Mt Albert and Russel Norman

datePosted on 11:04, April 25th, 2009 by Anita

What’s with that? I mean, really, what’s with that?

Norman can’t possibly hope to win Mt Albert, this bears no resemblence to either Ōhariu or Epsom and there is no obvious electoral advantage to Mt Albert voters in voting for Norman. The only possible outcome of Norman upping the Green electorate vote in Mt Albert is converting a historically strong left wing seat to an apparently right wing one, and Lee may have the skill to keep it soft blue from there on out.

So the Greens appear, to my outsider’s eye, to trying something which has a possible down side but no possible up side. At the same time Norman’s dragging the Greens away from their reputation for principled electoral politics into the arena of carpetbagging disingenuous political gamesmanship.

No chance of an overt win, significant possible cost, and treating voters like chess pieces – is Russel Norman the Greens’ Murray McCully?

Bah!

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31 Responses to “Mt Albert and Russel Norman”

  1. Danyl Mclauchlan on April 25th, 2009 at 11:18

    1. The by-election will get massive media exposure. It is a heaven sent opportunity for Norman to raise his own profile.

    2. Stuff (moderator edit) Labour. They had the option to enter into a coalition with the Greens in 2002 and 2005, the last time they decided to go with Peters and Dunne. Why should the Greens indulge the Labour Party and help them win a by-election at the opportunity cost of raising their leaders own national profile?

    3. The outcome won’t actually change the distribution of seats in the house. It will be a humiliating debacle for Goff and his party if they lose, but as regards that see point #2.

  2. Anita on April 25th, 2009 at 11:39

    1. The by-election will get massive media exposure. It is a heaven sent opportunity for Norman to raise his own profile.

    On the basis that all profile raising is good profile raising?

    I reckon it makes him look like an unprincipled political player. Is that the profile he wants?

    Plus if his campaign looks like it could Mt Albert to National it’ll put Green-Labour voters off voting Green in future, is that the profile the Greens want?

    P.S. Re your 3, if the seat was taken by Lee it would alter the distribution in the house, party lists are not used to rebalance the house after by elections.

  3. Idiot/savant on April 25th, 2009 at 13:04

    At the same time Norman’s dragging the Greens away from their reputation for principled electoral politics into the arena of carpetbagging disingenuous political gamesmanship.

    How? New Zealand historically has had no problem with “carpetbagging”. The only “principle” at stake seems to be that it’s Labour’s seat, and everyone else on the left should just stand aside and let them win it rather than present any alternative. And on that, I’ll echo Danyl’s sentiments: Stuff (comment moderated for obscentiy) Labour. If they want to assert leadership on the left, they can put their ideas up against everyone else’s and fight for it.

  4. Anita on April 25th, 2009 at 13:17

    Do we really not have a problem with carpet bagging? I know it would alter my choice at electorate level.

    I think that the Greens should be running a strong Mt Albert candidate.

    I don’t think they should be giving the seat to Labour, but I also don’t think they should be playing silly electoral games to prove a point. If they are going to set out to play silly electoral games to prove a point is should be a good point, and this one doesn’t seem to be.

  5. Lee - MWT on April 25th, 2009 at 14:51

    At last The Greens make the transition from glorified pressure group into political party. Perhaps this is what is so irritating to thowse loyal to Labour – Who will lose the seat anyway, even without Norman’s interference.

  6. Pablo on April 25th, 2009 at 15:54

    DM,I/S and Bryce E (below) comments moderated to remove obscenity. Please adhere to comments policy.

  7. Idiot/savant on April 25th, 2009 at 16:25

    Do we really not have a problem with carpet bagging? I know it would alter my choice at electorate level.

    There is a very well-established pattern of people moving to electorates solely to contest them, and winning. Hell, its how the Labour Party got started (on the West Coast, to boot!). It’s never really been a problem, and it seems to reflect our mobility as a society.

    There may be more parochialism in rural areas, and maybe in podunks like Palmerston North, but certainly not in the major urban centres where most people live.

  8. George on April 25th, 2009 at 17:04

    I don’t think they should be giving the seat to Labour, but I also don’t think they should be playing silly electoral games to prove a point. If they are going to set out to play silly electoral games to prove a point is should be a good point, and this one doesn’t seem to be.

    Yeah, I hate carpetbaggers too. I’d vote against someone who had no commitment to my electorate – I see it as an insult, taking our loyalty to a party for granted. With MMP we don’t have to make that bitter choice, like we did for decades. Whoever they chose for us was who we had to vote for, no matter where they came from. Thank god that’s over.

