Election 2014 – the aftermath

So election day came and went with very little changing, for all the hubbub. National is a bit stronger, and no doubt emboldened by success. Labour is a bit weaker, and will now be focussed on blame and bloodletting. The Greens are probably feeling in pretty good shape, but are likely puzzled at the apparent drop-off in support on election day – again. It’s hard to say whether it is some unknown systematic polling bias or whether people get cold feet once they get an orange marker in their hand.

More significant are the changes among small parties. The loss of Hone Harawira from Parliament is a major blow and only time will tell whether there is any life left in Mana. If it really intends to be a movement rather than a political party, as its supporters claim, then this might be a blessing in disguise. It is almost impossible for a genuine political movement to coalesce out of a political party, rather than the other way round.

The Maori Party has survived and if it can find a way to heal the deep rift caused by the expulsion of Hone Harawira and make room for mavericks within the party, it may be capable of rebuilding itself. I always thought the best strategy was to keep people like Hone inside the tent, free to say the things the leadership couldn’t say.

ACT was mortally wounded 3 years ago after making John Banks their leader – and that was before the scandals. The party is still alive albeit on an iron lung. It’s hard to imagine David Seymour, or Jamie Whyte as out-of-Parliament leader, making enough impact to lift party support much. The only question is how long National finds it convenient to keep the life support plugged in.

Nothing much changes for New Zealand First, although having Ron Mark back will help it look less like a one-man show. The extra votes that Winston now wields will mean little.

Overall, then, people voted for more of the same and they are going to get it. For progressives, this is a lost opportunity. It means another three years before anyone even begins making the kinds of infrastructural changes needed to become a 21st century nation. It means that at a national level a number of indicators are going to keep getting worse – from poverty levels and inequality gaps to worsening environmental quality and loss of ecological integrity. It means another three years of embarrassment on the international stage, as we continue to drag the chain on climate change and spy on our friends on behalf of the Club of Five. All masked by growth rates that sound adequate but are largely meaningless when it comes to the real state of the economy.

Disappointing but hardly traumatic.

So I was a little taken aback at the outpouring of grief on my Facebook page. Many of my friends and acquaintances seem shell-shocked by the election result. Their responses range from disbelief to anger. It is like looking at a classic Kubler-Ross model of responses to grief. I thought I’d show a diagram so that people can understand the process they are going through and see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Meanwhile, in the interests of retaining a little dignity in defeat, here is my list of three top tips:

Stop telling people they were stupid for voting National (or despicable for exercising their legal right to not vote)

Stop assuming national voters are all selfish and greedy – they may well have voted for National because they simply didn’t believe a Labour Green Government had, or could deliver, the solutions.

Stop saying that you think the election was rigged. The left lost. (This for the more volatile activists)

On the other hand, in the interests of not looking stupid, my advice to all the right wing media commentators is to stop saying that David Cunliffe should have criticised his team, his campaign strategy and himself in his election night speech. There is plenty of time for Labour to look at what it is doing so spectacularly wrong, but election night speeches conceding defeat are for thanking the team for trying, not attacking them for failing to win.

Having said that, there are a few glaring faults that Labour needs to rectify if it wants a shot at leading a Government in three years time.

Labour needs to stop fighting itself and its allies. I won’t go on about the internal self-sabotage because it is so obvious as to be painful, but Labour really needs to learn to play with the other kids. Writing off working with Internet-Mana was stupid. It says that either Labour will probably be unable to form a Government or that, as Hone intimated, they are lying. John Key was not sullied by either the puppy love of Colin Craig or the more bizarre shenanigans of John Banks. He even got away with picking the lock for both Banks and David Seymour to break into the House, without it reflecting badly on him. He just looked pragmatic. Why then did Labout panic over Internet Mana?

The billboard change-outs that said “only a vote for Labour will change the Government” was equally stupid. It was patently untrue for a start. If people thought it was true then the implication was that there was NO WAY that Labour could be the Government since it was polling in the thirties. It was just another sign that Labour had forgotten how to put coalitions together.

There is no doubt that there was media bias in the campaign. The last poll reported in the Herald showed a drop in support for National, but was reported as showing a jump in support, based on some shoddy and invalid statistical manipulation. That sort of media bias needs to be jumped on pretty smartly. Nevertheless the big problem wasn’t the media. It was the campaign.

David Cunliffe did really well when he had the chance. He certainly looked like John Key’s equal in the leaders debates, but that was never going to be enough in the context of a weak campaign that was full of blunders. Apologising for being a man was probably the most ridiculous thing to come out of the mouth of a political leader for some time. Drawing lines in the sand over things like cannabis law reform, which is supported by a majority of the population and his potential allies, was unwise and unnecessary. He could easily have fudged the issue to give himself some room.

