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Sunday, February 20, 2011

How Chris Trotter just convinced me a New Left Party can happen

The brilliant Chris Trotter and i have clashed recently over the idea of a New Left Party, we did so again on Citizen A which aired this evening 8pm Stratos Sky 89 (from March 1st the show will be free to air on Freeview 21 moving to 7.30pm on Sunday).

I hold Chris in the highest of regard in terms of his intellect and his control of the left wing of the force, he is certainly a Jedi Master, where as I am a mere Padawan but his argument tonight on why a New Left Party can not succeed has helped me make up my mind. (The episode will be posted online tomorrow).

Chris's argument against launching a New Left Party with Hone included was one of political maths, and I'm sure if I have misrepresented his fine articulation of the facts in any way shape or form, he will kindly correct me.

For a New Left Party to gain the 3.6% Matt did in Mana, it would need 90 000 votes. Now Chris concedes on a good day Hone could gain 40 000 votes in a combination of his electorate and party vote, but Chris then points out a New Left Party would need to find 50 000 more votes to gain what Matt did, which is the goal as the electorate seat gives a decent sub 5% threshold representation. Chris challenges proponents of a New Left Party to find those 50 000 extra votes and even extrapolates a figure of 800 voters in each electorate.

He says that number is simply too high, and that the voters can't be found.

I have thought about that argument and would like to suggest the following response. Where would a New Left Party find the extra 50 000 votes? There are 300 000 NZers working minimum wage labour in NZ who are drowning with rising costs and 338 000 beneficiaries who are about to have their welfare slashed. To give Chris's argument full strength, let's remove what he suggested Hone would gain, 40 000 votes leaving 598 000 beneficiaries and minimum wage workers.

So one would need to find 50 000 voters out of a pool of 598 000 beneficiaries and minimum wage workers (not including liberal urban types who might vote for the end strategy of defeating National) - and if the policy was $15 Minimum wage plus a living benefit with a full focus on minimizing the gap between rich and poor and eliminating as much poverty as possible, we would only need 50 000 votes out of a pool of 598 000 which would gain 3.6% which would give a New Left Party 5 MPs, the same representation ACT achieved with 3.6% in 2008, and those 5MPs could change the MMP math in parliament to block National from achieving a majority?

Based on that math, I think Chris Trotter just convinced me that a New Left Party can be done and that the end point of defeating an anti-beneficiary, anti-worker, anti-environment Government replaced by a genuine left wing coalition might well be worth the struggle and fight.

Please Note: Graeme Edgeler has been kind enough to provide the MMP numbers required

The voter support needed for differing numbers of seats in 2008 are as follows (that is, a new party a single electorate seat, with these levels of support, and not changing the vote levels of the parties in Parliament, would had this many seats):

1 seat (i.e. no list seats, but avoiding causing overhang): 9160 votes (0.39%)
2 seats (i.e. electorate and one list): 27,815 votes (1.19%)
3 seats: 46,611 votes (1.99%)
4 seats: 65,626 votes (2.80%)
5 seats: 85,411 votes (3.64%)
6 seats: 104,496 votes (4.46%)


At 20/2/11 10:26 pm, Blogger sdm said...

Your maths seems way out.

In 2008 there were 19,400 votes cast in Te Tai Tokerau. Hone won 12,000 and the MP won a little under 10,000 on the party vote.

So to get to 90,000 votes, the combination of Hone and this new left party need another 78,000 votes.

And given that the maths is against the left atm, you would have to get those 78,000 votes without taking from Labour/Greens.

You would also have to do it in such a way so as not to frighten the centre voters back to national.

Good luck.!

At 20/2/11 10:38 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

Well, as you would know from reading the post before commenting, these were Chris's figures weren't they Scott?

Are you saying the MP only won 10 000 Party votes throughout NZ? Do have a link for that?

But let's agree on those higher levels, that's still 78 000 voters from a pool of 598 000 voters, so not us utterly impossible as you are claiming.

