Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Meet the middle

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  • Keir Leslie,

    I don't know if there's much reliable grounds for thinking that non-voters differ ideologically that much from voters though --- certainly in NZ left-wing parties can win on low turnouts and high turnouts, and ditto right wing parties.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    And I see Maori Party, NZ First, and United Future inhabit the ‘space’ between Lab and Nat.

    At least in this particular dimension. Auckland is between Sydney and Melbourne, if you take only latitude into account.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    bloody good analogy. we deserve better than one-dimensional thinking.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    Fascinating (ok, we are geeks). Is it possible to show similar distributions for other parties, or is the dataset too small?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    It is pretty clear turnout is strongly conditioned by age and ethnicity

    http://www.elections.org.nz/events/2014-general-election/election-results-and-reporting/2014-general-election-voter-turnout?electorate_name=All+electorates&voter_descent=2

    And there is evidence that party support is in age bands

    http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2008/05/political-par-9.html

    And ethnicity

    http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2008/05/political-par-7.html

    So if anything it needs some evidence that the voting population is different to the electorate population to make the 1/3 1/3 1/3 argument.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    Attachment

    . Is it possible to show similar distributions for other parties, or is the dataset too small?

    No there’s plenty of data.

    ETA: Please note the red and blue are Mana and Maori parties...couldn't think of a color for them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • tony j ricketts, in reply to Nick Russell,

    If your attitude is that these voters are intellectually lazy and zombie mall shufflers just because they disagree with you, you may not be terribly successful in achieving that.

    But if your attitude is that concerned leftists are 'the kamikazi wing of the Labour party', you may end up with the English parliamentary party, with fewer than 10% of a mind to resist Blairism. And what really is the point of winning an election for that?

    wellington • Since Aug 2012 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Danielle,

    t’s not some immutable law of nature that the centre is “rightish” and we need to obfuscate leftist policies in order to get the centrists to swallow them. The centre could just as easily be leftish if we didn’t have a) a high proportion of third way numpties in Labour and b) a well-oiled Nats-friendly propaganda machine in high gear.

    It is entirely possible to move left towards the centre, put it that way. It's what National did in 2008 when it swallowed the Superannuation Fund, paid parental leave, Kiwisaver, interest-free student loans, etc as the reality of winning the election. We do sometimes lose sight of the fact that Labour dragged the centre leftwards through being in government.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Well if you are talking purely about yourself then that’s fine but I feel that self-identification can be misleading if the person making that decision is making that decision from an uninformed or even misinformed position.

    Been meaning to answer this. So we've got 2 ways of deciding if someone is "left". The first is that we ask them. Then we capture where they think they are, based on what they think "left" means.. The second is that we decide what "left" means for them, and find a way to measure it, based on their other opinions. And never the twain shall meet.

    The second way is also not just one way. It's one way for every definition of "left" that we care to come up with. So the analysis will just rage around that point - it will never get past a definitional debate.

    The first way has the advantage that that is not going to happen. We're aggregating everyone's definitions, essentially. We can study their other opinions to find out what "left" means to the average person. Which is one way of getting past the definition phase, just by averaging opinions on what it means.

    That's if we're particularly interested in that. I accept it's not universally interesting - many people will stick with their opinion on the matter until they croak. They have been doing so for a long time now. I'm interested in it, personally, although mostly because I think the term "left" is not the principal point of political distinction for the general population.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to David Hood,

    Yes, age and ethnicity are factors. But New Zealand is a reasonably homogenous population - New Zealand Europeans make up what, 75%+ of the population? And more in the voting age bands (a third of Pasifika are under 15, for instance.)

    People of Māori descent make up ~15% of the population. The difference between Māori and non-Māori voting rates is ~10%age points. Therefore you'd expect Māori to make up ~15% of the voting population. In practice, Māori probably make up ~13% of the voting population.

    (Repeat similarly for Pasfika and Asian New Zealanders, and you get a difference for all those groups taken together of maybe, what 5% fewer than expected, no? And remember that Asian New Zealanders vote in different patterns than Pasifika who vote differently from Māori, and in ways that may well cancel each other out.)

    In terms of age, yes, old people vote. (But don't tell political parties that, they're already obsessed with old people.)

    So, look, yeah, I think that in terms of winning tight races, this kind of analysis of the people who turn up to vote is a really important tool. Also for local government elections, where turnout is very low, it's really important. But in terms of big fuzzy picture, looking at the ideological centre of gravity of the nation? I don't think it's a huge distortion, certainly not compared to some of the other simplifications going on!

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It is entirely possible to move left towards the centre, put it that way. It's what National did in 2008 when it swallowed the Superannuation Fund, paid parental leave, Kiwisaver, interest-free student loans, etc as the reality of winning the election. We do sometimes lose sight of the fact that Labour dragged the centre leftwards through being in government.

