Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

Lord Ashcroft analyses the UK election result

May 23rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Two interesting blog posts of Lord Ashcroft – the results of his post-election poll and a speech he gave to a post-election conference.

Some data from the poll:

  • Conservatives lost among under 55s, and won massively with over 65s. Labour got just 21% of over 65s.
  • Conservatives won in socio-economic classes AB and C1, tied in C2 and lost only in DE.
  • The most important factors in how people voted were trust of motives and values 75%, preferred promises 62%, the leader 45%
  • Most important issues were the NHS 55%, economic growth 51%, immigration 41%, cutting deficit 30%, cost of living 25%, welfare reform 20%, Europe 18%, schools 13%, environment 9%, crime 6%
  • 46% say austerity needs to continue, 30% say austerity was needed but no longer and 24% say austerity was never needed
  • Even 60% of Labour voters say austerity and spending cuts were needed


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Hehir on the conservative evolution

May 22nd, 2015 at 1:45 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Daily Standard:

A spectre is haunting the English-speaking world — the spectre of conservatism. All the powers of progressivism have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Labour and Green parties, television producers, comedians, musicians, actors and the halls of the academy.

So far, they have not succeeded. 

In the United Kingdom, the Conservative government has just won another five-year term. Against the odds, it was returned with an outright majority in the House of Commons. Prior to Election Day, it was thought that the best Prime Minister David Cameron could hope for was another coalition or maybe a fragile minority government. Nobody really believed the Tories would be able to govern alone. But here we are.

In Canada, that country’s Conservative Party has held power since 2006. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is facing another general election this year. It promises to be a tough campaign, but things have been looking up lately and there is as good a chance as not that the Conservatives will win a rare fourth term in office.

In Australia, the revolution has been more tenuous, where Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party came to power in 2013. Forced to make deep cuts to public spending in response to a commodities market downturn, his administration has been sternly tested. And yet despite these difficulties, which have been made worse by an overtly hostile media, Abbott’s polling has been steadily improving.

In the United States, conservative Republicans dominate the US Congress and most state governorships and legislatures. While they face structural difficulties in capturing the presidency, the once unstoppable Hilary Clinton juggernaut is at risk of being crippled by a genuine and concerning corruption scandal.

And, of course, in New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key has won three mandates as the head of a National Party that has improbably improved its share of the vote in each of the last three elections. 

Why has this happened?

A question a smart Labour Party would ask.

When you survey the current state of Anglosphere politics, certain themes emerge. These don’t apply in every instance – we are talking about geographically and economically diverse countries, after all. Nevertheless, there are certain commonalities that go some of the way to explaining the current Centre-Right ascendancy.

First of all, conservative politicians have made the best of the limited means available to them. Harper’s nine years in power have included the two longest lasting minority governments in Canada’s history. Cameron’s government has had to struggle through five years of being shackled to an unpopular coalition partner – and even now its majority is puny compared to those the party enjoyed in the Thatcher years.

Our own electoral system has meant that, despite very high approval ratings, John Key has never had much margin for error. 

This leads on to the second important factor in conservative electoral success: self-control. 

Because none of these governments have the power to impose wide-ranging reforms, conservative politicians have had to restrain their actions and rhetoric. This comes easily for some – Key and Cameron are not temperamentally conservative anyway. For others, like Harper and Abbott, there has been more of a recognition that certain battles can’t be won and therefore aren’t worth fighting.

This moderation is sometimes frustrating for conservative voters, but it also does a good job taking the wind out of the histrionics of Left wing commentators.

Another way to read this is that all these parties have governed as centre-right, instead of right.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the oppositions in these countries are dysfunctional and discordant.

Long may that last.

A fourth is the GFC has I think made voters prioritise parties that focus on economic management over social issues.


Bravo Prince Charles

May 21st, 2015 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The long, smiling handshake between Gerry Adams and Prince Charles, balancing an informal cup of tea in one hand, was a historic moment not only because it was the first such encounter in the Republic since partition. It happened only because each of them was prepared to look beyond old wounds that as Mr Adams, the Sinn Féin president, acknowledged, have not been entirely healed by peace. For both, it was an encounter of personal significance that also challenged the prejudices of their supporters. It was an unusual moment of collective conciliation between a symbol of republicanism and a symbol of British monarchy – and a moment of almost intimate forgiveness.

It is more than 35 years since Lord Mountbatten, his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, 14, and a 15-year-old local boy, Paul Maxwell, were blown up by the Provisional IRA at a time when Mr Adams was what is coyly described as a “leading figure” in the republican movement. At the time, he justified the murders by claiming that Mountbatten was too old a soldier not to be aware of the “danger involved in coming to this country”.