I would also add the point when claiming a cannibalization of Labour and Green votes, 2008 was one of the lowest voter turn outs ever, a party that pulls in the disaffected and apathetic vote that doesn't feel representation with the incentive of vast cuts to their personal weekly income from either rising costs or welfare cuts would not necessarily erode Labour or the Greens at all.

As for the spooking of the middle, I would suggest in times as tough as a double dip recession there isn't much political middle ground any longer with National stepping to the right and Labour stepping to the left.

You are of course more than welcome to vote for Peter Dunne though Scott :)

At 20/2/11 10:59 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...


A new left party - mmm.
what happens when Labour - you know the one struggling to breathe real air currently -- cannibalises the very same policy options and platforms you have just outlined?

And why would the demographic you wish to attract want more of the SOS?

Perhaps this proposed 'left party' should be a middle party -- one that offers comfort to those who will not / never / ever / have done / vote for Labour and or for National or Act or the NZ First.

The same analysis could apply to Maori who are of the demographic class described -- what chance, hope, realistic program would get each to a) enrol, b) then get out and vote.

Cos that's the sticking point - 90k - 50k ticks - whoa --those are really big numbers --

You can run these numbers any which way -- horizon planning, economic swizzle sticks and party pills and balloons -- but unless you can convince the ordinary punter to move from their non-participatory comfort zone - you know the one - where poverty - depression - is promoted as being repaired fixed - if you vote for me - they've all heard the lies - read the stats and heard more lies -- and the promotion of owners, personalities and wanna bee politicians (who BTW do not suffer the same injustices as them) of such concepts -- then pigs will fly.

National's looking better all the time -- cannibalise the national party - swell its ranks with UEB, poor and depressed - do what a wanna bee national party candidate for albany electorate is doing - signing up all his mates to vote for him to get the nod - ahead of much more experienced an suitable and more community conscious that he.

Ha - that feels better
Bring back John A Lee and his Children of the Poor and his ideas for reform.

At 20/2/11 11:28 pm, Blogger Graeme Edgeler said...

At the 2008 election, the Maori Party got 55,980 party votes, and its electorate candidates got 76,836 between them. I don't doubt that Hone could take many of these with him to a new party, but 40,000 seems a high estimate.

At 21/2/11 12:43 am, Blogger James said...

Even if there was a 'new left' party, where do you think their votes are coming from? National? ACT?

A centre-left distribution of MPs of Labour 30% Green 8% Maori 4% and New Left 3% is no different to one of Labour 31% Green 9% and Maori 5%.

The only thing a New Left Party will do is drain Parliamentary Services and the taxpayer of their time and money.

At 21/2/11 9:09 am, Blogger Graeme Edgeler said...

James - Bomber is reasonably clear that he intends many of the votes for the New Left Party to come from people who didn't vote at the last election, and may not otherwise have voted at this one.

If it is to be the success he hopes, then this will have to be the case.

At 21/2/11 9:23 am, Blogger Tragik said...

I think that Bomber is right, that if pitched right a substantial portion votes for a New Left party could come from those disaffected by the current options.

James --- even if a New Left doesn't change the total share of votes for the "left" (and are the Maori Party really "left"?) the point is that a New Left party with some political power will lead to different "left" policies getting a voice.

Not everyone on the "left" believes the same thing, and a New Left party will represent different policies to the other "left" parties.

At 21/2/11 9:57 am, Blogger sdm said...

I misunderstood, I thought you meant Te Tai Tokerau.

And like I have said before, you cant extrapolate what Matt M did in Mana for the whole country, its a left wing electorate!. No way can that be done in most rural seats, and affluent city seats (Tamaki, Epsom, North Shore etc etc)

So you have to win these 90,000 votes in West Auckland, South Auckland, the Maori seats, Christchurch, Wellington.

Ok so lets take the seats you would target

General Seats

(assume average turnout of 32,000)

Christchurch Central
Christchurch East
Dunedin North
Dunedin South
Hutt South
Manukau East
Mt Albert
Mt Roskill
Wellington Central

13 seats x 32,000 = 416,000

Maori seats x 7 assume average turnout of 19,000 = 133,000

So in electorates with a similar profile to Mana, you are looking at a total voting poll of 549,000

A new left party would probably need to win at least 80% of its votes from these seats - being 72,000.

