Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

Strap on your jetpack and leave, apparently. Andrew Little painted himself into a corner, commiting an unforced error by admitting he “offered to resign.” (but didn’t “offer to resign”) This is the sort of unprofessional slip-up we’ve come to expect from Andrew Little, but listening to his interview, you can tell he was trying to inartfully say that he laid his head on the chopping block for accountability and nobody decided they wanted to pick up the axe.

Politics editors all over the country were likely set to run a whole weeks worth of “will he should he” resign stories, and Little has done a strangely brave thing by simply pre-empting that discussion with an actual resignation. It’s a bit of a gamble: it brings back the “Labour is constantly changing its leader” criticism which Little had, largely, killed off during his tenure. On the other hand, he was looking very embattled, and his communications strategy clearly wasn’t working. I’m no comms manager, but even I could see that he was making amateur mistakes in interviews and taking punches when he didn’t even need to be in the ring. You could tell his heart was in it, but Little was dog tired.

I actually discussed last night what should happen after that interview, and said that whoever was responsible should quit, assuming it wasn’t Andrew Little. Well, apparently someone had the same first part of that thought.

But here’s the good news: Jacinda is now leader, and she’s set up in another Mike Moore type situation, except hers is a little easier to climb out of, because whatever your criticisms of Labour recently, it’s not in as dire a state as it was after Rogernomics. She seemed confident and at ease. She oozed confidence even when the media threw recent polling in her face, something that always tripped up Andrew Little. “Are you going to tell me I can’t?” she fired back to questions of Labour’s credibility to lead the government at 24%, and suddenly the adversarial nature broke slightly. This is not a woman to be trifled with, whatever your criticisms of her. She communicated with the media genuinely, effortlessly, and with humour. She looked like a leader, and as Clark has shown, Labour voters like a brainy woman in charge. I haven’t always been firmly on team Jacinda, but her press conference was impressive. She’s said she’s going to take stock for 72 hours, then start coming back with any changes needed. The Māori Party has already reached out, and new deputy Kelvin Davis1 managed to be reasonably graceful in saying he would listen but he wanted them to do better than they’d done under National, which is the height of reasonableness given that they were trying to engineer a Mana/Hone Harawira win in his electorate.

Metiria’s welfare announcement made me feel like the Green Party has turned a leaf, inspiring the base and pulling in new voters to the Green Party. Seeing Jacinda’s first moves as leader, ironically, I’m beginning to feel like stepping down as leader may end up being one of the best things Andrew Little could have done for the campaign, as desperate as it could be painted. Labour now has room to make the rhetorical turn it has desperately needed for months. It’s only 6-8% to go before the coalition equals National in the polls, and the under-covered story in recent polling is that National is still leaking support.

For the first time I can look at both opposition parties and feel like there are genuine messengers at the helm who are effective and getting things done. It is uphill from here, but I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ve all known Jacinda was being groomed for this, and after Clark, expectations on what it means to be a woman leading the opposition or the government are high. But so far, Jacinda seems to be smashing through the glass ceiling perfectly well, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t even find myself comparing her to Clark, which is high praise, because I constantly did so with Goff, Shearer, and Little. I look forward to seeing how she handles the campaign.

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So, Labour’s list is out. You can see bios for the most electable candidates at Labour’s website, although it hasn’t yet been updated for list-only candidates*. (update: you can find Labour’s article on their list here)

If you haven’t been following the news, you will note that in addition to the expected absense of Annette King after she decided to step aside next election in favour of Jacinda Ardern for deputy and Paul Eagle in her electorate, Sue Moroney is now gone too. This is a big loss for Labour, as she has been a champion for working women, making excellent strides with paid parental leave in Parliament, and it looks like they’ve naively looked at the party vote in her electorate and decided she’s a drag as a candidate, when I think it’s likely she just suffered from a tide towards national in the election, and deserved an electable list position. I expect if she hadn’t resigned, this means the highest she would have ranked would be the early 30s, and to be honest, that’s a very unfair ranking when compared to some of the performances of MPs who were ranked significantly higher, such as Stuart Nash, Clare Curran, Ruth Dyson, or Jenny Salesa. Appeal to the electorate can’t be the only consideration when ranking list MPs, there also has to be some concession to how effective they were at pushing key legislation and their performance in the house. Moroney should have ranked very highly on those two issues among sitting Labour MPs, and certainly among those who aren’t currently on the front bench, and probably deserved a ranking nearby Ruth Dyson and Jenny Salesa.

