Bugger!


This election campaign was a roller-coaster of unexpected revelations and controversy. For the Greens this meant our strategy of running a clean campaign, sticking to a clear plan and releasing properly costed, practical policies never made the impression it should have.

We never actually put a foot wrong, our leaders always conducted themselves well in all debates and media, and were widely praised by political commentators for their performances. Our television advertising was professional and appealing and, while some of our billboards may have been a little obtuse for many, we didn't get the same level of vandalism that others received. We were able to mobilize 6,000 volunteers and our door knocking and phone calling was at the level of a major party. In Invercargill the scrutineers we placed in our most significant booths were often sitting alone.

There will be a detailed analysis of the campaign by our review team in time but I thought I would record my initial views and conversations that I have had during the immediate postmortem.

Election campaigns generally end up as a battle between the good side and the bad. Under normal circumstances National would have been considered dirty and tainted and this should have shifted support to the left. The presence of Kim Dotcom, however, enabled National to create the impression that it was him who personified evil and they were the real victims of a dirty campaign. Despite Internet/Mana revealing the fact that New Zealanders are being subjected to mass surveillance through the XKeyscore system the much promoted big hit against Key from Dotcom was a fizzer. He became focus of negative press instead and the interviews with his unhappy staff sealed his fate and Internet/Mana were dragged down with him.

Winston Peters is always the wildcard element in any election campaign and while few will be able to  describe many of New Zealand First's policies, he is the consummate politician. Winston has an ear for popular opinion and can read an audience better than most. Being the leader of a personality based party he is able to make policy on the hoof and quickly respond to situations as they arise to gain maximum support. You only have to read his responses to Family First's survey to know that he has shaped the answers to fit the audience and is likely to say something completely different to another group. New Zealand First has limited party resources and lacked visibility in Invercargill during most of the campaign (few billboards or leaflets etc) and yet in the last week Winston attracted around 120 people to a public meeting here and captured 3,525 votes in the preliminary results (1,300 more than 2011). Many of these votes would have come from past Labour supporters.

Voters were starved of any real policy analysis in the MSM. Few people in Invercargill who I spoke to were aware of our newborn baby pack and yet I thought it was a superb final policy release. The Southland Times made no obvious reference to it. We ended up with another presidential race between an experienced incumbent Prime Minister against a Labour leader who was under attack from the moment his name was screwed to his office door. It always takes a while for any new leader to find their feet and their natural voice and Key was no different in his first year or so (remember his possum in headlight moments explaining his shares in Transrail?). National's strategy of kicking the Labour leader before he can properly stand has been a successful one and being able to keep the experienced Green Party leaders out of the mix was part of that.

The Greens could hardly be called a minor party any more (something noted by many commentators) and yet during the campaign the Greens constantly ended up in the 'minor party' debates with parties that generally polled below the 5% threshold. For a good part of the last three years the Greens have been referred to as the real opposition as Labour was distracted with internal reviews and leadership changes. It does seem rather unfair to relegate a party that has been effective in opposition (and maintained double figures in opinion polls) with those that struggle to reach 1% and maintain full party status. The Green Party's previous centre stage position was manipulated back into the political wings and many voters have short memories.

Labour had a lackluster campaign, their 'Vote Positive' theme didn't resonate as well as the Green's 'Love New Zealand' and they even started ditching their predetermined 'Family, Work, Home' priorities and I often heard them using the Greens 'fairer, cleaner, smarter' language instead. The differences between the parties could be easily seen online, Labour's website had all the sophistication of a minor party, while the Green's site had great imagery and high impact. Labour's decision to campaign alone was the wrong one as commentators and voters already saw the two parties as a package deal and coordinating compatible policy releases, as we did with the electricity price controls, would have countered Key's strategy of suggesting an unworkable relationship. Labour needed the Greens to add the sophistication they lacked and we needed them to lift us out of the minor party fringes where we were continually being placed.

National did run a well organised, on the ground, campaign. Key's public appearances were managed like a rock star's and groupies in blue T shirts were organised well ahead of each visit. Blue billboards were almost as common as dairy cows and electorate candidates were well supported. National's lack of policy was replaced with busy candidates and a high level of public exposure. In Invercargill the new National candidate was paraded like royalty at almost every local event possible. While the regions had been starved of funding for many years suddenly there was a lot more spare cash to throw around and Southland's new sports stadium had a cool two million strategically thrown at it to help cover the cost over-runs.

Candidate forums and debates have largely lost their significance and I would love it if Wellington's Aro Valley meetings could be replicated around the country. Those that do occur are generally poorly attended and there is little comprehensive reporting of candidate performance by the media. Many voters enter polling booths armed with little other than what they saw on TV the night before and if it was Winston (as he often was), then so be it.

In the end there is little I think we Greens could have done differently, we were largely the victims of circumstance and in a less tumultuous campaign our goal of 15% could have been achieved. We had a goal of 10% in 2011 and in 2014, with more paid staff, much larger membership and volunteer capacity, gaining another 5% wasn't unreasonable.

Bugger!

Comments

Paranormal said…
Whilst it's true that policy didn't receive much airtime, it was still out there.

