Greens fail to rejuvenate


The Greens are the first party in New Zealand to release their party list for 2014. You can read it here. Given all of their MPs will be elected as list MPs, it’s advantageous for them to get this out of the way asap.

It is a very conservative list – they’ve opted to upset as few people as possible with it. None of their existing MPs have decided (or been forced) to retire and while there has been some minor rearrangements in the order of their 14 MPs, only one new candidate has been slotted in above sitting MPs.

Their press release puts some lovely spin on it though. You see, given they’re aiming to get 15% of the party vote, which would equate to about 20 seats. It’s nice and aspirational, but they obviously don’t put much belief in it, given with only one exception, their new candidates are all ranked above 15.

The Polity poll-of-polls shows the Greens currently hovering at 11.8% – marginally above where they polled in 2011. This would get them roughly 15 MPs, and their only new MP would be a white middle class male.

So nice work on the spin Greens, but this really is the most conservative list you’ve produced in years.

A sensible move

If you’d done a focus group in 2007 about what people thought about John Key and National, I’m sure the word “aspiration” would have surfaced.

I haven’t got any of my own research to prove this, but it seems like a sensible way to frame yourself. There is certainly a place for negative messaging in politics, but a nice aspiration vibe about what you’re actually planning to do is a really good starting point.

Which is why I was so pleased to see this…

nzlabour target

Is an aspiration unemployment rate goal is not going to turn the economy around. The goal in of itself will of course not create any jobs. But it’s a great way to start a conversation about what Labour plans to do.

On its own it isn’t a game-changer, but it sure is a refreshing way of looking at things. Nice work.

The 38%

This is a guest post by Labour activist Sophie Rapson.

It’s been a difficult couple of years being a progressive Labour member.  On one hand a lot of constitutional change has gone through, substantial and good change to this fairly anachronistic organisation.  On the other hand, some of these changes have been fraught with politics and tainted by factional warfare, which left the outcomes of the constitutional changes less than ideal.

As a young woman, my expectation for constitutional change was gender equity provisions.  The focus where many of us wanted to see constitutional change was the level of women in caucus.  After many submissions, meetings, and Annual Conference it was decided that at least 45% of the Labour Party caucus had to be women (because apparently 50% was too difficult).  To say that I was incredibly disappointed was an understatement.

The leaders of an organisation I so greatly respected and the organisation I see as the best vehicle for social change decided that having 50% women in caucus was too high a target.  Because having 50% women in caucus in 2014 was too fast a transition and would lead to us losing the 2014 General Election.  Which appeared to be code for – some male members of the caucus would miss out and the faction numbers would be disrupted.

Instead of quitting the Party, I acknowledged that change and good, lasting change is incremental.  Politics is a long game, and good people need to stay and stick it out for the long haul.  Make sure that progressive change eventually comes.  So I accepted that my gender would be underrepresented in the Labour Party for another 3 years, oh and since the beginning of time.  Let’s not forget that women have been underrepresented forever, but no, we shouldn’t move too fast, we’ve only known about this problem for… oh wait.

So I was happy to continue and live to fight another day when I could again put a constitutional amendment up to have at least 50% women in the Labour Party caucus.

Then Shane Jones resigned and a reshuffle occurred.

Hey I thought, this might be an opportunity for improvement to the 40% women ranked caucus figure.  Maybe balance out the caucus gender mix, not expecting the world, maybe for it to remain the same.

The reshuffle resulted in a ranked caucus made up of 38% women and 62% men. (Only the first 26 out of the 34 member caucus is “ranked”).

It also contained a number of promotions for male members of caucus.  Although Nanaia Muhuta was promoted (she is now the first woman Māori caucus leader!) and Jacinda Ardern moved up one spot. The overall result was a number of woman demoted and a greater number of men promoted.

So on the eve on an election, where we are supposed to be achieving 45% women in the resultant caucus we decided to drop the level of women in the ranked caucus to 38%.  (Let’s not even discuss the unranked MPs situation.  I also haven’t addressed other diversity issues in caucus, specifically Maori and other ethnicities representation, which is a subject for a whole other rant.)

When are we going to start to realise that collectively our performance and effectiveness as representatives decreases as the caucus becomes less diverse.  Better decisions are made when a varied perspective is present.  On what planet does having over 60% of the caucus as men going to lead to good decisions.  I thought we were the party of inclusion, fairness, and equity?