I’m honestly not as interested in the story about what caused the delay in releasing the list, and whether Little was trying to bump Willie Jackson up the ranks, as in all practical terms, he’s in a fairly electable position. If Labour polls below 30%, Jackson certainly hasn’t earned his spot in Parliament back, and being possibly the lowest-ranked list MP for Labour in 2017 will give everyone who wants him in the party a huge incentive to campaign hard for the Party Vote to make sure his position is secure. I think that’s win-win, and even if he’s disappointed, I think he’s done pretty well out of the list selection, to be honest, with some more talented newer political blood ranking lower than him. (Willie Jackson might be new to the Labour Party, but he was also the deputy leader of the Alliance back during the Clark era, so he’s old blood in the same sense as Laila Harré is. And we’ll all note that she, while far more qualified to be an MP than Jackson, has not had anyone advocating to get her an electable position in the Labour Party)

I’ve gone through and assigned each candidate to their electorate where I could find public comfirmation of their selection, and recorded which electorates Labour won in 2014, then threw in Ōhāriu for good measure, as there’s a real chance Labour could win there, and I have assumed for the primary scenario that Kelvin Davis will win again in Te Tai Tokerau. Neither of those are really guaranteed, but they are likely enough that Labour should be banking on them happening when it selects its list. (arguably, it should also be considering its candidates for Hamilton East and Hamilton West in terms of gender balance too, as most governments win at least 1 of the Hamilton seats, if not both of them) I’ve then calculated the effective list position for the remaining candidates, and compared it with the current average of recent Labour polling performances, which would net them 36 seats.

In that first scenario, where the two competitive races against minor parties go Labour’s way, they would end up with 20 male MPs, and 16 female MPs. Each of those two races would return a female list MP instead if Labour lost, assuming the minor party Labour lost to didn’t take a seat off them, which is a reasonably safe assumption given the polling of both United Future and Mana, so if Labour loses both Te Tai Tokerau and Ōhāriu and maintains its current polling into the election, its caucus will be gender-balanced for the first time ever.

According to its own regulations, Labour should be selecting its list so that women are expected to win at least 50% of its seats. This so-called “man ban” has not eventuated, as Labour will be assuming they’ll win both those key electorates, which means they need to make up four women in the party vote from current polling. The earliest they could do this would be to win exactly another 15 seats, (ie. 51 total, enough that they could govern with just the Greens in their coalition) which would require roughly a 41.5% Party Vote for Labour, assuming all of the votes were gained off National. That’s a 12% bump from current polling, something which would basically require Bill English to completely gaffe up the campaign, like claiming the Labour Party aren’t mainstream enough, or undermining our nuclear free-status, or simply being as racist as he was last time he was National Leader. Labour shouldn’t have to rely on National screwing up their campaign to elect enough women to get a reasonably balanced caucus, especially as women are a key constituency for Labour, especially as they are a fair amount of the unionised workforce nowadays.

The Herald seems to have run the same calculation I have to determine list eligibility, as they note that a party vote returning 40 Labour seats, which with current polling is about 33%, (which is about 1% higher than the error bars on their current polling, so a difficult result to get even if Labour is under-polling this election) would be required to elect Mallard as a list MP. This almost has me hoping that we don’t move too far from current polling and end up with a NZ First-Green-Labour government, as I suspect this election would be Mallard’s last if he doesn’t make it in, and Labour desperately needs to shed some of the dead wood that’s still somehow making it into the top 40 list positions.

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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.