splitting the vote and handing almost every electorate seat in the country to the National Party. (Of course this problem goes away if we transition to a proportional voting system in the electorate votes.)

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29 Comments »

  1. The Greens are also yet to be tainted by the poisoned chalice of governing, which has undermined nearly all minor and major parties at varying times over the last two decades

    Comment by Brad — April 27, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  2. I think an STV system makes a lot of sense in the electorates and I would like to see a change to (ie.) 20 electorates with 3 MPs in each selected by preferential voting.

    Comment by nommopilot — April 27, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

  3. Perhaps I don’t reflect other people who voted for Labour but have now defected. I voted for them because their policies were the least evil and they also had a chance to implement some social policies I liked.

    Sadly, they have elected a lazy leader, so I’ll go with a party that has similar policies and attacks the government in coherent, timely, and consistent fashion, even though the party doesn’t have the power to implement the policies.

    Shearer is not the problem, he’s the symptom that drives me away.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — April 27, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  4. (Of course this problem goes away if we transition to a proportional voting system in the electorate votes.)

    I assume you mean preferential?

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — April 27, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  5. Its amazing how much sawy DPF and Slater have over the mainstream media now

    Comment by max — April 27, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  6. I think you give DPF too much credit for this article. This is an article clearly designed to undermine Labour, and distract from National making a mess of most things it touches at the moment. As is true of most DPF media articles they are designed to get Nat messages out, rather than make informed political observations. Therefore I don’t really think DPF believes this at all, just him making trouble and continuing the push that Labour is in a big mess.

    Comment by Luke — April 27, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  7. I agree that most Labour supporters are probably Labour supporters more out of habit/tribal affiliation than any other reason (although you could probably say that about most voters, actually, except the 20% or so in the middle who swing between Labour/ National/Greens/NZF/not voting each election).

    On another note, If I was National, i could hardly imagine a better outcome than a situation where Labour became suspicious/hostile towards the Green Party as a significant competitor and began to actively campaign against them – in terms of trying to dig up scandalous stories against them, attack their policies, high ranking politicians etc (as they currently do with National/ACT). It would mean Labour had less resources to attack National and it would probably also eventually damage the Greens image (because if you throw enough mud, some eventually sticks).

    The most frightening scenario for National/ACT (I think) would be one where the Labour and Green leadership met, sat down together, and talked about whether, for example, they could work constructively together so that Labour would not campaign in Rongotai (or whichever seat the Greens had a strong chance of winning and the incumbent Labour MP was retiring) and, in return, the Greens would not stand a candidate in say Epsom and Ohariu, or whatever the marginal seats were that really mattered to the ability of Labour/Greens to form the next govt.

    Just saying.

    Comment by Amy — April 27, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

  8. It is possible that over time an alliance will develop based on Labour as a party of local issues, with the Greens being the party vote oriented party of national government. The seeds of this alliance are already being planted in many areas with thousands of voters choosing to give their candidate vote to Labour and their party vote to the Greens.

    Comment by alex — April 27, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  9. @Danyl: Still pushing the “it’s all about the electorate candidates” line, huh?

    National in 2002 called, they want their election strategy back

    Comment by Hugh — April 27, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

  10. Has everyone forgotten 2002 and National’s 23% (or whatever it was)? Now is little different from 1990 and 1975 and there will be a Labour-led government before too long.

    Regarding tribalism, the greatest determinant in how people vote is how their parents voted (this was taught in 1st year politics) so I agree that voting is expressive, rather than instrumental. Obviously not everyone slavishly votes the way their parents tell them, but it means that people tend to be brought up with their parent’s values, which influences their political choices.

    Comment by Paul Rowe — April 27, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

  11. “Having a well-funded advocate for an electorate who will one day (probably) be part of the government is a big advantage.”

    Are you saying that people will vote for a party because it has electorate MPs over one that doesn’t? Because that doesn’t figure in my personal party voting thinking at all, and I fail to see how much influence it really has on others…

    Comment by goodguy — April 27, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  12. It’s quite possible that left-leaning voters will increasingly party vote Green and electorate vote Labour, in which case Labour will wind up with an overhang.