Finally, the impact of ‘Dirty Politics’ and Kim Dotcom. I have huge respect for Nicky Hagar and his work but in hindsight, releasing the book during the campaign was too cute. It looked like a stunt. It would have been better for Nicky to have released the book earlier in the season to allow the issues to be investigated and the shine to be taken off Key without leaving himself open to the accusation of trying to hijack the election. Given the careful persona Key has cultivated for so long, people probably needed a bit of time to assimilate the new information. Bringing it out during the campaign seems to have just locked in people’s opinions, for or against Key.

The decision of both Hone Harawira and Laila Harre to link themselves to the Kim Dotcom train was always going to be a high risk gamble. Whatever else you think of Kim Dotcom, it became apparent early on that he is a loose unit with no political sense. The best thing at that stage would have been to kept him well out of the stage lights. I suspect that would have been hard to do. I have no doubt that he is a strong willed guy with a ego to match the size of his bank balance. Nevertheless if Internet Mana wanted to be taken seriously as something other than his toy, he needed to stay in the background. Allowing him to hijack both the launch (by publicly hinting he hacked Slater) and the Moment of Truth (with the email about his personal fight with Key) was unwise.

So, lets look at the silver lining. Lots of people are now motivated to ensure Key doesn’t get a fourth term. This is a good time to harness some of that energy, not for political party work but for building a genuine constituency for change. The thing that will ultimately define the shape of New Zealand is not politicians but the expectations of its citizens. When there is a broad movement for a socially, ecologically and financially regenerative transformation, then the political parties needed to support that will be elected into Government. But be warned – we are a long way from being able to deliver a compelling vision of the future.

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51 thoughts on “Election 2014 – the aftermath

  1. Glenn says:

    Well said, I heartedly agree. It’s funny you mention the Kubler-Ross model as I have been thinking this is the reason for the lack of movement on climate change. Did you find it strange climate change was not a factor in the election? The media seemed to be doing their best to avoid it. I couldn’t help but wonder if the people really understood Nationals stance on climate change things could have turned out a little differently…..

    • farmerbraun says:

      ” Did you find it strange climate change was not a factor in the election? ”

      That is a very strange suggestion. In my view , it was definitely a factor. Russell Norman was at pains to ensure that it was a factor, as was Labour.

      • Glenn says:

        Sure it was policy pushed by Greens and Labour. But was not mentioned voluntarily by the media and I’m sure the words climate change never passed Mr Keys lips in the election.

  2. Sarah says:

    Speaking of the climate, I’ve not seen anything about the People’s Climate March in the NZ media or on Kiwi friends’ Facebook pages. I’m assuming there was one? Or more? Or were people too busy nursing post-election hangovers?

    • Glenn says:

      Sure was 🙂 We went to Peoples Climate Rally in Golden Bay. Then onto the march in Nelson, 150-200 very energised activists. Believe there were other marches, Auckland had bout 400. Think the election actually motivated those who were involved.

    • farmerbraun says:

      With respect, “People’s Climate March ” looks to the average voter like a re-run of King Canute et al.
      “climate change” is a very unhelpful description.

      • Glenn says:

        Not familiar with King Canute. Agree with use of ‘Climate Change’ there are many better ways to describe the total environmental degradation we are seeing. People know what climate change is and for now I feel it’s best to run with it. You have to use the tools in front of you and I support any means to create change.

      • farmerbraun says:

        But what I’m saying is that “climate change” is increasingly “ho-hum” . . . “whatever” to the public.

        Environmental degradation covers everything that we need to address. The issue is ‘”future-eating”, and it appears to be worst where poverty is greatest. A man close to starvation today has little thought for tomorrow , let alone next century.

  3. kmccready says:

    Please Don’t say “left” again. Say “progressive”. Don’t say “right” again. Say “selfish wing of the conservatives”. Please. We need to reclaim the language. Promise?

  4. Twisty says:

    Great round up Nandor. And well put. Sure felt charged with intensity in the weekend. Thanks for the philosophical and pragmatic stance.

  5. I really do wonder about the vast number of folk who did not vote. Did they really want more of the same or are they part of the great uneducated who are becoming a legacy of National.
    Education is getting more expensive.

    • Paul Ju says:

      Education is also getting infiltrated with the neoliberal agenda, where the children are learning to become accountable to their own ‘management’ as functional, productive ‘units’ in the economy. The idea of a wider, overall, humanistic, creative and problem solving education is being swamped by a bland and pragmatic funtionality. And this is becoming endemic across all institutions, public and private sector, where it is couched in the term “business as usual”. It will become harder and harder to resist and will result in a perfectly conformist population.

