Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

Labour announced its cabinet reshuffle (to deal with the resignations of David Cunliffe and David Shearer) on Friday, and it’s largely not a big deal.

Foreign affairs going to Parker makes a lot of sense- it double-loads him with senior portfolios but one of the two is likely to be negotiated away to NZF or the Greens. Tertiary Education going to Hipkins makes perfect sense.

Even throwing Nash some important portfolios like Science and SOEs makes sense, the man is a climber and you want him occupied.

Starting Wood off with some important portfolios like Consumer Affairs and Revenue is great, and makes perfect sense. This is someone who could totally be in the front bench if he stays on for another term or two.

Curran taking over as full ICT spokesperson, while arguably putting her out of her depth, is also logical, as she was the associate before.

It does raise two interesting questions:

Firstly, and probably more importantly: Is it really appropriate to give the Ethnic Communities portfolio to Wood? (the existing associates are Su’a William Sio and Ruth Dyson) A more logical approach would certainly have been to make him an associate, but you really do need to have someone ethnic leading a portfolio like that for reasons of presence and mana in my opinion. There is a role that white people can play in these sorts of areas, but it shouldn’t be the leadership role. That’s not understanding your lane in terms of fighting for racial equality. It would be like appointing a man as spokesperson for Women’s Affairs: It implicitly states that you don’t believe you have a woman (or someone who isn’t pakeha) who can do the job, which basically means you’ve failed in selecting candidates1.

Secondly, why the heck is Clare Curran moving into Shadow Cabinet? Don’t get me wrong, ICT is a portfolio that is (Shadow) Cabinet-worthy, but Curran isn’t someone who’s qualified to be in cabinet, and I doubt she ever will be. (Then again, Simon Bridges thinks he’s qualified to be Deputy PM, so we clearly live in a completely loopy world in 2016) Logically, Curran needs to be the successor for ICT so that you don’t need to get someone completely new into the portfolio, but it’s reasonable to lock her out of Shadow Cabinet and promote someone else.

If you were being optimistic about who you think in Labour would deserve a Shadow Cabinet position based on talent, (I wouldn’t, personally) you would expect Louisa Wall to have been given some of Shearer’s or Cunliffe’s cabinet-level portfolios and advanced into the Shadow Cabinet, as a talented new MP deserving of advancement. However Louisa seems to be viewed as backbench material for some strange reason, despite being the one to orchestrate our latest advancement of civil rights in New Zealand, and one of the more careful and ethical representatives within Labour.

If you were being cynical and expecting the portfolio to be awarded based on factors like seniority, loyalty, and similar considerations, the natural choice would be Ruth Dyson, who as Women’s Affairs spokesperson arguably belongs in Cabinet already. (Mallard, despite arguably needing to go, is likely to remain on as he’s the best Labour candidate for Speaker, and as such, isn’t going to be in shadow cabinet because he will either need to remain assistant Speaker if National win, or become primary Speaker if Labour do)

Realistically, I can only think of two explanations. One is that Curran has made herself a liability to get rid of somehow and has wrangled a promotion because she’s now viewed as critical to Labour’s success. (lol? If anything she typifies the problems with the Labour caucus and is a drag on their party vote) If she’s wormed her way into finding some buried skeletons, or gatekeeping some critical fundraising capacity, or is viewed as critical by members in a certain part of the country, putting her into Shadow Cabinet to keep her happy arguably starts to make sense, even if long-term it’s probably not a good idea.

The other possibility is that Little is using Curran to “bank” that position in his shadow cabinet against the 2017 election, and hoping that some new talent will come into the party that he can promote into that position. If he promoted an MP who arguably deserved it, it would be much more difficult to move them out of (shadow) cabinet later. So by bringing Curran in, someone who he can absolutely shuffle out of cabinet in for underperforming whenever he pleases in the future, he leaves himself open to who actually fills that slot after the election, and can move up Dyson if no new talent presents itself, or put Harré or some other new blood into cabinet if he picks up some additional list or electorate MPs.