Adams’ defence of the Mountbatten murders was vile. Mountbatten was like a grandfather to Prince Charles, and shaking the hands of the apologist for his murder would be no easy thing to do.But it is what the job requires, for the good of the United Kingdom.

For Prince Charles, with apparent warmth, to shake hands with the man who was at the least an apologist for the murder of Mountbatten, who had been the prince’s lifelong mentor and friend, suggests a very personal and indeed admirable act of forgiveness.

An admirable act of duty also.

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Executed for falling asleep

May 20th, 2015 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

Yahoo news reports:

North Korean Defence Minister Hyon Yong-Chol has been executed by anti-aircraft fire for disloyalty and showing disrespect to leader Kim Jong-Un, South Korea’s intelligence agency said Wednesday.

Hundreds of officials watched Hyon’s execution on April 30, Han Ki-Beom, the deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIS), told a parliamentary committee, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Hyon, who was appointed to the post of Minister of the People’s Armed Forces less than a year ago, was apparently caught dozing off during formal military events and also talked back to Kim Jong-Un on several occasions, Yonhap said.

Well he won’t do that again!

Anti-aircraft weapons fire at up to 1,440 metres per second. At least it wouldn’t have taken long.

More seriously I do hope in my lifetime we see the collapse of this awful regime with its arbitrary executions and megalomaniac Stalinist cult of personality. 25 million North Koreans deserve better than this.  Even putting aside all the freedoms they don’t have, their GDP per capita is 5% of South Korea.  They are in poverty and virtual serfdom.


Watch this if you want to learn about good campaigning

May 19th, 2015 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

In 2013 Lynton Crosby talked to a dozen young people on how to be a good political campaigner. If you want to learn from one of the best, then spend an hour watching the video.

Lynton ran successful campaigns for John Howard in 1996, 1998, 2002 and 2004, for Boris Johnson in 2008 and 2012 and David Cameron in 2015.


Goose meet gander

May 19th, 2015 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar reports:

INDONESIA will stop sending maids to 21 Middle Eastern countries, after the recent execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia angered Jakarta.

Indonesia’s anger at the executions of its citizens abroad comes despite the fact that Jakarta last week executed seven foreign drug convicts, including AustraliansMyuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, drawing a storm of international protest.

Jakarta, which has long complained about the treatment of Indonesian maids in the Middle East, had already placed a moratorium on sending new helpers to Saudi Arabia in 2011 following the beheading of a worker.

Maybe Indonesia would be a higher moral ground to complain about executions of their citizens in Saudi Arabia, if they didn’t execute people themselves.

Dhakiri cited the execution of Indonesian domestic workers Siti Zainab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim, who were both put to death for murder in April.

I don’t support the death penalty for any country for any crime, but I have to say it seems more justified for murder than drug trafficking.


Easton on FPP

May 19th, 2015 at 9:45 am by David Farrar

Brian Easton writes at Pundit:

You may have been surprised at the outcome of the recent British elections, but New Zealand’s experience shows you should not have been surprised that you were surprised …

In about one in three elections under FR/FPP outcomes were markedly eccentric (space has meant leaving out some of the nuances) where parliamentary outcomes did not reflect voters’ wishes (even ignoring the Non-Vote Party). The effect was especially strong when there was a significant third party support reflecting that the populace’s opinions could no longer be treated as simply being on a left-right spectrum.

The surprise then is not that New Zealand switched to an alternative voting system but that it took so long to do so.

The May 2015 British election underscores the same lesson. Labour’s share of votes rose 1.5 percentage points, more than the Conservative’s 0.8 percent;, but it lost 26 seats while the Conservatives gained 24. At the specific level one can explain this by the complexity of the other third of voters switching between a multitude of minor parties. Conservatives got 36.9 percent of the vote, Labour 30.4 percent.*

As I watched the run-up to the election I wondered how anyone could predict the election outcome with confidence. I was not surprised the outcome was surprising.

Brian is right that FPP elections are difficult to forecast in terms of outcomes. However apart from the uneven seat allocations, the polls did still get it wrong by saying Labour and Conservatives were neck and neck when in fact the Conservatives got 6.5% more.

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UK Labour’s civil war

May 18th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Britain’s Labour party being ripped apart as an epic struggle for its soul threatens to destroy its election hopes for a generation.

