Monday, September 26, 2005

Since it appears to be the fashion....

You are a

Social Liberal
(78% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(6% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid


Well, I’ve been unwinding after the excitement of the past few weeks. There appears to be nothing to do now except wait for the Special votes to finally determine the outcome of the election.

A friend of mine, who has contacts in the National Party, told me that they (The Nats) were hoping that after the counting of the special votes, the Greens would slip below the 5 percent threshold and that National would then be level with Labour in terms of votes cast.

I suspect that this is unlikely for several reasons. One, it depends on the National Party receiving a significantly higher percentage of the Specials in proportion with the other parties and that the other parties don’t increase their votes very much, thus allowing the National Party to pull ahead.

The second reason is that Labour and the Greens in particular, have done well on Specials. In the past two elections, 1999 and 2002, the Greens actually increased their vote after the counting of the Specials allowing them extra MP’s. In the case of 1999, it actually brought the Greens into parliament after they narrowly failed on the Election Night Results. I think that the Greens can feel reasonably confident that the Specials, the bulk of who are overseas voters and students, will keep them in parliament and quite realistically return Nandor.

It seems far more likely, that the Specials might count against parties like United Future, who have not done well in Specials. A bad result for National would be if United Future’s vote when down after the count and the Greens went up. The very worst result for them would be if the Progressives actually increased their vote as well, enough to place Matt Robson back in (I can’t see it, but you never know) and Labour gained another seat.

However, I’m confident that next week there will be a Labour led government and the National Party will have to wait their turn until 2007 or 8. (When, I suspect that they will win).

I’ve been following with interest though, the comments on Span’s blog about the Alliance and whether it could/should pour all its resources into a seat? I think that the more pertinent question is what has happened to the democratic left in this country? And can it be rebuilt?

I think that it probably can, but not under the existing Alliance logo. The democratic Left is now fractioned into so many different groups – With left people involved in The Greens, The Progressives, and The Alliance and of, course, those who simply don’t vote or support any party any longer (New’s Zealand’s participation rate fell yet again). The real trick will be putting Humpty Dumpty back together which I suspect will mean stowing a lot of baggage that has been built up over the decade.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

And so it ends…

So it is now all over, the only thing that remains is to place the little tick beside the relevant party and candidate in the polling poll.

I think that it will be a tight election. I never thought that I would see the day when I would be considering supporting one evil over the other, but considering that the minimal reforms of the past 6 years could be placed at risk, I hope that there is a centre-left (liberal) victory on Saturday evening.

I’ve been to a couple of candidate meetings and decided that I will vote for the Alliance candidate and keep some of my principles intact, but I am still undecided on how my second vote will go – it won’t go to Labour though.

On one hand, I feel I am selling out to fear, as it appears that I may have to base my vote on keeping a Government in because the alternatives are so horrible that I can’t contemplate them returning. In such a tight election, especially with some polls suggesting that the Greens might not make it (unfortunately, the Alliance definitely won’t) then it may be necessary to give my vote to them on the basis that they are closest to the threshold (and my beliefs)…

However, the entire idea behind MMP is that people should not be forced into voting on the basis of fear, that we should be free to vote the way our conscience tells us to. We should not live our lives in fear about what may happen...


...However, the important thing is to vote…

One piece of consolation though – ACT has flat-lined in all the polls and Epson looks un-winnable for them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

and a fitting cartoon.... pity, I was too late to snap the billboard...

It appears that we are not the only country with a close elction race. Though it appears that the Left Party in Germany will do very well - if only Left wingers had the same dedication here...

Germany faces polls deadlock
From Roger Boyes in Berlin

GERMANY is heading for a damaging political stalemate, with opinion polls suggesting the outcome of Sunday’s general election is desperately close.

Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor, who has been trailing in the polls since calling an early election in May, has narrowed the gap on Angela Merkel, his conservative challenger. Although his Social Democrats are unlikely to win, their late surge could deprive Frau Merkel’s coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats of a majority.

