The Dim-Post

March 30, 2015

On deals and false equivalence

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 2:11 pm

Andrew Little signaled to Labour voters in Northland that they should vote for Winston Peters (and they did). So the press gallery and wider punditocracy are all aflutter about Labour’s hypocrisy. ‘They condemned National’s deal with ACT in Epsom,’ the argument goes, ‘But now they’ve done the same thing in Northland! Labour has lost the moral high ground!’

They haven’t done ‘the same thing’, of course. I don’t like Winston Peters or New Zealand First, but it is an actual party that people vote for, and Northland voters were more likely to vote for Peters than any Labour candidate. ACT, on the other hand, is a fake party that no one votes for, lead by nobodies who would never win anything. Epsom voters didn’t vote for David Seymour, they voted for a loophole in the electoral law that benefits National.

Gallery journalists understand this on an intellectual level. They’re smart. But National’s media strategists are smarter. They exploit the anxiety political journalists have of being seen to be partisan. ‘How can you attack our deal but stay silent on theirs? Whaddarya? Biased?’ Journalists and commentators know that if they condemn both deals – or both sides of any other issue even if there is no moral equivalence – then they can’t be accused of media bias. They’re doing their jobs!

This doctrine of false equivalence is National’s most reliable spin-tactic. They trot it out every-time they’re in trouble. Dirty politics? What about that time seven years ago when Mike Williams did something dirty? Tim Groser’s WTO spying scandal? Chris Finlayson instantly implies that ‘Helen Clark did it too’. ‘Labour is just as bad’ is almost always the first excuse out of Key’s mouth, because he knows it is the argument the press gallery will be most sympathetic to.

60 Comments »

  1. Savvy fricken access churnalism. #grrr

    Comment by Sacha — March 30, 2015 @ 2:20 pm

  2. This is a good insight, Danyl. You’re on fire lately. The other thing that’s struck me is the pundits’ persistent use of “deal”, a word which has an actual meaning. What deal? I suppose you could say that Labour made a deal with its candidate – Little was very clear on Saturday night on Prime’s prospects for a good list slot – but they seem to have been careful to not even speak to Peters, making it hard to see how they might have made a “deal” in any normal sense of the word.

    Comment by russell brown — March 30, 2015 @ 2:23 pm

  3. Danyl:

    Take your own damn advice — it’s really hard to miss that you despise ACT and wouldn’t piss on David Seymour if his head was on fire, but he’s not a “fake” MP for a “fake” party “nobody voted for.” Sorry, but this time the equivalence is entirely real and I’d rather like it if Messers Key and Little would do us all a favour and come straight out and say so next time they feel like fucking over their own candidates for strategic advantage. Who knows — the refreshing candor might turn out to be an endearing vote winner.

    Comment by cranapia — March 30, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

  4. “National’s media strategists are smarter …”

    Stupid, stupid press.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 30, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

  5. I heard Little talk about this at a party meeting. He took a subtle but not hypocritical stance. He didn’t tell Labour voters to vote for Peters. He said the polling indicated that Prime would not win but supporters should vote for her if so inclined. He suggested voting strategically for Peters would be a good thing for the opposition. Peters could well win it.

    Hell, even though I thought he did a good job explaining this at the meeting, I can’t reproduce his argument. It’s very subtle. In no way did I think he was doing an Epsom. I believe him when he said he didn’t do a deal with Winston.

    And Epsom didn’t need Seymour but Northland needed Winston. I lived in Whangarei for three years recently, explored Northland thoroughly and was appalled at the gap between rich and poor.

    Osborne was very unconvincing.

    Comment by Maureen — March 30, 2015 @ 2:31 pm

  6. Epson was a very strong National seat. National gave it to ACT.
    Northland was a very strong National seat. It was not Labour’s to give or do a “deal.”
    Winston won it off National with the help of thousands of National voters.
    The Garner “Labour is hypocritical” line is untrue – again.

    Comment by xianmac — March 30, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

  7. There is also the huge difference that Northland was not Labour’s to take. But it could have been Labour’s to give to whichever party they so chose. Epsom is entirely National’s to take, to the extent that their candidate pretty much hides out. This is not disputable, the party vote for National in that electorate was massively overwhelming, and the ACT party vote was tiny. Try to tell me Epsom does that because they just really love the ACT candidates – the unheard of Seymour, the crooked Banks, the perk hypocrite Hide…

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2015 @ 2:40 pm

  8. Snap, xianmac

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

  9. The Northland upset is a big wake-up call for National. Unless they carry out major revisions within the party, this could be the beginning of their end. Paleo

    Paleo Martin

    Comment by paleomartin — March 30, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

  10. Epson was a very strong National seat. National gave it to ACT.

    Exactly. This is the huge difference between the cases.