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Worth noting today is that Laila Harré has formally re-joined the Labour Party, (h/t to Andrea Vance) and intends to stand as a candidate. (depending on party decisions on electorate selection and list ordering, of course)

Laila has excellent credibility with the Left in general and working people in particular, and her selection as leader was basically the reason the Internet Party enjoyed any legitimacy at all, pre-Mana alliance or post-.1 It wasn’t exactly a great move for her reputation in retrospect due to how successful the Right were in associating Mana and the Internet Party with Kim Dotcom due to his donation, but it does make clear that she has a lot of mana with the left.

Prior to Sue Moroney taking over the issue, Laila was the original champion of paid parental leave in Parliament, (she successfully pushed for 12 weeks) has been a friend to the union movement and a vocal critic of neoliberal policies ever since Rogernomics, and quit as a Labour member to join the NewLabour Party and thereby eventually the Alliance, which as its name suggests, was an electoral alliance of radical left parties, such as the Greens, (temporarily) Mana Motuhake, NewLabour, and the Democrats for Social Credit. After her election in ’96, she has served as Minister of Women’s affairs and associate Minister of Labour and commerce, fighting hard for much of the pro-worker legislation that occurred prior to collapse of the Alliance as an effective political vehicle. She has also served as a strategist for the Green Party, so this is a woman who has literally been prominent in every significant left-wing political movement since the 80s, and would provide credibility to the notion that Labour is positioning itself as a senior coalition partner for the Greens, as Ms. Harré is still to a degree part of the Green whānau, and having her at the table for that discussion could legitimately make it easier for both sides.

If Andrew Little wants to run a big-tent campaign that targets both the Labour left and Middle New Zealand, or even if he is going for a left-wing Labour campaign that targets demotivated voters, (ie. “the missing million” strategy) Laila is an excellent candidate who he should be placing high up his list, as she is persuasive to both groups2. (given her crowning achievements have mostly been around securing pay and benefits for workers, she has a lot of pull with left-leaning centrists) He should even be considering how quickly he can move her to the front bench, I would argue. While she’s not new to politics, she is part of the populist change Labour could represent in 2017, and she deserves a winnable electorate or list position when compared to some of  the less inspiring electorate MPs, and even a couple of the senior List MPs that snuck in with the 2014 election. (Compare and contrast Laila to Mallard or Ardern, for instance, both of whom were given very winnable list and electorate positions. Then compare with her to some of Labour’s less stellar candidates like say, Clare Curran, and I think an objective observer can agree that Laila deserves to be on or near the front bench)

Laila would make an excellent Minister for Women, or a great head of MBIE, or even both, whether or not Labour intend to split MBIE again3 into Labour and Business ministries. While normally I would be promoting a Green candidate for most ministerial positions if Labour can win in 2017, I can’t really see anyone more qualified to advocate for women, and there is simply no way a party branded as “Labour” is going to even consider handing over the ministry dedicated to working people to any other party in more than an associate role. Little should be seriously considering not only his current shadow cabinet, but how the people on his list and winning electorate selection could contribute to a possible cabinet in 2017 if he is taking his job as Bill English’s opposite seriously, and Laila is an excellent way to give himself more options in both the Labour and Ministry for Women areas.

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Those of you who are not particularly aware of the way electorate boundaries are drawn may not be aware that New Zealand actually has a quota for South Island electorates. Basically, regardless of the relative population imbalance, the South Island is always guaranteed to have at least 16 electorate seats. Essentially how they work is that the median electorate size is set to 1/16th the population of the South Island at the time electorates are reviewed, then the North Island seats are divided up relative to this so that they don’t vary by more than 5% from the median size. After that, Māori electorates are “superimposed” over the borders of the general seats in a way that divides them roughly by the Māori electoral roll population, and so that there’s a proper proportion of Māori seats to General seats.

Unless there’s a sudden exodus of North Islanders to the South Island at some point, or a mass immigration to the South Island to get away from Donald Trump, there’s likely to be a long-term issue with that. Why? Because of something I call “list seat parity,” which is the idea that parties with significant shares of the Party Vote, like National, Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First, should never have overhang seats.

