Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 23 September 2005 23 September 2005

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

In the Balance

The outcome of the 2005 general election still hangs in the balance. With a reported 218,000 special votes still to be counted – equal to about 10% of the total poll – there is still the potential for change. Even for dramatic change. Unknown is the extent to which the numbers of specials will be reduced by invalid votes.

The dramatic change option centres around the fortunes of the Greens. The provisional tally gives the Greens 5.07% of the party vote (and no chance of winning an electorate seat). For them to drop below the 5% level overall and lose any seats in the next Parliament would require their share of the specials to drop to around 4.45%. Normally, the Greens have pulled a greater share of specials than they have of the ordinary vote. But this is not a normal election. Interest here will centre on the impact of Labour’s student loan bribe on both out of electorate and out of country special votes at the expense of the Greens.

In the event of the Greens dropping out of the next Parliament, the game changes completely. Both major parties would be likely to receive another two seats, and potentially gain the capacity to form a government with support from United and NZ First.

Relatively small changes to the fortunes of the major parties could yet change the result. On the night, Labour sat on 40.74%. If that lifts to 41.05% then Labour picks up another seat (from National, unless National also lifts its share from the specials).

National currently holds seat 120 under the MMP formula and is therefore first to lose a seat, unless it can lift its share on the specials. To move out of danger, the election night total of 39.63% would need to lift to 39.81% - about a 1.8% better return on the specials and not a big ask. To pick up another seat would require a return closer to 10% higher than the tally on the night – not impossible, but a major challenge.

There are plenty of other moving parts which could affect the outcome. For example, if the Maori Party lifts its share on specials from the election night total of 1.98% to 2.04% they win an entitlement to a third list seat (they have four electorate seats), and the overhang in the Parliament is reduced from two to one.

So watch closely next Saturday. It is possible that nothing will change. It is also possible that everything will change. And with the numbers so tight, here’s betting that the odd recount or two will further delay confirmation of the final outcome of the 2005 general election.

Round and Round the Barrel

For the Sisterhood, the result of the 2005 general election is a complete disaster. They have failed to win the so-called unloseable election. The best outcome they can hope for is the ability to form a go-nowhere, do-nothing administration, propped up by unpopular extremists, clinging to the Ministerial houses and chauffeur driven cars till the bitter end. The best they can hope for now is the ability to swim round and round the barrel being used for target practice by the enlarged and strengthened National Party until they decide to surrender to the inevitable.

The stench of political death is already gathering around Helen Clark’s Labour Government and will engulf the minor parties silly enough to prolong their life. Two years ago, Clark and her colleagues surrendered control of the political agenda to Don Brash. They have survived these last two years, and possibly just this election, by pretending to embrace every new initiative advanced by their political opponents.

Treaty, welfare, law and order, and finally even tax “relief”. All embraced in order to head off major public defections to the National Party. And all with the purpose of winning a third term. A third term in which to do the things they have promised their constituencies. A third term that will not, in any meaningful sense, now happen.

The casualty list is massive. Michael Cullen, just a year ago, had a cupboard full of Politician of the Year awards. Now he is being targeted by colleagues as the architect of their downfall, has suffered the ignominy of being pinged by the Chief Ombudsman over his attempted student loan cover-up, and has been soundly thrashed during the campaign by his first term opponent, John Key, not once, but time and time again.

Trevor Mallard, once a tidy pair of hands, has transformed himself into one of Labour’s greatest electoral liabilities. And Maharey, too, has emerged from the campaign weak and ineffectual. Only Goff has weathered the 2005 campaign storm with his leadership CV intact, but without anything remotely approaching the numbers to succeed against an increasingly brittle and arrogant Clark.

In the constituencies, the Sisterhood’s damage is arguably worse. Jim Sutton’s 7,000 majority in Aoraki is now a 6,600 deficit. The safe Labour seat of Napier rebelled against the political correctness of Sisterhood favourite, left winger Russell Fairbrother (he lost by an unbelievable 3,500 to Chris Tremain). Next door in Tukituki, second time candidate Craig Foss destroyed Cabinet Minister Rick Barker’s “safe” seat by 2,300. Sisterhood retainers Ann Hartley in Northcote, Jill Pettis in Wanganui and Diane Yates in Hamilton East were swept aside.

The casualty list of Ministerial reputations and constituency losses might appear bad enough. But there is worse news to come for the Sisterhood. Except for John Tamihere, who was not on Labour’s list and disappears from the Parliament, all of the rejects of 2005 will be back.

Rather than using the party list as a vehicle to re-invigorate with new talent, Labour has opted to provide a haven for the tired and the discredited. Any administration they get to form will be dominated by the walking wounded. And waiting in the wings as the only available replacements, will be the non-walking wounded.

The results of the 2005 general election will have brought frustration for most New Zealanders. But for none more so than the Sisterhood. Because from here, if they are really really lucky they will get to swim round and round the barrel providing target practice for an enlarged and invigorated National Party caucus. And that’s only if they get lucky.


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