Therefore in the left most/poorest seats 13% of the vote. Matt got 3% in his mana campaign. Ontop of this, you need to gain 18,000 from the other electorates.

At 21/2/11 10:10 am, Blogger Bomber said...

Hold on Scott, you just ignored all the wasted maori 50 000 party vote that don't give them any extra seats - why wouldn't that be targeted as well?

Your argument about Mana doesn't stack up, Matt got 3.6% with people knowing that vote wouldn't represent them, it would be just a protest vote, if Hone brought his electorate seat people wouldn't see it as a wasted vote and be much more inclined to vote.

Even with your worst case scenario, 72 000 from 549 000 are odds worth the possibility of 5 MPs

At 21/2/11 11:01 am, Blogger sdm said...

I would suspect the majority of those 50,000 maori party votes would have come from the 20 seats I mentioned. Hence they are included.

So you honestly think you can get 13% of the vote in these seats?

At 21/2/11 11:18 am, Blogger Bomber said...

I disagree with your premise, you are claiming this is merely out of a select few electorates, I disagree, it's out of the 300 000 minimum wage workers and 344 000 beneficiaries, and they are far more wide spread than the limited electorates you have nominated to push the number up to 13%.

Shocking news about what National are about to unleash on those beneficiaries eh? And a week earlier John Key gets BMW's that massage his arse

At 21/2/11 11:24 am, Blogger sdm said...

Comeon bomber, your voters will be limited to poorer electorates in most cases. You will get very few votes from either affluent or rural electorates.

At 21/2/11 11:37 am, Blogger Bomber said...

Scott you should perhaps work for the mafia in you ability to make numbers disappear, there are 300 000 NZers working minimum wage labour and over 338 000
beneficiaries, I count 638 000 people we are targeting, needing what did you claim your figure was? 70 000? One would need 70 000 from 638 000 to gain 3.6 plus what Hone can pull meaning you have 5 MP's, sounds like it's worth a shot to stop these welfare cuts that are now on the eve of being announced.

Funny isn't it, Last week John Key claimed those seeking food parcels had made 'poor choices' while he glided past them in his new BMW with vibrating seats to massage his arse, this week solo mothers, the sick, and the handicapped are being told to go back to work or else in a 6.8% unemployment environment. I feel like I've woken up in a redneck cross burning festival.

At 21/2/11 12:53 pm, Blogger sdm said...

Lets say 50% of those 638,000 already vote Labour/Green. So you need 70K from 319,000. Thats a tough ask. No point redistributing votes from the left - you need new voters.

The great thing about this is, come Nov 27, we see who is right..

Key said that 'some' people who need food parcels made poor choices - he is of course correct.

At 21/2/11 1:36 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

wow, my jaw dropped to the ground when you added that little bit of spite on the end scott, the left may lose the election, that's always a possibility but sweet christ, we're not pricks like you.

At 21/2/11 1:41 pm, Blogger sdm said...

Some people do make poor choices. Its a fact. They may not be a majority, but some people do.

At 21/2/11 1:54 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

You are scrapping the barrel with this one, and its ugly. Real ugly. It's poor peoples fault they get food parcels is it Scott? In a 6.8% unemployment environment going into double dip recession because of failed Government policy like the GST tax rise 'turbo charge' that left a $2billion revenue deficit which requires cuts to those on benefits? Nothing to do with the failed policies of the right wing implementing economic policy as social policy? I see.

I shudder to think you and your intellectual ilk are running this country Scott.

At 21/2/11 2:21 pm, Blogger Gosman said...

You seem to be relying on the belief that the minimum wage earners would whole heartedly support an extreme left party. I'm sure there would be many who would be attractive to a party that promised to increase their wages.

However there are also many who are working for low wages while they attempt to get the skills to earn better wages in future and who find the simplistic ideas of the left unappealing.

