A few tips for David Shearer in congratulating him on ascendency to the Labour Party leadership

Congratulations, David, on being elected Labour Party Leader. Here are a few thoughts from a Green activist on how to best get an effective progressive Government after the next election:

  1. The Greens are your best friends outside your own Party. Don’t go trying to claw back votes from the Greens, or they may not continue to be so. There are plenty of soft National votes to target.
  2. A progressive government will necessarily involve both the Greens and Labour. Both parties should focus on our political enemies on the other side of the divide, who care little for either social justice or ecological sustainability.
  3. Stop stealing Green policies (e.g. $15 minimum wage, removing the employment status discrimination in Working for Families, introducing Capital Gains Tax) and claiming them as you own. Voters will see that for what it is. Instead, give the Greens credit for good policy advances, and acknowledge the Greens for those initiatives.  In return, the Greens are likely to address issues Labour has raised, such as your concern about the sustainability of NZ Superannuation, which is a valid economic concern the Greens have not yet addressed.
  4. Don’t worry about the Greens’ and Labour’s respective share of the vote. Trust the Greens’ “highly unlikely” position on giving National support on confidence and supply.
  5. Adopt a “degree to disagree” position with the Green on issues we have significant policy differences about – e.g. foreign investment and trade policy, finite resource exploitation policy, and drugs and alcohol policy.  We can sort those out post-election 2014, when we see how the numbers stack up.
  6. Don’t trust New Zealand First. They sold us all down the river in 1996 when they campaigned on defeating a National Government and then supported one post-election.  They also had a large part to play in the defeat of the Labour-led Government in 2008.
  7. Don’t continue to shut out Mana. They may have only one vote at the moment, but I suspect they will grow. They are a strong force for observing and promoting Te Tiriti and for positive social change – things I hope the Greens and Labour agree on.
  8. Don’t shut out the Maori Party. For reasons I think are misguided, they are on the other side at the moment. But if National (including its most bigoted supporters) can accommodate them and survive, so can the Greens and Labour; and we can do more to deliver Te Tiriti obligations and economic and social justice to Maori Party supporters than National could dream of getting away with.

Now MMP is locked in for our lifetimes, we have to get past the old FPP thinking. It is voting blocs that count now, not the dominance of one of the two old Parties.

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.


Occupy Wellington in it’s second week

There have been a lot of very interesting workshops and discussion groups facilitated by the campers at Occupy Wellington, with many outside speakers coming down to share an hour or two with those interested.

On Wednesday, despite afternoon rain that left the campsite soggy and some spirits dampened, former Green MP Jeanette Fitzsimons stopped by the campsite with some of the crew from Generation Zero, to talk in an informal open discussion about climate change, activism, and her own personal political history.
She was only in Wellington for a day for meetings, and graciously added a visit to Occupy Wellington to her schedule. The discussion began around 4.30pm, and needed to finish promptly at ten to six, as she was part of a panel on MMP speaking at Te Papa, just across on the waterfront from the campsite.
Despite much tent-shifting and space-changing that had gone on in the previous two days of wind and rain, one useable space was ‘floor-cleared’, and the talk began with a carpet of young people closely snugged-up in the largest water-tight tent available. Jeanette took this all in her stride, joking that her plastic chair made her look enthroned amongst the cross-legged throng seated on the canvas floor.

The cosy tent workshop

The cosy tent workshop

The spare floor-space seen in this photo was quickly filled up by late-comers, and the discussions were intelligent and humourous as Jeanette responded to questions about what got her into activism, some practical details about how groups were organised back in the 70’s and 80’s before the internet came along, and some personal reminiscences about her days in the Values party during the long campaign against nuclear shop visits to Aotearoa, which culminated in the passing of the Nuclear-free legislation that we all take so much for granted these days.

This is how the campsite was looking on the day:

Jack Illott Green showing it's swampy derivation

Jack Illott Green showing it's swampy derivation

Note the larger puddly bits – it has been getting very muddy and boggy in places around the campsites, which are beginning to be referred to as ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ – there has been some movement of tents to allow the grass to air again where yellowing is taking place, so don’t think that all those yellow patches refer to campers who have left – it’s just some grounds management going on.