    • Alex says:

      I’ve met a few national supporters who didn’t vote too. Don’t think poor support for Labour can really be linked to them.

  6. michal says:

    Kubler-Ross, yes and Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. Basically until your simplest needs of water, food, shelter, warmth, and sex are met you are unable to move onto upper levels of meeting needs such as safety and then social/belonging. There is also a correlation between inequality and civic /community participation ( Wilkinson and Pickett, @ Robb lectures, Auckland Univ, 2014) the greater the inequality the lesser the civic interest. It’s common sense.

  7. Sam Buchanan says:

    I didn’t vote because I didn’t want to give a mandate to a person working in a system I abhor. But I don’t think I’m typical – I’d say most non-voters are apolitical people trying to get on with their lives and who don’t give much thought to political processes an don’t think it affects them. These are people the left used to try and reach several decades ago, but they seemed to have given up trying before my time. The left, since the 1980s at least, has been complacent and withdrawn. They’ve tried to sell themselves as a public relations exercise, or by appealing to people’s self interest, but they never try and explain themselves, and why their ideas might work. One of my formative political experiences was attending my first ever union meeting – and being told the best reason for joining the union was that I could get access to cheap holiday homes. If that is the best the left can do, no wonder they have been in decline throughout my lifetime.

    • Nandor says:

      Completely agree. I remember getting frustrated at the Labour Government under Clark for not attempting to explain their policies. They either had the numbers and rammed them through or retreated if the opposition was too strong. Maybe effective short term tactics but bad strategy.

  8. Nevyn says:

    Fourth term…. people are motivated to make sure they don’t get in for a fourth…. This is their third.

  9. Mark C. Wilson says:

    Cunniliffe – > Cunliffe
    third term -> fourth term

  10. Paul Ju says:

    Climate change brought into an election campaign? You must be kidding me. Even the 2012 US elections did not put it on the table. Here we had the climate voter campaign, the climate voter debate, and interestingly, David Cunliffe mentioned it briefly in his opening TV promo…that was it. Swept under the carpet as it has been for decades and will be for decades more, well at least until the weather truly packs up, which it is doing but nobody wants to believe its actually climate change caused by stupid human behaviours. The media are irresponsible in this respect and are perpetuating business fundamentalism which is precisely the cause of it in the first place. Strangely, I believe though that issues such as climate change and impending societal and environmental collapse are part of the reason Key was re-elected. People are living in collective denial, and Key and his business as usual approach is what they need to keep their heads in the sand.

    • Glenn says:

      I feel you are right. I think that if we have any hope to change the current mindset and the future of our environment it needs to come from the people. If enough people stand up we will get our critical mass. The time is now, we can’t wait for it to come from the powers that be.
      I have made a commitment to myself and my daughter to get us living as close as we can to the sustainable line. While doing this I want help create environmental awareness in the people I come in contact with, I hope to do this with gratitude for what we all ready have rather than fear of what’s to come. Without trying to sound too airy fairy, when change comes (it will eventually) I feel we will see a spiritual awakening as well. I have hope….

    • farmerbraun says:

      “stupid human behaviours. ”

      Again , that is not helpful in bringing people on board. It may even be instinctive behaviour .

      • Paul Ju says:

        There is an entire history to the acquired knowledge of the greenhouse effect that goes back to the 1850s when it was theorised by an English scientist, and then proven in the 1870s by a Frenchman. Then in the 1970s a number of prominent books warned of the dangers of CO2 pollution but over the next few decades the world embarked on an unprecedented industrial growth, unfettered and unregulated, spewing millions upon millions of tonnes of the stuff into the thin protective veil we call the atmosphere. And now, with extreme weather and melting ice caps and massive rates of extinction upon us, the governments of the world cannot see fit to agree on any meaningful accord for action. I don’t think anyone could call this instinct…its sheer stupidity, collective suicide. No point in beating round the bush to get people on board. The physical extremes in the environment will do that soon enough. Notice how quiet the deniers are these days.

      • farmerbraun says:

        It is my observation that the “believe- or-perish ” message is falling on deaf ears.
        Calling the people by offensive names and telling them that they are stupid will not cause them to open their ears.
        However you are perfectly free to pursue this strategy; I simply observe that it appears to have little, if any, positive effect. It certainly has a considerable negative effect, in my view.

        Yes , those that you refer to as “deniers” are quiet,possibly because they see what I see. They see total inaction.