    By contrast, what happened in Northland is pretty much what happens in every electorate election. That is, people voted for a preferred local candidate despite giving their party vote to a different party, because their local party candidate had little hope of winning. It is just that there was no party vote in the by-election.

    For example, in 2014 John Key received 22,720 votes in Helensville, but the National Party only received 20,689 votes in Helensville — NZ First and the Conservatives did a deal to elect John Key!!!!!

    Comment by RJL — March 30, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

  11. And Epsom didn’t need Seymour but Northland needed Winston. I lived in Whangarei for three years recently, explored Northland thoroughly and was appalled at the gap between rich and poor.

    So you think Winston will manage to close the gap between rich and poor? Don’t forget to buy a lotto ticket this week because you’re obviously feeling very lucky.

    Comment by Ross — March 30, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  12. Right, ‘

    Cranipia world view (perhaps?): David Seymour has a coherent and logical reason for the existence of his party- which previously has been lead by an ex-National leader and by an ex-National cabinet minister- that follow a set of principles that people throughout the country want represented in parliament. There is enough support nation wide for his crusade to…who knows? They are clearly a fomenting political movement.

    Or option danyl worldview (perhaps?)B: his party exists because the National Party wish it to and would vanish in a second if they took away their patronage, as they are not close to any threshold or two any other electorate seat. It is used by National to sneak through sordid policies such as charter schools that they would like to do, but would be electoral suicide if they actually put it in their manifesto.

    Both these views must be equally valid right?

    Comment by sheesh — March 30, 2015 @ 3:17 pm

  13. So you think Winston will manage to close the gap between rich and poor?

    Probably not, but when your alternative ‘definitely not’….

    Comment by Gregor W — March 30, 2015 @ 3:21 pm

  14. @Ross:

    Winston has a lot more power than the numbers suggest. The straight numbers suggest that National can scrap together 61 votes most of the time with the selection of available useful idiots like ACT. However, the narrative has changed. National has been sent a message from the provinces.

    If Winston / NZ First doesn’t support something, then it is not in Northland’s interest (and therefore by extension not in the interests of the provinces everywhere). So National is not listening to the message and looks out of touch with the provinces. Alternatively, if NZ First brings a members bill, and National doesn’t support it; National still hasn’t heard the message and looks out of touch with the provinces.

    Winston is setting himself up as the provincial folk hero representative. Whether National has 61 votes or not is just a technical bureaucratic detail. What matters now is whether policy benefits narrow elites or the whole of NZ and especially whether it benefits provincial NZ. Winston’s support is now the metric of whether policy benefits provincial NZ.

    The votes of ACT/Dunne are sufficient to pass legislation. The vote of Winston is required to make it look good.

    Comment by RJL — March 30, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

  15. ‘Ods bodkins!, this post reads like the plot of a Shakespeare comedy, forsooth.

    Ironiy itself! to lest we forswear election of Winston Peters, a maudlin troll from very denizens that far kingdom we mortals decry as False Equivalence, it is granted that to allow some to comfort their addled spirits with the unctuous salve of moral righteousness.Our masters instruct us that verily, not only is False Equivalence a land of hypocriticals, but that to suggest claiming it be thus, be in itself, hypothetical. So, False Equivalence, is in itself Falsely Equivalent.
    Is it not a strange place in which number means withall, all wit, (that currency of all sagely intercourse) be a mere spectre – a ghost of what men perceive as real, but is mere shadows, and the stuff of harlotry?

    Put down that staff! – or decry the ‘Sum’ of it – a False one, Sirrah! Or rather – as you might say – a ‘Falsely False Sum’,
    Or as mere mortals and those foreign to harlotry might have it::

    ‘FFS’. . . ..
    Yeah, I know..

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 30, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

  16. Epson was a very strong National seat. National gave it to ACT.

    No. National may well continue giving strong signals to their supporters in Epsom that they’re happy for the seat to remain in ACT’s hands, but Rodney Hide went out and did the yards to win it in 2005. Epsom now, is exactly what Sydenham was until 2011 when Labour continued to maintain Jim Anderton’s Progressives as a “fake Party”.

