by Political Commentator Rupert Pye
Somehow the magnitude of the Labour Party victory in Saturday’s election fuelled some ardent critics of MMP into a fury.
The MMP critics have short memories.
First past the post had its inconsistencies, such as in 1993, when Jim Bolger’s National Party achieved a parliamentary majority yet got only 35% of the vote. That year 1993 was the MMP referendum. In 1996 voting was under MMP
The 2020 Labour victory was remarkable for being Labour’s highest share of the vote since the 51% Peter Fraser’s Labour Party won in 1946. That year was just after the end of World War Two.
The electorate was in good optimistic mood coming out of the six dark years of World War Two (1939-1945) with food rationing, blackouts, fear of invasion as the Japanese enemy surged down through the Coral Sea towards Australia, loved ones serving overseas – some never returning. Peter Fraser’s Labour government steered the country through the stormy six years of the War.
Effectively 2020 had the same basic factor of invasion – Covid19 – even if it was just six months or so instead of the six years of World War Two.
This time the potential invader was a virus. The Adern government generally handled the crisis well, so the general public judged.
Covid was a blessing to Adern and government.
Yes there were illogical decisions such as banning recreational hunting in the initial lockdown. Hunting should have been permitted but not overnight hunting trips.
Ardern is at core, a centrist. She will try to avoid being divisive as was the 4th Labour “Rogernomics” and the Bolger-led “Ruthenasia” National governments of the late 20th century.
Adern’s Labour Party in a dominant position in Parliament, can now govern alone – without the Green Party.
If Adern has read the mood of the national electorate, she will not embrace the Greens into government, except she might make James Shaw Minister of Climate Change. A move to allow Shaw in as “minister outside of Cabinet” would appease the Greens and blunt any intentions to strongly oppose Labour in the House.
Adern should analyse the electorate’s mood carefully.
A surprise was Federated Farmers urging its members to eject its traditional National Party vote and vote Labour. It was artful strategic voting exactly as MMP was designed to encourage.
Farmers by reasoning that Labour were almost certainly going to win, aimed to give Labour enough votes to govern alone – without the Greens. The Greens in the previous coalition government had annoyed farmers. For example, the ETS scheme’s criteria is ludicrous in its impractical criteria of disallowing any vegetation under five metres in height to not be eligible for carbon sequestering calculations.
That rules out much of NZ’s native vegetation and even pasture, the latter which surely must have carbon sequestering value. The fencing of every little stream was nonsensical.
The whole proposal would see an enormous rise in regional council bureaucrats.
Another dent in the Green’s image was the portfolio of Minister of Conservation held by zealous Forest and Bird member and Green MP Eugenie Sage.
Her anti-tahr campaign slaughtering the Himalayan mountain goat with carcasses left to rot was a public relations disaster. The perceived hypocrisy in allowing overseas corporate interests to come in and buy sheep farms for conversion to pine monoculture angered farmers. To be fair NZ First and its hit-man Shane Jones were the instigators but Sage seemed compliant in going along for the ride.
So farmers strategically voted. That is what MMP is about for the individual. The farmers used it collectively.
The statistics show Labour won “big-time”, both in urban and country electorates.
Next election will be interesting. Can National recover from internal leaks and disloyalty and regain the confidence of rural voters? But Labour is no longer just the party of just urban centrist Kiwis. It was strongly supported by rural people.
Can Labour maintain its wins from rural electorates?
It’s a big challenge for National but not without challenges for Labour.
Many people voted before election day itself. Perhaps more people had thought and made their decision. Twenty percent of eligible voters chose not to vote totally just over 692,000.
The election has put a new slant on parliament. No small party, as NZ First did, can twist the arm of government. Think of this in terms of NZ First’s cosiness with corporate fishing companies. Think of donations to political parties by the corporate companies.
Labour at the 2017 election campaign promised to conduct an independent review into the failed Quota Management System. But Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash back-tracked on that in February 2019 when he announced no review would take place. The attempt to put cameras on commercial boats was stymied by NZ First looking after its corporate bed-fellows.
Now Labour has no excuse.
It can reinstate its promise to review the QMS. It can install cameras on boats.
The firearm owning public also strategically voted.
Adern’s cabinet made a big mistake following the March 15 murders at a Christchurch mosque, carried out by an Australian Brenton Tarrant. The coalition government rushed law through to ban assault weapons. The panic was so intense and unthinking that the new law achieved nothing. “Haste makes waste”.
The new law achieved the opposite to government’s ntentions. Assault weapons were bought by gangs ‘under the table’ at prices better than government’s buy-in offers. Thanks to bad law, gangs and criminals are better armed.
Law abiding Kiwis were hit, criminal and games profited.
Adern and Minister of Police Nash appeared oblivious to – or turned a blind eye – to the glaring irregularities in mosque killer Tarrant’s granting off a firearm licence by police.
Reports indicate Tarrant was under surveillance by Australian authorities too.
National should have made capital from the failure by police and the Police minister. Both police, the minister and government went unscathed. National sided with government in supporting the rushed law.
The only party to stand up for common-sense was ACT. ACT leader David Seymour was a lone voice of reason.
The firearm organisations then urged members to strategically vote ACT.
But at the heart of the rushed law was democracy. Over 12,000 submission were read and considered in two days inferred government by its excessively swift action. National MPs were part of the select committee.
All parties except ACT had gone along with a draconian, dictatorial dumb dumping of democracy.
With strategic voting giving it a boost, ACT gained 10 MPs in the House.
MMP and strategic voting seems here to stay.
© Labour should govern alone?