As for the newborn baby pack - I'm sure I'm not the only person that laughed out loud when I heard it announced on State Radio. Whoever put the policy and release together didn't give it the 'sniff' test to see if it passed muster. It simply came across as more Green nutbar election bribe rather than serious policy. The policy raised more questions than provided answers. Who was going to weave all those flax bassinets? Where was the flax going to come from? Was it sustainably sourced?

Have you considered it could be that voters didn't actually like your policies and negative campaign messaging didn't resonate with the community?
bsprout said…
Paranormal, most independent analysis of our policies gave them a tick. The baby pack was especially well received because it was based on evidence and the positive experience of being used in Finland since the 1930s

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11325661

http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/greens-promise-welcome-pack-for-newborns-2014091615

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternity_package

In Finland they provide a cardboard box for the baby to sleep in. You seem to be against creating employment for people with weaving skills and using a common resource. Perhaps you would rather import cheap alternatives from China ;-)

At the very worst 1 in 10 liked our polices and probably many more would support a good number of them if they got to hear what they were. I noted that despite being voted in again, most people didn't actually like National's suggestion of future tax cuts.

In my campaigning in Invercargill, business groups liked our R&D policy and our support for IT and digital manufacturing. We have a successful 3D printing business in invercargill. Many people also thought our carbon tax made more sense than the current ETS which actually gifts polluters with subsidized credits and allows others to leverage profits through using cheap overseas credits:

http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/foresters-make-millions-exploiting-govt-ets-loophole-2014052418
Paranormal said…
BS I'm suggesting the policies didn't work for the voters. Especially the baby pack launch I used as an example. At a time when Liarbour were flailing around losing support hand over fist the Greens have got to ask themselves why their support remained static at best. And don't get sucked into the whole 'public were distracted' bit around dirty politics.

With the baby pack policy, I understand the issue it is trying to address, but it failed to capture the public's imagination. Worse, the messaging around the policy reinforced a green stereotype. The way it was presented to me had me asking a whole lot of questions that went unanswered. You can take that to mean whatever you want.

Then there is your global warming mantra. The public are over it big time. Have you considered you would get a better response if you stopped lecturing and harping? Even Rodney Hide was for a Carbon Tax rather than an ETS - albeit for different reasons.

Perhaps you also need to consider were you preaching to the choir in Invercargill?
bsprout said…
Paranormal, there are elements of truth to what you are saying. I think I was preaching to the choir a lot of the time, but interestingly that choir generally consisted of people working on the frontline of education, welfare, the environment and a growing number of business people who saw the sense of our focus on R&D and injecting some life back into the domestic economy. They were largely people who were informed about the major issues we have from actual experience.

I don't think you can say our policies were rejected by the public because when talking to many people during the campaign, few had really heard about them or engaged with them. John Key and most commentators also agree that the numerous distractions and side issues removed attention from policy discussions.

Again it became an election of personality not policy and with the Greens relegated to the minor party ranks with those who couldn't even make the 5% threshold or even get 1% clearly knocked us out of the running to be considered the major party that we are.

1 million people didn't vote and many of them are probably those most effected by growing inequities and low waged jobs.

You complain about us lecturing and harping and yet I didn't see anything that resembled that in our campaign. Our whole focus was on promoting opportunities and solutions and we had far more of those than any other party. Our policies had greater detail and solid costings than any other and this was widely acknowledged.
Paranormal said…
BS - you're doing it again, and the campaigning is supposed to be over. Have a look at the tone of your campaigning as well as the substance. Your response is a prime example.

Even the economists that costed your policy said the figures were dubious. And therein lies the problem.
bsprout said…
Paranormal, you are providing misinformation, here is the actual summary of Infometrics analysis:

"A comparison of the fiscal impact of the Green Party Policies with the BEFU and PREFU forecasts for key summary fiscal indicators are presented in Table 1. The implication is that the proposed Green Party policies lead to moderately higher operating balances, lower debt and higher net worth outcomes than forecast in the BEFU. The critical factors leading to this outcome are that Green Party extra spending plans are typically below the BEFU operating allowance for extra spending and that the Green Party policies also include revenue raising initiatives (see Table 2)."

"The estimates of the revenue impacts of proposed changes to the top tax rate appear optimistic. However, sensitivity tests reported in the final section indicate that using lower revenue impacts does not materially alter the conclusion of the previous paragraph."

Our projected spending is actually less than what National has promised and we would generate more income. The only question that Infometrics really raised was in relation to how much extra income we would generate. Even accounting for that concern we would still deliver a surplus before National.

https://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/Appendix-Infometrics-ReviewOfFiscalImpact.pdf

The fact that we made this review publicly available also allowed for outside scrutiny and greater transparency. National has been less than forthcoming about its plans and the proposed tax cuts have been widely panned as being fiscally unwise considering our levels of Government debt.




Paranormal said…
BS the campaign is over. I recall reading one of the links you provided and in it your independent analyst commented that your figures were not viable - or words to that effect. I pointed that out at the time.

But the issue I am trying to get you to understand is perhaps more clearly presented by your good friend Gareth: http://garethsworld.com/blog/environment/time-bluegreen-party/
bsprout said…
Paranormal, I provided the report and the summary, find the section for the context and the the quote ;-)

So you agree with everything Gareth says?

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