    Comment by James Stephenson — March 30, 2015 @ 3:36 pm

  17. Labour couldn’t beat Jim when they wanted to, and eventually decided to stop wasting time and money trying – National could easily defeat ACT in Epsom. False equivalences again!

    Comment by Keir — March 30, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  18. Except James it’s totally different! – principally because the progs obviously didn’t survive Anderton’s exit given that they deregistered in 2012.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 30, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  19. The Cranapia and Danyl worldviews are both valid if you take into account that Cranapia is thinking about the whole history of the ACT Party going back to the mid 1990s, including a relatively long period where it really was a proper party with multiple MPs, whereas Danyl is focusing solely on the last few years in which ACT has been a pathetic joke kept alive only through National’s benevolence.

    As I think we’ve discussed in these comments before, there is a market for an actual ‘small state’ party like ACT claims to be (but has never really been because of the big conservative wing it has always had). Presumably ACT’s few remaining supporters plan to get back in touch with that constituency and win some party votes again. I can’t see it happening though.

    Comment by helenalex — March 30, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

  20. Plus the progs were always unashamedly an Anderton wehicle – even the name was changed to make that abundantly clear – whereas the “leadership” of ACT since Hide’s departure seems to come down to Boscowen and Gibb appointing whatever stuffed-shirt is available that week to wank on about big government and the need for flat taxes.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 30, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

  21. I was thinking about Anderton as well, but didn’t want to distract from my main argument. To me, the difference between whatever Anderton’s party was called and ACT is that Anderton had a personal following. People voted for him because they liked him and thought he was a good local MP – it’s the same deal as with Peter Dunne. But few if any people voted for David Seymour in Epsom because they liked him – they voted for him either because John Key effectively told them to or because they wanted ACT to survive (or a bit of both).

    I don’t know whether this makes the ACT deal better or worse than the Anderton deal, but clearly the better comparison is between Anderton and Dunne, who are/were doing pretty much exactly the same thing – leveraging their personal popularity into an essentially fictional political party. Whereas ACT is doing something else which doesn’t depend on particular personalities.

    Comment by helenalex — March 30, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

  22. So you think Winston will manage to close the gap between rich and poor?

    I don’t think that at all but NZ First seems more sympathetic to the needs of poorer kiwis. I’ve heard Tracey Martin speak vehemently about housing and people sleeping on the beach in the Warkworth area. Winston Peters impressed me in the national election when he talked about growing up poor in Northland as a member of a large family. Then there was hope of pulling yourself up, he said, but now that hope has diminished. Remember that Key’s message was, “My mother kept her state house clean”.

    I hate the anti-immigration aspect of NZ First but I prefer their social conscience to National’s.

    And what I meant about the gap was that around the coast on the beautiful beaches cluster the mansions of the wealthy (like Murray McCully) and in the small towns there’s obvious poverty. I mean it was just glaringly obvious up there. I think there’s more chance of a NZ First MP taking the problems seriously.

    Comment by Maureen — March 30, 2015 @ 4:11 pm

  23. Take your own damn advice — it’s really hard to miss that you despise ACT and wouldn’t piss on David Seymour if his head was on fire, but he’s not a “fake” MP for a “fake” party “nobody voted for.

    ACT got barely more votes nationwide (16k) than Peters got in Northland alone (15k). The next closest “party” to ACT is the Legalise Cannabis Party with 10k votes.
    They took a 6th of the votes that the Conservatives took and they can hardly be called a proper party.

    ACT would definitely not exist today if National had not stepped aside in Epsom.

    So the notion that ACT is a fake, non-existent party is a fairly robust one.

    Having said that, despite all that is said here and all the differences between Northland and Epsom, it will be difficult for Labour to criticise another deal between National and ACT.

    After all, the false equivalence is merely a matter of degree and semantics. What sort of tactical voting is permissible and when? Is it okay for the underdogs in an electorate to vote tactically, but not for the ones that are nominated to take it? And why not?

    Since the coat tail provision did not come into effect due to the lack of votes for ACT, the deal in Epsom was no worse than the one with Peter Dunne.

