The Dim-Post

October 9, 2016

Notes on the local body elections

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 4:55 am
  • It was a very good night for the left, and also whatever the hell Phil Goff represents. The left also did well in the 2013 local body elections, and everyone got all excited and said it was a harbinger of success in the General, and then it totally wasn’t.
  • I still don’t understand the left’s success in local body politics. Bill Ralston reckons ‘centre right voters just don’t vote’, which defies almost everything we know about voter behaviour. Maybe the difference is that in local body almost no one votes, but the left uses their campaign machines to mobilise their voters and the right doesn’t. But why don’t they do that?
  • Justin Lester won in Wellington. I wrote a feature about the Mayoral race and I liked all three of the leading candidates – we had good choices – who all seemed like contenders, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I met someone on Lester’s campaign team for a drink on Friday, and they were pretty confident. Sounds like it was a very, very well-run campaign.
  • There was a lot riding on it for Labour. Guyon Espiner wrote a feature in the Listener endorsing Nick Leggett, calling him ‘the darling of the Mainstream Labour Party-in-exile’ and writing ‘He may be standing for mayor of Wellington, but having resigned from Labour, he’s also sending his old party a message: this is what Labour might look like if it actually wanted to win.’ Espiner’s opinion carries a lot of weight, and if he’d been proved right about any of this the narrative would have built up momentum and been very harmful for Labour, I think.
  • Hamish McDouall, who came closer than he knows to becoming a character in one of my novels, is now Mayor of Whanganui.

40 Comments »

  1. “Espiner’s opinion carries a lot of weight”

    This sounds like the kind of proposal Danyl would pour scorn on if somebody else made it

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — October 9, 2016 @ 5:43 am

  2. I didn’t know Espiner had an opinion. I thought his job as a journalist was to report the news.

    Comment by Ross — October 9, 2016 @ 8:10 am

  3. From what I have seen of Leggat he seemed totally self interested and negative. I happened to get a campaign letter from him openly attacking Lester and Paul Eagle, in bold type no less. Couglhan seemed inoffensive but probably quite out of touch.
    Good win for Lester, I hope Leggat can put his tail between his legs, although he’ll probably turn out for NZ First…

    Comment by max — October 9, 2016 @ 8:13 am

  4. “… although he’ll probably turn out for NZ First…”

    The party that is rapidly becoming the preferred second choice vehicle of middle aged men in whom resides the sole possession of “common sense”.

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 9, 2016 @ 8:21 am

  5. Hamish McDouall, who came closer than he knows to becoming a character in one of my novels, is now Mayor of Whanganui.

    Isn’t that pretty much the same thing?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — October 9, 2016 @ 8:55 am

  6. Genuine question – why do so many people think Chloe Swarbrick did well in Auckland? She was a distant third and did slightly better than John Palino who is a toxic waste dump with hair.

    Comment by Nick R — October 9, 2016 @ 9:01 am

  7. I still don’t understand the left’s success in local body politics.

    Just spitballing here, but I wonder if “local politics” is seen by voters as different to “national politics”, in that what they want from their councils, etc differs from what they want from central government. So – and again, just spitballing here – it may be that central government is expected to deliver things like security and strength that fit into the narrative of right-of-centre parties. In contrast, local government is seen to be about services and community, which left-of-centre candidates have an easier time talking about. If that is so, then it isn’t surprising that a given voter might tick the ballot one way in national elections, and another seemingly inconsistent way in local ones. It also would mean that Ralston is wrong – “centre right” voters do vote, it’s just that they aren’t centre right at the local level.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — October 9, 2016 @ 9:08 am

  8. Genuine question – why do so many people think Chloe Swarbrick did well in Auckland?

    She “did well” compared to how conventional wisdom expected a 22-year-old woman with no previous political experience and near-zero financial resources would do.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — October 9, 2016 @ 9:11 am

  9. Most competent Nats are in parliament which isn’t case for Labour.

    Comment by NeilM — October 9, 2016 @ 9:22 am

  10. But did the left really win? Does anybody know, because mayors are just the head of the council aren’t they? I would think that the balance of opinions of who is on the council matters more than who the mayor is in terms of getting things done.

    I think you should either elect a dictator mayor with no council or elect a council who chooses its own mayor. The US system on the national level shows the folly of direct elections for both.