MMP is intended to have a healthy proportion of list MPs- the original ratio was that just above 41% of MPs would be list MPs, presumably with the intention that the ratio would stay around 5 list MPs to every 7 electorate ones. We have added two new electorates to the North Island since we switched to an MMP system, reducing the number of list MPs to 49, assuming no Independents are elected. (independents elected at a general election remove a list seat vacancy rather than creating an overhang so that Parliament doesn’t inflate grossly due to independents being elected, a rule which hasn’t become relevant since like, ever, as every “independent” in our system has either been someone who quit their party, or a lone MP optimistically having their own political party, presumably on the theory that they’ll earn a second seat again sometime in the future. Not happening, Seymour and Dunne, not happening.)

It theory, there’s really nothing wrong with actually having less electorates than we do, but 60%-ish of MPs being electorate MPs isn’t unreasonable and doesn’t hasn’t threatened parliaments much larger than about 125 MPs in the past.

With 70 seats, there’s a reasonable expectation of list seat parity, but it’s not guaranteed. Almost all electorate seats are won by National or Labour. There are only five others likely to be in serious contention in the current political climate, (which as we know, can rapidly change, but this list is actually somewhat on the high side by historical standards) and those are Epsom, Northland, Ōhārui, Waiariki, and possibly Te Tai Tokerau. (As nobody polls for electorates, we have no real clue whether the Māori party agreeing not to stand there will matter enough to unseat Kelvin Davis in 2017. I’m assuming it’s within the realm of possibility until I have good reason to think otherwise) Let’s assume that small parties won’t take more than five electorate seats. That currently leaves 66 currently for Labour and National. Labour, with roughly 27.5% of the party vote, earned 27 seats in 2014.

That’s not currently a problem, but with some small changes to the way our elections work, and a small boost in North Island population, (ie. a few more electorates) it might be.

Imagine for a moment that the Greens start eating into Labour’s party vote but not their electorate vote. Let’s assume in this calculation Labour can hold on to a similar number of electorate MPs- it only takes about a 5% shift to the Green party for Labour to start getting overhang MPs, compared to current polling, and that’s without any extra North Island electorates, and assuming Hone takes back Te Tai Tokerau. A roughly 4% shift to the Greens from Labour will start giving them overhang seats if the 2020 election adds a new electorate seat again. (note the link shows all of Labour’s seats as electorate seats with no overhang, that’s because the Commission’s calculator doesn’t allow for us to award more than the current 71 electorates. I take it you’re capable of using your imagination)

I would much prefer that instead of having a South Island quota, we simply set the number of electorates to 70 in legislation, and the South Island get its share based on how many 70ths of the population live on the South Island and are part of the General Roll. This will limit the chance that either Labour or National (but most likely, Labour) will end up with overhang seats in the future. This should limit the likelihood of overhang seats for Labour in the future, especially as we’re approaching the point where certain Wellington electorates like Wellington Central might actually spontaneously decide to elect a Green candidate even though they’re not campaigning for the electorate vote. (In terms the party vote, most Wellington electorates are three-way races between the Greens, Labour, and National)

If we don’t adjust the South Island Quota, however, we’re in for an interesting problem in the long term. Until relatively recently, about .5% more of the population would live in the North Island every census, but that rate’s actually increased a little bit recently. Assuming that trend continues, it won’t take too long for us to end up with nearly 90 electorates, (it only takes a population growth of just over 1 million in the North Island, if you assume the South Island population stays static) which would make breaking list parity the rule, rather than the exception. (in fact, it was actually one of the potential “reforms” to MMP that Labour had been talking about at the time of the MMP review was to add another 20 or so electorates, because they knew that the party most likely to get overhang seats that way would be Labour) This could actually happen in 20-30 years time, depending on migration numbers, so I hope I’m not the only one noticing that the South Island Quota is a terrible way to determine how many electorate seats we have.