Political analysts fear that if the latest polls are borne out in the election, the rival left and right-wing parties will be forced into an unworkable alliance, leaving Europe with a weak and ineffectively run country at its very heart.
Frau Merkel was adamant yesterday that there should be no such grand coalition. “It would just drive us into a standstill, a stagnant Germany,” she told supporters in her windswept home constituency of Stralsund in eastern Germany.

“She will be like a hotel guest trapped in the door of a lift, the leftwingers on the one side and the radical market reformers on the other,” Der Spiegel said.

The same message is coming from the Social Democrats as well as the small parties, the Greens and the Free Democrats. All would consider themselves losers if a coalition were formed. Herr Schröder would head for retirement since he could never serve under Frau Merkel, and the Greens and Free Democrats would be excluded from government.

Yet the political arithmetic is pointing Germany in this direction. The Christian Democrats would be the biggest party, with 42 per cent of the vote, according to a poll by Emnid released yesterday. But the Christian Democrats do not have enough backing to form a centre-right government with their partner of choice, the pro-business Free Democrats. Together the two parties score 48.5 per cent. That is exactly the same as the total support for the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left party.

Unless the polls tip in Frau Merkel’s favour over the next three days, the Christian Democrats will have to grit their teeth and rule together with the Social Democrats. The election that was billed as a turning point for Germany — “full steam ahead for change!” was one of Frau Merkel’s slogans — is destined to disappoint the country’s European partners, who urgently want a German economic recovery.

“A grand coalition would be a very bad solution for Germany,” Jürgen Thumann, head of the Federation of German Industry, said. It would, he added, damage the country’s standing as an investment location.

There would also be direct consequences for centre-right politicians across Europe. Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s presidential hopeful, would find it difficult to fight on a platform of change if Frau Merkel, a political ally, was leading a lame coalition.

However, many voters in Germany appear comfortable with the prospect of a grand coalition. Five months ago Germans were convinced it was time for a change, and Frau Merkel enjoyed a 21 per cent lead in the polls. Now they seem to have lost their nerve. Some 36 per cent of Germans say they want a grand coalition.
In part, they have been scared off by the ultra-reformist credentials of Paul Kirchhof, the Christian Democrat candidate for Finance Minister.

There is a feeling too that a grand coalition could produce sensible compromises. The Social Democrats might accept loosening of job protection laws to help to cut unemployment if, in return, the Christian Democrats agreed to set minimum wages in some industries.

There is potential for creative horse-trading but Germany’s problems are deep seated. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a grand coalition could speed reforming legislation in parliament.

The only man who seems to be enjoying the prospect of a grand coalition is Oskar Lafontaine, the left-wing firebrand who used to be Finance Minister under Herr Schröder. Red Oskar, as he is known, is head of the Left Party and would in effect be the leader of the Opposition if the Grand Coalition came to power. He has strong anti-globalisation views.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Poll Driven Fruitcakes

Well, it’s the final week of the Election Campaign and both the pollsters and the politicians are frantically running around completing their final tasks in the lead up to Saturday’s election.

I hate to have to paraphrase this well-used comment from David Lange; however, I feel that his phrase about “poll driven fruitcakes” is becoming exceedingly relevant in the final week of this election campaign. In the past two days, there have been two new polls both of which show a different result. The first, a Sunday Star Poll shows National with a 7 percentage points lead over Labour. This poll purports to show that the policy mix-ups and the Exclusive Brethren fiasco have not had a negative effect on National, and have improved the party’s poll rating.

The second poll, TV 1’s Colmar-Brunton poll shows National slipping 5 points in light of the Brethren allegations and now has only a two point lead over Labour. This comes after a TV3 poll last week showed Labour with a 9 point lead over National and a Herald-Digi Poll which showed them virtually level. So who, which, what poll is right?

The answer is probably none. Polls are not dependable in terms of the information given and there are a number of variables – Who did they poll? What is the sample size of the poll? Did they poll face to face or by phone? What are the numbers of undecided voters? What the polls do show is a volatile electorate. Though, I suspect that some of it could be voter fatigue.

