The Dim-Post

December 1, 2013

Inside outside upside down

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:44 am

I got to experience the joy of being a political insider this week: for the first time I knew what the real story was behind a breaking political story – the great Green Party leadership challenge of 2013.

It kicked off on Wednesday: former Green Party candidate David Hay announced his intention to challenge Russel Norman for the Green co-leadership. It became a news story, presumably because it was all so weird and unexpected. Rachel Smalley declared that Hay ‘had the numbers’. Patrick Gower declared that Hay was trying to raise his profile and boost his list position, and that this was proof that the Greens were ‘greedy’, and also ‘crazy’. Chris Trotter decided that David Hay was a ‘philosopher king’ and that Hay was a stalking horse for a more serious unnamed challenger along with some other conclusions that I struggle to comprehend. Others talked about a grassroots revolution against the Parliamentary wing of the Green Party. Martyn Bradbury announced that change was needed because the Greens performed poorly in Auckland, only beating their nation-wide average in four Auckland electorates (a statistic that actually indicates the Greens performed strongly in Auckland.) 

The real story, I learned from an anonymous senior Green Party staffer when she came home from work in a bemused mood, was that Hay had been a problematic candidate in the last election so the Greens were about to block him from standing as a candidate in the next election. Hay was unhappy about this so he announced his leadership bid as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the decision: if they went ahead with blocking his candidacy just after he’d announced his leadership bid wouldn’t it look undemocratic?

(They blocked him yesterday; Hay announced that this was an act of ‘self-mutilation’ and called for both leaders to stand down, behavior which helps explain why he was dumped as a candidate in the first place.)

So that’s pretty straightforward but it wasn’t something you could really guess based on the available facts, so all of the analysis was wrong. Which makes me wonder: is almost everything I’ve written and read about politics a series of sensible guesses that were wrong because they were reasoned out based on incomplete information? Is this what 90% of political stories look like to government insiders?

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80 Comments »

  1. “is almost everything I’ve written and read about politics a series of sensible guesses that were wrong because they were reasoned out based on incomplete information??”

    Do you really think incomplete information is the only thing that leads you to being wrong?

    Comment by Hugh — December 1, 2013 @ 6:04 am

  2. Not just political stories, almost every story out there is spun and misunderstood by the reporter. In my industry, the insiders are media shy due to nda’s and the media reporting is farcical. That is despite there being a whole entertainment section of made up articles.

    Also reporting on hard to grasp industries like science and technology are just as bad.

    Comment by James — December 1, 2013 @ 7:05 am

  3. Reading through your links here, it’s difficult to conclude other than this was a cunning experiment designed to establish that the pundits actually know less about what’s going on than the rest of us.

    Comment by Bemused — December 1, 2013 @ 7:22 am

  4. So that’s pretty straightforward but it wasn’t something you could really guess based on the available facts, so all of the analysis was wrong.

    Of course, your analysis is only “right”, and the others “wrong”, if your source’s account of the issue is true. Can you vouch for the reliability and trustworthiness of this mysterious “anonymous senior Green Party staffer” you speak of?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 1, 2013 @ 7:40 am

  5. Andrew’s being flippant, but he does raise a good point. In other circumstances, would we believe in the impartiality of a senior party staffer with a presumed vested interest in presenting the status quo in the best possible light?

    Comment by Hugh — December 1, 2013 @ 8:35 am

  6. Andrew and Hugh, are you both suggesting that Danyl could be the naively unwitting choice of the Green Party’s conniving elite when it comes to anonymously leaking preferential stories for media consumption?

    Actually that explanation would completely explain this scenario for the political commentators mentioned above. It’s a good thing they’re not so easy to bait and will never fall for it. Their strong journalistic nous is the only thing which protects the rest of us kiwi publc from being seriously misinformed leading into next year’s election.

    Comment by izogi — December 1, 2013 @ 8:56 am

  7. @Izogi: Well, in a debate with two sides, it doesn’t necessarily follow that if one side is biased, the other isn’t.

    Comment by Hugh — December 1, 2013 @ 9:01 am

  8. In other circumstances, would we believe in the impartiality of a senior party staffer with a presumed vested interest in presenting the status quo in the best possible light?

    No! But Hay did put out a press release on Friday explaining that the Greens were in the process of blocking him from candidacy selection. (I’m guessing he’d disagree with the allegation that this was because he was a difficult candidate.)

    Comment by danylmc — December 1, 2013 @ 9:03 am

  9. Andrew and Hugh, are you both suggesting that Danyl could be the naively unwitting choice of the Green Party’s conniving elite when it comes to anonymously leaking preferential stories for media consumption?

