Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Meet the middle

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    We’re learning more about every voter before we make contact

    Nín hǎo Mr Lee! So, you brought your family here to take advantage of New Zealand's growing economy and 100% pure branding?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Around a third of New Zealand’s population are leftists. Same for right-wingers

    A third of NZers vote Labour because their mum did. A third of NZers vote National because their dad did. About 5% are "interested in politics" to any degree.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    - Centrists think more like lefties on economic protections and public investment

    - But they think more like right-wingers on new taxes and welfare

    That’s helpful to know. You’re more likely to win centrists’ votes if you emphasize the issues where you agree with them, and downplay the issues where you don’t.

    My impression, unsupported by data, is that centrists – or at least people without pronounced ideological positions – place a lot of value on perceived competence.

    A lot of that is about narrative. And it seems to me that despite a growing array of government shitshows, that’s a narrative Labour, as a party, is still struggling with. I sat and listened to a conversation at a party (a party party, not a political party) a couple of weeks ago that was all “yeah, but look at the other guys”.

    Managerial government gets a bad press, but my sense is that people quite like it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Also, what if, despite assurances from Danyl, the NZ Herald and the Chinese Central Committee, #greatfallofchina actually is serious and it leads to our rock star economy drowning in its own vomit.

    Suppose BNZ crashes, with contagion spreading to the other banks - no EFTPOS or cash machines, no wages, no way to buy food or fuel.

    National propose a 20% haircut on deposits and an austerity programme to provide bailout funds, with the banks staying in the hands of their Aussie shareholders.

    Does Labour:
    a. argue for maybe an 18% haircut and a slightly more lenient austerity programme.
    b. demand that the banksters give the money back, with an immediate wealth tax on property holdings over $1mln to pay for bank nationalisation

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    The middle has meant many things to many over time. This one, maybe kicked it off
    Opposing Views then were a little more extreme... not much tho' in essence, and they weren't informed by history. Thats if we have learnt anything in teh intervening 2500 yrs

    Managerial government gets a bad press, but my sense is that people quite like it

    Now we just need the right managerial style and goals...?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Alec Morgan, in reply to Russell Brown,

    “just because we can’t defeat them doesn’t mean we have to join them”–Bob Dylan to Hunter Thompson–I’d personally add in “yet” after “defeat”

    archetypical intellectually lazy kiwis have certainly grasped the narrative of supporting winners–“Key Love” club, over “losers”–everyone else in NZ politics

    probably a combination of a nasty outbreak of negative equity among rentiers and eventual political organisation among the currently young and alienated will be needed, the TPPA activism shows some at least are still capable of shaking off “zombie mall shuffle” orthodoxy

    Tokerau Beach • Since Nov 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Wildo, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I genuinely think that if the government hadn't have started with a tax cut to the rich, they would have been a lot better off and wouldn't be under pressure to cut services and fuck people over. Key would have gone down as one of NZs better middling Prime Ministers.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2014 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Interesting post, as always. For one thing, the numbers seem to explain Labour’s ‘let’s throw beneficiaries under the bus’ approach.
    And that’s where strategy and tactics come into conflict. Principled leadership is important. Knowing what a party stands for, what it will fight for, is gut-level important.
    So Labour claim to stand up for the underdog, the weak and the poor. But then there’s the guy on the roof, the wholesale adoption of right-wing narratives on social welfare (and economics generally).
    At a gut level it makes you think: what will they fight for? When will they throw (my favoured policy/group) under the bus too?
    Chasing votes at the expense of principles, looks shifty and gutless. You can lose the votes of the centre and the left at the same time. You should be reading and engaging with Saying what we actually mean on inequality. :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell, in reply to Alec Morgan,

    Rob's point, I think, is that you can't get enough votes to govern unless you can attract some who are not your natural supporters, and that this applies equally to left and right. 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.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    I think the language is all wrong. If you're politically agile, you might look like John Key on gay marriage or the flag, or David Lange on SOEs. Arguing whether one is more or less left or right is a pointless distraction.

    So when Waitakere man says he's left of x and right of y, he might also mean sometimes he's one, sometimes the other. He's not 'on' the spectrum. He 'spans' the spectrum.

    For some reason, this kind of agility seems to benefit National and Greens, yet gets Labour all tangled up, both here and in the UK. I can only guess why. But as long as it happens, Corbyn would appear an obviously appealing choice. Labour in both countries has been so long and so far adrift of its values it doesn't even recognise the people who represent them.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Russell Brown,

    My impression, unsupported by data, is that centrists – or at least people without pronounced ideological positions – place a lot of value on perceived competence.

    I do have data on this, and you're absolutely right. When people perceive themselves to be broadly equidistant from each of the two main options (which they often do when they identify as "centrist"), their vote decision relies more a valence dimension, "competence," than on the policy dimension.

    That's why political parties vying to win centrist votes spend so much time pairing their opponents as bungling out-of-touch losers, even on relatively minor matters. Good example: National's AmDram theatrics about a long lost New York bank account.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Some PA commenters were sure John Smith won UK Labour the 1997 election despite dying in 1994.

    Who? Nobody.

    But some PA commenters did have a grasp of historical fact. A happened before B, B happened before C. John Smith went beyond rhetoric, he made concrete moves in the UK Labour party. Read up on your history, before patronising and misleading.

    We don't know what would have happened had he not died, and to debate what didn't happen is pointless. But it is equally pointless to claim that Blair's way was the only way - that being Not-Far-Left automatically means embracing Thatcherism. That's TINA talk, it's irritating, and wrong.

    In a NZ context, the problem isn't that Clark was centrist and won, whereas her successors were left and lost. The problem is simpler: Clark/Cullen/Simpson were very good at politics, the current/recent lot aren't. (How's the Chinese name thing working out for you? As well as anybody could have predicted - except the people running Labour).

