MMP – it takes just TWO ticks

Note: this post originally appeared on ‘Douglas to Dancing’, a blog I maintained from 2007-9 on the ACT New Zealand political party. The blog was an extension of the thesis I wrote about the Act Party in 2007, From Douglas to Dancing: explaining the lack of success of ACT New Zealand and evaluating its future prospects (PDF).

Amidst a lot of the usual pap there are some good gems of information in a Steve Braunias article in today’s Sunday Star-Times. The setting is the campaign trail in Hide’s Epsom electorate:

Hide, 51, leader of the Act Party, MP for Epsom, moved along the pavement with pretty little steps and a winning smile on his tanned, tight-skinned dial. He asked: “Vote for me?” He handed out Act leaflets. Few resisted. Many welcomed the chance to shake his hand. He was among friends; when Hide won Epsom in the last election, he beat his opponent, National’s Richard Worth, at all six polling booths in Remuera.

My criticism of this strategy can be summed up in the three words “Vote for me?”. Obviously it’s important for ACT to have Hide campaign in Epsom and secure the party’s “lifeline”. And it’s only responsible that Hide is not wanting to appear complacent and is campaigning hard. Yet it’s clear that Hide is secure in the Epsom seat: the challenge this time around is getting the party vote. As Braunias points out, in 2005 fewer voters in Epsom gave ACT their party vote than the Greens. Given Epsom is probably an area where Hide and ACT-sympathies run deeper than most, it would seem obvious to campaign hard in 2008 for a “two ticks for ACT” (or preferably a more memorable pun involving “double ACT” etc.), especially in Epsom. In other words, don’t just “vote for me” – but “vote for me AND give your party vote to ACT”.

To make this clearer: in 2005, ACT received 34,469 party votes in total (nationwide). In Epsom, however, ACT gained just 1,237 party votes. By contrast, the National Party in Epsom alone received 21,310 votes – well over half of ACT’s nationwide total!!! So if ACT and Hide managed to convince just half of all those voters who gave National their party vote to give it this time to ACT, the party would have some 45,000 party votes. I’m not sure exactly how the mathematics work but that’s close to getting ACT another MP – especially if some more party votes come to ACT from up and down the country, as should be expected this time if more ACT-inclined voters believe their vote won’t be wasted due to Hide being “safe” in Epsom.

Interestingly ACT’s member e-newsletter is keen on essentially pointing out this fact, in a clear and quite punchy way.

If you want to see a change in government you have two choices.

You can either give your vote to National and ACT – Each is of equal value when it comes to changing the government.

But the real issue is not getting National over 50%. The issue is getting ACT and National over 50%.

Polls show that Rodney Hide will win Epsom so a Party vote for ACT is not a wasted vote.

Every party vote for ACT will count. Even a 4% party vote for ACT will send 5 MPs to parliament.

There is no 5% barrier to be reached.

How about giving voters, as well as members, a lesson in MMP?

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7 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good point Geoffrey. Firstly, ACT’s party vote will increase in Epsom undoubtedly due to the inevitability of Hide retaining the seat. This will occur to a lesser extent around the country and hence ACT will (as per usual) poll higher than the polls suggest.

    Secondly, there is always a realpolitik at play and National have turned a blind eye to Epsom by reselecting Worth. Possibly implicit in this is an unspoken deal that Hide can take Epsom but leave our Party base alone. I actually don’t think it would take much to offend fragile Remuera National feelings and have them go feral on the electorate vote……….they have the power!

    Having said that I think it is an immature (MMP wise) attitude from the Nats. Look at Dunne in Ohariu. He campaigns for both ticks and National still top the party vote in that electorate.

  2. Heine says:

    I agree. ACT are asking for the party vote up and down NZ and indeed internal newsletters are telling us to inform Kiwis that a party vote for us isn’t wasted due to Epsom being safe.

    2 ticks in Epsom is a logical answer to that. I think Nats somehow don’t feel too guilty not voting National by splitting their votes in Epsom, so we need to get rid of that guilt!

  3. Thanks boomtownprat for reading my post. I would agree that National’s attitude is immature and very similar to Brash’s deliberate avoidance of Hide when he met Peter Dunne at a cafe.

    Yet I’ve heard some commentators say that John Key “understands MMP”. In the sense that he is going for the centre ground, that is perhaps correct. But smart parties in proportional representation countries look to work with preferred coalition partners, not asphyxiate them!

  4. Thanks Clint for reading. A month out from the election I think the time is right for ACT to start a “Keep National honest” campaign, especially in Epsom. Do voters really, really want to entrust all power in the National Party for the next 3 years?

    Before answering, voters should remember NZ’s parliament is one of the most powerful in the world, in part because there is no upper house or federal system (with state parliaments). Just 61 votes (or whatever the exact figure becomes due to the Maori Party overhang) is enough to pass virtually any law.

    I think the time is largely over for ACT to try and convince voters to choose the party based purely on the merits of its policy. Instead it needs to get voters on election strategy – this is where all the 2 for 1 deals (Wang+Wong etc.) as well as the keep National honest message come in.

    The two ticks message could be worked in as part of this strategy – e.g. Nats won’t win clear majority, so would you prefer Maori Party or ACT to be a coalition partner?

  5. Sanctuary says:

    Anyone got any polling on now how Rodders is doing in Epsom? My spies in the Nat’s reckon that National will win the seat – all the Labour voters I know in that electorate are going to vote for Worth is an attempt to get Rodney – and ACT – out of parliament.

    its actually amazing that the Herald hasn’t run a poll yet in Epsom. After all, the Epsom crowd are the target demographic for the Herald.

  6. Heine says:

    Sanctuary – ACT definitely would have done internal polling, remembering that their polling last time was the only correct polls 🙂

    National aren’t as foolish as to want to win this seat, however I was a little surprised to see Worth and his campaign manager get quite gung-ho in the campaign. Of course Labour will want to block vote against Rodney but I just don’t see it happening for National to win this seat back this time. I am also interested to see what the polls will say – hopefully that will also help ACTs bounce when people see it isn’t a wasted vote.

  7. I agree with Clint re the polling. From what I’ve heard the seat is still definitely safe with Hide – although without being privy to seeing the actual data I have to take my source’s word on that. (With internal polling there is always the proviso “they would say that, wouldn’t they?”.)

    While I’m sure some Labour voters in Epsom would do anything to get rid of ACT, I think a lot of the hatred towards ACT has diminished over the last 3 years and many Epsom people genuinely appreciate having Hide as a “good local MP”, regardless of their choice for the party vote.

    Granted, the return of Douglas may have rekindled some of the distaste for ACT and the party may suffer a bit for that, as people see that ACT’s not all about dancing and swimming. However in 2005 it wasn’t about that either (Hide started all that only in 2006). But I think ACT would probably want Douglas to stay out in Hunua rather than “help” Hide campaign in Epsom.

    Still I wonder how much the Douglas effect really counts anymore, either way. You haven’t seen a groundswell of support for ACT since he came back; yet neither have you see anti-ACT campaigns start up as in the 1990s. There are so many people now who have no direct memories of the 1980s – reforms (voters aged under about 30) and recent immigrants. And many voters have long since moved on.

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