    You could add the Clark's Government's remedial work on the health system, where nurses, for example, were able to repay their student loans, something they'd found close to impossible under Shipley. But that's been eroded since Key was elected. On the other hand National appear to have learned from the foreshore and seabed debacle, and can appear even more "progressive" in a strictly left-right sense in their dealings with Maori elites than Labour ever did.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • tony j ricketts,

    I've just read 4 pages of comment on Rob's piece, and posted one testy comment myself (sorry), but there are a couple of fundamentals that we ignore at our peril:

    Firstly, the NZ Parliament is defined by the Party Vote, and we STILL haven't confronted the disparity of 'safe' Labour seats like Mt Albert or Island Bay where Labour lost the party vote. Up and down the country there are electorates without even a prominent Labour MP or candidate to lead the fight for Party Vote Labour. Each party vote there is just as important. And pushing the old 'Two Ticks for Labour' line merely makes us look out of touch when so many voters split their votes.

    Secondly, in 1969 Stokes and Butler published 'Political Change in Britain', a book whose big revelation was how complex are the changes in voting behaviour. Even in the two-party, FPP system of the day it appears that actual voters switch from Lab to Con, Lib to either, voting to not-voting, and the opposites, so the often small net swing is the result of many, many changes.

    So even if we accept the idea of targeting the centre we must be aware that winning an election will result from voters arriving from everywhere on the spectrum outnumbering those leaving for everywhere on the spectrum. Over-simplified thinking is not likely to lead to success.

    wellington • Since Aug 2012 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Russell Brown,

    We do sometimes lose sight of the fact that Labour dragged the centre leftwards through being in government.

    and also without being in Government. From the other thread, my pick of what Rob has written/amended/collaborated/compromised on thus far here was this:

    Let’s start with your proposed purpose for Labour, which I think you’ve got half right. My changes are in CAPS, and basically delete “radical” and insert “lasting:”

    The purpose of the Labour party is to be a vehicle of LASTING change, to stand for something that gives hope to the poor, the oppressed, and the exploited, and to fight with them to get elected, and when elected use that power to bloody well ram MEANINGFUL change down the throats of the neoliberals THAT THEY CAN’T EVER UNDO.

    That struck me as an ideal platform to launch from. The next obvious step being Labour finding out what exactly gives hope to the poor, the oppressed, and the exploited, finding ways to express to people why they are poor, how they are oppressed and exploited, because not we’re not all capable of visualising an alternative or understanding the reasons for our predicaments. Then finally; offering resonant meaningful informed solutions in order to fight alongside the marginalised to get elected.

    With that in mind, this thread strikes me as something of a regression in terms of humanity. I do appreciate that in the bigger picture we are all numbers, and I admire the geekery and appreciate the enthusiasts’ contributions a great deal, but the cerebral can only take us so far if we’re discussing meaningful change for a culture over a number of terms. Numbers don’t translate to hope, and hope for the marginalised will never be as bankable a currency as ‘hope for the many especially the marginalised’.

    Labour’s policies in the last election weren’t all that bad, but the benefits, their necessity, weren’t – as Rob said – given due “emphasis”. That was a performance issue. We know the game, two years from now there will be two or three live televised debates in our living rooms, these more than anything unforeseen in the interim, offer the greatest opportunity to wrest power from the incumbents.

    It’s not a matter of just turning up, it’s not a matter of just being yourself. It’s about winning, through delivery, deportment, language and projection. It’s a performance, nothing less. Comparatively speaking nothing else matters. No one else gets the opportunity, and thinking you’re ready, having the numbers, being familiar with your lines, knowing what policies speak to middle New Zealand will never be enough.

    In the lead up, but especially on those dates Mr Little (or whoever, it's been hard keeping up) must be the Prime Minister, everything must be anticipated and rehearsed, scenarios, questions, responses, interjections, clarifications, mannerisms, one liners, two liners, all policy, everyone's policies and especially misunderstandings and misinterpretations. I’m not going to vote positive, I’m not going to vote #forabetterNewZealand when I want ‘the best’ for my family and and our community, I want tangible hope at a gut level, and I don’t want to have to think too much, or be hard pressed to understand anything. I don’t care about your brand, I have no loyalty and I want an obvious departure. I want to be offered a clear choice by a cool head.

    KISS

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    So. if I understand all this correctly, the absolute only way to be sure of winning an election is to have policies that appeal to The Middle (whatever that ill-defined amorphous all-things-to-all-people blob might be).

    In this scenario, our Labour Leader and his/her shadow cabinet will hide inside a giant horse formed from pure centrist populism and trick the citizens into rolling them through the gates of parliament, only to leap out in the night, open the floodgates, and put all to the sword of their wide-ranging socialist and green agenda.