Jim Murphy, a respected and moderate Blairite, left his colleagues stunned and distraught by quitting on Saturday as Scottish Labour Leader after a “poisonous” war with the party’s biggest trade union paymasters.

In parting remarks, he warned that it would be “the kiss of death” if Labour caved in to the demands of hard-Left union barons such as Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, who backed Ed Miliband as Labour leader.

The unions in the UK got Ed Miliband made leader, just as the NZ unions did the same with Andrew Little. Both Ed Miliband and Andrew Little lost the members vote and the caucus vote, but got elected due to the union vote.

Murphy warned that McCluskey must not be allowed to choose the next leader of the party.

In NZ, three faceless EPMU delegates made Andrew Little the leader.

Murphy’s decision came a day after Chuka Umunna, a leading moderniser, withdrew from the contest to succeed Miliband as leader.

David Cameron will be relieved. Umunna was the ones they feared could reach out to aspiration centrist voters.

Moderate Labour figures believe the time has come for a decisive shift away from union dominance of the party’s politics. Blairites are privately dismayed that 147 of the 232 Labour MPs elected are Unite members, or received donations from the union.

Owned, lock stock and barrel.


What a surprise – Castro has stolen hundreds of millions

May 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

He portrayed himself as a man of the people who shunned the trappings of wealth.

But in reality Fidel Castro, the longtime communist leader of Cuba, lived a life of pampered luxury and had a fortune of hundreds of millions.

Away from the prying eyes of his people, who suffered poverty and hardship after he seized power in a communist coup 55 years ago, Castro lived like a king. He had his own private island called Cayo Piedra which featured a floating restaurant, helipad and even a pen containing two pet dolphins. …

Castro, who stood down as Cuban leader in 2008 and handed power to his brother Raul, kept secret his wealth, which ran into the “hundreds of millions”, as well as up to 20 other properties dotted around Cuba …

Has there even been a communist leader who wasn’t personally incredibly rich, while insisting everyone else must remain poor in the name of equality?


Backgrounds of UK MPs

May 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Smith Institute has done a profile of the 650 MPs just elected to Westminster.  Some interesting facts:

  • 25% of the MPs are new
  • The average ages are SNP 44, Conservatives 50, Lib Dems 51 and Labour 53
  • 29% of MPs are female, up from 22% last time
  • 33% of MPs went to a private school and 23% went to Oxford or Cambridge
  • Only 22% of MPs have a business background
  • 7% of Conservative MPs were in the Armed Force (0% for all other parties)
  • 15% of Labour MPs were professional unionists
  • 25% of MPs main background is in politics (29% of Labour MPs, 19% of Conservative MPs and 35% of SNP MPs)

The last one is the most disturbing. It isn’t a bad thing to have a few MPs whose main background has been in politics, but you don’t want a quarter of Parliament made up of professional politicians who have never held a job outside politics.



The hunt for the Ed Stone

May 15th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Ed Miliband is licking his wounds in Ibiza but his much maligned “Ed Stone” has suffered a less glamorous exit from the spotlight and is languishing in a south London garage, the Guardian has learned.

The 2.6 metre-high, two-ton stone was unveiled with great fanfare in the marginal seat of Hastings, and featured Labour’s six key election promises. It was intended as a symbol of how Miliband would restore trust in politics.

It was the one of the biggest PR stunt backfires I’ve seen. Partly because it was so ridiculous the insistence this would be placed in the garden at Downing Street, but also because the six pledges are meaningless waffle. A pledge card can work, but only if they have a fair degree of specificity.

With Labour defeated, and the stone’s promises summarily rejected, newspapers were offering rewards including a case of champagne in return for news of the tablet’s whereabouts.

The Guardian understands that the party has ensured the limestone hulk is kept under lock and key, to avoid any discovery which might cause further embarrassment.

The Daily Mail won’t rest until it finds it!


The Charles letters

May 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian has them in full. Our so called neutral future head of state spends more time lobbying Ministers than most lobby groups it seems.