    Have you read The Unmentionable Rumours of the Aro Valley (or whatever that piece of contemporary social history is called)? In such a universe, anything is possible.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 1, 2013 @ 9:06 am

  10. a series of sensible guesses that were wrong because they were reasoned out based on incomplete information?

    Is it worse than usual when the commentariat is writing about the Greens? Seems like the commentators have next to no insight about their goings-on, and instead cling to ’80s era stereotypes. I suppose the same could apply to stories about NZF. Perhaps the historical ties of the commentators to National and Labour mean they’re always interpreting events in the smaller parties through their own lens.

    Comment by Ethan Tucker — December 1, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  11. Ethan, the other parties feel the same way about how they are covered/interpreted by journalists. NZF and the Greens – like the true paranoids they are – just think it only happens to them. Your paranoia is mitigated slightly by the use of “perhaps” but then the Greens do relish the whole passive/aggressive thing.

    “Is this what 90% of political stories look like to government insiders?”

    A bit higher, unless the story is leaked straight from the government – with National, fewer than you think and with Labour more than you think.

    Comment by Tinakori — December 1, 2013 @ 10:00 am

  12. Out of interest, Tinakori, what are the National equivalents of “morris dancing, tree hugging, hippies” and other Green stereotypes tediously trotted out by Barry Soper et al?

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — December 1, 2013 @ 10:08 am

  13. It would help if all our political media outlets reported issues rather than personalities or games, and adjusted to MMP rather than the previous electoral system that has been gone for some time.

    Voters deserve to hear where the overlaps and differences are between potential coalition partners, not hear about the colour of their knickers.

    Comment by Sacha — December 1, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  14. “Have you read The Unmentionable Rumours of the Aro Valley (or whatever that piece of contemporary social history is called)?”

    Alas, no, but it’s on my reading list.

    I now see where you’re coming from, and humbly stand corrected.

    Comment by izogi — December 1, 2013 @ 10:25 am

  15. Not heard of the raging right wing radical National agenda? What about all those dead babies and poor people sacrificed in the name of the ruthless alcohol and industrial barons who prescribe National’s every hard-hearted move? Or the gaia wrecking oil barons driving the Noble Bob Douglas? Not seen Campbell Live lately? They all sound like a greens press release to me – or, with slight variations, a NZ First one, the fearful young and the fearful old.

    Comment by Tinakori — December 1, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  16. Yeah, the media are always going on about the “raging right wing radical National agenda”. Hurts my ears to hear it every day.

    Thank goodness there’s some counter-balance provided by Gower or Dann or Armstrong or Watkins or Hosking or O’Sullivan or Espiner or Garner or … everybody else.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — December 1, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  17. “No! But Hay did put out a press release on Friday explaining that the Greens were in the process of blocking him from candidacy selection. (I’m guessing he’d disagree with the allegation that this was because he was a difficult candidate.)”

    I don’t doubt the facts, but the difference between a ‘difficult candidate’ and somebody with dissenting views is often just a matter of perspective.

    Comment by Hugh — December 1, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  18. Does anyone know where this series of emails, which David Hay reportedly released, can be viewed? (Not on his blog, it seems.)

    When I read what was quoted from his release on Stuff, it just seems to make everything that’s happened to him more justified. Eye of the beholder, I guess.

    Comment by izogi — December 1, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  19. I can’t comment on other parties but yes, this is what 90% of stories about internal Green party politics look like to me.

    On the other hand, stories about or critiques of green party policy announcements or issue campaigns often seem much better informed and more accurate. I might not agree with their ideology or conclusions, but their view of the policy or activity is usually quite accurate.

    I think that is probably because in that situation journalists and pundits have a lot more info, often given to them by the party or minister involved, whereas when it comes to internal party politics it is really just gossip and speculation.

    I try to bear this in mind whenever r I read a story about National or Labours internal conflicts which makes them look like nutters/heroes/villains. Take it with not just a pinch but a huge handful of salt.

    Comment by Amy — December 1, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  20. That’s the beauty of MMP isn’t it? Dissenting and diverse views, a cultural melting pot if you will, in which transparency and openness will finally eradicate the closed-door agenda-driven interests of a small elite?

    This is about power – it’s a sign of the times. The GP want power,and the cash and prestige that come with it. You don’t get that kind of omelette made without cracking a few eggs, and you don’t get to run an elite corporation by indulging the whims of nonentities.

    Did anyone hear the muffled explosion? It was the sound of another pocket of democracy getting droned.

