Sunday, June 14, 2009

Winners and losers in Mt Albert

An utterly unoriginal theme for a blog post but here goes:

Television stations: from my sub-tropical exile over here there was no contest. The winner was TV3 which had regular updates posted to the web, a live streaming web-only broadcast for well over an hour and a web simulcast of its 10:30 show. TVNZ had only a few short clips posted to the web, none after 9pm so far as I could tell.

Politicians: Here the winners are clearly Shearer and party leader Goff.

For Phil Twyford it is a matter of swings and roundabouts. He was completely shafted by Goff and the media beat-up over Tizard and would have romped in had he stood. On the other hand he has become the effective representative for Auckland that Labour never managed to find when in Government. His work on the supercity has ruthlessly taken advantage of Government misteps.

Kiwiblog whines that this prominent Dominion Post story fails to mention that the economist who did costings and estimated job losses for the Auckland city reforms is a Labour party member. Yet Twyford who has been commissioning the research is very upfront about this, and points out that these estimates are attracting interest in the press solely because the Government has failed to do the work itself.

Moreover, I'm completely confident that Twyford, unlike the Minister for Local Government, doesn't need his mother to tell him why a city needs a library!

The list of losers is long.

John Key is an obvious one. The National talking point that the race was initially neck and neck is now a Labour talking point since their candidate got 60% of the vote to National's 17%. Key's handpicked candidate was a disaster. I am agnostic on this one, but it is possible that Linda Clark is right and the public will not react well to Key and his Cabinet dissociating themselves from the campaign and making themselves scarce on election night. There is something in the notion that New Zealanders don't like sore loosers.

Melissa Lee will sink without trace. Jonathan Coleman the ministerial handler for Lee is unlikely to be looked on kindly by his colleagues, and is stuck with the thankless task of immigration reform.

Judith Tizard was dragged through the mud, after the ignominy of loosing her previously safe seat. A mayoral campaign will not be on the cards.

I'd say that Kiwiblog and Whaleoil, and their inflence on the major media, are going to come in for more scrutiny in the future given their role in the Tizard beat-up, and Whaleoil's obviously ill-informed commentary on National's chances. This can only be a good thing.

And where was the Labour party President during all this? Either Andrew Little was too busy with his day job (General Secretary of the EPMU) or he was forbidden to show his face in the electorate by Goff. Either one reflects badly on his prospects. Duncan Garner, in reviewing possible future Labour leaders, commented that Little had missed his chance by not entering Parliament in 2008. Who knows, but his appearance on Q and A this morning was hardly scintillating.

Despite a strong personal showing by Russel Norman, the Green party should have done much better given the circumstances. 12% of the vote in an urban electorate, in a by-election, (which should be good for third party candidates,) with one of the major party campaigns totally imploding, that doesn't seem like a win. It certainly doesn't square with inner city support for the Greens in Australia for example.

The standard analysis of the Green position appears to be that in a recession Green issues recede. I would argue that the Green's long term problem in New Zealand is two-fold. Firstly environmental issues have become totally mainstream and both main parties have to spend considerable times on issues like climate change. As this trend continues the Greens will become less relevant, while green lobbies in both main parties will grow in strength. So, for example, pretty much every party in parliament supports Government subsidies for home insulation. That was a great idea and the Greens got a lot of credit for getting it in the budget but one gets the feeling they didn't have to push very hard. Secondly there is the problem that now that Donald and Fitzsimons are gone, it's very hard to convince yourself that many senior greens are motivated primarily by a passionate interest in environmental issues. Given these states of affairs many voters may ask themselves if they are really furthering the cause of the environment by voting for a party that is always going to be locked out of the Executive.

At least in this by-election voters definitely seemed to feel that they were choosing between the two main parties.

Backroom campaign managers: Winner is John Pagani. This is an interesting one since Pagani is actually a Progressive. The situation on the ground for Labour may not have initially been that favourable, I'll paraphrase Linda Clark on TV3 "It's a myth that Helen Clark had this inpregnible party machine in Mt Albert", she credited Pagani with running the show and getting the on-the-ground operation running. I'll also note the local organisation was quite probably less enthused when once head office made sure that the LEC Chair's daughter lost the nomination to its hand-picked fly-in candidate. It was a very convincing win so that goes to show that if you really need to win a single electorate badly enough you get quite good at it.

On the other hand the loser was clearly Mark Thomas. There was this great shot on TV3 of him glumly trying to get attention at the bar at National party headquarters after going over to concede to Shearer. This wasn't a great night for what Dim-Post calls his "lifelong unreciprocated loyalty to the National party"; there was even a jab from Whaleoil.

Thomas was a candidate in a very memorable contest in Wellington Central back in the day, and was famously shafted by his party's Prime Minister Jim Bolger. Is there any chance of getting Tony Sutorius' wonderful doco "Campaign" up on New Zealand on Screen? The whole thing is great, but it's worth it just for the bit where they are in the car with Thomas when he hears Bolger on the radio telling National supporters to vote ACT.

UPDATE: It turns out that I can't spell "loser" what does that say about me?


Neil said...

I have to agree that Campaign is priceless. I have it on VHS and watch it every couple of years.

brenda said...

I'll take that as a suggestion :)

we have a fairly lengthy list of titles to chase up, but always keen to see what the public wants.

i'll keep you posted (or else you could subscribe to the RSS feed and see what's coming)


Andrew D said...

Brenda, that's brilliant!

I love the site, but it does seem to me that you could beef up coverage of political life. If it's possible "Campaign" would be a great way to contribute to that.

And thanks I've now put myself on the RSS.