I used to work for minimum wage at a Supermarket while I was at University and would never have contemplated falling for such an idiotic electoral bribe. I'm pretty confident there are many other individuals who think like I did out there as well.

On top of that you seem to assume other beneficiary's will all be champing at the bit to support this hard left party. I would suggest that a significant amount of this group are likely to be less than happy with some of the socially liberal policies that I'm sure will come as part of the hard left party's platform.

At 21/2/11 3:22 pm, Blogger Victor said...

The discussion seems to be hinging on the tactics rather than the strategy.

The main point of having a New Left Party (speaking from my personal viewpoint as an Alliance Party member) is to advance the goals of the left. That requires building a movement, not just going in on the coat tails of a charismatic leader and hoping for the best.

Even if you don't get into Parliament right away, by having a national voice, you influence the debate. If Labour or the Greens start stealing policies, that is also a way of achieving your goals. You form a clear and principled alternative, and with hard work, over time, you may achieve representation at both a local or national level.

A left party would also work in the extra-parliamentary field by supporting and co-ordinating campaigns in coalition with unions, for example. This would also be a useful function.

The problem with playing with numbers is that it becomes a zero sum game. The idea that a left party will do nothing but siphon votes from a pool of existing left voters is simplistic to the point of imbecilic. If people do not change their votes, then we might as well give up now, because National will always have a majority.

In reality things are far more complicated. People change. A successful left party would drag the political balance to the left, growing the numbers of people supporting those ideas.

No doubt building a left party in the current environment would be difficult. But the work has to start sometime. Some of us are already doing it.

At 21/2/11 3:25 pm, Blogger Tragik said...


No. Bomber is assuming that 10-13% of beneficaries and minimum wage workers will support a party that has policies that directly benefit them.

That seems reasonable.

The difficulty will be convincing the target voters that such policies really do benefit them, and that voting for this new party will help achieve these policies.

However, you are quite right that a majority of voters of all sorts will, like youself (apparently), continue to idiotically vote against their own best interests. But the point here is only to convince a minority of voters ... not win a landslide.

At 21/2/11 4:45 pm, Blogger Graeme Edgeler said...

50 000 ... would gain 3.6% which would give a New Left Party 5 MPs, the same representation ACT achieved with 3.6% in 2008.

ACT got 5 seats with its 3.6% because NZF missed out. If NZF had gotten in, ACT would have gotten 4 seats.

The voter support needed for differing numbers of seats in 2008 are as follows (that is, a new party a single electorate seat, with these levels of support, and not changing the vote levels of the parties in Parliament, would had this many seats):

1 seat (i.e. no list seats, but avoiding causing overhang): 9160 votes (0.39%)
2 seats (i.e. electorate and one list): 27,815 votes (1.19%)
3 seats: 46,611 votes (1.99%)
4 seats: 65,626 votes (2.80%)
5 seats: 85,411 votes (3.64%)
6 seats: 104,496 votes (4.46%)

At 21/2/11 4:52 pm, Blogger fatty said...

"You seem to be relying on the belief that the minimum wage earners would whole heartedly support an extreme left party. I'm sure there would be many who would be attractive to a party that promised to increase their wages."

"Extreme left"...WTF...maybe from someone who considers the starvation and torture of Palestinian babies to be a centrist policy.

"Whole heartedly"...who said that?

"I'm sure there would be many who would be attractive to a party that promised to increase their wages."...thats the only part of your post that makes sense, but it contradicts your argument and backs up the likelihood of this party being born.

At 21/2/11 4:58 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

Thank you Graeme, those numbers are most helpful

At 21/2/11 9:35 pm, Blogger Richard said...

This all seems a rather academic argument about the numbers when the only hope for a class based party is a primarily ethnically focussed MP. Particularly an MP who seems incapable of working with people who don't agree with him 100%. Even if such a party did get into parliament, what chance of it getting in a second time?

As for the numbers, many if not most minimum wage earners come from households where they are not the primary income earner and/or do not see their long or even medium term future as minimum wage earners. The later point is relevant to many beneficiaries. This leaves the new party not actually that appealing to much of its target market.