Some of the issues he has lobbied on:

  • Regulation of dairy sector
  • Buying new Navy helicopters
  • Patagonian toothfish
  • Diets for schoolkids
  • Encouraging herbal medicines
  • Culling badgers
  • Appointment of a colleague to be an agricultural arbitrator

The rise of the ‘shy Tory': why pollsters are missing voters on the right

May 12th, 2015 at 3:57 pm by kiwi in america

At 10pm British Daylight Time on May 7th, seconds after the polls closed, the various media outlets covering the UK General Election unveiled the results of the giant exit poll commission by a consortium of British polling companies. Anyone who watched this coverage will never forget the barely suppressed shock that the Conservatives were estimated to win 316 seats some 25 seats more than the most optimistic opinion polls published days before the ballot.  Lord Ashdown (a former Liberal Democrat MP and leader in the Commons) expressed such disbelief at the veracity of the exit poll that he said if he was wrong, he’d eat his hat! Ashdown’s disbelief in the exit poll’s numbers was vindicated but not the way he’d hoped because it too underestimated the scale of the Tories’ success. Cameron was to retain the premiership with an absolute majority and 331 seats actually increasing the Conservatives’ percentage of the vote – a result dramatically different than the one anticipated by virtually all observers of the campaign.

The English media have been awash with hand wringing analyses as to why the polls were so wrong and why Labour lost so badly. Almost all pre-election commentary revolved around likely coalition negotiations with many pundits picking a Labour/SNP/Green coalition. Milliband, on the strength of some one-eyed reports from polling stations, reportedly told his front bench late in the day to be humble in victory when interviewed by the media so convinced was he, despite the predicted Scottish SNP landslide, that Nicola Sturgeon would join him in the governing coalition.

The failure of the mainstream pollsters to pick this win (only an 18,000 strong on-line Spider Monkey survey had picked the eventual 37/31 Conservative/Labour split) has been put down to the behaviour of the  so-called ‘shy Tory’. This term was first coined by John Heyward (now a Conservative MP) when he was John Major’s pollster in the 1992 election to explain why pre-election polls pointing to a Kinnock led Labour victory were wrong. Essentially Tory leaning voters lied to the pollsters.

In recent years, this underestimating of actual voter turnout of centre-right parties by reputable polling companies has become a recent global phenomenon. On top of the UK Election of May 2015 we can add similar polling failures in the:

  • Israel Election March 2015 (Likud got 29 seats versus a predicted 19 enabling Netanyahu to form another Likud-led coalition)
  • US mid-term elections November 2014 (most polls underestimated the size of the GOP gains in the Senate, House, Governor’s Mansions and state legislative races)
  • Scottish Referendum September 2014 (the ‘No’ vote got 55% versus the last polls predicting a narrow ‘Yes’ win)
  • NZ Election September 2014 (almost all polls pointed to NZ First holding the balance of power whereas the Key led Nats managed an election night absolute majority. Even though this was clawed back by special votes and the Northland by-election, Key, like Cameron, managed to increase National’s share of the vote from the previous election)
  • EU Elections May 2014 (polls missed the sizable swing to UKIP in the UK portion of the EU Parliament Elections)

David gave some reasons for these polling failures in his post

Some of the reasons why Tories (or supporters of right leaning parties) have become so shy with indicating their voting intentions to pollsters are:

The Left’s vitriol means conservatives are more likely to stay mum
The left believe they have the moral high ground and to oppose their policies is at best bad and inhumane and at worst, downright evil. More on the left see politics and legislative action as the most important force for good in the world – the power of the state to ensure good outcomes as they see it. More on the right see the state as far from a benign force for good and derive satisfaction outside of politics from family activity, humanitarian efforts in the community and organized religious involvements. This moral superiority the left feel they have infuses their political debating with self-righteous indignation sometimes propelling them to more nasty and personal attacks on their opponents. Opponents are more likely to be labeled with extreme epithets to discount and shut down their views (e.g. homophobe, racist, heartless, greedy, uncaring).

Many on the right quickly tire of these abusive ad hominem attacks. When you add that the left has a core of activists who are driven to the political theatre almost 24/7 and for whom warfare with the right is an article of faith and a rite of passage, it makes for a palpable ‘take no prisoners’ approach to debating their opponents. Ordinary right leaning voters who engage on social media on the issues of the day in the run up to elections are routinely subjected to vitriolic attacks often in an almost coordinated way from a myriad of well-armed and argumentative left leaning activists such that they withdraw from the battlefield and learn to keep their opinions to themselves. Fearing further opprobrium for supporting a right leaning party when asked by a pollster, voters from the right often will either lie as to their party leaning or that they are undecided when they are already a committed Tory voter. The left’s aggressive approach to political debate is one of the biggest reasons for shy Tories.