    Comment by Korakys — October 9, 2016 @ 9:38 am

  11. My theory is that people want Labour politicians to advocate for their communities, but not the Parliamentary Labour Party to govern the country. They even like Labour policies…

    Lester’s campaign was run by Labour’s best campaign manager, Hayden Munro, who cut his teeth in Christchurch local body politics – not coincidentally the Labour umbrella ticket there, The People’s Choice, also did very, very well.

    Comment by RHT — October 9, 2016 @ 9:42 am

  12. AG – Swarbrick got 7%. That’s better than Palino or Penny Bright. But I am not sure it was better than anyone expected. I thought she sounded like she expecte more

    Comment by Nick R — October 9, 2016 @ 9:43 am

  13. @10: not just mayors, but Green/Green-leaning candidates got in on councils, both district and regional, as well as various boards, all over the country. The Ruataniwha Dam now has a majority of HBRC against it for one example.

    Comment by jmcveagh — October 9, 2016 @ 10:22 am

  14. @Nick,

    If in July(?) someone had said “a (very) young candidate with no existing name recognition, no organisational backing, no money and very little MSM coverage will get 7% of the vote and come third in the Auckland mayoral race”, a sceptical eyebrow would have been raised. That’s why people are saying Swarbrick “did well” – she had a comparatively low hurdle to surmount. Come October, but, I’m sure she thought she might even do better than 7%. However, I guess that just shows that likes on Facebook and swooning coverage by The Spinoff isn’t enough.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — October 9, 2016 @ 11:03 am

  15. I think Whanganui’s electoral semioticians (a sub branch of the provincial funeral directors’ association) would have been working overtime interpreting Hamish McDouall’s billboard pictures, a very prominent part of which was his pounamu pendant. Travelling in the Bay of Plenty, Manawatu, Whanganui, Taranaki and the Manawatu in the last couple of weeks it was fascinating to see the number of Maori candidates with prominent billboards. How they did in the election I have no idea but the continuing evolution of race relations in the provinces is one of the more positive untold stories of NZ, fuelled by treaty settlements, demographic convergence (intermarriage mostly), and common commercial interests. Nostalgia for the good old days may fuel the righteousness of elderly left and right wing reactionaries like Don Brash and Sanctuary but there is a larger group more interested what the future has in store than hard left or right wing turns to the past.

    Comment by Tinakori — October 9, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

  16. Woo Hoooo !!! … Leggett lost !!!

    Best news to come out of the Local Body Results this year. Apart from the potentially damaging political fallout for Labour described in Danyl’s fourth bullet point, a Leggett win would have made Phil Quin and other kiwi Blairites in the Twittersphere absolutely bloody insufferable.

    Comment by swordfish — October 9, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

  17. > whatever the hell Phil Goff represents

    That’d be Auckland

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — October 9, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

  18. NeilM: “Most competent Nats are in parliament ”
    Ah, pretty small club then.

    Swordfish: “Leggett lost !!!

    Best news to come out of the Local Body Results this year.”
    Couldn’t agree more. Last thing we needed in Wellington was a carpetbagger, ex-Labour or not. Particularly a preachy one…

    Comment by D'Esterre — October 9, 2016 @ 3:43 pm

  19. “I hope Leggat can put his tail between his legs, although he’ll probably turn out for NZ First…”

    His main backer (Chris Parkin) was, yesterday, quoted as saying “[Nick Leggett] would fit well into the National party. He could equally find a home in New Zealand First.”

    I’ll leave it to others to interpret what that means.

    Comment by izogi — October 9, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

  20. “…Travelling in the Bay of Plenty, Manawatu, Whanganui, Taranaki and the Manawatu in the last couple of weeks it was fascinating to see the number of Maori candidates with prominent billboards. How they did in the election I have no idea but the continuing evolution of race relations in the provinces is one of the more positive untold stories of NZ, fuelled by treaty settlements, demographic convergence (intermarriage mostly), and common commercial interests. Nostalgia for the good old days may fuel the righteousness of elderly left and right wing reactionaries like Don Brash and Sanctuary but there is a larger group more interested what the future has in store than hard left or right wing turns to the past….”

    And what did the jolly locals make of your safari suit and pith helmet?

