Is that the government fund an independent audit process for the oversight of OIA requests, and that this (department? office? I dunno) undertakes regular inspections of the OIA process in different government departments and Ministerial Offices, with anomalies (like instant turnaround for party apparatchiks, years of Ombudsmen requests for everyone else) made public, and repeated failure to meet benchmarks – as set out by the legislation – be made grounds for dismissal of the public servants responsible.
Labour are having their caucus meeting today: step one in the post-mortem of what went wrong in the election. There’s already the inevitable talk about Labour’s values, and Labour needing to reconnect with the voters so here’s my take, which is, admittedly, pretty much what I’ve been saying for about six years, only this time compressed into graphic form. I hereby present ‘Mclauchlan’s Hierarchy of Political Needs’, a summary of what I believe the majority of non-tribal voters look for when they’re choosing which party to vote for. As with Maslow, the base of the pyramid are the fundamentals: only when these are satisfied does the apex become significant.
Almost all the left-wingers in my twitter feed are bewildered as to how the country could endorse the Key government with its dirty politics and child-poverty and pollution economy, but the non-left-wing activists I’ve talked to about the election were also utterly bewildered as to why anyone would have voted for the inevitable anarchy of the Cunliffe-led Labour/Greens/New Zealand First/Internet-Mana alternative. The left were comparing National and Labour and only seeing the top of the pyramid. Everyone else was looking at Labour’s bottom and judging it pretty hard.
Labour isn’t the only party wanting in the basic unity stakes. The Greens called for an independent audit of Labour’s fiscals and sent out confusing messages about their relationship with National during the final weeks of the campaign (My wife insists these messages were misreported.) And Internet/Mana is the worst thing to happen to left-wing politics for decades. Every time Labour or the Greens launched a policy they’d get back to the office, turn on the news and see Kim Dotcom or the ‘Fuck John Key’ video, or Pam Corkery screaming at the media, all followed by Laila Harre grinning away and explaining that the left couldn’t form a government without her. That’s not Labour’s fault but they should have seen the disaster coming and ruled Internet/Mana out before the campaign even started.
Here’s something else I think Labour got wrong. They don’t understand the fucking electoral system. For the second election in a row they’ve run an FPP election focused on winning electoral seats and seen their party vote decline. They don’t seem to get that this is a problem. Josie Pagani, Mike Williams and Rob Salmond, who are the current official unofficial voices of the Labour Party have all heaped praise on Stuart Nash for winning Napier and Jacinda Ardern for coming close to winning Auckland Central. But Nash won Napier because the Conservative Party candidate split the right-wing vote, and in terms of party votes which is the only vote that matters Labour’s Napier vote fell by almost 1500 votes while Labour’s party vote in Auckland Central declined by over 3800 votes, one of the worst falls in the entire country. Poto Williams is the only Labour MP in the country who actually increased Labour’s Party vote in her electorate but for some reason Nash and Ardern are the ones getting talked up as future leaders. That’s bullshit.
In terms of the party’s direction, if I was them I’d be looking at the seventy or eighty thousand voters they lost to New Zealand First during the last nine months and trying to win them back. That means a more socially conservative Labour Party. It means swallowing dead rats, presumably in the form of public statements distancing Labour from Cunliffe’s apology for being a man and the ‘man ban’ and gender equity policies. This will generate howls of protest and outrage from the activist left, but I think one message left-wing parties will draw from Saturday’s result is that the activist left is loud but microscopically tiny and it doesn’t speak for anyone other than themselves. I’d also be looking to go into 2017 having reached an arrangement with the Greens to campaign as a coalition.
That’s all in the future though. The current priorities are leadership change followed by a period of sustained competence and unity. Voters are suckers for competence and unity.
- The National Party is an incredibly well resourced, well managed, professional political party and it turns out that these things counted for a lot last night.
- The phone was not off the hook for Labour. Twelve months ago, just after Cunliffe won the leadership of his party Labour were on 37% with the Greens on 12%. There’s a cliche that oppositions don’t win elections, government’s lose them, but Labour lost this election. Cunliffe is probably the worst campaigner in New Zealand political history.
- Based on the preliminary figures I think turnout will end up being slightly higher than last time but still very low. I was a strong advocate for a strategy of having left-wing parties try and improve their vote by targeting and mobilising younger voters, but it turns that that strategy is electoral suicide! Sorry guys!
- So the lesson from last night’s right-wing landslide seems to be that older New Zealanders are very engaged with the political process and younger New Zealanders are not. That’s a shame but it’s a message politicians cannot ignore. No one’s going to waste time and energy chasing ‘the youth vote’ again for a very long time.