    Comment by Lee C — December 1, 2013 @ 11:37 am

  21. I don’t doubt the facts, but the difference between a ‘difficult candidate’ and somebody with dissenting views is often just a matter of perspective.

    Sure – everyone in politics thinks that they are pure and noble, and the others are in the wrong. Goes with the territory, whether the ground is green, blue, red or purple.

    But Danyl’s point is that the various pundits all interpreted this story as being something other than a generic “troublesome individual pisses off party leadership and so gets kicked out” one … which makes us question whether their other readings of other stories are any more accurate.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 1, 2013 @ 11:37 am

  22. Did anyone hear the muffled explosion? It was the sound of another pocket of democracy getting droned.

    Oh, for goodness sake. “Democracy” doesn’t mean “everyone in an organisation gets to do and say whatever they want and do anything that pleases them without any sort of consequence attaching itself to their behaviour.” Rather, it means you are bound by collective rules that you get to take part in forming. Which Hay did and was … go have a read of the Green Party constitution and membership selection rules.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 1, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  23. So the Greens appear to have a rather more effective method of nipping any incipient “philosopher kings” in the bud, before they become full-blown Aaron Gilmores.

    Comment by Joe W — December 1, 2013 @ 11:52 am

  24. When I talk to members of other parties and they explain an issue (ie, a “manban”, a problematic MP) the proportion which appears to be uninformed speculation and ignorance of structural dynamics increases radically. Sometimes this is justified, as important information is not widely shared. Sometimes it’s a failure to ask the people involved and report their statements (they need not be framed as facts). Other times it’s a failure to read publicly available documents.

    It’s hard work reporting for a living. I respect all who make a go of it. But being criticised by all sides does not make you right.

    Comment by George D — December 1, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

  25. Thanks Andrew for the advice. I did google it but have had to plough through this incredibly complicated text

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10889090

    first…

    I’ll try again.

    Comment by Lee C — December 1, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

  26. It’s dark down here. If only someone would light a fire. Then there’d be shadows to see at least.

    Comment by NeilM — December 1, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

  27. In all modern news reporting and mainstream opinion pieces, there is a convention that explanations and reasons must be proffered for events. You can see the absurdity of this most clearly when the media gives out explanations for small movements in share prices / house prices / poll results etc.

    The black swan guy thinks it is all to do with humans deep desire for an explanation for everything, for a narrative. The media happily oblige.

    So yep I would agree most mainstream media political analysis is no better than the musings of your average well informed man on the street.

    Comment by Swan — December 1, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

  28. …the Greens performed poorly in Auckland, only beating their nation-wide average in four Auckland electorates (a statistic that actually indicates the Greens performed strongly in Auckland.)

    The law of averages should suggest that in any group of electorates, half should be higher than average and half lower than average. Given the Greens beat their nationwide average in only 4 of 20-ish seats (in an urban area, no less), how can that be interpreted as performing strongly in Auckland?

    Comment by Robbie — December 1, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

  29. Thanks Andrew for the advice. I did google it but have had to plough through this incredibly complicated text

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10889090

    first…

    Wow, shocking.

    “Members voted at the Greens’ annual conference in Christchurch last weekend …

    – the remit was believed to have passed with around 80 per cent support.”

    Members voting, remits being passed with merely a clear majority of support. It’s like they don’t even know what democracy is.

    Comment by steve — December 1, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

  30. See now that “stifling flax roots democracy” story is another great example of where almost all the reporting was completely wrong, almost humorously so to many people involved.

    On the other hand I read a piece around then critiquing the Greens for not having any policy around raising the retirement age and asking how fiscally responsible that is. That’s a fair criticism I think.

    Comment by Amy — December 1, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

  31. One clue might lead us far,
    With but a spark of hope to guide our quest.

    Comment by NeilM — December 1, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

  32. “So the Greens appear to have a rather more effective method of nipping any incipient “philosopher kings” in the bud”

    It’s clearly not that effective, and if it took this long to deal with this guy, it’s hardly ‘in the bud’.

    Comment by Hugh — December 1, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  33. It’s clearly not that effective, and if it took this long to deal with this guy, it’s hardly ‘in the bud’.

    I gave the example of Aaron Gilmore, which not unsurprisingly seems to have eluded your attention span. However long the Greens took to sort out Hay it’s a fucking site quicker than the Nats took to deal to Gilmore, who spent one-and-a-bit terms as an actual list MP, doing little more than attempting to out-Brownlee Browwnlee by belittling the plight of red zone victims. Hay’s Gilmoreish brand of flakey self-regard would probably pass for a form of engaging Hooray Henryism in Nat circles.