    I also think that the Greens have thus far run terrible campaigns, especially with regards to electorates. I don’t see this changing quickly, unfortunately.

  9. Julie on April 25th, 2009 at 17:18

    Great to have you back at blog Anita!

    I’m not sure what the Greens aims are in having Norman contest Mt Albert. If they are to raise their profile, his profile, campaign on some of the local issues like the Waterview connection, build for the local bodies next year, then that sounds good. I doubt they’re doing it specifically to piss off Labour. Frankly I think probably running Norman himself is a bit of a mistake because it will piss off Labour at a time when the left needs to be working together in Auckland around the Supercity issue, and we need to be building links to create a credible opposition. And if Norman loses will her run there again next election, I think not, so why not run an actual local, maybe someone who could benefit from the profile in the Super city council or mayoral elections next year?

  10. Bryce Edwards on April 25th, 2009 at 17:51

    Apart from the basic truism that the Greens are standing a candidate in the Mt Albert by-election to raise their profile, the larger reason is so they can illustrate and underline the party’s increasing “independence from Labour”. In recent years all minor parties have been attempting to be more than simply appendages to Labour and National. Rather than being constrained by being attached to the major parties, the minors have been attempting to reinforce their independence and maximize their flexibility in terms of coalition options. The Greens are the latest to do this – ultimately the ideological future of the Green Party is as a centrist party able to do deals with parties of all hues.

    This general “independence” trajectory is partly in response to the Green’s exclusion from coalition governments when Labour was in power for three terms since 1999. This has been a topic of major internal debate in the last couple of years, and more recently there has been significant disgruntlement about last year’s election stance and whether it was an electoral blunder. So we’re now seeing the Greens pushing their independence trajectory even further, and the recent MOU with National was part of this. Saying “stuff you” (moderator edit for obscenity) to Labour over Mt Albert is therefore a genuine response to the way that Labour has always treated all leftish minor parties and the Greens, but it is also a very strategic signal to the electorate that the Greens are now independent of Labour. And parallel to this independence, is a shift away from being a “captive party” on Labour’s left flank.

    Bryce

  11. Tanya on April 25th, 2009 at 21:26

    Go Greens, good on them, still think National will take the seat though.

  12. ak on April 26th, 2009 at 01:59

    Bryce: “…the ideological future of the Green Party is as a centrist party…..”

    Sure, Brycie. Either that or their policies are actually worth the paper they’re written on.

    ..a genuine response to the way that Labour has always treated all leftish minor parties…

    Yeah. Either that or the cocoa leadership has been sucked into the “big bad Labour” crap and accepted the wedge-politics fallacy (peddled for years by the moronic Right and yourself; i.e. that Labour had an actual and/or political “choice” to include the Greens in govt), or they’re pedalling sweetly into the arms of the smiling assassin on a wave of carpetbaggery, gamesmanshippery and stoned-out headless-chookery.

    Either way, the only winner is wee Johnnie. Which seems to please you Bryce. Curious – are you still calling yourself a “left-wing academic”? (if not, please let Farrar know. So he can stop using you)

  13. mickysavage on April 26th, 2009 at 09:36

    Good comment Anita.

    I gave a donation to the Greens last time even though my political allegiances are clearly elsewhere. Right now I want a refund.

    I cannot believe how inept the greens have been under Norman. The day that Maori were justifiably aggrieved at the removal of Maori representation on the Auckland super city the Greens sign a MOU with the government. They get a few bits of funding they would have got without the MOU and the chance to have regular cups of tea with Ministers and advisers. And National get the publicity benefits.

    And now this. They are in effect supporting the government that has binned the Emissions Trading Scheme, dumped biofuels and destroyed the embryonic local industry, phased back in energy inefficient lightbulbs, reversed the thermal power station ban and is now “reviewing” the “science” of Global warming as if there was any doubt.

    They are not in a good position. And they have now opened themselves up to an attack on precisely these grounds as well as on the ground they are campaigning for National against Labour.

    Minor parties that do any sort of deal with the government tend to get hammered, especially if they are viewed as lapdogs. The greens right now are looking very poodle like.