And those who do see their long term future on the minimum wage or benefit are the most difficult group to engage with politically. Either as a consequence or symptom of they're situation they're less networked, literate and savvy about their potential political power than the rest of the electorate.

But the one main indicator, as far as I'm concerned, that such a party doesn't have a chance is that Matt McCarten isn't having a go at creating one.

At 21/2/11 9:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bomber you are dreaming.
Labour is already targeting the poor sector. Simple because no other sector wants anything to do with labour.
You also have the problem that none of the Marxist who are pushing the communist barrow have any x factor. Granted labour have the same problem.
If you are really honest the left are stuffed.

At 21/2/11 10:26 pm, Blogger Graeme Edgeler said...

If I'd have known you were going to quote me, I'd have been more careful with my grammar! Sorry :-)

At 22/2/11 6:06 am, Blogger Bomber said...

Thank you Richard, Liberty - i've been very clear as to what the trigger points for a New Left Party are and those need to be met before one could launch.

What neither of you appreciate in your post is the extraordinary economic background these events are taking place against and the ramifications of steeper austerity measures as we are seeing with Welfare reforms launched this week will have a motivating factor to those directly impacted in the same way the rising cost of living will motivate the minimum waged.

Richard your analysis ignores that things are getting worse for those on benefits and minimum wage earners, not getting better. the vacant aspiration that keeps them in check only works when the promise of better days are ahead - those better days don't exists for a decade.

This recession hasn't finished, it's barely halfway through and if the goal is preventing a Government hell bent on implementing hard right economic policy as social policy, then a New Left Party could be the vehicle for that prevention - I can't see NZ First being that hope.

The Greens and Labour need better allies.

I'm not suggesting as Mr Trotter seems to allude that setting up a new party is easy, I'm suggesting that beating this Government from damaging more people requires a better strategy than hoping on NZ First.

Graeme, you are annoyingly correct and helpful.

At 22/2/11 3:44 pm, Blogger mark1 said...

I have Chronic fatigue Syndrome. If I go for a 15 minute walk I end up in bed for 4-5 days to recover. I am 22 years old. If I talk to someone longer than 10 minutes my fatigue gets worse and if I keep on talking for 20 minutes or more I fall asleep on the spot.

How am I going to eat with no benefit, horrendous.

At 22/2/11 8:18 pm, Blogger mark1 said...

To have National expect me to get work I will fall asleep on the spot within 15-20 minutes even working at a checkout with the most simplest of jobs is why too hard for me at this stage. I was talking to someone for an hour and pushed myself too much and have ended up in bed these last 2 days to recover as I have had a relapse from my Myalgic Encephalitis.

Thanks a lot National you are going to destroy peoples lives as they aren't going to survive, thanks a lot mate!!!

At 22/2/11 8:26 pm, Blogger mark1 said...

My life is a living hell, hey you know what John Key, why don't you put yourself in my shoes and try living with Chronic fatigue Syndrome were everything you do is so limited it is not even funny!

At 22/2/11 9:57 pm, Blogger Richard said...

Bomber: I think you may be overestimating how bad things are, at least in terms of how it may motivate a new party's target group.

Comparing the current recession and political environment to the late 80s early 90s, things are comparatively benign. Benefit levels haven't been cut (Key's confirm that won't happen) and get raised in line with inflation. Unemployment is much better than back then and there hasn't been the massive restructuring of the private sector. Also the main parties are much more centrist than the Lange or Bolger administrations. The level of anger that spawned the Alliance and NZF just isn't there. McCarten's failure in Mana underlines this. Likewise the hardship caused by the current recession isn't seen as the govt's fault as were the reforms of the Lange and Bolger govts. I think these factors strongly undermine the motivating factors for a new party both at elite and grassroots level.

As for it being a 'vacant aspiration' for people to see themselves off a benefit or a the minimum wage doesn't match either traditional patterns of dependency and earnings or shorter term economic factors. As Campbell points out in the latest Werewolf many benefits aren't there for very long periods, there's a lot of churn even at current levels of unemployment. You may see them as stuck there for a decade but most of them don't.