I wrote this not to signal my resignation from this Party, but as an assurance to those in power that I’m going to continue to question and challenge you on this issue.  I will challenge that this issue is an election killer.  I will remind you that the number of competent women not engaging and getting involved in politics because of this bullshit will continue to increase.  Those women that we so desperately need to reach that 45% target.  Or heaven forbid, 50% one day.

I will watch with interest at how the moderating committee handles Rule 360 of the Labour Party Constitution.  At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets messed with.  But please, PLEASE prove my cynicism wrong.

Yours in solidarity
Disappointed Labour Woman

Mail fail

A colleague of mine received his drivers license renewal from VicRoads today. He was also lucky enough to also get some handy hints from Victoria’s highway department on the risks that rubella could have to his unborn child, should he be pregnant.

Rather odd advice from a department that does know he is a man and therefore unlikely to be the target audience for their “special message to all women”.

If you have data, use it. Give this guy a special message about how he needs to clean up the McDonalds wrappers from his car floor (okay, they might not have that data. I’m happy to provide it though).


Looking forward

I don’t think too many people would argue against a claim that 2014 hasn’t been a great success for Labour in New Zealand so far. The scene was set by a series of embarrassing gaffes from leader David Cunliffe, and all but the very far left seem to think Shane Jones’ shock departure is a bad look.

The last public opinion poll had Labour at only 28.5% – which is very alarming when you consider at this point in 2011 they were polling at around 34%.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

Despite how bleak Labour’s immediate prospects are looking, there are some amazing new candidates coming up through the ranks who seem to be running some excellent campaigns. Unless polling dramatically improves, few are likely to be elected, but it is a very healthy sign that the party is actually attracting talent.

Being on the other side of the Tasman, I’m reasonably detached from what is happening on the ground. But from what I can tell, here are some of Labour’s great new candidates who are making a huge difference…

Tamati Coffey opening his campaign office.
Tamati Coffey opening his campaign office.

Tamati Coffey – Rotorua. This goes without saying. Not only does Tamati have a great deal of charisma, and already has huge name recognition from his TV career, but he seems to be taking to political campaigning like a duck to water. His Facebook page is plastered with photos of a large and diverse campaign team, actually doing things that win votes, like getting on the phones, knocking on doors and talking to voters. It would be very easy for a celebrity candidate like Tamati to stick to a vanity campaign and cover the electorate in posters of himself, but he obviously realises that politics in the 21st century is a much more nuanced beast.

Clare Wilson – Bay of Plenty. Like Rotorua, the Tauranga/Bay of Plenty region hasn’t got the strongest local party organisation. That said, Clare seems to have whipped up a bit of a firestorm in the electorate and is running a smaller, but targeted campaign. The Bay of Plenty isn’t a seat Labour would win even in a very good year, but Clare is working hard building the base, and in conjunction with neighbouring electorates, is doing the best they can to mobalise party votes.

Willow-Jean Prime – Northland. I have to admit that I know very little about Labour’s candidate for Northland, which is why it was such a surprise to see that she almost has 1500 likes on her Facebook page already. Now Facebook likes alone aren’t going to get you elected (especially not in the National stronghold of Northland), but it does indicate something else. In selecting Willow-Jean Labour have chosen a well-known local councillor. Prime was elected at last year’s local government election as the second highest polling candidate in her ward, and has a large local profile. I can’t say what her campaign this year will be like, but Labour have shown some smarts in picking a well-known local who already has some political smarts and a strong electoral track record.

Adrian Rurawhe – Te Tai Hauāuru. This is one seat that Labour is generally accepted to have a decent chance of picking up this year. The incumbent, Taria Turia of the Maori Party, is standing down leaving a prime vacancy. But Labour haven’t taken anything for granted. Rurawhe has built what seems to be a very large campaign team and as well as getting all over the (huge) electorate, seems to be making a solid effort of canvassing. It’s hard to see him not being a shoe-in for the seat with the awesome effort he is putting in.

Arena Williams – Hunua. Arena has put her hand up to fly the flag in the National stronghold of Hunua, just south of Auckland. It is traditionally one of the last seats that Labour manages to find a candidate for, but her enthusiasm is incredible. She’s already mobalising many of Labour’s younger members to help out, and they’re knocking on doors and phoning like crazy. Of course, there is no way Arena is ever going to win Hunua, but it looks like she is going to make damned sure Labour gets all the party votes it can out of this safe blue seat. Good on her.