  14. Bryce Edwards on April 26th, 2009 at 14:19

    Leaving aside some of ak’s more silly assertions about me, I’ll just reply to his/her point about the “myth” that Labour ever had a “choice” to include the Greens in coalition governments. Ak might be generally right – I think there are good points that can be made on both sides of that debate in terms of the coalitions forged in 2002 and 2005. It’s not actually clear cut. What is more clear cut is that Labour *did* choose to leave the Greens out of government in 1999 for no good reason (other than keeping Jim Anderton happy). Regardless of this all, the point is that the Greens felt rather disgruntled – rightly or wrongly – about being left out, and this partly explains their new tendency towards pushing their independence.

    But furthermore, my point about minor parties (including the Greens) being disgruntled with Labour’s orientation towards them wasn’t actually about coalition formation, but about Labour’s electioneering. Essentially Labour has tended to run election campaigns with no coordination with, or regard towards the interests of, potential government partners. It has tended to take a hands-off approach to coordinating the campaigns of their allied parties. For example, once the 2008 campaign begun Helen Clark announced that that in an election campaign each party must ‘paddle their own waka’. This means that Labour suddenly takes a short-term approach of wanting to kill all rivals regardless of whether they are Act or the Greens.

    Going further back, the Alliance was aggrieved at its treatment in the 1999 and 2002 campaigns when Labour was thought to aggressively target their voter base. (Actually, Helen Clark always wanted to kill the Alliance, and at various times shown a similar desire towards the Greens and the Maori Party). Then in 2008 the Greens were displeased when Labour took the credit for the Greens’ insulation retrofitting schemes. Likewise, Labour’s confidence-and-supply partner, New Zealand First, was unhappy that the Labour Party often gave little or no acknowledgement to the party’s role in producing some of the policies that Labour was campaigning strongly on – such as the free off-peak public transport for SuperGold cardholders. Thus in 2008, if Labour had truly wanted to give New Zealand First a chance of winning more than four per cent of the vote it might have allowed New Zealand First to claim greater policy territory in order to chase its target vote, the senior citizens.

    In contrast, in the current government, Key and the National Party have been effectively hugging the minor parties tightly yet also allowing them significant room to foster their own political identities. Labour has always wanted to compete in a way that damages their minor allies, giving little concern for working together in a way that mutually assures their ongoing future. Minor parties have tended to be treated by Labour as nothing more than rivals, and therefore strategic campaign cooperation has been very limited in the modern multi-party system.

    So it’s no surprise that the Greens should want to rebel against Labour now. That’s fair enough, surely?

    Yet at the same time – and ak may have missed this point in my previous comment – I think there is room to criticise the Greens for not only moving to be more independent of Labour, but also for wanting to shift further into the middle of the political spectrum where it can be a more important political player.

    Also, a note to the blog editors: in using the fu*k “obscenity” which you have deleted, my use of the term was based on roughly quoting the use of the phrase in the comments above by Idiot-Savant. Interestingly enough, his use of the “obscenity” was allowed! ;)

    Bryce

  15. Pablo on April 26th, 2009 at 14:26

    I/S now moderated for obscenity (thanks Bryce, it was missed the first time around). If you cannot say things without vulgarity or obscenity, then do not say it at all (or go to sites that allow such). If you do not think that the F word is vulgar or obscene, that is your problem, not ours. This is not about being prissy, it is about keeping things civil. Again, read the comments policy.

  16. Francois on April 26th, 2009 at 15:31

    The Green Party has always been the party of urban upper middle class white guilters.

    In other words, the party of privillege, nice to see that the leadership (composed of unsurprisingly, upper middle class white guilters) acknowledging their role as a proxy for the other party of upper middle class white people.

  17. Anita on April 26th, 2009 at 15:40

    Francois,

    You might like to watch the video of Metiria Turei speaking at Drinking Liberally in Wellington – pretty conclusively not an urban upper middle class white guilter.

    Hat tip to Ari at g.blog.

  18. Joe Hendren on April 26th, 2009 at 17:57

    Anita,

    I find it a little ironic you are accusing the Greens of treating voters like chess pieces, when this is exactly what the Greens would be doing if they adopted your preferred option of tacitly endorsing the Labour candidate by not campaigning to the best of their ability. Ultimately it is voters who will chose their preferred candidate.

    Some early polling I am aware of suggests Labour were in big trouble in the electorate before Norman announced this candidacy – so it may have already been lost. The question is, will Labour party supporters follow their own logic and get behind Norman if it looks like he has a better chance?

    That said, both Labour and the Greens have done poorly in recent byelections – so both will need to lift their game.