    Comment by Joe W — December 2, 2013 @ 12:28 am

  34. I agree it’s better than Gilmore, but the whole Gilmore scenario is hardly the gold standard. Better-than-the-Nats-did-with-Gilmore is just better than the absolute worst*. And as I say, we only have the Greens’ own party hierarchy’s word that this is a case of a bad egg, rather than someone with dissenting views.

    *Well, the worst to date, anyway.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 12:59 am

  35. Yes, what does “problematic candidate” mean exactly? Did he have a serious philosophical difference with the rest of the party? Or was he known to burn his plastics in an old 44 gallon drum out the back of his house instead of recycling it?

    Because “difficult” and “problematic” really don’t sound all that bad, yet what ever he’s done is enough to see him areholed out of the party so it must have been something reasonably serious. I guess it’s just one of those things that isn’t in the public interest to know eh?

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — December 2, 2013 @ 8:01 am

  36. The national reporting on the sector I work in hardly ever makes any sense, let alone proffers sensible but wrong guesses on the basis of incomplete information.

    Comment by Tom — December 2, 2013 @ 8:44 am

  37. And as I say, we only have the Greens’ own party hierarchy’s word that this is a case of a bad egg, rather than someone with dissenting views.

    Well, Hay hasn’t expressed any particular “dissenting views” – apart from saying that the current leadership are crap, he’s much better than them, and something nebulous about how Auckland needs to be the party’s focus (and as an Aucklander, he can give it this). Which sounds more like a big-noter with a messiah complex than a principled opponent of some aspect of party policy.

    And anyway – a party member who goes to the media with repeated claims that the leaders are crap are by definition a “bad egg” that should not be let anywhere near the party caucus.

    Because “difficult” and “problematic” really don’t sound all that bad, yet what ever he’s done is enough to see him areholed out of the party so it must have been something reasonably serious.

    He hasn’t been “areholed out of the party”. It’s been decided he can’t be considered as a candidate. Not the same thing at all.

    I guess it’s just one of those things that isn’t in the public interest to know eh?

    If you really, really cared that much, you could join the Green Party and as a member become involved in their internal process of choosing who they want to be their party’s candidates. But I’m guessing you don’t. So why not put a lid on the fake concern, eh?

    Comment by Flashing Light — December 2, 2013 @ 8:47 am

  38. Yes I’m sure he’ll be made to feel real welcome at conferences having been taken out of consideration and then had it made well known tol the media that he is “problamatic” and “difficult”.

    Concerned? Not even remotely, I’m just curious as to what he’s done that to be effectively side lined by his own party – his “repeated claims” that the leadership are crap have only been reported by the media since it became known he was getting chucked off the list.

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — December 2, 2013 @ 9:20 am

  39. If you really, really cared that much…

    A few years ago the unfortunate who blogs as whoar.co.nz was kicked out of his local Green Party branch. Presumably this was for some variation of the general dickishness for which he’d become mildly famous online, particularly at Kiwiblog, where for all I know he may still revel in playing the all-purpose attention-seeking squeaky lefty. Once he’d been dumped by the Greens, Farrar, Whaleoil et al loudly protested on behalf of his ‘rights’, while offering their continued estimation of his dickishness as evidence of how ‘principled’ they were. Somehow I can’t see a similar level of indignation being worked up over someone being booted from NZ First, or even Labour.

    Comment by Joe W — December 2, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  40. Being selected for a position where you are within reach of representing New Zealand in Parliament is a huge responsibility. It’s a much greater thing than being allowed to be a member of a party – the qualifications for which are usually a pulse and the ability to give a few dollars every year.

    It certainly isn’t a right.

    Comment by George D — December 2, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  41. Yes, what does “problematic candidate” mean exactly? Did he have a serious philosophical difference with the rest of the party? Or was he known to burn his plastics in an old 44 gallon drum out the back of his house instead of recycling it?

    Because “difficult” and “problematic” really don’t sound all that bad

    I really don’t know. My Green Party source didn’t work for the party at the time. But my UNINFORMED GUESS is that election campaigns are incredibly stressful, grueling experiences. If you’re trying to look after a hundred or so candidates and one of them is very high maintenance then you’re not gonna put yourself through the stress of running them a second time.

    Comment by danylmc — December 2, 2013 @ 10:20 am

  42. Yes I’m sure he’ll be made to feel real welcome at conferences having been taken out of consideration and then had it made well known tol the media that he is “problamatic” and “difficult”.