    If not, then sure, Labour will lose a few affluent and rural electorates to the Nats. But if the joint vote gets closer to 50% than the parties of the right, they’ll still get to govern.

    I’m actually looking forward to a Green led government with Labour as a support partner in 2017.

    (no idea what Farrar said – I don’t read National propaganda whoever links it)

    Comment by Rich d'Rich (@rich_d_rich) — April 27, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

  13. But it’s hard to see how the Greens could try to capture many/any electorate seats off Labour without splitting the vote and handing almost every electorate seat in the country to the National Party.

    I have no idea why DPF would be advocating something like that then.

    Comment by Richard — April 27, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  14. @Richard: Do you remember how DPF frantically talked up Russel Norman’s chances in the Mt Albert by-election?

    The thing is, it’s not nearly as sinisterly clever as you might think, because all the potential Green voters who frequent Kiwiblog because they respect DPF as an impartial commentator could fit into a very small phone booth along with DPF himself.

    That’s DPF for you, 50% machiavellian political stealth bomber, 50% flatulent self-important wind machine.

    Comment by Hugh — April 27, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

  15. @The thing is, it’s not nearly as sinisterly clever as you might think…

    That’s OK. I don’t think it’s sinisterly clever. I think you significantly underestimate his flatulent-self-important-wind-machine quotient.

    Comment by Richard — April 27, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  16. @Brad: “The Greens are also yet to be tainted by the poisoned chalice of governing, which has undermined nearly all minor and major parties at varying times over the last two decades”

    If that’s true then surely the quickest and most effective way for another party to destroy the Green Party would be to give them direct power to implement Green policies in the government.

    And a preferential form of voting in electorates makes much sense to me. I tried suggesting this in my MMP submission but I’m not sure if there’s a realistic chance of that being seriously considered due to the constraints of the review.

    Comment by MikeM — April 27, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  17. “I think you significantly underestimate his flatulent-self-important-wind-machine quotient.”

    What can I say, I’m a charitable guy who likes to believe the best of people.

    Comment by Hugh — April 27, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

  18. Might be something in it if the Greens’ pre-election pragmatism was more than just electioneering. Since the election, the number of inexperienced ideologues in the party’s caucus has trebled, Liala Harre was appointed as a senior manager, and a die-hard unionist has been appointed communications director. To top it off, the media’s favour will run out when Labour gets their shit together. I suspect we’re going to see a swing back to their roots and away from double-digit polling. Such a waste of capital.

    Comment by JP — April 27, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

  19. @JP I doubt the scenario that you’ve outlined will happen for two reasons. 1) Labour truly may not get their shit together at a caucus level, leading to more drift from the membership. The same factions who put Shearer in charge will still exist after he goes.
    2) The Greens have a policy platform that will only become more relevant in the coming years, as the effects of climate change starts to bite. We are already seeing an increase of extreme weather events around the world, this will only continue according to all credible climate change models.

    More likely is the Greens will stay around the 10%-15% mark for a few elections, their support base is now quite large and diverse, and Labour will rise slightly to about the 30-35% mark as the pendulum voters inevitably swing back to them.

    Comment by alex — April 28, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  20. Danyl – I think you are right that having electorate MPs is a real advantage. However I do think the Greens have a real opportunity to gain some electorate seats at the next election or before – and no not in a way to let National come through the middle.

    If King stands for Mayor, I think Russel Norman could win Rongotai in a by-election. National will come third. Also in WC, it is very clear National can not win. But if the Greens went for the seat, I think many National voters would vote for a Green candidate over Robertson.

    Comment by dpf — April 28, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

  21. It seems like the rational response would be for Labour and Greens to cut a deal. For example, Labour agrees not to contest Rongotai and in return the Greens agree not to contest key seats like Ohariu and Epsom (or whatever is relevant in 2014) which could be very significant in terms of influencing the makeup of the next govt.

    Whether they could do it without damaging their image is doubtful – but for Labour I doubt it would make much difference, after all National has been doing it for years and they are already seen as being willing to cut deals. The Greens, on the other hand, might have more to lose because they have stoked so much on their purer than thou image.