    Comment by eszett — March 30, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

  24. Wrong @James Stephenson. Jim Anderton was very popular in his electorate, and had the on-the-ground organisation to maintain his seat. It is not dissimilar to Ohariu being held by Peter Dunne. If you look at the numbers you’ll see that in 2008 Labour + Jim Anderton = 20.5K electorate votes, and in 2011 Megan Woods only got 15K votes. I can’t imagine that – in the event of an ACT no-show – any of David Seymour’s votes going anywhere other than to Goldsmith.

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — March 30, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

  25. I think there’s more chance of a NZ First MP taking the problems seriously.

    Yes, and if Winston takes the problems seriously, then National has to either help him do something or face being portrayed as not taking these problems seriously. Either is a win for Winston. The former is a definite win for Northland, the latter just shows Northland (and the rest of NZ) who they need to vote for next election to address these problems.

    Comment by RJL — March 30, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

  26. They haven’t done ‘the same thing’, of course.

    Yeah, Labour have got people to vote for Winston Peters.

    I don’t like Winston Peters or New Zealand First, but it is an actual party that people vote for, and Northland voters were more likely to vote for Peters than any Labour candidate. ACT, on the other hand,…

    Hold on a second, why do you dislike NZ First? Is it their policies of utter conservatism? Is it the beat ups on immigrants they spew?

    For me, it’s because Winston props up weak late term governments, to extract maximum personal gain. The existing government always offers the most baubles, because they know they aren’t going to get another chance.

    This doctrine of false equivalence is National’s most reliable spin-tactic. They trot it out every-time they’re in trouble.

    In 2017 National may well gift Northland to NZ First. It makes bundles of political sense for them to do so and should secure them a 4th term (what chance Lab/Greens gaining a 20% swing?).

    And bonus play, when National does deals with NZ First that makes Acts vote go up – they’ll become a real party again.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 30, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

  27. The party which actually pulled out of this contest was the Greens. Someone should ask Metiria Turei about her secret deal with Winston Peters.

    Comment by George — March 30, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

  28. “This doctrine of false equivalence is National’s most reliable spin-tactic.” Perhaps it is so effective because it’s not false? Journalists see politicians across the spectrum up close every single day, perhaps they have enough knowledge of how politics work to make this judgement for themselves?

    Comment by Tinakori — March 30, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

  29. Well said, Danyl.

    “False equivalence” is a deliberate strategy, not confined to Northland/Epsom. It’s straight out of the US playbook (as most developments in NZ are, if only our journos could be bothered to read).

    Desired voter response: “They’re all as bad as each other”. Result – decreased turnout, decreased public engagement in and with parties, entrenching power on the Right.

    One example of many: Key and Joyce routinely refer to the Greens as “nasty”. Obviously that is subjective and hard to quantify, but if you take the best measures available – like behaviour in parliament, do a language analysis if you want to drill down into details – then the accusation doesn’t stack up. John Key’s language in Parliament is consistently “nasty” (compare his use of gratuitous and childish insults with that of his questioners, make Hansard your friend), and yet … well, it’s politics, and they’re all the same, aren’t they?

    No, they aren’t.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — March 30, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

  30. Perhaps it is so effective because it’s not false?

    Well, in this case it is false.

    Which true example are you thinking of?

    Comment by George — March 30, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

  31. Sammy, I think you will find most other parties think of the Greens as nasty because they are difficult to deal with on a personal level, mostly because they regard themselves as being on a different and higher ethical plane than all other parties. They are saving the planet and their poor behaviour can be excused because of the nobility of their goals. “Don’t trust the Greens”, is something that both National and Labour believe. There are some exceptions among the Greens but the current leadership sets the tone that counts.

    Comment by Tinakori — March 30, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

  32. The Progressives weren’t a fictional party, in the sense that UF is, either – they were a major player in Christchurch local politics, and pretty much ran South Christchurch local body for a long time. (The same people still do, in fact, now they’ve rejoined the Labour Party.) It wasn’t like Dunne’s vanity effort, but rather a struggling but effective small scale operation.

    Comment by Keir — March 30, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

  33. Fascinating re-definition of “nasty” there, Tinakori.

    What “poor behaviour”?

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — March 30, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

  34. Oh how awful for the likes of amiable old Chris Finlayson and humble Steven Joyce to have to deal with Greens who are difficult and think they know everything.