    Julie – I would also like to see the left working together towards the local body elections, however sections of the Labour party seem to think “the left working together” means avoiding legimate criticism of Labour and giving the party its way on candidates*, even though their own recent record in Auckland local body politics is not strong (endorsing Christine Fletcher for a start).

    I happen to know Labour have “pissed off” a number of people on the wider left by attempting to push up their boy Len Brown for the mayoralty. So I guess what I am saying is that it ‘goes both ways’.

    * Note this is a general comment I am not ascribing these views to you personally!

  19. ak on April 26th, 2009 at 17:59

    Bryce: (Actually, Helen Clark always wanted to kill the Alliance, and at various times shown a similar desire towards the Greens and Maori Party)

    Really? Always? Kill?

    Funny way of showing it Hels: attending the Alliance conference, making Jim deputy PM, enacting Alliance policies far disproportionate to their vote share, and publicly indicating support and the intention to continue in the same vein right up until the Alliance topped itself on the altar of ideology seems a little inconsistent with your assertion Bryce. F**king inconsistent, one might say in other company.

    And let’s just see how this lovely hugging the minor parties tightly yet also allowing them significant.. arrangement from NACT goes over the next year or two before passing judgement eh? If I were a betting person Bryce, I’d put my sheep station on it going very titsup well prior the next election. Unless, of course, the MP and Green leadership are as thick as their Alliance counterparts were…

  20. Francois on April 26th, 2009 at 19:02

    Anita,

    I was partly being facetious and doing a parody of a krazy kiwiblog kommenter (you see what I did there? alliteration ftw!)

    But I was not being entirely facetious, the young greens (at least at Otago) seem to entirely consist of that type of person. While there’s nothing necceserily wrong with being one, I just think it’s healthy for a political party to have a broad range of people.

  21. Anita on April 26th, 2009 at 19:16

    Joe Hendren writes,

    I find it a little ironic you are accusing the Greens of treating voters like chess pieces, when this is exactly what the Greens would be doing if they adopted your preferred option of tacitly endorsing the Labour candidate by not campaigning to the best of their ability. Ultimately it is voters who will chose their preferred candidate.

    Perhaps my original post was unclear. I think the Greens should campaign hard in Mt Albert, if that splits the vote so be it. Where I disagree with their strategy is the carpet bagging: they should be running a strong Mt Albert candidate.

    I believe in electorates (it’s why I prefer MMP to a pure proportional system), I believe in local representation by a local. I believe in honest electorate candidacy where someone from the electorate who believes in the electorate stands for the electorate.

    So I don’t believe in Norman standing for Mt Albert.

    I also don’t understand why he is doing it. I can see no possible upside to this wrong-headed thing.

  22. Anita on April 26th, 2009 at 19:17

    Francois writes.

    But I was not being entirely facetious, the young greens (at least at Otago) seem to entirely consist of that type of person. While there’s nothing necceserily wrong with being one, I just think it’s healthy for a political party to have a broad range of people.

    Can I assume that the Otago young greens are the Otago university greens? If so I’m not at all surprised they’re middle class and Pākehā :)

  23. Tim Ellis on April 27th, 2009 at 12:30

    What an interesting discussion.

    I think Labour has shown its arrogance by reacting in the way it has to the Greens’ candidacy. The Labour Party have never taken any constructive steps to work with the Greens. They have consistently taken them for granted, and now cry foul when the Greens threaten to compete for profile in Labour’s patch.

    Labour needs to understand that it doesn’t own any electorate. This entitlement mentality, which Labour has for the entire left wing vote, shows that Labour’s position on MMP politics still needs to go through a few more stages of evolution before they’ve matured.

    Mt Albert is one of the strongest seats for the Greens. It makes sense for the Greens to have an electorate seat somewhere, to guarantee the Greens’ representation in Parliament.

    Yet again Labour is confusing its own interests with those of the Left.

  24. Anita on April 27th, 2009 at 14:20

    Tim,

    Yeah, Labour’s response was predictable *sigh*

    I have mixed feelings about the Greens trying to turn Mt Albert into their Ōhariu or Epsom. On the one hand I believe the threshold should be lowered which would make it irrelevant, on the other the threshold is the current reality.

    But… I don’t think they should stoop the carpet bagging or this level of craven game playing. Find an awesome Mt Albert candidate and campaign hard, that’s straightforward honest politics.

