indexby Daphna Whitmore

The election campaign was more colourful and circus-like than any I can recall. The result in the end was a lot more bland. National were miles ahead in every poll so it was no surprise they romped home on the night. They won the party vote in 59 out of 64 general electorates.

Although they could govern alone they won’t, and the government will be made up of the same parties as before.

National

On the leftish-blogosphere readers are being told to prepare for a grim three years where National will go full throttle neo-liberal. The same people have made the same predictions ever since National got in six years ago. They are still wrong. Key has signaled he has no surprises and that National are not about to lurch further to the right. Not only is Key not a neo-liberal, there is barely any support for that doctrine in NZ today.

Act

The Act Party has been on life-support for years, and this election they managed to outdo themselves by halving the tiny vote they got in 2011. Act’s best contribution to the political landscape is the proof they provide that money doesn’t win elections. The Internet Party likewise.

Labour

In the five general seats where Labour won the party vote – Dunedin North, Mangere, Manukau East, Manurewa, Kelston – their support dropped. The results confirm what we have pointed out before on Redline, many workers vote National, and plenty vote NZ First and parties other than Labour. The notion that workers see Labour as their party and that most of them vote Labour should be well and truly laid to rest.

The campaign against the government fell flat. The unions and many on the left demonised Key and held up a Labour-led government as a progressive alternative. It just didn’t ring true. The misrepresentation of Key prevented a sober analysis of the government, let alone a rational look at the inner workings of the system.  National under Key has been a rather cautious government, changing employment laws in small tentative steps. Privatisations have been limited and partial, while social spending has been maintained. Key craves popularity so he keeps his finger on the public pulse, and is obsessed with the polls.

A Labour-led government would have been less likely to worsen labour laws (while keeping the most serious restrictions on rights to strike and freely organise) but would raise the pension age crying “the country can’t afford” to keep it at 65. The idea that people have the right to expect a rising standard of living is not on the parliamentary agenda.

NZ First

Winston is back with more seats, so expect more of his special brand of racism plus social justice. On his right flank the Conservatives didn’t make the 5 percent threshold but showed that they have a small constituency.

The Greens

They have maintained their support but have been unable to grow it by much. While they have a bunch of progressive policies these are negated by their nationalism.

Poverty

One positive thing in this election campaign was the recognition by all parties of the issue of poverty in New Zealand. The issue was debated not because politicians suddenly care, but as a result of decades of campaigning by Child Poverty Action and other anti-poverty groups and the trade unions’ campaigns for a living wage.  Even with the distorted focus on ‘child’ poverty, as if the parents are rolling in money but don’t want to spend on their children, the issue isn’t going to go away.

Mana and the Internet Party

With Hone gone from parliament the question is, will Mana continue? Mana, understandably frustrated by the challenges of building a radical movement, focused on parliament and thought dollars were the answer. As everyone now acknowledges, the alliance with the Internet Party bombed.

The Internet Party was simply not an authentic party.  Dotcom spent $4.5million which equates to  $589 per vote, compared to National, which spent a similar sum, at $4 a vote.

On top of Dotcom’s millions, the Internet Party got loads of media exposure and not all of it was critical.

Maori Party

The much-diminished Maori Party has hung on and is still being treated with more respect by National than Labour. National clearly wants to keep making inroads into the Maori, Pacific and Asian constituencies. Interestingly, the party vote went to Labour in all the Maori seats, but it may not last. The Maori seats have the most swinging voters, and lowest turnout.

Turnout

Despite running a huge campaign to get out the vote this election there were still one million people, as many as voted for National, who opted not to vote. The turnout was up a bit at 77%, compared to 2011 when 74% voted.

The unions thought a bigger turnout would favour Labour and the Greens, but there was always the possibility that it might just help a popular Prime Minister.

Further reading:
Political power after the 2014 election
What I’ll do instead of voting this election
Not voting versus lesser-evilism and dressing up reformist politics
Parliament does not exist

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Comments
  1. PhilF says:

    I felt entirely relaxed about not voting. I spent a pleasant day, going to the local farmers’ market, enjoying the sun and lazing around listening to jazz and blues music.
    Phil

  2. Don Franks says:

    Until their opportunist sell out to Kim dot com, I had intended to vote for Mana. On the day, after some thought, I went to the booth and crossed all the names out.
    I felt, and still feel unhappy that low paid working people have so little real political alternative.