    Labels that appear to be totally accurate, given his public pronouncements since this matter blew up in public (where he placed it). Politics is not a consequences free zone, where you can do and say as you like, then expect your party to smile benevolently upon you and say “vive la difference!”.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 2, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  43. Isn’t it interesting that the Greens operate a highly centralised candidate selection process dominated by head office? I mean, the list is subsequently pretty democratic, but the initial process of entry in to the candidate pool appears to be massively centralised and controlled.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  44. is almost everything I’ve written and read about politics a series of sensible guesses that were wrong because they were reasoned out based on incomplete information

    I think they fall into three categories – nonsense fabricated in the absence of facts, disinformation from a politician swallowed and published by the hack, disinformation invented or passed on by the hack to support an agenda.

    Either way, it’s pretty much all bollox. Look at the “Shane Jones for leader” story. Are there *any* counterexamples where the political media have been on the money, ever?

    Comment by richdrich — December 2, 2013 @ 10:54 am

  45. “But my UNINFORMED GUESS is that election campaigns are incredibly stressful, grueling experiences. If you’re trying to look after a hundred or so candidates and one of them is very high maintenance then you’re not gonna put yourself through the stress of running them a second time.”

    So the party membership democratically voted to exclude this one candidate because he was too much of a pain in the arse for the campaign staff?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s morally wrong to ditch a candidate who is ideologically on-side but practically problematic. That’s the reality of campaigning.

    But the Greens are always telling us, or so it seems to me, that they are the most internally democratic of all NZ political parties, that the candidate list is determined by the members and the members alone, etc etc.

    Either the members voted to exclude Hay, in which case his attempt to get those same members to elect him as co-leader is laughably suicidal*, or he was excluded from the list put to the members somehow or other, in which case the Greens aren’t as democratic as they’re cracked up to be. It’s the second possibility that interests me, although only mildly. I’ve never really believed the Greens’ “We are so incredibly internally democratic” rhetoric, it’d just be nice to have it confirmed, and to be able to say ‘I told you so’.**

    *Note, I don’t say this to rule it out. Laughably suicidal decisions are not at all implausible, even if we only consider the last five years of NZ political party membership history.

    **To the extent that anybody heard me when I told them so, of course.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 11:05 am

  46. @Joe W: BTW, you probably don’t feel disposed to do me any favours, but got any links re: this Phil U dustup? It sounds hilarious, and google isn’t obliging. Cheers.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 11:06 am

  47. Hugh, *or*: a party with several thousand members delegates its executive functions to elected office-holders, who make such decisions on its behalf. That’s always a possibility.

    Comment by George D — December 2, 2013 @ 11:19 am

  48. @George: Yes, but that’s the way all parties work, which is basically my point.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 11:24 am

  49. But the Greens are always telling us, or so it seems to me, that they are the most internally democratic of all NZ political parties, that the candidate list is determined by the members and the members alone, etc etc.

    Are they always telling us this? Sure, they may say that they are more democratic than other parties, but not only is that a low bar to jump, it isn’t the same as saying every single member gets to be a part of every single decision (because that would be silly). Which makes me wonder if you have you a cite for the claim that the Greens are “always telling us … that the candidate list is determined by the members and the members alone.” Because it sure ain’t what the Green Party website says – it only promises that members can “Be part of our election candidate selection and list ranking”. And here is an article from 2008, in which Russel Norman is quoted as saying:

    “[The Greens] executive could also veto choices including people in its candidates’ pool, but the power was rarely used.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10502876

    Why then is everyone so surprised and agitated when the party uses a power it has openly admitted it possesses against someone that it thinks (and, based on his actions since, with good reason) is not someone who would play nicely with others in caucus? So I’m thinking there’s an element of observer bias going on here. People think the Greens are a certain way, rather than actually looking at what they say they are.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 2, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  50. So much for the Green claims I imagine them making all the time that candidates are selected by Gaia from the totality of her personkind expressions moving through the party membership then! What a scandal. I told you so!

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — December 2, 2013 @ 11:36 am

  51. @Andrew: I know the Greens don’t claim that every member gets a say in every decision, that’d be ridiculous (even as a claim). I admit, though, what I was actually claiming they claimed (ugh) was that the list was purely a product of the members’ vote, but it seems I am either taking pro-Green hyperbole as fact or just misremembering.