What appears to be occurring though, is that both of the major parties appear to be driven by polls to a far larger extent that before. In all likelihood due to what they perceive as voter volatility. Each new poll appears to bring a rash of new promises from Labour and National. (Full kudos to the Greens for sticking to their policy). To quote Jim Bolger, it would appear that the only true poll may very well be the one on the night.

(I have since learnt that the Herald on Sunday had a poll which showed Labour in front 42 to 38 percent).

I was watching TV the other night when there was a small segment on “Generation Jones.” Apparently, it is the ‘new thing’ in terms of election voting and "Generation Jones" have been the focus of election campaigns in the US and in Britain. Apparently, the people who made up “Generation Jones” were born in the very late 1950s and early to mid 1960s. They tend to have good disposal incomes and aspirations to reach the top of their professions. Hmmm…they remind me of a similar demographic of twenty years ago. Young people who tended to be born in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s, who aspired to have high incomes and be at the top of their professions.

It could just be me, but “Generation Jones” sounds suspiciously like grown up “Yuppies”.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tweek of the Week - 9/09/2005

It's been a tough week for Gentleman Don. Does he know his party's policy - Forestry, Health, Housing? Does he know about whether fundamentalist Christian sects talked to him about 'helping' the National Party? Are they helping the National Party? Are his shoes on the right feet?

However, it would be too easy to award Don yet another 'Tweek of the Week' (and to kick a man when he's down - Comrade Tweek is a gentleman afterall).

So instead this week's Tweek goes to the Exclusive Brethren.
As the TV One News link notes:

"The Exclusive Brethren leaders don't vote but they are accused of waging a smear campaign against Labour and the Greens.

"The campaign we've put out is not a smear campaign, it is not designed as a smear campaign, it's designed to inform the people of New Zealand the real situation in this country," Simmons said."

....Well, that's fine then. It's not a subjective petty campaign waged by a small sect against the Greens and Labour, it's been given the official okay by God. (I wonder if he will own up to knowing them?)

Tweek(s) of the Week - The Exclusive Brethren
(9 September 2005)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Truth is Finally Revealed...

Seen today on the corner of Deans Ave and Riccarton Rd, Christchurch - a large National Party billboard, however Don Brash's face had been removed and replaced with a large colour picture of ........Monty Burns!!!!!!!! EXCELLENT!!!!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

“And a month is an eternity…”

Bren over at Poster Child has been doing some interesting calculations in relation to the latest voting trends. He is predicting a very tight race between the Liberal Left and the Right that would rob any side of a significant majority in parliament. I tend to agree with him.

Unless there is a significant collapse in the votes of either of the major parties to the other, then the election judging by current poll trends will be very tight. It could well be one of the tightest elections since 1957, when Labour won with a one seat majority, after the election of the Speaker.

There are still a number of minor parties which are sitting on the ‘threshold’ of parliamentary representation which may 'tip' the balance. The first is ACT. Aside, from their own questionable “push” poll in Epson, which gave Rodney Hide a one percentage point advantage over sitting MP Richard Worth (the poll also has a five percent margin of error), there have not been any overtures of help or support from National to ACT. This situation has been made harder for ACT with Labour’s decision to encourage their Epson voters to vote tactically and to support Worth, as well as National’s recent decision (salt-rubbing) to start chumming up to Peter Dunne.

The second is, of course Winston Peters. People are predicting a tight race in Tauranga between Peters and the popular National Party candidate. Since New Zealand First is hovering just above the threshold the party’s parliamentary survival may be under considerable doubt; therefore, they need to retain Tauranga.

However, a friend of mine noted that there has been very little New Zealand First election propaganda on Television or on Radio. Since New Zealand First received a significant amount from the Electoral Commission in terms of its broadcasting allocation, it would seem to suggest that they are holding back their advertising until the last week of the campaign.

Therefore, I am very reluctant to count New Zealand First out as Winston is a wily campaigner and he has evaded political death previously.