    Comment by danylmc — March 30, 2015 @ 6:27 pm

  35. While we’re talking about the non-fakeness of the Progressives, let’s not forget their origin in the Alliance, who at one stage were polling 30% of the party vote and were speculated to replace Labour as the main left-of-centre party. There used to be incredibly bad blood between the Alliance and Labour.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 30, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

  36. There used to be incredibly bad blood between the Alliance and Labour.

    Yes, history is being rewritten by the Epsom excusers. So let’s revisit what actually happened in these “seats which are totally like Epsom because wah-wah-wah”:

    1) A number of MPs from National and Labour quit their parties. Peters in Tauranga. Dunne in Ohariu. Anderton in Sydenham. Etc.

    2) These MPs then fought AGAINST the major parties, including the one they had left. Most lost (e.g. the Nat/Lab MPs who formed United – only Dunne survived).

    3) Eventually, those MPs either lost their seat (Peters, Tauranga) or had a rapprochement (“deal”, nod/wink) with a major party (Dunne with the Nats, Anderton with Labour).

    So Epsom would be totally like that if …

    1) The sitting National MP for Epsom had quit National

    2) That MP had defended the seat against National (and Labour), over multiple elections.

    So, no. Not even close.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — March 30, 2015 @ 7:16 pm

  37. I don’t think Labour ever had a “deal” with Jim, they just gave up. Same way Labour “cuts a deal” with National and didn’t bother trying in safe Tory seats.

    Comment by Keir — March 30, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

  38. @36, well, ACT was formed from MPs from Labour, and they fought against Labour, and they’ve won electorate seats without deals in the past. But that was a long time ago. Now they’re a National client held in place just for the extra seat and their convenient extremism, and the top dogs for quite some time have been ex Nats, and virtually their entire support base in Epsom vote for National.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2015 @ 8:27 pm

  39. “ACT would definitely not exist today if National had not stepped aside in Epsom”

    National have never not stood a candidate. There is plenty of equivalence here. It goes like this: The major parties represent the centre left and right respectively. Supporters of Labour and National are supporters of a centre left/right government. In both Northland and Epsom it was in the interests of the centre left/right to votes for Winston/Act respectively. Strangely enough voters voted for the candidate in which it was in their “sides” interest to vote for. The point is – it’s absurd to say Labour did a deal in the same way it is absurd to say National did a deal.

    Comment by Matthew W — March 30, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

  40. @RJL: “By contrast, what happened in Northland is pretty much what happens in every electorate election. That is, people voted for a preferred local candidate despite giving their party vote to a different party, because their local party candidate had little hope of winning. It is just that there was no party vote in the by-election.”

    The difference between Northland and Epsom is more clear if you consider how things would go if electorates were decided by a preferential vote instead of an FPP vote.

    In Northland, Labour supporters would mostly rank a Labour candidate first, then (probably) rank Winston ahead of a National candidate under current circumstances. Labour doesn’t have to do anything special. Result: Non-winning Labour votes get reassigned to Winston, who then romps home ahead of Mark Osborne because the majority of voters prefer him over Osborne if they can’t have their first choice.

    In Epsom, National supporters would naturally rank a National candidate ahead of an ACT candidate. As there are so many of them, National has to instruct its supporters to change that ordering to make sure they don’t win accidentally and lock ACT out of parliament. Result: ACT wins Epsom, but only because the large number of National voters artificially change their preferences from what they’d actually prefer for their electorate.

    IMHO it’d make more sense to use a preferential system for electorate voting because it’d reduce the chance of vote splitting issues, but the FPP thing is a compromise to keep voting more simple.

    Comment by izogi — March 30, 2015 @ 10:03 pm

  41. If it’s not a deal then Little gave support to Peters in return for nothing.

    With Epsom National encouraged their voters to vote for another party with expectation of support from ACT.

    With Northland Little did the same but without any payoff. I can’t see the sense. Yes, it’s not a deal but that just makes it a bad move.

    People vote for ACT, it seems churlish to maintain that that’s some sort of fakery. Voters choose who they vote for. The Green Party happen to be in parliament because of the particular rules of MMP we have which don’t require a party to have an electorate seat.

    Comment by NeilM — March 30, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

  42. @NeilM: Little gave something minor (Labour support in an electorate Labour couldn’t hope to win) and got something minor (an off-peak embarrassment to the government). Makes perfect sense to me.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 30, 2015 @ 10:19 pm

  43. I wouldn’t call giving this sort of support to someone like Petrrs minor.

    Comment by NeilM — March 30, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

  44. >I wouldn’t call giving this sort of support to someone like Petrrs minor.