    Anyway, the Greens’ claims aside, I doubt Hay can command a significant ammount of support from the membership. There is disatisfaction with the current leadership, but it doesn’t seem to be the sort of disatisfaction that Hay can tap in to – his only substantial point is that the Greens underperform in Auckland, and he doesn’t seem to have a plan to fix that other than the fact that that’s where he’s from. (Although lack of specific promises are rarely fatal in leadership elections) He seems like the kind of guy that the people who grizzle about Turei and Norman’s leadership would grizzle about just as much. His only real hope is that people are unhappy enough with Norman that they would vote for anybody who’s not him, and I don’t think there’s that much disatisfaction, not by a long shot.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  52. His only real hope is that people are unhappy enough with Norman that they would vote for anybody who’s not him, and I don’t think there’s that much disatisfaction

    That would be a sign of a political party in some serious trouble.

    Or possibly the Labour Party not so long ago. Or both.

    Comment by izogi — December 2, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  53. Hugh, re. whoar/phil u’s expulsion from the Greens: Kiwiblog’s archives are difficult to search, thanks probably to a certain amount of selective editing. To the best of my recollection things turned to custard in 2007, certainly no earlier.

    Comment by Joe W — December 2, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  54. There is disatisfaction with the current leadership…

    It’s unclear if that is actually the case, or, if there is, that any disatisfaction is any more than usual background chatter.

    I agree, however, that whatever the Greens might collectively consider to be problems with their current leadership, Hay is unlikely to be (or be seen as) the solution.

    Comment by RJL — December 2, 2013 @ 11:47 am

  55. Again, I’m just guessing here, but I assume the Greens – like every other political party – have a vetting process for candidacy selection so that they don’t have, say, members of ACT on Campus nominating themselves as candidates and trying to get onto the list. That doesn’t mean the list is ‘controlled’ by the party heads, just that they vet the candidates.

    Comment by danylmc — December 2, 2013 @ 11:47 am

  56. If anybody still has any doubts about Mr Hay’s fitness to be a candidate (for anyone, never mind the Greens) they should listen to the interview with Sean Plunket on Radio Live (10.45 a.m today).

    He has … “issues”.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — December 2, 2013 @ 11:50 am

  57. I kind of go by the assumption that every political party that hasn’t just won an election will have some members who are disatisfied with the current leadership, in an “If I had my way, I’d do this and this differently”. It’s normal and to a large degree healthy. The question is, are they unhappy enough to throw their hat in with an alternative just because it’s an alternative? I’d say no.

    The most serious sign of internal distress the Greens have experienced was Sue Bradford’s resignation and subsequent criticism of the party, but she was attacking the party from the left, while Hay seems to come, if anything, from the right.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  58. @Joe W: Wow, that long ago? Thanks.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 11:59 am

  59. I assume the Greens – like every other political party – have a vetting process for candidacy selection so that they don’t have, say, members of ACT on Campus nominating themselves as candidates and trying to get onto the list.

    I can’t find a reference, but from some time ago I remember one of the ongoing controversies which occurred around Pauline Hansen’s One Nation party (in Australia) was when various protesting opposition groups discovered that, together, they could all join that Party with the specific purpose of then voting her out as its leader.

    I forget how it ended.

    Comment by izogi — December 2, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

  60. Labour has no centralised way of vetting prospective electorate candidates other than expulsion (incredibly high bar), by reason membership of other parties, or by NZ Council declining a membership application (which has traditionally been a very hard thing to do.) Instead we just have local democracy by the members of the electorate concerned with input from New Zealand Council. Obviously the list is inherently centrally controlled. Not saying this is a better system, but it’s definitely not true that every party has vetting procedures pre-selection.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  61. Just to be clear, the vast majority of people on both Exec and the Candidate Selection and Electoral Process committee are members who are voluntarily doing this work in their spare time. There are a few other members on each committee who are either MPs or party staff but effectively these decisions are being made by volunteers.

    in the case of exec, it has representatives from each province who are elected by local members. CSEPC is appointed by exec and it is not so much a matter of electing them, as recruiting sufficient people to do a time consuming and rather thankless job.

    so yes, hard to see really, how it could be much more democratic… In fact, as a member, I was able to send my exec reps my view on the David Hay decision before they voted. Admittedly i only had one day to give input but, you know, that’s politics. Things happen fast sometimes.

    So short of actually having all members involved in every decision, not sure what more they could do?

    Comment by Amy — December 2, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  62. “Yes, what does “problematic candidate” mean exactly? Did he have a serious philosophical difference with the rest of the party? Or was he known to burn his plastics in an old 44 gallon drum out the back of his house instead of recycling it?”

    It wasn’t really either.

    The reason he came to be seen as a ‘problematic candidate’ was because of conflicts over campaign strategy – things like him campaigning for the candidate vote in Epsom after the campaign team specifically asked him not to on the grounds that doing that would probably help John Banks to win.

