Ron Mark

The minor parties – some thoughts & questions

The Greens

They ran a blinder of a campaign. Their polling numbers were looking great, as they closed on 15% in some polls. Then they got just 10.02% on the night (although their vote share is likely to rise by at least a small amount once the special votes are counted – Graeme Edgeler estimates to 10.5% if they got the same proportion of specials as they did in 2011).

What happened? Is it a voter turnout issue? Did the Greens actually slump abruptly in the final days of the campaign? Or do the polls have a bias towards the Greens?

Going forward, the Greens have some big decisions to make. They’ve loudly declared on many an occasion that they want to supplant Labour as the major party of the Left. So do they try for a more centrist approach to grow their vote? There were elements of such an approach in their policy of personal tax cuts to offset the effects of their planned carbon tax. If they want to supplant Labour, that’s what they’ve got to do, but will their membership allow it?

For much of the last term, the Greens were the de facto opposition in Parliament, with Labour failing to fire. Yet in the build-up to the campaign, the Greens offered to campaign together with Labour. The offer had a dual purpose: to show a Government-in-waiting, and to try to reduce the relevance of Winston Peters. Do the Greens go hammer and tongs for Labour’s vote share, or do the two parties attempt to work together to present a united front of opposition?

NZ First

Winston Peters is getting old. For most of last term, he was an embarrassment, lurching from one badly contrived attack to another, each one failing to fire; a collection of not-so-smoking guns. The campaign itself seemed to have rejuvenated him. He certainly saw off the young pretender, Colin Craig, and raised the NZ First vote in the process.

Is he good for another election campaign or will this have been his swan-song? If this is his final term, he’ll be leaving after a comeback of six years without baubles. Winston likes baubles, no matter what he might publicly say, so does he try again in 2017 in the hope of one final Ministerial stint?

The other thing Winston wants is for NZ First to continue on after he’s gone. It’s always been Winston First – no succession plan, no contrary views allowed. He’d like nothing better than to prove wrong all of those critics who for twenty-one years have said that once Winston goes, so too will NZ First.

Ron Mark is back and is being touted as a possible successor. However, if Andrew Williams’ allegations about deputy-leader Tracey Martin are correct, then woe betide anyone who sees themselves as competition to her right of succession! Life in NZ First could get interesting…

The Conservatives

Colin Craig got played by John Key, strung along for just long enough, before being thrown under the bus. Nonetheless, right up until the final few days, Craig and his party ran a remarkably focussed, relatively gaffe-free campaign. Despite being out-manouevered on occasion by Winston Peters, the Conservatives grew their vote share to just over 4%.

It wasn’t enough to get them in to Parliament, but it wasn’t a bad result on a night when National made over 48%. If Craig can keep his core team together, then they’ll have a good shot at breaking 5% in 2017.

The Maori Party

The critics said they were finished in 2014. With Turia and Sharples retiring, Mana were going to wipe out Te Ururoa Flavell, and the Maori Party would perish. Well, Flavell’s still there, with a relatively comfortable majority, and Mana is no more. And, assuming the special votes don’t do something odd, Flavell’s brought in Marama Fox with him, so it won’t be an entirely lonely three years.

If Flavell wants it, National would probably give him the Maori Affairs portfolio. Key doesn’t need to in order to govern, but he’ll be looking to keep Flavell on-side through to 2017. It’ll give the Maori Party some policy gains and keep Flavell’s profile up, and the party will look to remain competitive in seats like Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru.

Internet Mana

And that took care of that then…

The Internet Party was nothing more than a vehicle for Kim Dotcom’s ego and vengeance, and with Dotcom admitting that his personal brand poisoned the combined Internet Mana vehicle, the Internet Party will soon be no more. Dotcom certainly won’t be pouring his money into it, and there’s no real reason for anyone to stick around. Laila Harre’s pay cheque disappears, along with what’s left of her credibility.

Likewise, with no party leader funding for Hone Harawira, and precious few alternate sources of income, the Mana Movement is dead. Harawira took a gamble, sick of being a one man band in Parliament, and it all turned to custard. Annette Sykes did her best in Waiariki, but still came up well short, despite having a full three year campaign and Dotcom’s cash. It’s over.