    Comment by Amy — April 29, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  22. Sorry that was unclear. I should have said: “for Labour I doubt it would make much difference, after all National has been doing it for years and they (Labour) are already seen as being willing to cut deals. “

    Comment by Amy — April 29, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  23. shit, late night. “Staked so much…”

    Comment by Amy — April 29, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  24. Uhuh. I think if they did that then I wouldn’t vote for either of them in Rongatai on principle.

    Comment by izogi — April 29, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  25. “But it’s hard to see how the Greens could try to capture many/any electorate seats off Labour without splitting the vote and handing almost every electorate seat in the country to the National Party.”

    It’s hard for me to see why they stand in any electorate seats, for this reason.

    “The seeds of this alliance are already being planted in many areas with thousands of voters choosing to give their candidate vote to Labour and their party vote to the Greens.”

    Labour would need to win a LOT more electorates for this to be to their advantage, but yes, that seems like a sounder strategy.

    “Obviously not everyone slavishly votes the way their parents tell them, but it means that people tend to be brought up with their parent’s values, which influences their political choices.”

    Yes, the government would never change if that was what people did.

    I’m still thinking that Labour’s drive to the right may be politically sound, coalition-wise. It keeps National hemmed in there, and as the Green support rises (and ACT implodes), a coalition has a better and better chance. The drive can continue until a couple of polls show that National’s coalition wouldn’t win, then they could switch leaders, and drive back leftwards. I’d expect this to eat a bit of Green support (coalition neutral), but also to bring back many of the Labour voters who gave up in disgust (Labour positive). Or they could drive left after the election without switching leaders, but they’d be *idiots* if they did.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — April 30, 2012 @ 2:55 am

  26. I believe the greens stand electorate candidates so they can go to the candidate meetings and engage with voters, trying to persuade them to give them the party vote – as well as giving them column inches in the reports on those meetings in the local papers.

    Comment by JB — April 30, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  27. @ izogi. Why not? do parties have a sacred duty to contest every electorate seat? no, they don’t. It’s entirely up to them which they do or don’t contest. In the Greens case, you could already say they are playing the system because they stand candidates in every electorate when they clearly have no chance of winning in most. And their candidates explicitly tell people not to vote for them – it’s clearly just a tactic they use to raise their profile and Party vote.

    Why shouldn’t Labour/Greens choose not to stand in some electorate seats if it gives them a better chance of forming a govt ( which is presumably what most voters who vote Labour/Green want, otherwise why are they voting for them?).

    Comment by Amy — April 30, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

  28. Gah, sorry I’m not sure if it’s something Danyl’s done in the last few weeks or something WordPress has done or me, but the requirement to log in before posting helped me mix up a couple of profiles. I’m also MikeM#16 above if it wasn’t obvious from the gravatar.

    @Amy, yes I agree in part, but for me besides the games parties play to get disproportionate results, it’s also because I don’t like the idea of parties actively removing voters’ choice specifically to manipulate the result in their favour. I’ll cast my vote as I want to, but I don’t see it as my business or anyone else’s business to try and manipulate the voting system to influence other people’s votes to be consistent with mine instead of what the voter really wants. If a Labour candidate has significant support in an electorate and Labour pulls its candidate or doesn’t put forward a good candidate and tells their supporters to vote Green instead, I’d feel quite insulted if I actually liked that candidate. Even if I support the Green Party I think I’d feel annoyed to discover that they were manipulating other people’s choice of representation.

    Ultimately I think the system’s still broken, and electorates should be decided through a preferential voting variant so that voters can clearly indicate their preferences without the risk of vote splitting that causes a less-supported candidate to win the electorate.

    Comment by izogi — April 30, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

  29. The local seats are still decided by First Past the Post….so that’s where most of the REAL party hacks from the two major parties live. It’s also a powerful barrier to any other party winning locally. Under the old, purely FPP system, the logic was that there could really only be two parties. MMP has done close to nothing to change that where local seats are concerned. Only Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rodney Hide were elected as electorate MPs without having first been elected locally via either Labour or National.

    The local seats should be done away with or changed from FPP to STV or Preferential voting (I prefer STV). Under FPP, the person elected far too often represents the largest minority…..not the majority in the electorate. My local MP opposes most of what I favour and has made it clear he isn’t interested in my views. That is not representation.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — May 1, 2012 @ 8:54 am


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