    Comment by kahikatea — December 2, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

  63. @Keir,

    Instead we just have local democracy by the members of the electorate concerned with input from New Zealand Council.

    Right – that last part being pretty important. You don’t really need to have pre-vetting of nominees if you have 3-out-of-7 votes on who will be the candidate in the hands of the party’s central body. The Greens, however, choose their constituency candidates by a vote of whatever members in the electorate turn up to the selection meeting on the night. Which means that they need to exert a bit more control over who goes into the mix.

    Neither system is necessarily “better” – I’m sure members of each party thinks the other’s system crazy and potentially dictatorial.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 2, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  64. @Andrew — this will reveal me as a horrible hack, but how does having a minority of the votes on the selection panel give you a level of control equivalent to an ability to simply rule out a candidate by edict from the centre? An LEC can realistically aim to select a candidate and override the NZ Council position. I mean, I think the Green system is fine because they’re a pretty homogenous and centralised party and electorate candidacy are pretty meaningless, but it definitely gives the central structure way more control than the Labour system does.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  65. “so yes, hard to see really, how it could be much more democratic…”

    Take away the Exec’s ability to veto candidates.

    Not necessarily better, but certainly more democratic.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  66. this will reveal me as a horrible hack, but how does having a minority of the votes on the selection panel give you a level of control equivalent to an ability to simply rule out a candidate by edict from the centre.

    I don’t know enough about how things work in practice to say with absolute certainty, but my suspicion would be that in a situation where the party council really, really doesn’t want someone to be a candidate for a given electorate, it will on most occasions be able to pick up one of the other four votes to back it.

    But I take your point … if the local branch holds united and firm in opposition to the Council’s members, the rules do allow it to get its way. These things then come down to operation in practice. How often do the Greens veto potentially troublesome candidates before the local electorate gets to choose them? How often can Labour’s local branches stand up to the Council and choose their own preferred candidate in spite of its wishes? Have these things changed over time, or are they pretty constant?

    And I don’t know the answer to those questions.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 2, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

  67. Take away the Exec’s ability to veto candidates. Not necessarily better, but certainly more democratic.

    Why would it be more “democratic” to allow the few dozen (at most?) members of the Green’s Epsom branch to decide that David Hay ought to be the Party’s candidate than to allow the party’s executive committee (which is elected by the membership of the entire organisation) to decide he shouldn’t?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 2, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  68. And of course is it more or less democratic for a few hundred members to be able to overrule a few thousand? And so on.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

  69. Posted before seeing Andrew’s 67. Worth remarking that it is entirely possible that the numbers of people involved are probably small enough that a majority of th Epsom branch of the Greens could be made up of Hay, his family, and his mates.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  70. Take away the Exec’s ability to veto candidates. Not necessarily better, but certainly more democratic.
    That’s like saying that Westminster is less democratic than the Beehive because they have an upper house.

    Also, as I understand it, it is not a veto. Candidates are endorsed (or not) by Exec – the CSEPC simply makes recommendations. Remember, the Green Party makes decisions based on consensus. So if the Exec decide to not agree with the recommendation from the CSEPC, this is done by consensus, meaning – at bare minimum – a vote of 75%. Votes tend not to be held because it is normal to get an actual full consensus.

    Unlike other political parties, the Greens do not have a structure that centralises power and allows the top echelon to call the shots. This is by design, and makes for robust, inclusive processes which in turn reduce the centralisation of power. It is an implementation of Hui e, taiki e !

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — December 2, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

  71. Except, ah, the top echelon can in fact act to forbid a grassroots group from selecting someone as a candidate, and will exercise that power reasonably regularly as part of an intra-party dispute about strategy — which Labour’s governing body explicitly can’t do, and National’s, apparently, wouldn’t.

    (Andrew, if you want a real live example of a Green activist preening over “unlike other political parties” and “no centralisation of power” etc, there’s one. You can imagine it’s pretty annoying sometimes.)

    And it is certainly true that the Westminister upper house is less democratic than anything prevailing in Wellington. Not a great analogy tbh.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

  72. @Keir,

    Sure – some people probably need to read more Robert Michels: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1404&context=articles

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — December 2, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

  73. @Keir, guess which party this comes from:

    Regional Coordinators shall forward to the Board all nominations
    received from Electorates together with any remarks the Electorate
    Committee wishes to make on each Electorate nomination and any
    remarks and recommendations the Regional Council wishes to make
    on any Electorate nomination, to be lodged within 21 days of starting
    the List Ranking process. After consideration of the material
    submitted, the Board shall advise the Region of the approval or
    otherwise of nominations received. Any approval or otherwise shall
    be at the absolute discretion of the Board and no reasons need to be
    assigned.
    Approval of nominations is to be given by the Board, as soon
    as practicable.