    Comment by Sanctuary — October 9, 2016 @ 8:38 pm

  21. “And what did the jolly locals make of your safari suit and pith helmet?”

    They were very hospitable Sanctuary, especially round the hangi pit where the safari suit and pith helmet are especially appreciated. Several asked after you in their native tongue and hoped you were not too depressed at the ironic convergence of left and right wing reactionaries on opposition to the TPP.

    Comment by Tinakori — October 9, 2016 @ 9:06 pm

  22. “And what did the jolly locals make of your safari suit and pith helmet?”

    That reminds me, tell us more about your trip to Spain please

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — October 9, 2016 @ 9:41 pm

  23. @ Ortvin, he went to Spain? Are you sure? I don’t recall him ever mentioning it.

    Comment by Cliff Clavin — October 9, 2016 @ 10:44 pm

  24. Also, Kapiti got a Guru which if nothing else, is a win for clever billboards.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 10, 2016 @ 8:03 am

  25. I voted for Goff but hearing him bang on about foreigners yet again like Little does doesn’t inspire hope.

    There’s far bigger issues he should be concentrating on such as getting the Untary Plan up and running.

    Comment by NeilM — October 10, 2016 @ 8:49 am

  26. •It was a very good night for the left, and also whatever the hell Phil Goff represents. The left also did well in the 2013 local body elections, and everyone got all excited and said it was a harbinger of success in the General, and then it totally wasn’t.

    This is because the local body left gets voted in by centrist voters. If you own property and want to make absolutely sure no pesky new entrants are built to compete with your holdings, vote for people who will regulate everything.

    Voting left wing makes house prices go up.

    And rates go up.

    But house prices go up faster.

    •I still don’t understand the left’s success in local body politics. Bill Ralston reckons ‘centre right voters just don’t vote’, which defies almost everything we know about voter behaviour.

    The left targets centrist voters and wins. The “centre” of the centre right outweighs the “right” by about 2:1.

    Maybe the difference is that in local body almost no one votes, but the left uses their campaign machines to mobilise their voters and the right doesn’t. But why don’t they do that?

    Nope.

    The wards with by far the lowest turnouts in Auckland were all left wing – Otara, Manurewa and Manukau.

    The simple truth – Helen Clark is right and Andrew Little isn’t. That is why Helen Clark won elections and Andrew Little has Labour polling in the mid-20s.

    Comment by unaha-closp — October 10, 2016 @ 10:00 am

  27. Goff stood as an independent and is more centrist than left.

    My guess is that voters see him having left the parliamentary Labour Party and that he’ll act in Auckland’s interests.

    Comment by NeilM — October 10, 2016 @ 10:16 am

  28. Travelling in the Bay of Plenty, Manawatu, Whanganui, Taranaki and the Manawatu in the last couple of weeks it was fascinating to see the number of Maori candidates with prominent billboards. How they did in the election I have no idea …

    No Maori candidates were elected to New Plymouth District Council or any of its four community boards.

    Comment by Ataahua — October 10, 2016 @ 11:09 am

  29. In Auckland, Phil Goff got 47.3% – add in Chloe Swarbrick for a “left” vote of 54.5%.
    Labour/Green are polling 40% and NZ First are on 9%.

    There are two obvious factors differentiating Auckland local elections from NZ generally.
    – National’s core constituency of Rural White Dudes isn’t there => I’m not sure what the historical split is between rural and urban NZ, but you’d expect the non-National vote to be maybe 5% higher in Auckland?
    – NZ First don’t really organise in local government (and the Greens sensibly don’t contest many FPP elections) so the non-National vote concentrates behind a ‘Laboury’ candidate.

    Based on that, there aren’t really any other explanations needed.

    Comment by Rich d'Rich — October 10, 2016 @ 12:26 pm

  30. I still don’t understand the left’s success in local body politics.

    The breathtakingly simple answer is that, at the local level, voters can much more tangibly see and touch the things their tax/rate dollars got them – rubbish pickup, recreational facilities, and so on.
    It’s a lot harder to “sell” a voter in, say, Timaru, the idea it’s good for their tax dollars to support the central government’s contribution to the Auckland road and/or rail network.

    Comment by Phil — October 10, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

  31. ‘I liked all three of the leading candidates – we had good choices”

    Because you think they’re good at the game of politics, or because they had good policies?