    • farmerbraun says:

      “The media are irresponsible in this respect and are perpetuating business fundamentalism which is precisely the cause of it in the first place. ”

      No , the media are being completely responsible to their masters and owners. Follow the money.

  11. kmccready says:

    Nandor, I disagree that not voting is a “democratic” right. In some countries the democracy makes it compulsory. We could argue about the definitions of democracy and rights, but I think it would be better to agree that the Nationals do their best to avoid Civics education in our classrooms and that this is a big factor in the 30% of people who don’t vote. Personally I see voting as a civic duty, much like paying taxes and Rescue at Sea.

    To those who don’t vote because they think the system is corrupt, I say that you are helping to perpetuate that very system. I’d hate to imagine what system you would put in it’s place and I think you are incredibly naive. If you vote for the least worst option and if you vote to amend the system surely you will be moving it in a better direction.

    • Nandor says:

      I said ‘legal right’, which it is. I wouldn’t support making voting compulsory but I have long supported civics education in schools.

    • I agree with you KMcc…I have always admired Nandor, he has a lot of depth in his writing, and it’s legible, easy to grasp. But I do agree that voting is too precious to be ignored, many people died and gave up everything they had so we could have the right to vote. It’s compulsory in Australia and I can’t see anyone complaining about it over there. If everyone voted in New Zealand we would probably never see a right -wing government again.

      David Cunliffe certainly had a lot of clumsy moments, including the excruciating apology for being a man, I often wonder if that was him talking or some background honcho with a script.

      Kia Kaha everyone

  12. mnieuwoudt says:

    Thank you for your comment. It makes me feel better.

  13. Pamala says:

    I don’t know iif it’s just me or if perhaos everybody else encoutering problems with your site.
    It appears as though some of the written text onn your posts are running off the screen.
    Can someone else please comment and let mme know if this is happening to them
    too? This might be a issue with my web browser because
    I’ve had this happen previously. Thaznk you

  14. “When there is a broad movement for a socially, ecologically and financially regenerative transformation, then the political parties needed to support that will be elected into Government. But be warned – we are a long way from being able to deliver a compelling vision of the future.”

    This so much. A grassroots groundswell movement outside of the parliamentary system would have Key & Co quaking in its boots a whole lot more than a change of Opposition leader. Generation Zero have done some work in that respect.

    • farmerbraun says:

      “we are a long way from being able to deliver a compelling vision of the future.”

      And yet at the same time there are already those who have made the necessary adjustments for the anticipated future. But largely they are keeping their heads down. [and their backsides up 🙂 ]

      Returning to my point , when it is the case that we have become the objects of public humour and derision , then arguably it is time to think about the development of an alternative strategy, or at least, a re-definition of the problem.

      I found this cartoon on the Breitbart News site

      I don’t think that it is a good look.

  15. E says:

    I do have one problem with your blog post … you spelled Labour, Labout.

  16. Marcinco says:

    I still have to add that if Scotland and Fiji have recently had cases of electral rigging that I wouldn’t put it passed New Zealand.

  17. Paul Harris says:

    Guys, with a couple of minor exceptions, I have to compliment you all on the superb quality of the article and the debate. Well done!

  18. Gyn_Nag says:

    Hey Nandor, in light of this post there’s been a request for you to do an AMA over at reddit.com/r/newzealand. I Highly recommend it, reddit is an excellent forum for discussion with a respectful and varied community.

  19. rezwithran says:

    Hey Nandor, in light of this post, there’s been a request for you to do an AMA (“Ask me anything”) over at reddit.com/r/newzealand. I highly recommended it, reddit is an excellent forum for discussion with an intelligent and varied community. Just follow that address and create a self-post.

  20. Jason Sanders says:

    I agree with so many of your points Nandor. I heartily agree that the people who vote for the progressive parties, well some of them anyway, spend too much time being negative about national voters. Many of them are very good people: some of them voted out of self interest, but many vote out of fear, out of habit, and because they don’t see the environment as an issue. A lot are a bit ignorant about this government because they only watch the TV news, and don’t read widely. My mother is a good example. She votes national because of that I believe. She is not a critical thinker. However, she is far from dumb and when I put it to her that National was just upholding the status quo economic system, and we should be going into solar power, starting to green the economy, she looked thoughtful, and then agreed with me. She probably still voted National, but approached the right way, I believe she could end up voting the Greens!!
    I also believe that Labour stuffed up its campaign. It has some very good policies, but as you say it’s long term strategy seems to be not to bring the people on board politically. It’s a top down approach.

    One glaring mistake I saw them make was to declare potentially unpopular policies like raising the retirement age to 67. Any politically aware person knows that National wants to sell assets, potentially unpopular with the NZ people. They were smart enough to leave that to their re-election for a 2nd term….not bring it up when they were going up against an established govt. Labour should’ve left the raising of retirement and capital gains for another day.