    [My emphasis added]
    It is rule 124 from National Party Constitution and Rule Book. Sounds similar to what the Greens do, doesn’t it ? Oh, except the Board is completely unaccountable. Is that enough centralisation of power for you ? Or is it National=Good, Greens=Bad ?

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — December 2, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

  74. Actually the Board’s not unaccountable, they’re elected by the National Party Conference. The savings clause there basically just says “no judicial review possible and please go away if you’re thinking about suing us” and I would assume that the first time the Greens get dragged into the High Court they’ll stick something similar in the equivalent positions. Christ, I don’t even like the National Party (clearly) and I really dislike the centralised control of candidates, but that’s a system and it seems to work for them and it seems to work for you.

    Comment by Keir — December 2, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  75. “That’s like saying that Westminster is less democratic than the Beehive because they have an upper house.”

    It’s more like saying that Iran is less democratic than New Zealand due to the Supreme Revolutionary Council’s ability to veto candidates for the Majlis.*

    *And no, I’m not saying that the Greens are as bad as Iran. Again, my point is simply that they’re not more internally democratic than other political parties, as many Greens continue to insist in this thread. (Thanks mikaere)

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  76. Pardon me, the Supreme Leader, not the Supreme Revolutionary Council.

    Comment by Hugh — December 2, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

  77. @Hugh, so who gets to rank the list in the National Party ? The grassroots membership or some cabal in the middle ? How about the Labour Party ?

    For argument’s sake, let as assume that the Green and National list candidate selection processes are equivalent. What sets the Greens apart is that the actual list ranking process is decided by the members using STV, subject to very minor tweaks by Exec. National has regional committees that feed their lists to a national committee that makes the final decision. Last time I looked, Labour had a cabal of 37 who ranked the list.

    Ergo, the Greens process is more democratic by dint of the fact the membership rank the list using a tool that is well-matched to the task (STV), not some internal committee.

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — December 2, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

  78. Well, I don’t share your fondness for STV, Mikaere, but I do agree that the Greens’ list ranking process is more democratic than National or Labours’. (Probably any other sizeable party, but I don’t know the specifics of how Mana choses theirs, so I’m going to try to avoid being wrong twice!)

    All I’m arguing is that it could be more democratic. I’m not even arguing that it should be – I’m comfortable with political parties’ internal processes being relatively undemocratic, since political parties are by their nature selective institutions.

    I was simply responding to Amy’s saying she can’t imagine how it could be more democratic. I can imagine it. I wouldn’t argue that the Greens should do that, either for moral or practical reasons. But it’s not true that the Greens have achieved the ultimate state of internal democracy when the executive still has the power to veto list placements, even if in practice that power is used rarely.

    Comment by Hugh — December 3, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  79. Another way of looking at “a cabal of 37″ is to say that Labour has representative and not direct democracy in the list process (especially considering that Labour is a federal party.) But it’s not the list we’re talking about here. It’s the electorate process. I know the Greens are obsessed with list rankings, because it’s the only way to get into Parliament for them, but it’s not as important in Labour as the electorate process. And in Labour, a cabal of 12 (or whatever) can’t veto an electorate’s choice of candidate. In the Green Party they can.

    Comment by Keir — December 3, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  80. Hi Danyl. I’ve just caught up with this posting courtesy of NZ Politics Daily.

    Your comments in relation to my Daily Blog posting are quite confusing. You claim I characterised David Hay as some kind of stalking horse.

    I’ll paste below what I actually wrote – which states precisely the opposite of what you claim.

    Here’s the quote:

    “If by “sinister” we mean someone who is being advanced as the stalking horse of a large, coherent, well-organised and embittered faction within the Green Party; a faction determined to bring down the incumbent Male Co-Leader just five months out from the 2014 General Election; then, no, Mr Hay is not a sinister figure. As far as I can make out, Mr Hay takes after Lee Harvey Oswald – he is a lone assassin. (Which is not to say that lone assassins cannot do a sinister amount of damage!)”

    Either your comprehension is remarkably poor, or your penchant for simply misrepresenting the opinions of people you dislike has once again come to the fore.

    Either way, the reflection it casts of you is somewhat less than flattering.

    Comment by Chris Trotter — December 3, 2013 @ 9:57 pm


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