    I can’t think why you would think the latter – they all seemed dead keen on roads and runways? Or is tarmac the new Green?

    Comment by Rich d'Rich — October 10, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

  32. Or is tarmac the new Green?

    There’s a joke in here somewhere about astroturfing.

    Comment by Gregor W — October 10, 2016 @ 3:03 pm

  33. “There’s far bigger issues he should be concentrating on such as getting the Untary Plan up and running.”

    He can work on improving consenting processes, but not much on zoning/density while coastal nimbys ties the plan up in court for another year. Other changes also require government to pull finger.

    Comment by Sacha — October 10, 2016 @ 6:22 pm

  34. When the public have a vote on policy, without party labels they, sensibly prefer policies which work. Left wing ones.

    Comment by KJT — October 10, 2016 @ 7:09 pm

  35. Goff’s marketing was clever: blue billboards to signal to the centre-right that he intended to represent them too. Authenticity would have required billboards that had as much red as blue but his marketing advisors would’ve rejected the mixed message and Goff is smart enough to know the centre-left would vote for him regardless – so it made sense to lock in an impregnable centrist mandate to use as a platform for multiple terms (like Shadbolt).

    The use of sky-blue to distinguish him from the medium blue of National was also noteworthy, signalling that Phil is out there in the wild blue yonder roaming free, and any Nat attempt to corral him is doomed to failure.

    Personally I would have preferred a more whimsical style. Large pink polka dots would have looked good on that sky-blue background, signalling that he hasn’t entirely repudiated socialism despite having been a cheerleader of the rogernome betrayal, & still feels a vestigial solidarity with leftists (although some would have complained that it was a blatant pitch for the gay vote).

    Comment by Dennis Frank — October 11, 2016 @ 9:24 am

  36. @unaha-closp: “This is because the local body left gets voted in by centrist voters. If you own property and want to make absolutely sure no pesky new entrants are built to compete with your holdings, vote for people who will regulate everything. Voting left wing makes house prices go up.”

    But didn’t National get elected to central government, in part, by promising to cut red tape and gut the RMA, which people apparently hate because it allegedly stops anything from ever being built or changing at a local level? Even over the last couple of years National’s been making a big deal about annihilating “loopy rules”.

    Comment by izogi — October 11, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

  37. Omfg, McDoull went through Collegiate in Wanganui with my ex-husband.
    Talk about activating the old boys’ network, I’ll bet he had as much support from the local Nat branch as they could slide across under the carpet….

    Comment by anarkaytie — October 12, 2016 @ 9:40 am

  38. @izogi: The National right promising RMA reform is like the Auckland left promising a compact city with lots of apartments.

    Low info, wishy-washy, politically disengaged, swing voters have much better things to do than waste time listening to politicians.

    The RMA hasn’t been gutted and Auckland apartments have not been built.

    Comment by unaha-closp — October 12, 2016 @ 11:29 am

  39. “From what I have seen of Leggat he seemed totally self interested and negative. I happened to get a campaign letter from him openly attacking Lester and Paul Eagle, in bold type no less.”

    Which gives a massive lie to his claim that he is above party politics, Leggat’s knuckle dragging populism is probably most closely aligned with Eagle, if it was anything other than a vendetta against Labour (how does Eagle even have the backing of Labour??) he wouldn’t have sent such a letter.

    And National reforming the RMA was when they thought they would have the unfettered power of holding over half the seats in Parliament, they just can’t get the numbers.

    Comment by mike — October 12, 2016 @ 3:46 pm

  40. “And National reforming the RMA was when they thought they would have the unfettered power of holding over half the seats in Parliament”

    Yes. I know National didn’t manage to do it. It hasn’t done lots of things it promised to do at one time or another, either because it hasn’t been able to or because of sudden unpopularity noted by DPF. My earlier intended point was more that as an electioneering promise (especially one that capitalised on countering its Nanny State line against Labour), lots of people, probably centre voters, voted for National either wanting the RMA to be gutted, or at least expecting it might happen and to that extent were fine with it. To me that doesn’t seem consistent with then voting for local government so that it’ll convolute the rules to hinder development.

    Comment by izogi — October 12, 2016 @ 4:07 pm


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