There is still two weeks to go in what is shaping up to be a photo-finish between the Liberals and the Tories. And, to place it into some perspective it may be apt at this point to remember a quote from the late British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who observed that '...a week is a long time in politics.’

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oh…No…Not The Greens As Well??!!

A friend of mine is standing for parliament as an Alliance candidate. He does not expect to win, (that would be rather exception considering the Party’s current polling) rather, he is standing “to show the flag” and promote a set of beliefs and principles that he feels have been recently neglected within the political spectrum.

The other night he was speaking at a public meeting, when he was verbally attacked by Rod Donald, Co-Leader of the Greens. Now, you might very well say, that is the verbal cut and thrust of political debate and “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” However, it was not Rod’s attack that worried him (my friend is a criminal lawyer) as much as what Rod had to say.

What Rod had to say was that Alliance candidates were “idealists”, that they were “unrealistic,” that they were “irresponsible.” The Alliance, Rod asserted was raising unrealistic ideals and promoting idealistic policies (he was referring to tax). He and the Greens were realistic, pragmatic and responsible; this was why they were still in parliament and going into coalition with Labour. Another friend of mine had a similar experience when he was attending a Greens meeting with friends of his, during which he heard Rod and Jeanette commit the Greens to being responsible and pragmatic partners for Labour. When asked as to why the Greens were stepping aside from a number of polices such as GE to do a deal, people were told that they needed to “trust” the leadership.

Hmmm…it’s hard to know what to say. I am hopeful that the Greens will not go he same way as the Alliance. I am reminded that Jim Anderton said more or less the same to Alliance members prior to the 1999 Election. He (and Matt Mcarten) poured cold water on those members who queried the wisdom of not openly questioning decisions made by the Labour Party or indeed, even going into coalition with Labour. These members felt that with the volatility of the Alliance vote (it had declined significantly over the past 6 years) that the party needed to re-establish itself as a credible party on the Left. Being in coalition with Labour would damage that renewal by shifting the party to the right as well as tying it to Labour in terms of decisions made by that government – collective responsibility and all. It was far better to strike deals with Labour outside or to mark out several key points that the Alliance would visibly disagree with its coalition partner over.

The fact is that the “agree to disagree” clause is not a protection, especially, when you have parties stating that public disagreements could cause political instability. In Europe, where parties come from different political heritages and are, in most cases, far more politically mature, the ability to campaign on your own issues while remaining in government is seen as a normal state of affairs – not so in New Zealand.

Therefore, I agree with the comments made by Joe Hendren on his blog about MMP and the disproportional impact that Winston Peters or Independent MPs, such as Jim Anderton have upon the system.

I can only endorse the following comments by Joe,
“Lets lower the threshold from 5%, but do away with the silly rule that allows those who win one electorate to bring their cronies in with them*. Lets encourage parties to base themselves on clear policy and principles - this is what party votes are meant to be about after all.”

Joe is right, clear policy and principles are what politics should be about. New Zealand’s threshold is also one of the higher in the Western World. Let’s lower the threshold and get parties in that do debate issues and policy.
To paraphrase the former Labour MP John A Lee, Politics should not be solely about pragmatism and responsibility, it used to be about idealism and irresponsibility. That's how many of the reforms, such as free health care, free education, labour legislation etc originally came about.
The Greens need to be careful. They may well ask themselves "for what does it profit a person if they gain the world and yet lose their own soul?" They only need to look at Winston Peters and Jim Anderton to answer that question.

Sorry, with all the excitement about the election I forgot about Tweek of the Week.

Well, it had to happen. A tweek needed to go to was not difficult.

I am truly appalled at the manner in which George and Co have handed the entire crisis in New Orleans. With the entire infrastructure of the city and surrounding hinterland devastated and with food riots, looting and murder occurring in the streets, only now has US federal help been forthcoming.

I wonder if the situation would have been different if the majority of people left in New Orleans had been wealthy, white Republicans instead of poor desperate blacks?

George W Bush - "Tweek of the Week"
(2 September, 2005)