    • Thomas R says:

      Amazingly it seems that some on the Left lack the clarity to acknowledge that the ‘sugar hit’ from Dotcom was useless, and the supposed short cut did not even deliver short term let alone fail in the long run (as these things often do).

      Actually a little pissed off that after this clusterfuck I actually have to argue that ‘sure, parties ganged up to get rid of Hone – but they’ve tried repeatedly before and it’s failed. it worked this time because of the alliance with the Internet Party and other tactical errors’

      You would have thought it was an obvious conclusion

  3. Neil MacLeod says:

    Bit harsh to accuse the Greens of nationalism when they are the only party focussed on global warming and global pollution and our future BEYOND the next election.

    • badcop666 says:

      Neil – pollution is mostly a no-brainer – but really is a non-issue as long as there is no anti-capitalist platform from which to address it.

      Global warming – on the other hand – is indicative of problems that go much deeper than the shortcomings of the green party.

      The infatuation with climate is symptomatic of a deeply unscientific and hifhly irrational period in human history. More on this soon .

  4. PhilF says:

    Yes, you might think that, mightn’t you?

    Now consider this, Thomas; this is probably your first significant frustration with elements of the left. We’ve been around a helluva lot longer, so perhaps you can start to imagine why we have the attitude/s we do towards so many of them.

    I must say, too, that I find this thing about media beat-ups on Hone and Mana to be exaggerated. Given their size, Hone/Mana got heaps of media coverage, including plenty of fair coverage. Plus all that money, the live stream of the Moment of Truth, and so on. The party that probably got the roughest deal from the media was the Conservatives, who were regularly portrayed (albeit accurately in their case) as cranks.

    Moreover, according to Josie Pagani, who has no particular reason to lie about this, when she and a band of her supporters went to Te Tai Tokerau to campaign for Kelvin Davis, Davis was told that if he let them campaign, Labour head office would cut his funding. So, it’s by no means clear that the whole establishment lined up against Hone and for Davis.

    The Internet Party hook-up could easily have been just as damaging to Hone as National and NZ First endorsing Davis, as you suggest.

    Secondly, I don’t agree with those on the left who suggest the election result was some kind of massive defeat for the left. It was a massive defeat for the Labour Party, but how is that a defeat for the left?

    National may well make a few more small inroads on workers’ rights while, at the same time, maintaining the pension age, something that is beneficial to the entire working class.

    The transition from the fifth Labour to fifth National government has been pretty seamless.

    Phil

    • Thomas R says:

      Yes, the left should take heart really and take this moment to remember that a Labour government would be all but benevolent. I think MANA would have gained some minor concessions though had Labour required confidence & supply.. and I get the feeling that kids going to school hungry don’t really give a shit about Marx just yet 😉

      But this is a lesson, and it seems like challenge now is to actually articulate something that looks to learn from this lesson. I haven’t agreed with the more recent Fightback recommendation piece, so will need to write a response.

      With regards to Davis campaign, I think initially Labour were pissed off at Kelvin but the approach changed a bit over time. Even without that though, an increase of one MP – an Internet Party MP at that, would have been a very poor outcome anyway. MANA had core bases in Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rawhiti, and Te Tai Tokerau. They’ve gone backwards in all these areas. Neither a turn to the left (Minto, Matt for MANA), nor a turn to the right (IP) has paid off. I think MANA is still a good project, and has built a solid group of activists even in places that could hardly be considered strongholds like CHCH. But if it wants to continue having a parliamentary project (that’s not really clear at this stage), it should at the least return to the communities where it has the most inroads and build support there – through a return to the clear politics of MANA. Not gimmicks about hoverboards and talking cat cartoons.

    • Thomas R says:

      Perhaps most amazing is that Kim Dotcom seems more willing to admit that his association hurt MANA than some of the leftists in MANA are willing to question the alliance with the Internet Party.

      • Daphna says:

        Yes, isn’t it interesting that Dotcomcould be objective enough to articulate that. I know it is hard to stand back and make a sober analysis when in the midst of campaigning but I doubt we’ll see other Internet/Mana people do that later either unfortunately. Finding a way forward is the hardest thing, but reviewing past attempts is do-able and absolutely necessary.

      • Thomas R says:

        To her credit, Laila also agreed with Dotcom/said largely the same thing I believe.