Labour in the UK claimed to have won the Twitter campaign and the social media battle but ended up losing the war that counts – the actual election not realising that the Twittersphere is not the same as swing voter land. The young are disproportionately represented on Twitter and social media debates and they are more likely to tilt left and be vocal about it BUT less likely to vote. The left have rendered open discussion in favour of a number of contentious issues such as immigration reform or against gay marriage and Islamic extremism as not appropriate opinions for citizens to hold in a modern progressive society. They have effectively driven a significant minority of the electorate out of the public square and off the debating stage. The left’s bullying has a number of perverse effects on approved speech thus silencing public dissent. These attempts don’t sway voter opinion in their favour but merely strengthen the resolve of the un-listened-to voters to get out and vote for the leaders and parties the left so despise.

The notion of what is appropriate discourse even effects the pollsters. One admitted to deciding not to poll on contentious issues of concern to right leaning voters like on excessive Muslim immigration or welfare reform for fear of the public backlash from the vocal left.

Elite opinion makers have become more disconnected from median voters
The chattering classes overwhelmingly tilt to the left. Even right leaning public commentators often hold more socially liberal views than floating voters and can be more sensitive to elite opinion when it turns on them for their more conservative views. Because the commentariat tend to mostly talk to each other, they become cut off from median voter opinion which is more right leaning and conservative. They are then shocked when majority opinion votes the opposite to them. This disconnect is manifest in a number of ways:

* Rise of militant Islam is ignored by the chattering classes but is of more concern to centrist swing voters but is a topic rarely canvassed in media panel discussions or debates for fear of offending Muslims. This sort of political correctness reached absurdity when Milliband proposed to ban Islamophobia. Where are moderate centrist voters to turn if their reasonable concerns are blatantly ignored by a major opposition party seeking power? The rise of UKIP saw the Conservatives trying to engage more on these contentious issues and thus were seen to be more likely to respond to voter concerns.

* Beltway types look past the deficiencies of the left’s standard bearer in their desperate quest to get their man across the line. Milliband was a nerdy policy wonk who came across as awkward and goofy, who decried business, refused to disavow the profligate spending of the Labour government he was a minister in and banked on dissatisfaction with the austerity measures to propel centrist voters to his more leftist vision for Britain in much the same way a more left leaning Cunliffe hoped NZ Labour would get out the so-called missing million.

* Euroscepticism is a subject that brings out the most dismissive and arrogant tut tutting from elites who have frequently disdained the rise of UKIP and the popularity of Nigel Farrage in his call for an EU referendum. Cameron successfully neutralised the electoral fallout for the Conservatives from UKIP by promising the In/Out referendum. Shy Tories who favour Brexit again felt shouted at and ignored by beltway commentators and Labour.

New media allows those on the right to break the MSM’s monopoly on reporting
Whilst Britain has sported an ideologically varied print media for some decades now, the commentariat on TV, radio, the political scientist and the political reporting class reliably tilt to the left. The internet has shattered that monopoly and, along with You Tube and other user driven broadcast sites, enabled the growth of right wing blogs and right wing on line magazines and newspapers. This has enabled shy Tories to read more about politics from a perspective they understand and sympathise with. It reinforces their suspicion of the commenting class and of the mainstream media and journalists and adds to their shyness with pollsters.

Other factors that helped Cameron: Voter preference for stability
Incumbency often provides some advantage to the ruling party. In the UK, voters less familiar with coalition government even after five years of the Lib Dems deal with the Tories, were genuinely spooked by what the polls were pointing to – a Labour Party that would get fewer seats than the Conservatives but be able to govern with the help of the resurgent Scottish National Party. Not only would the harder left SNP tail wag Labour’s dog, the very state of the United Kingdom would be at stake a mere six months after the Scottish voted reasonably decisively to stay with England. However ambivalent voters may have felt about Cameron, they saw a Conservative led government as more stable and more likely to fight for the union.

“It’s the economy stupid”
The left made much of the Tory’s austerity programme fuelled by media stories of those effected. Middle class Brits with jobs saw an improving job market, falling unemployment, rising incomes and property values as helping their own personal financial stability and, like their Kiwi counterparts in 2014, voted for a continuation of the government that was perceived to be fiscally sounder and whose fiscal rectitude through tough times saw better economic times return. Like Cunliffe’s ‘true red Labour’ shift, Milliband was seen as appealing more to the Hampstead Fabian Society by attacking big business and seeking a return to the spendthrift days of other more left leaning Labour governments than the more successful centrist approach adopted by Blair to New Labour’s electoral advantage.

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Australian Treasurer on NZ economy

May 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey writes:

APPARENTLY preparations are under way across the ditch for a Kiwi ­national “parity party” to ­celebrate when the New Zealand dollar reaches the same value as the Australian dollar.