Min wage earners are even more transitory and are more likely to come from households where they are not the main income earner or have only recently entered the workforce. Those in households with other earners are quite unlikely to support the transfer of wealth from taxpayers to beneficiaries that a party to the left of the Greens would want.

Effectively your catchment for this new party are those poor without hope, who are the least active politically, and middle class liberals who previously voted Alliance and are now back with Labour or have a new home with the Greens. At best a Hone/Sue/Matt party might scrape together a Dunne or Anderton sized following (circa 2005 and 2002 respectively) for a first term and then disappear as economic conditions improve and Hone explodes again.

At 22/2/11 10:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bomber more proof the left is in disarray
looks like NZfirst is history.

At 22/2/11 11:50 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

Liberty - I've argued many times that the mainstream opinion polls are missing a chunk of the electorate and I have argued the screeds of academic research that criticize the Polls as well.

In a recession this steep there are a whole lot of people who don't answer the phone if they don't know the number for fear of debt collectors, these polls also don't use cell phones, only landlines.

That's why the horizon poll spooked a lot of people.

Richard I disagree - benefits won't be 'cut' is spin. Benefits will be ended, and they aren't being 'cut' after the massive cuts by Ruth Richardson - and you are not factoring in the impact of rising costs on the little people on welfare have.

Unemployment is not yet as bad, and the restructuring will occur if National win. The centrist thing is only good PR, but you are right about the lack of anger. Baby Boomers had that anger at things they had grown up with and taken for granted, Gen Xers and Gen Y who had to pay for everything themselves didn't have that sense of entitlement and hence when public services went under user pays they had no expectation for them. The anger has to be generated at another level, how these policy impact oneself is what will generate that anger.

McCarten had 3 weeks lead in and a vote for him was a wasted vote, everyone knew that.

IF and that has always been my position IF Hone was included with his electorate seat, voters would know that party vote did count, you can't compare Matt's vote count and extrapolate the conclusion that there isn't any anger.

National's mismanagement of the economy is the very reason why the welfare cuts are being done. Bill English claimed he would turbo charge the economy with his gst tax rise to give the wealthy a tax cut, the impact was a $2billion drop in revenue, in response to that drop, Bill English told NZ that he would make the money up in welfare cuts.

The vacant aspiration I refer to his John Key, the consumer culture illusion that if you work hard you can be rich enough one day not to pay tax.

People will be on welfare longer this time because this recession is a unique crises of capitalism in the same way 1929 was. What we see with the churn is large numbers goin on and off but staying within the sphere of minimum wage, it will actually end up impacting many more people as they try to get benefits and find they are harder and harder to obtain.

Those minimum households are hardly rolling in it Richard, you paint some 1950s version of Dad as the large money earner and mum and the kids will do what he says or else. I think even in that household, mum and the kids would still like to earn $15 an hour.

So I don't think the pain those on welfare or the minimum wage is as limited as you suggest and I don't think liberals are convinced that what is on offer currently from the political parties can do enough to close social inequality.

I've always pointed out that this is all determinant on the economy, if the economy continues to dive then the political spectrum will splinter, where you and I seem to differ is I think the global economy will get much worse because the 2007/2008 crash is akin to the 1929 crash. It wasn't until 35-36 that the full social harm of 29 was felt, our house of cards based on the consumer culture has collapsed and it won't be business as usual. Alan Bollard points out in his book 'crises' that America had written up a quadrillion dollars in their joke finance world, Adam Smith 101 tells us that's one hell of a correction that still has to come.

The Greens and Labour need better friends than Winston Peters.

At 23/2/11 11:51 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

Ignoring the maths (I'm sure someone out of you lot is correct). Is there a rough working $ figure out there for the cost per obtaining the needed votes? For example, if you wanted to get 20,000 votes you would need to spend X amount on advertising, campaign infrastructure etc compared to getting say 500,000 would cost considerably more than that. My view is it all comes down to money and how you can capture peoples attention. I don't think you can merely do it from capturing peoples attention by the power of your ideas.


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