  25. Rich on April 27th, 2009 at 15:32

    Surely contesting an election because you feel people should be given the chance to vote for your ideas is principled?

    Telling Green supporters to go and vote for another party could be considered manipulation?

  26. SPC on April 27th, 2009 at 18:06

    The Green Party has difficulty getting media coverage.

    It’s that simple.

    Whether Labour win or lose Mt Albert is not that important to the way the parliamentary term continues.

    Coverage of the campaigns of the Labour and Green party, rather than just the Labour party, is of greater assistance in raising the profile of the opposition to this government.

    It’s not about now, but 2011.

  27. Julie Fairey on April 29th, 2009 at 17:31

    Joe I agree about the attitude Labour people do sometimes seem to take – that they are the Left and that others must come to them. You and I have experienced that first hand, comrade, and I haven’t forgotten!

    However there has to be some middle ground surely? Yes Labour activists need to leave room for others, and accept that also means they are not going to always get their own way. And other activists on the Left, outside Labour, need to build those relationships, not hide in their silos. At the moment I’m not in any party, and I don’t see myself joining one in the near future either. I am involved in a few activist thingies, and in one of them I have seen Labour activists going to great effort to involve Green activists and their ideas, but those opportunities are not taken up by the Greens, who then feel excluded when decisions are made, even though they didn’t engage when they could have. As the independent involved I can understand the frustration the Labour people have in that situation. There are a lot of chips on shoulders that need to be dissolved, all around, not just in Labour.

    As for the fall of the Alliance from Parliamentary Greatness, Bryce’s view is not the only one. My perspective has long been that Anderton was more the author of that demise than Clark. Maybe she gave him some particularly odious advice, but he’s a grown-up and I doubt she forced him into anything he didn’t want to do.

  28. Bryce Edwards on April 29th, 2009 at 17:42

    Julie, I’ve written in numerous places about the decline of the Alliance. I don’t think I’ve ever given Helen Clark (or the Labour Party) the primary role in the party’s demise. I actually think the Alliance-left played a strong role in their own demise. But, in terms of Anderton’s role, I agree he was a very central player. I wrote a substantial piece on his role in things here:
    http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2002/03/dj_vu_for_the_l.html

    Bryce

  29. Ari on April 30th, 2009 at 16:41

    I think blaming the Greens for potentially weakening Labour’s chance at the seat is wrong-headed. Rather, we should be working together for an electorate vote which is immune to the spoiler tactics that help out parties like National.

  30. Joe Hendren on May 1st, 2009 at 11:39

    Julie,

    You will be pleased to know I largely agree with your response. I think I know the activist organisation you are referring to, and there is a perception it is Labour dominated – not sure how exactly to counter this but will think about it.

    Please don’t take from my comments that I am totally anti Len Brown either. I just have a few concerns that particular dynamics in the upcoming election against Banks may not work in Brown’s favour – and I might add some of these dynamics are not Len’s fault. Happy to discuss this with people over a beer sometime.

    Bryce – I think it is easy to blame the Alliance left because they were seem to have ‘lost’. Was there anything in particular you thought the Alliance left could have done differently? One alternative is that the Alliance left could have challenged Anderton at an earlier stage and attempted to throw him out of Parliament when he started the Progs. The Afghanstan issue was only the spark in a powerkeg. Like the Balkans in 1914 – it would be simplistic to blame a single bullet into the Archduke – if it wasn’t that event the war would have started over something else.

    I always thought Clark’s comment that she saw a future for the Alliance so long as it accepted Labour’s strategy towards the global economy as very telling – Jim accepted this – but the membership regarded this as an effective invitation for the Alliance to join the Labour party.

  31. Bryce Edwards on May 1st, 2009 at 11:52

    Joe – yes, the Afghanistan issue was, like you say, just the spark that ignited a dispute and split that was waiting to happen. That the Alliance held together for so long was actually quite incredible because there were so many serious fault lines in the party.

    The Alliance left played a strong role in papering over these divisions. And without going into a mass of detail at the moment, I’d just point out that the “leadership” of the Alliance left had played an appeasement and capitulation role towards the right of the party for a decade. And of course, this was partly why the Alliance was initially so successful – all dissent was suppressed to create unity and purpose. Finally the Alliance left then became victim of what they had created. So, I agree, once things were disintegrating in 2001/2, there wasn’t a lot that the Alliance left could have done differently (although, as you kind of indicate, amazingly the attempt to appease Anderton continued right until the end).

    Bryce

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