    To repeat (yet again): many Labour policies poll well. The people selling them don't. That's much harder for Labour insiders like Rob to face up to. Easier to caricature critics as ultra-left dreamers, I guess.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1324 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Managerial government gets a bad press, but my sense is that people quite like it.

    I thought so too, until the Greens elected James Shaw (change, of exactly the kind Rob's talking about) ahead of Kevin Hague (stability).

    Might also depend on whether you're looking at an incumbent or a challenger.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to simon g,

    Clark/Cullen/Simpson were very good at politics, the current/recent lot aren’t

    Not entirely randomly.

    Firstly, Helen Clark (after the fashion of several other strong leaders) promoted uselessness in order to buttress her own position as PM. Michael Cullen was competent, but left when Clark did, the others were on the whole a bunch of no-marks, and are now the only material Labour has.

    Secondly, the “centrist” policies of Clark led to a large proportion of committed activists choosing the Greens rather than Labour. Swing voters might *vote* Labour, but they aren’t going to join up and make the party machine work. So the party's been hollowed out, and apart from a few thinking people like Rob, it’s down to time servers and people who are philosophically National but hereditary Labour supporters (like the former Shane Jones).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    I'm an idiot, so be patient. But I see that as saying 46% of centrists buy the dole=bludger thing?

    Isn't that actually less than the 51% magic number?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    A couple of quick observations.

    1. Being a centrist is about marketing as much as anything else. Don Brash is the most radical, ideological party-leader we've ever had in New Zealand (with the arguable exception of Hone Harawira) yet he branded himself as 'mainstream' and came incredibly close to winning a general election.

    2. I think there's often a gap between what people are thinking when they identify themselves as 'centrist' ie 'I am a moderate and sensible person', and what politicians and political analysts hear, ie 'I am available to your party.' A teacher who is a delegate for the PPTA and who has voted Labour their entire life or a farmer who has voted National for their entire life are just as likely to self-identify as 'centrists' as people who are actually swing-voters.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Michael Cullen was competent, but left when Clark did, the others were on the whole a bunch of no-marks, and are now the only material Labour has.

    That same sort of problem hasn’t stopped National's clumsy oafs from blundering along.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    2. I think there’s often a gap between what people are thinking when they identify themselves as ‘centrist’ ie ‘I am a moderate and sensible person’, and what politicians and political analysts hear

    Like Trotter hearing it as "I believe in nothing".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    I see that as saying 46% of centrists buy the dole=bludger thing?

    Isn't that actually less than the 51% magic number?

    You're reading it right right. But for me the most important part of those figures is the differences. Ccentrist views are only 7% removed from right-wingers' views, but 19% removed from left-wingers views. That means centrists think more like right wingers on that issue than like lefties, suggesting a standard leftie line on this issue will be less resonant than a standard right-leaning line. The 51% bright line only comes into play when the argument is presented exactly as "dole = bludger." Most campaigners are more subtle than that.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman,

    "Ccentrist views are only 7% removed from right-wingers' views, but 19% removed from left-wingers views. That means centrists think more like right wingers on that issue than like lefties, suggesting a standard leftie line on this issue will be less resonant than a standard right-leaning line."

    Why assume there is a standardised Centrist view that is 'closer' to x than y? Why not start with '46% of them think this, 54 that' ( or whatever it is). Could be they really do think that. Centrists are probably in strong disagreement with other centrists. They are all centrists in their own particular way, with a spread of views over different issues that may be strongly held.

    If the latter is true, then being making dole=bludger noises will make you look like whimps to the centrists that actually really do agree with the left, and the ones that agree with the right won't actually believe you anyway.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    2. I think there’s often a gap between what people are thinking when they identify themselves as ‘centrist’ ie ‘I am a moderate and sensible person’, and what politicians and political analysts hear, ie ‘I am available to your party.’ A teacher who is a delegate for the PPTA and who has voted Labour their entire life or a farmer who has voted National for their entire life are just as likely to self-identify as ‘centrists’ as people who are actually swing-voters.

    Yes, I agree with this. Self-identifying as as centrist is, broadly, a necessary but not sufficient condition to being a swing voter.

    But, even with that qualifier, the actual swing voters hiding among the "Im a centrists" are the ones who eventually decide the election, so it's probably better to take them seriously.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Salmond, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    Why assume there is a standardised Centrist view that is ‘closer’ to x than y?

    I would far prefer to get better information about the individual person, and make campaigning decisions from there. That's what data-driven campaigning aims to do.

    But sometimes yo don;t have better information. What then? Then you have a decision to make of "should I press this rhetorical button or not?" In the absence of better data, the group averages are a good initial guide.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2015 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    making dole=bludger noises will make you look like whimps to the centrists that actually really do agree with the left, and the ones that agree with the right won't actually believe you anyway.

    The latter would seem to explain poll responses to Labour's recent racist dogwhistling episode. They have to be extra-credible arseholes to win over voters when Winston and other righties have a proven track record. Instead it's like Phil Twyford and David Parker inviting you outside for fisticuffs.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to Rob Salmond,

    I still don't understand though.

    On that question, there's only a small majority of *actual righties* that agree with it. It's a pretty divisive question. I get swallowing dead rats that are well and truly lost causes, but when it's a close run thing even on their side? And a majority of centrists agree with you that it's a rat?

    Isn't the 'gap' smaller between the centre and the right because the right isn't really united on this view that dole=bludger?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Alex Coleman,

    Life with Dexter...

    actual righties

    Maybe it's not so much a case of 'Politically Right'
    as a bad case of 'I'm All Right (and bugger the rest of you - and the flag you rode under on the way in)'

    Those 'lefties' are all gauche and sinister it seems.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

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