- I think that the best way forward for Labour is for Cunliffe and ‘the old guard’ – Goff, Mallard and King – to resign. They’ve been at war for six years now and they’re tearing their party apart. I doubt this will happen though. The civil war will drag on for another parliamentary term. That party is dying.
- The Greens will be despondent. I’m despondent for them. But – I can finally say this now – their billboards were really fucking weird. Their problem of having their final vote underperform relative to their polling is growing more acute, and their great challenge for 2017 is to determine why this happens and focus their party on addressing that problem.
- If New Zealand First goes into coalition with National then that’s a win for Labour who can concentrate on winning back those left-leaning socially conservative older voters. (Er, Grant Robertson might not be the best choice for this job). If they don’t then that is an (additional) nightmare scenario for Labour.
- I’m ambivalent about the failure of the Conservative Party. Yes, Craig was basically just buying his way into Parliament, but that’s what ACT does, and a huge component of National’s success is that it is a fundraising vehicle first and a governing political party second. Almost 90,000 people wanted Colin Craig’s Conservative’s in Parliament, and their votes should have been respected. Still, it turns out that Key and Collins were right about keeping the threshold at 5%. The redistributed seats caused by the Conservative’s wasted vote gave National the numbers to govern alone.
- The Internet Party will go down as one of the most disastrous failures in modern political history. Their final party list result is only slightly higher than Mana’s was in 2011. $4.5 million dollars and it only bought them a couple of thousand votes. They didn’t even cannibalise support from other left-wing parties.
- What they did do is scare the crap out of middle-New Zealand and frighten them into voting National so that the party filled with screaming, chanting, scary lunatics backed by a malevolent German criminal didn’t get a say in running the country
- I’m sad to see Harawira leave Parliament. I think he’s an important voice. But I’m thrilled that I won’t ever again have to listen to Laila Harre on Morning Report braying about how much integrity she has and how wonderful everything she does is.
- ACT continues its horrible zombie existence as a fake party preventing any real liberal party from emerging and poaching National’s votes. Although, I think the rise of the Conservative Party at the expense of ACT shows that it was never a real classical liberal party but rather a conservative red-neck party that happened to be funded and staffed by so-called classical liberals. Jamie Whyte will be a Herald columnist before the end of the year.
I’m disappointed by the scale of National’s victory and the poor result for the Greens, but I also think we dodged a bullet last night. I think that Cunliffe would have been a very poor Prime Minister, that his party is unfit to govern, and that any Labour/Greens/NZFirst/Internet/Mana coalition would have been an anarchic, unmanageable disaster for the country.
- National will get between 42 and 44%
- Labour will get between 22 and 24%
- Greens will get between 13 and 15%
- New Zealand First will get between 7 and 9%
- Before today I thought the Conservatives would get somewhere between 5 and 7%. But with the resignation of Colin Craig’s press secretary two days out and the inevitable whiff of scandal around that, I think that there’s a chance that the news coverage tonight or tomorrow could put him back under 5%.
I don’t know about:
The strategic electorates. I have this vague notion that this might be an ‘anti-strategic’ election in which voters get rid of Harawira in Te Tai Tokurau, ACT in Epsom and Dunne in Ohariu. I don’t really know why I think that though.
- Advance voting. What does the massive increase in advanced voting mean? Have all the parties run ‘Get Out the Advance Vote campaigns and cancelled each other out, or will this advantage some parties over others?
- GOTV campaigns on the day. Have Internet/Mana spent their pile of money wisely? Will they mobilize loads of young potentially non-voters in Auckland?
I voted today at the VUW advanced voting booth. I voted for the Greens and (strategically!) cast my electorate vote for the Labour candidate in Ohariu. But as I contemplated the ballot boxes for the other Wellington electorates I reflected that if left-wing Hutt South voters cast their electorate vote for the National candidate and Trevor Mallard loses Hutt South, then Labour will get a list MP who will – probably – actually give a shit about the Labour Party. Vote out Mallard and you might save, say, Jacinda Ardern. AND in three years time you’ll get a new Labour electorate MP you can vote for who also, hopefully, will give a shit about their own party. So that’s a strategic vote worth considering.
If he’s returned to Parliament and holds the balance of power after the election, Winston Peters:
- Will not support a Labour/Greens government
- Will not sit on the cross-benches
- Will be a senior Minister in a National government
- Will not deliver any of his ‘bottom lines’ as part of his coalition deal
The ‘Moment of Truth’ is tonight. Greenwald will release his documents and then Key has announced that he’ll declassify documents disproving whatever it is that Greenwald proves. I found this timeline in the Dom-Post helpful:
November 2011 – Two un-named New Zealand companies come under signficant “cyber attack”
Early 2012 – In response, GCSB suggests it starts looking at carrying out mass surveillance. Key takes the idea to Cabinet, which authorises the agency to begin work with other intelligence partners in the Five Eyes network.