  21. ian says:

    I voted national because I wanted to as I felt they offered the best option, not because of self interest. A lot of the posts are just common room left rubbish. If I had voted for Labour this time as I have in the past -who would I be voting in with them?If you didn’t vote you have no business complaining . Vote for the least bad option. Yes it is a democracy and you don’t have to but I always will, so if you want to cancel out my right wing vote please get off your smug ass and vote. Before you get too carried away I’m a part Maori ex Union delegate. When I’m voting National it can’t be all that right wing. It’s laughable this Labour represents Maori. If so why all the smug white ex teachers college faces who leant about Maori people out of a book.Maori are being colonised all over again – by the left.

    Compare Key to Obama the idol of the NZ left -no public health option on healthcare, no public housing as we understand it, massive arms expenditure, spying etc, largest prison population in the world. The list from the lefts darling is endless. Key is well to the left of the U.S. Democrats and significant parts of the UK Labour Party. Anyway you cut it we have very strong social support in NZ by international standards. I’m over 50. I haven’t seen much difference between National and Labour for almost 25 years so I don’t know what the more excitable people are on about. To be honest get a real job.

    • Bliss says:

      Interesting. Good to hear form a National voter. I disagrree that National is the “least bad option”, but I would given that I am a Green member/voter/supporter.

      But this election was a landslide to National. A thumping mandate. If Labour does not stop and think “why should anybody vote Labour?” they are doomed. All I see from them is “why I [Labour activist] vote Labour”. Hence all the worthy pontification and shockingly bad and muddled strategy. They are acting as if they had a Dog given mandate, and all they havve to do is shout louder and those ignorant twits who do not vote for them will change their minds….

      I really hope that the progressive political movement can atttract your vote next time, but it has to earn it. In the Greens we are doing our bit, but we cannot do it all. We are the pointy headed geek sitting at the front of the class answering all teachers questions, we will not have the mass apeal needed. Either Labour gets it together or the Greens will tame National and govern with them. It won’t be this National government, but the day could come.

      Lastly “If you didn’t vote you have no business complaining”. No. If you voted you had your say now STFU!

      Just kidding.


    • Jason Sanders says:

      Hmmm. Lot of generalisations here I think. To be fair “Ian” a lot of people on the so called “left” don’t idolise Obama at all. They are well aware that there is little real choice between the democrats and republicans. They are highly critical of Obamas drone attacks, his broken promises, and lack of action on alleviating poverty. You would also have to say that the military-industrial complex, the spying, the massive prison pop. was something he inherited from the previous 50 years of US govt. and is not something you can just change with your magic wand. I personally doubt whether he’d be allowed to. As ex Pres. Carter says, the USA doesn’t have a functioning democracy right now. The country is run by the Fortune 500.
      You say that Key is to the left of Obama. Only true in the sense that the USA is historically an imperialist nation, and has been less socialistic for a long long time. Key’s National is starting way behind them, but they are definitely setting the controls of this nation towards the flaming centre of unbridled capitalism, if you ask me. I hear they want to take away workers rights to smokos and lunchbreaks: that’s something right wing Americans would heartily approve of.
      National are also going to flog off state houses, further privatise prisons, and have already brought in charter schools, an absolute disastrous American idea. Charter schools means private schools set up by business people, who get state funding. Teachers are treated badly, end up being demoralised etc.

  22. farmerbraun says:

    I wonder if we want to appear to be having a clash of ideologies with the Christians over the best way to deal with climate change , whatever the causes.


    • Nandor says:

      Ok, you’ve made a number of comments around climate change now. We’ve heard your point but with this one you are in danger of hijacking the thread.

      • farmerbraun says:

        That’s fair enough. I was hoping that this was going to lead into some discussion about the future profile of the Green Party , a party that I have never voted for, but I guess that is for another day.
        As a committed environmentalist since well before the Green Party was formed , I really would like to see a party that takes the care of the NZ environment as its core plank.
        On the other hand when Jeanette visited my farm prior to the formation of the Green Party , I did express the view that such a development was unnecessary, since people like me were already “doing it” i.e. it wasn’t a political thing.

        So Glenn’s comment :-
        ” I think that if we have any hope to change the current mindset and the future of our environment it needs to come from the people. If enough people stand up we will get our critical mass. The time is now, we can’t wait for it to come from the powers that be.” at 23/09/2014 at 10:55 am, is something that I found myself agreeing with.

  23. Sue says:

    “the Christians” are not a uniform group so might be best not to go there.

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