  5. Don Franks says:

    ” I get the feeling that kids going to school hungry don’t really give a shit about Marx just yet ;)”

    Maybe they don’t Thomas. But until we get beyond asking capitalism to feed the kids, however stridently, poor kids – and their parents – will remain hungry.

    Well intentioned moral indignation is not enough.

    Boiled down, Mana’s politics are like the Salvation army, without the Sallies long term solution.

    • Thomas R says:

      I don’t disagree Don. I just know some extremely politically conscious friends of mine, who are also on long term benefits due to mental health stuff are actually frightened of the slow squeeze National is implementing on WINZ. We know that Labour is not a solution to these problems, but sometimes it is hard to have a broader perspective and not think that some people at the very bottom do just need a bit of a break. Moral indignation isn’t enough of course, but I exercise that mussel regularly cause I think socialists can become a bit detached if we’re not careful to stay grounded and remember the actual violence going on daily in this system.

  6. oshay says:

    Reading the articles on The Daily Blog, it looks like it’s still going to be some time before the Social Democrats (spokes people of the ‘radical’ NZ left), learn from their mistakes. So far their excuses are Dirty Politics and unfair media coverage, plus predictions of an unleashing of the Neoliberal Kraken. take for example the following article by Martin Bradbury. http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/09/21/humble-pie/

    It was so bad, that I was compelled to reply. My reply is as follows.

    O’SHAY says:
    SEPTEMBER 22, 2014 AT 5:59 PM
    The greatest failure of the radical NZ Left has been the inability of them to base their activism upon strong materialist analysis and coherent theoretical alternatives to the status-quo. Instead the NZ left has been caught in an endless spiral of activism driven by passions dominated by emotions rather than sober minded strategy. But can we blame such activists, when the little that goes the way of theory and analysis is weak opinion based journalism just like this article?

    Let’s get a few things clear. John Key’s National is not Neoliberal. An actual analysis of Capital Accumulation in NZ will show you that while neoliberalism during 80’s and 90’s succeed in lowering the value of labour and increasing the rate of exploitation, it failed to bring the economic dynamism that had been promised to the Capitalist class. Key just like Clark have been pursuing a pragmatic mixed (Neoliberal/Keynesian) economic policy. The cries from the Left that National is still fill of neoliberal ideologues is not true.

    For an actual analysis of Capital Accumulation (something that Social Democrats like Bradbury are unable or choose not to do), follow these links.

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/keys-vision-managing-the-malaise-of-new-zealand-capitalism/

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/coming-apart-down-under-the-decay-of-new-zealand-capitalist-society-from-the-1970s-to-1993/

    For more information why National isn’t neoliberal. https://rdln.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/keys-government-not-neo-liberal-says-unite-union-leader/

    Also, while the fact that our corporate monopoly media, does make it hard for left-wing views to get equal coverage does play a factor, it is not the main driver behind apathy and lack of working class struggle. Due to changes in the labour-market that promote greater flexibility and the rise of Information Technology, NZ workers are more dispersed, lessening the likelihood of strike action and making sure that when such actions do happen Capital can easily respond to it (contract workers etc). As a result of the decentralisation of labour, NZ workers have become increasingly alienated and see themselves less and less as a political class.

    For more information about the lack of class struggle in NZ and the role that technological advances and changes in the labour-market play follow these links.

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/low-horizons-and-the-legacy-of-defeats/

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/low-pay-longer-hours-and-less-social-mobility/

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/bending-over-backwards-new-zealands-temp-economy-and-the-growing-need-for-flexible-labour/

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/information-technology-and-the-rise-of-new-zealands-modern-servant-class/

    Us folk at Redline (rdln.worpress.com) understand and continuously stress that fact that the radical NZ Left doesn’t stand a chance in organising NZ workers to make a radical stand against Capitalism, when the vast majority of the radical NZ Left don’t even have a theoretical understanding of the ideologies that they profess to belong to (the majority of so called Marxist groups) and choose to spend their time writing opinionated trash, rather than actual material analysis.

    Considering that we now have three years to get our shit together, my suggestion for the radical NZ Left is to start reading Capital and don’t stop until you have finished all three volumes. Once you’re able to hold your own against Capitalist ideologues and provide coherent theoretical alternatives, then NZ workers will start to no longer see you as a bunch of loons or worse yet self righteous douche bags.