    It is absolutely unnecessary to have a charismatic leader, a brilliant and ruthless media strategist and a potentially divided and weakly-led opposition that's running out of steam. All completely optional.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to tony j ricketts,

    Two Ticks for Labour’ line merely makes us look out of touch when so many voters split their votes

    It also adds to them looking like thay have an inflated sence of entitlement. I split my vote between Labour and another party, becouse I’m ever hopeful that my vote will be counted for something.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4411 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rich Lock,

    In this scenario, our Labour Leader and his/her shadow cabinet will hide inside a giant horse formed from pure centrist populism and trick the citizens into rolling them through the gates of parliament, only to leap out in the night, open the floodgates, and put all to the sword of their wide-ranging socialist and green agenda.

    I can't remember if it was Tom Scott or Denis Welch who described David Lange as an "affable frontman for a bunch of vicious little kneecappers", but I'm pretty sure those were the words.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to chris,

    We do sometimes lose sight of the fact that Labour dragged the centre leftwards through being in government.

    and also without being in Government.

    Louisa Wall and Kelvin Davis might know a thing or two about that. Neither of those two make Rob Salmond's short list of Labour poster people, who seem chosen more for being unlikely to frighten the chooks than for any proven ability to advance a progressive agenda:

    I don’t think Andrew Little is a John Key clone. Do you?
    I don’t think Grant Robertson is a Bill English clone. Do you?
    I don’t think Jacinda Ardern is a Judith Collins clone. Do you?
    I don’t think Phil Twyford is a Nick Smith clone. Do you?

    Others' mileage may differ, but for me Clare Curran can manage an occasionally passable Judith Collins impression.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Rich Lock,

    In this scenario, our Labour Leader and his/her shadow cabinet will hide inside a giant horse formed from pure centrist populism and trick the citizens into rolling them through the gates of parliament, only to leap out in the night, open the floodgates, and put all to the sword of their wide-ranging socialist and green agenda.

    Thank god *something* in this thread made me laugh.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Neither of those two make Rob Salmond's short list of Labour poster people, who seem chosen more for being unlikely to frighten the chooks than for any proven ability to advance a progressive agenda:

    Yeah, that list of "X is better than Y" was the most depressing thing about the post. I don't personally know what any of those people stand for. They appear fairly confused about this point themselves. But it's a telling misdirection, to turn a discussion about political orientation into one about which party's MPs are seemingly nicer or more decent.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    We could have some really interesting conversations about the importance of plausible and charismatic leadership, compelling policy options, valence voters, effective media management and so on. No-one's denying the crucial role these factors play.

    There will inevitably be differences among the leftist and centrist supporters of a progressive / social democratic movement. I'd be happy if this conversation led only to a recognition that major political parties need to attract support from voters with a range of backgrounds and views (notwithstanding that political parties play an important role in shaping and framing public debate).

    As things stand, Labour needs the support of voters who are currently leaning towards National. There's more than one way to win an election, but, as the UK Fabians explain, there's no getting around the basic logic.

    Since Nov 2006 • 793 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to william blake,

    a Party with no policy, no ideology just sharp clothes and $100 haircuts.
    A guaranteed coalition partner with any party and a refuge for expired celebrities and knackered sports stars. The stuffing in the turkey.

    That sounds awfully like National apart from the ideology part, that is run by Steven Joyce and the backroom boys (good name for a boy band perhaps?). There are plenty of suits who are just there because their business can get along quite nicely without them and "Going into Politics" is the next step up the social ladder. If not the stuffing then the turkeys themselves. In this scenario, joining Labour would be seen as social suicide, it wouldn't go down well at the golf club, would it.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    The first is that we ask them. Then we capture where they think they are, based on what they think "left" means.. The second is that we decide what "left" means for them, and find a way to measure it, based on their other opinions.

    So you end up with what you think they mean and end up with what? Something that has no basis in reality. Sure, it gets you a statistically transparent measure but means nothing.
    The fact is that if people think Left=loony then they won't vote Left, regardless of what your study tells you. Perhaps we should be looking at why people think Left=loony and Right=right.
    Ok, you are going to say "where is the definition of Left v Right?" I see a bright line test here.
    Do you care about others? Yes = Left, No = Right.
    Simple.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    Hold on Rob; you've both said "perception is reality" and "if people think they are centrists, then they are centrists". So, if both of those propositions are true, the fact that people slam Labour for engaging in dole bludger rhetoric (for example, that story about the roof layer) despite claims about policy means that if people perceive Labour's message as being all about hating people on Welfare, then that's the reality, no matter the claims about (unreleased) policy.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Do you, care about others?
    Yes= Left
    No = Right.
    Simple.

    Co-operation or Corporation

    we are heading towards
    Life vs Death

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7939 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    we are heading towards
    Life vs Death

    Like I said earlier, with reference to the video "Humans Need Not Apply",
    They shoot horses, don't they?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

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