    Considering that they had no chance whatsoever of winning the seat, they lose nothing except the respect of people who don’t respect them anyway. That’s pretty minor.

    The payoff is that the government’s majority is reduced to a wafer.

    >I can’t see the sense. Yes, it’s not a deal but that just makes it a bad move.

    What did they have to lose? You’re really clutching at straws to find some disadvantage for Labour in any of this. The only way you can see that they lose something is if you think it’s better for Labour that National have a stronger majority somehow. I don’t know what mental contortions it takes to get that kind of thought happening. You’re going to get a brain hernia doing it too much.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2015 @ 10:45 pm

  45. The Green party happen to be in Parliament because 10% of voters voted for them. ACT are only in Parliament because National did a deal with them in Epsom.

    Little gave something minor to Peters (as kalvarnsen said “support in an electorate Labour couldn’t hope to win”) and as well as embarrassing the government, National have lost a seat, that’s not minor.

    Comment by Corokia — March 30, 2015 @ 10:53 pm

  46. Labour supporters appear to be very defensive about what’s gone on with Peters.

    Labour supported Peters whose track record on race relations is well known. So I can see why.

    Comment by NeilM — March 30, 2015 @ 10:58 pm

  47. @NeilM: I think you’re allowing your blue-shaded goggles to affect your perception. If Labour giving informal support in an electorate they can’t win isn’t minor, I wonder what you consider to be minor? Or is your theory that because Peters is so offensive on issues of race, there’s no such thing as “minor support”?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 30, 2015 @ 11:15 pm

  48. I reject the assertion that Peters and Labour are different about race. Last election Labour were only too willing to accuse immigrants of stealing kiwi jobs, in the hope it might gain votes. But of course, we are now in a place where suggesting a different view is positioned into a six-point hierarchy of denialism, so feel free to disagree employing one or more of the following:

    you pose a counter-view but don’t criticise, that is ‘concern-trolling’,
    you present an argument that can’t be easily countered that is ‘a different world view’.
    you declaim something widely accepted that is considered a reinforcement of apparently neutral powrr-discourse.
    you argue successfully and persuade, you are ‘manufacturing consensus’.
    you look at both sides of a situation you prove yourself an intellectually dim victim of ‘spin’.
    you point out an apparent contradiction, it is rejected as an example of ‘false equivalence’.

    Except, of course you are making the statement, in which case any of 1 to 6 is evidence of your moral and ideological righteousness.

    Winston won it’s what you really really wanted. It was, imo, pyrrhic. To make up stuff now, and dance on the head of a pin, to atattempt to justify why it was the right thing now, just looks like Satrean Bad Faith. Forsooth.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 31, 2015 @ 7:49 am

  49. The discussion here is largely based on the idea people vote ‘for’ something. What if they were voting against?

    Comment by Bill Bennett — March 31, 2015 @ 9:51 am

  50. I agree with the OP. Labour supporters voting for Peters in Northland is nothing like voting for ACT in Epsom. NZF is already in parliament and well over the 5% threshold. This by-election was all about who voters (of any stripe) in Northland wanted as their local MP. Peters won. if anyone in the National Party doesn’t get this…..then their loss in Northland is all the more understandable.

    Comment by Steve Withers — March 31, 2015 @ 10:23 am

  51. Bill Bennett: True. MMP has got people used to the idea they vote for what they want…because now they can…and they will get it. But the FPP local seats remain a bastion of lesser-evil thinking. I’d favour getting rid of the local seats altogether. I wrote my national party local MP a letter a while back on an issue of concern. His reply indicated he knew me and was aware of my views…and wasn’t much interested. So…effectively…I don’t actually have a local representative. He told me as much. The only vote I have that is worth ANYTHING is the party vote. The local seats are an unwelcome reminder of the bad old days….and people may well have voted for Peters in Northland because they wanted to vote against National. That’s how FPP works. Get rid of its vestiges, I say.

    Comment by Steve Withers — March 31, 2015 @ 10:27 am

  52. Steve, do you not think that the supposed neglect of Northland is an example of why local representives are still an important part of the system? It means that groups of people who represent roughly 1/71th of the population (around 1.4% so not enough to elect their own party even if they did overwhelmingly vote the same way) still actually have an opportunity to elect someone to speak for them. And they’ve finally decided that they no longer want to elect a representative who’s merely going to fade into the shadows of whipped government policy, then try to justify it to them.