Next up for the camp is another weekend of workshops and speakers 29-30th October, and then some hijinks for Halloween, as Capital E puts on events for children after-school and early evening, which may encourage some halloween dressups by the locals of Occupy Wellington. There’s also a critical mass bike ride on the 28th October, 5pm from Civic Square, with a Halloween costume theme.

Lots to see and do, pop by if you’re in town and at a loose end, looks like the weather is clearing up in time for the weekend events.

Whaling for a big Gerry Mander

Ever heard of a gerrymander? Yep, that’s what happened for many years in Queensland, when Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s National Party held power there with as little as 20% of the popular vote.

Anyway, here’s Cameron Slater – and again, and again, and again – advocating that New Zealand’s National Party should be advocating a vote against MMP:

News flash National, all your political enemies are conspiring to retain MMP and pouring lots of time, effort and money into it and some in National are even helping them. Silence is no longer an option, silence in 1993 on the issue is what got you 9 long years in opposition and silence is what will see your coalition partners disappear, and with it your chances of governing again for a very long time.

Slater’s argument is about as unprincipled as it gets. He is advocating gerrymandering the electoral system to make it less fair and less proportional because that would advantage the political right by giving the National Party a share of seats in Parliament well in excess of their share of the popular vote.

I somehow suspect he wouldn’t be running that argument if ACT were polling 12%, rather than being terminally ill at 1.2%.

The Tea Party makes a case for MMP

Republican Party (United States)

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve watched, fascinated, as the fringe wing of US Republican Party, the Tea Partiers, have played chicken with a $17 trillion debt crisis.

Astonishingly they seem to have won the stare-down at the cost of not just the president, USA’s global reputation and any attempts at collaborative decision-making, but also at the cost of their own Republican Party which has taken a significant hit to its public standing.

The interesting bit for me is that way this mirrors politics in New Zealand.  We also have a dominant right-wing party that treasures its public good will, and a crazed extreme right-wing party.  The major difference though is that we have proportional representation (MMP). So while in the USA the Tea Party is embedded in the heart of the more moderate Republican Party, causing all sorts of damage, in New Zealand our crazed right-wingers have peeled off into their own party where they can espouse their own ideas, pull their own crazy stunts, and attract their own corresponding level of public support.

Before MMP we still had those fringe ideologues, but as with the USA, they were embedded and hidden in larger parties. In our case both of them: Labour from 1984 to 1990 as well as National from 1990 to 1996.

I feel sympathy for Republican voters in the States. Many of them get offered a voting choice of a Democrat or a Tea Partier.  And they probably don’t know if they have a Tea Partier or just an ordinary Republican who was bullied into signing up to the Tea Party programme for the votes and funding.

The nice thing about MMP is you get exactly what you voted for. It’s very easy to find the ideologues because normally they are not hiding in other people’s parties.

Is Vote for Change sinking even before it sets sail


It’s interesting to see the disarray that the Vote for Change folk seem to be in. Yesterday’s Kiwiblog post on them has pictures of two crowd-sourced billboards – neither of which are logical*, let alone compelling. And then the comments underneath seem to be running majority in favour of MMP. If Vote for Change can’t muster a simple majority (ha ha) among the Kiwiblog comments you wonder where they are planning to get their support.

$10,000 in prize money to promote something, anything, we’re still not quite sure what yet, so long as it makes sure that some people’s votes are worth more than other people’s.

*e.g. the first billboard seems to have forgotten that Winston Peters came to power and prominence under First Past the Post, then lost his seat under MMP. And, as for the second billboard, surely the concern is supposed to be that tails wag dogs not that dogs wag tails?

Only one party… the National Party

Nazi anti-MMP campaigner Alex Fogerty doesn’t seem content with returning to the two-party dictatorship of FPP or its bastard cousin SM.  Here he is on the Lower North Island Young Nats’ Facebook page a couple of months ago, apparently advocating a one party state:

The anti-MMP group Vote for Change have been quick to dissociate themselves from Fogerty (although not quick enough to avoid losing their sole founding member who was not a hard right winger, former Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey).

It will be interesting to see if the National Party and the Young Nats do the same. Or do they tolerate Nazi creeps like this in their midst?

Update (2.10pm): Well, that was quick.  Fogerty’s comment has now been removed from the Lower North Island Young Nats’ FB page.