About stevedore

"Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you're a consultant" - Dogbert

Time for a moratorium on opinion polls

I was interested to see this news item on TV3 : ‘Did opinion polls influence the election?

New research by Michelle Nicol shows those polls may also have contributed to the record low turnout.

Her research found three main influences on people’s perceptions of politics and the election, with a lot of undecided voters going to the ‘popular’ party in order to feel as though they fit in.

I’ve often thought, and argued, that there should be a moratorium on opinion polls in the last three months (roughly) before an election.  They have two effects which I think are bad for democracy:

  1. They influence both turnout and voting behaviour, often in a negative way – e.g. convincing people they should vote in a particular way because of what other people think, rather than according to their own beliefs.
  2. They add to the punditry of discussion about who is going to win and lose, thus removing public space for informative debate about issues, personalities and policies.

Liberation discusses the issue in much more depth here (and comes to a different conclusion).

MMP does it the tough way

If MMP wins the referendum, as I expect it to do, it will be a victory in the toughest of circumstances:

  • National voters are statistically the most opposed to MMP, and National is and has been at its strongest ever in recent months.
  • The one major flaw in MMP – the ability to coat-tail extra MPs in by creating a situation where a minor party can win an electorate seat, due to an accommodation with a major party – was exploited cynically and publicly in both Epsom and Ohariu.
  • This election was going to have a low turn out, and a low turnout should have hurt MMP’s chances.
  • The Rugby World Cup and the General Election sucked away many opportunities for informed debate about fairness, proportionality and good governance.  It allowed potential misinformation to flourish uncorrected. Despite all that most voters I talked to already understood what MMP was and how it was different from non-proportional systems.

If MMP wins despite all those factors, I don’t think anyone can complain any longer. I’m looking forward to the review now – and in particular a fix that stops the sort of tomfoolery we saw in Epsom and Ohariu.

 

Back of the brain niggles

First, let me say I thought the Green’s campaign team ran a strategically awesome campaign.  It was smart, nuanced and pitched very elegantly.  It was the best run campaign of the election (with the possible exception of Winston Peters late-finishing ‘smell of an oily rag’ campaign. Congratulations to the whole team.

However…

I’ve had a few niggling concerns at the back of my brain throughout this campaign. I understood that the ‘highly unlikely’ positioning thing was important in terms of being an independent party and positioning ourselves as separate from Labour. But let’s be honest – No party has been more diagrammatically opposed to National in their voting record over the last three years that the Greens (92 percent voting against the National Party vs Labour’s record of voting 58 percent against the National Party).  Much as we may be sick of it, our role for this next three years must staunch opposition to the National/Banks/Dunne government. Getting people to vote for us under the pretence that we might be able to work with National felt deceptive.

But the ‘highly unlikely’ thing didn’t bug me too much – it was relatively honest if we ignored the dog-whistling to soft National voters and looked at in a purely analytical way.

But more concerning for me has been the general tone of the policy presentation for the campaign. Instead of climate change we talked about holidaying people being able to swim in rivers.  Our advertising defined poverty purely in terms of children, and we presented a Green economy as some utopia where we need make no sacrifices, and everyone has jobs building windmills and goes camping every summer.

When ‘Vote for a richer New Zealand‘ first came out I thought it was cleverly ironic - undercutting our traditional beliefs about the value of economic growth. But, as the campaign went on it felt less ironic, and more divorced from an accurate reflection of what I understood Green economics to be. I believe a true Green economy will take away some people’s jobs.  It may create other jobs too but it will involve some hard choices that will hurt some sectors of the economy and benefit others. A Green economy should be challenging, because it is radically different from the current capitalist economy that both National and Labour support.

I know the party’s policies have not changed. But it felt to me that what we offered people to vote for us on was sun-drenched holidays swimming in rivers, pink batts for children and jobs for everyone constructing windmills.

What worries me is that our new MPs now face a tough choice. Do they represent the traditional Green values or do they represent the Green-lite values for which I suspect large numbers of voters voted? I hope they (the MPs), who will have talked to lots more voters than I, feel they have a mandate to be more than the advertising presented them as.

OK, that’s enough, let’s move on

Please, no more about the tea-tape. I don’t care. Just nine days to go – can we drop this obsession with secret tapes and return to discussing real issues in our usual cursory way, rather than not at all.  There are already plenty of public statements and actions from John Key on the dual topics Don Brash’s leadership capabilities and the value of elderly people.  I don’t need to hear any private conversations to make my mind up about whether to vote for him or not.

The Future Investment Fund

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Am I being obtuse – if the point of selling state assets is to lower debt why would anyone then stick that money from asset sales in a dedicated account and promise to spend it again on new assets? Doesn’t that suggest the desire to sell assets is more based on ideology than economics?

The good grace to return a favour

That Peter Jackson is such a polite man. Lesser superstars would not have thought to say ‘thank you’ when a Prime Minister passes a dodgily unconstitutional employment law just so that they can more easily exploit the employees of their film.  But here’s Jackson giving something back to the little people who helped him get where he is today – and, hey, it’s not like a celebrity photo-shoot in the midst of the election campaign costs him much.

Speculation

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I couldn’t hear anything over the noise as I stood on Courtenay Place watching the giant TV projection on The Grand – so, can anyone confirm, did I see John Key on TV mouthing ‘three more years’ in the game’s aftermath?