    I agree though that electorates don’t fit perfectly into MMP, especially when a few tend to get abused for political strategy at the expense of local representation. And you could easily look at Northland and say some of it’s happened there, too.

    Comment by izogi — March 31, 2015 @ 11:09 am

  53. >Steve, do you not think that the supposed neglect of Northland is an example of why local representives are still an important part of the system?

    Welllll, lets not forget that Northland elected Mike Sabin after 6 years of this neglect. In fact they’ve elected representative since we’ve had democracy at all. If it was a great system, then the neglect should struggle to happen at all, right?

    I understand the idea of electorates, but to me local issues are just one amongst a great many issues that we should be able to choose to prioritize, rather than them automatically getting 50%. I actually don’t put 50% of my opinions into this blob on the map with a radius of about 3 km. For the most part I don’t even give a shit what happens in Mt Albert and Sandringham, and since the electorate has had the party leader for at least a decade recently, neither do they, much. They don’t even live here most of the time.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 31, 2015 @ 11:23 am

  54. @Ben

    Local (i.e. electorate MPs) represent the local electorate. That doesn’t mean they only represent on local issues; unless the people living in your electorate happen to only care about local issues.

    Comment by RJL — March 31, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

  55. I suspect the Rovian ‘you did it too’ card favoured by Key’s spin squad is starting to run into diminishing returns. When that happens, it starts to cross over into ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ territory. I’ve been a fan of that latter phrase recently.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — March 31, 2015 @ 2:29 pm

  56. Now they’re a National client held in place just for the extra seat and their convenient extremism

    The “convenient extremism” and the plausible deniability are the only reason left for ACT’s continued existence. Key gets to say “We aren’t really in favour of this stupid / corrupt policy we are ramming through parliament, but our support party insists that we vote for it as part of our agreement.”

    Comment by herr doktor bimler — March 31, 2015 @ 2:33 pm

  57. >That doesn’t mean they only represent on local issues

    Sure. And likewise, list representatives don’t only represent on national issues. There’s nothing at all stopping them from carving up the country into multiple areas of responsibility of their own choices, referring local matters there. Then you aren’t relying on the help of someone you might have strongly voted against and think is a complete tosspot for you local issues. OK David Shearer’s my MP, but why would I choose him over Cunliffe who is much closer to me, if I had some local gripe? Or, for that matter, if I were a National voter, I might prefer to go to Tim Groser, who is *also* closer to me, and also an MP and also in the actual government and has actual power. This local MP thing is some ancient bollix IMHO, designed around medieval ideas of population density, travel, communication and interests. There’s no requirement that the parties even have the same boundary choices for their local representation. I’d expect that John Key knows a whole lot more about Parnell issues than he does about Helensville ones. They could use people who actually come from and maybe even live in West Auckland for that. More than one person, even, with overlapping boundaries, and actual areas of personal expertise.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 31, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

  58. RJL @ 14

    “If Winston / NZ First doesn’t support something, then it is not in Northland’s interest (and therefore by extension not in the interests of the provinces everywhere). So National is not listening to the message and looks out of touch with the provinces. Alternatively, if NZ First brings a members bill, and National doesn’t support it; National still hasn’t heard the message and looks out of touch with the provinces.

    Winston is setting himself up as the provincial folk hero representative. Whether National has 61 votes or not is just a technical bureaucratic detail. What matters now is whether policy benefits narrow elites or the whole of NZ and especially whether it benefits provincial NZ. Winston’s support is now the metric of whether policy benefits provincial NZ.

    The votes of ACT/Dunne are sufficient to pass legislation. The vote of Winston is required to make it look good.”

    Sorry came in late, aware this is diverting folk back a few thousand comments, but I just think this point was too good to pass up unrecognised, and is actually something that will matter in the real world outside of this blog long after the deep dive folk have done on false equivalence has sunk without a trace.

    Comment by Joe-90 — March 31, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

  59. verily….

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 2, 2015 @ 7:13 am

  60. ‘doctrine of false equivalence’ ‘rovian’…. These are new words, pretending to be new insights, for things as old as polticis. Open Hansard at random at any page, in any year and you will find ‘well you did it too’.

    Comment by rob — April 3, 2015 @ 5:26 am


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