September 2012 – It emerges the GCSB had illegally spied on Kim Dotcom ahead of the January 2012 raid on his home
October 2012 – Rebecca Kitteridge is seconded to the GCSB to begin an internal review
March 2013 – Key tells the GCSB to put its business case into mass surveillance on hold
April 2013 – Fairfax reports that the Kitteridge review found the agency illegally spied on 88 Kiwis over a decade
May 2013 – The Government introduces two pieces of legislation to beef up GCSB and SIS powers
June 2013 – The first leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden appear, sparking a global debate on privacy and spy agencies
August 2013 – The GCSB bill passes, despite protests.
A couple of points:
- Yes, we’ve been members of the five-eyes alliance for a long time. But the proliferation of consumer digital technology and the fact that it enables intelligence agencies to place huge sections of the population under surveillance at a minimal cost, and those agencies have just gone ahead and done so means that the nature of the alliance has changed in the very recent past.
- Protecting government departments and companies from cyber-attack has NOTHING to do with mass surveillance. It’s a distraction, designed to confuse people because they both involve computers. Harvesting meta-data about phone calls or web traffic of New Zealand citizens does absolutely nothing to stop Chinese hackers targeting Fonterra or MFAT. It’s a bit like your local police officer saying ‘I think someone is trying to break into your house so I’m gonna drill peepholes in the walls of your bathroom and bedroom to keep you safe’.
- When the GCSB put their case for mass-surveillance to Cabinet and Cabinet authorised them to go ahead, they were authorising the GCSB to break the law because at that time spying on New Zealanders without a warrant was illegal.
- There might be something to Key’s story. Note the timing: he sends Kitteridge to review the GCSB and just before she reports back he (allegedly) cancels their surveillance program. Is that because Kitteridge was the first person to figure out that it was unlawful?
- If so, was it cancelled – as Key alleges, and claims he will produce documents to prove – or was it suspended until the legislation was passed later that year authorising the agency to spy on the public?
These charts correct for poll bias. First the large parties:
And the rest:
So two weeks out I predict:
- Epsom won’t bother to vote for David Seymour and ACT will be gone from Parliament.
- Internet/Mana will win one or two electorate seats and either two or three MPs.
- The Conservatives will probably cross the 5% threshold.
- New Zealand First will be comfortably above the threshold.
- If the Conservatives make it then National might be able to form a government without New Zealand First in it. Which I think they’d rather do. Something tells me Winston Peters would quite like to be Justice Minister.
One of the most prevalent responses to Dirty Politics is that it just shows us ‘politics as normal’. (Here’s Trotter insisting that dirty politics is ‘the only kind there is’.) This is weird on a couple of levels. Firstly, in the week before Hager’s book was released everyone was running around insisting that the crowd of students chanting ‘Fuck John Key’ meant that this was the dirtiest, nastiest election ever. Now that we have a book documenting behavior that is so far beyond that, and linking it to the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister’s office, people are running around scoffing that politics has ‘always’ been like this.
Well, sure, people in politics have done nasty things before. Back in 2004 under Clark’s Labour government Leanne Dalziel was caught leaking private information to the media and then lying about it. People were disgusted by what Dalziel did, and she resigned. We didn’t have all these very sophisticated world-weary cynics running around insisting that it was no big deal because politics is always dirty so nothing bad should happen to her. It is like saying ‘Well, duh, we all know crime happens so let’s not have a justice system.’
Also, I know a few people in politics on both the left and the right, and while some of them might be cunning and ruthless (Hi Honey) they’re not sociopaths. If you go around insisting that political operatives who ruin people’s lives because that’s what gives them pleasure is ‘politics as normal’ then you’re enabling these unusually horrible people to turn our political system into something very ugly. Don’t do that.
Lastly, there’s a quote from Hager’s book that lots of people have picked up on by Simon Lusk about how negative campaigning and dirty politics favors the right. From the afterword:
There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continues to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game, and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point; election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether.
Maybe that was the conventional wisdom in political science when Lusk wrote that, which I believe was in 2006 or 2007. But it’s not true. The Obama campaign ran a ‘two tier’ campaign against Mitt Romney in 2012. Their media advertising was almost 100% negative, and their direct targeting and ground campaign were positive. They won by suppressing right-wing voter turnout and maximising turnout among their own supporters. So let’s not assume that Lusk, Slater et al have any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to political strategy, or that the revelations about them can only have negative consequences for the left.