So that was the New Zealand elections. Excuse me while I yawn.
It was not a shock that Peters is back”
While the pundits will all be gasping with shock and horror at the “sudden” rise of New Zealand First (The Winston Peters Party), there should be no surprise at that result. The history of MMP is that small parties in coalition government take a pasting in the following election. Coupled with the Peters-driven scandals of the 2008 campaign it was small surprise that NZF did not make it back into parliament in 2008 – but it only missed out by a whisker. History also tells us that this depressant effect on small parties is transient, as NZF itself has experienced before. Consequently, it was not a shock that Peters is back, though I, personally, did not expect such a good result for him.
The person to “blame” for the size of Peters’ resurgence is, of course, not John Key (although the media-manufactured “storm-in-a-tea-cup” did not help) but Phil Goff. For those who were paying attention to Peters’ campaign, he was relentlessly on-message against asset sales. All the effort (by Labour) put into scaring the public as to National’s intentions regarding asset sales translated into extra votes for both Labour and NZF, but Peters was by far the biggest winner.
Weirdly, it was all about trust. Labour has a history with asset sales, some of it quite recent. Their caucus was still full of MPs who has participated in such things. Winston, on the other hand is consistently xenophobic and could always be relied upon to oppose those sales. He is highly unlikely to change his mind on this. While Winston is exceeding malleable about many things, particularly if they enhance his personal power, he is very careful to ensure that he preserves the tools that are the basis of his power – the fears of the elderly and the undercurrent of New Zealand’s parochial xenophobia. He can be relied to be always consistent in these things. He can be trusted to oppose asset sales
Consequently, while Goff may have attracted a few votes his way with the strong campaign against asset sales, far more votes – Labour ones included – will have percolated to New Zealand First. Goff can now retire, comfortable in the knowledge that Key will be thoroughly irritated for the next 3 years. After all, his (Key’s) stance on pensions was designed to reduce Peters’ momentum and now that is all wasted. Surely a bitter pill to swallow.
Actually, there was one surprise this election. The size of the vote for the Conservative Party. For a newly-formed party with no established branding, that was a very respectable vote. And an excellent example of why the 5% threshold is manifestly unfair. It would make no difference to Key if the Conservatives took 3 seats (they would be a natural coalition partner) but at least the people who wanted a conservative voice in parliament would have one.
Disclaimer: I did not vote for the Conservative Party.
Yes, The Mac is back! A combination of ennui and exam pressures have kept me away. Thanks to all who noticed I was gone. Both of you.