ACT

Duncan Garner summed it up best when he described David Seymour as being like a five year old about to start High School. Despite winning Epsom (and by all accounts, Seymour put in the hard yards door-knocking to do so), it’s going to be an awkward and ineffectual three years for ACT. Jamie Whyte remains the leader outside of Parliament (for how long though remains to be seen), with Seymour the fresh-faced novice being the voice inside Parliament. Who do the media go to for comment? No one knows…

How do they rebuild? Lord only knows. Their natural constituency is minuscule, and they hold a seat on National’s whim. It’s not a great basis for growth.

United Future

The writing’s on the wall for Peter Dunne. Despite running against new candidates from both Labour and National, and despite having John Key’s personal blessing, Dunne’s majority is just 930. The only MPs with smaller majorities are Nikki Kaye in Auckland Central (648) and Trevor Mallard in Hutt South (378).

The glory days of United Future are long gone. Once upon a time, the worm turned at Captain Sensible’s whim. Now, the Dunne brand is that of a strange political vampire living out some political half-life.

Rebuilding United Future is a laughable proposition. The only question is whether Dunne goes out on his own terms or waits for the inevitable stake through the heart from the good people of Ohariu.

Advertisements

Winston Peters & the NZ First list : “Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever”

Embed from Getty Images

Following NZ First’s rule change allowing the party to fine its MPs $300,000 if they left the party but remained in Parliament, Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish published his mock “ten other NZ First party rules you probably don’t know about“, including such gems as:

If Winston shall bring an accusation against a New Zealand First MP, the accused shall go to the river and leap into the river; and if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house, his wife, his son, his daughters, and all of his cattle. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, then again shall the accused jump into the river, this time with a large concrete block tied unto him.

and

If any person shall steal Winston’s limelight, they shall be put to death.

Andrew Williams may be pondering just what he did to get on Winston Peters’ bad side, with Stuff being leaked the news that Andrew Williams will be ranked number 13 in the NZ First list. That’s a slide of ten places from his number 3 ranking in 2011, and it will likely see him dumped as an MP.

Apparently, there’s worse news for Asenati Lole-Taylor. Andrea Vance confirms on Twitter that she’s been told Lole-Taylor will slide to a definitely unwinnable number 17, well down on her 8th place in the 2011 list.

Lole-Taylor’s demotion would be eminently understandable. Her ability to generate a headline has only ever incurred embarrassment for NZ First during her three years in Parliament. The party would be well shot of her.

However, Andrew Williams has, somewhat surprisingly, been a relatively industrious MP. Following his stint as North Shore Mayor, and the allegations of public urination, drink driving and crazed late-night text messages to the Prime Minister, his first term as a NZ First MP was expected to be one of comic gold. Many were rather disappointed when he kept his head down, leaving the insanity to Lole-Taylor and Richard Prosser (who will apparently take spot number 3 on the list).

Mr Williams certainly seems surprised. The Stuff article states:

Williams said his ranking on the list came as “a bolt out of the blue”.

“I think most people would agree around Parliament I’ve been a pretty able MP,” he said.

“I’ve performed for the party, I’ve done a lot of hard work for the party and I’ve represented the party as well as I could.”

The ranking was no reflection of his ability or contribution, but attributable to internal party politics, Williams said.

Williams would like to know what the selection committee’s criteria were for selecting the top ten candidates. That’s a question answered by David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

Have spoken to someone close to NZ First and they say that the sole criteria for list ranking is total devotion and loyalty to Winston, so in that context the list makes sense!

Perhaps others with rather more of a finger on the pulse of NZ First gossip will know what Andrew Williams has done to so upset Mr Peters. It’s a mystery to me…

On the return though is former NZ First MP, Ron Mark, who Stuff understands will be ranked number 9. NZ First needs slightly more than they got in 2011 to get him in, which is certainly possible. The stench of sleaze surrounding the ninth floor of the Beehive may end up driving some voters from National to NZ First. Whether Dirty Politics will have the positive effect on NZ First that the Teapot Tapes had last election remains to be seen though.

Is it succession time for NZ First? Tracey Martin has certainly been a more than capable Deputy Leader (once the party finally got around to choosing one), but (Prosser- and Lole-Taylor- generated headlines aside) NZ First still remains The Winston Show to the public. Ron Mark still has public recognition, and having been mayor of Carterton since 2010, he’s shown he’s still electable.

Whether it’s Ron Mark or not, Winston Peters surely doesn’t have too many years as a Parliamentarian ahead of him (assuming his party makes the 5% threshold this election). The last thing he will want is for his party to fold as he leaves. Someone needs to be groomed for the leadership. And on that note, Shane Jones can’t be flitting round the Pacific forever…