Now we don’t need a national day of mourning over here, but we do need to look at how New Zealand has been able to put in place structural reforms that will promote ­future growth in their economy.

New Zealand has been busy making the difficult decisions for their future. As a result they have falling unemployment, rising living standards and a Budget that is coming into surplus.

And near zero inflation.

In contrast, Australia has a ­Budget that is still operating on the presumption of a never-ending ­mining boom.

Previous governments locked in spending that didn’t consider that there might be a fall in revenue from declining mining investment and much lower global commodity ­prices.

As a result of falling revenue and ever-increasing expenditure, we are currently spending $100 million a day more than we collect.

NZ took decisions to reduce the deficits, and head back to surplus. If Australia continues to borrow $100 million a day, then the interest on their debt will make it even harder to balance the books one day.

With that money we could build 40 kilometres of new road, or two brand new high schools, every day and in a week, you would get a brand new major teaching hospital. Instead, we are borrowing this money just to pay our day-to-day bills.

The opportunity cost of not getting spending under control.


The global failures of the left this decade

May 11th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

It may be coincidence, but in almost all the countries we take a big interest in, the centre-right has been winning election after election. Let’s look at each of them:

  • Canada – Stephen Harper won in 2006, 2008 and 2011 – increasing his seats each time to go from minority to majority
  • New Zealand – John Key won in 2008, 2011 and 2014 – increasing his seats each time
  • UK – David Cameron won in 2010 and 2015, increasing his seats to go from minority to majority
  • Australia – Tony Abbott won in 2010
  • Germany – Angela Merkel won in 2005, 2009 and 2013 – increasing her seats each time to go from minority to majority
  • US – in 2014 Republicans got largest majority in House since 1929, the largest mid-term Senate gain since 1958, now hold 31 of the 50 Governorships and the highest number of state legislatures since 1928. The Democrats last held so few state legislatures in 1860. Only the presidency remains for them.
  • Israel – Bibi Netanyahu won in 2009, 2013 and 2015, increasing his majority in 2015
  • France – lost the presidency in 2012, but highly likely to regain in 2017 with polls showing Hollande in third place.

What is interesting isn’t just that so many countries have centre-right governments, but that in Canada, NZ, the UK, and Germany the incumbent Governments have increased their seats. It used to be the case that governments lose seats and oppositions win them. but no longer.

An interesting observation I saw about the UK election is that the last time Labour won an election in the UK without Tony Blair was in 1974 – 41 years ago. The importance of this observation is not about who was leader, but how he positioned the party. Blair won as “New Labour” and he moved Labour towards the centre. Miliband moved it to the left and made income inequality the focus of his campaign, and lost.

Likewise in NZ Labour, since they lost office, have moved to the left of Helen Clark. Goff,  Shearer and Cunliffe all advocated old left policies – many of which were rejected by Helen Clark when she was PM. Will Little continue with the shift to the left, or try to compete in the centre?


Brown wins Ontario leadership

May 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Congratulations to Patrick Brown who has won the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives. He has a more than good chance of becoming Premier of Ontario at their next elections.

Ontario is the largest province of Canada, with 13 million people and 38% of the population.

I backgrounded Patrick’s bid here, and how he started as a under-dog. He won despite little support from the establishment.

The membership in Ontario has grown from 11,000 to almost 80,000. Brown’s campaign signed up most of them.

Brown won 62% of the vote. A few months he was polling under 10%.



Winners and losers from the UK election

May 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar


  • David Cameron. Got a majority against all expectations. Had been constantly criticised for not getting a majority in 2010, but has laid that to rest, and will be a conquering hero to his party. Set to be Prime Minister for at least nine years.
  • David Miliband. May now seek to return to Parliament to seek the leadership, in line with the constant claim that the wrong Miliband won. He only lost because the unions backed Ed over him.
  • Nicola Sturgeon and Alec Salmond – the SNP now dominate Scotland. And having the Conservatives remain in Goverment probably helps them, as they can blame them for everything.
  • Mhairi Black – the youngest MP (age 20) since 19 year old Charles Fox in 1768 had his father but him a seat.
  • Boris Johnson – back in Parliament and if he doesn’t offend more than half a dozen foreign countries, or sleep with more than half a dozen women, could become the next Conservative Leader and Prime Minister. Or resign in scandal.
  • Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor – their legend grows


  • Ed Miliband. Had a generally good campaign and was favoured to become PM on election night, but within hours he had led Labour to its worst result since 1987, and inevitably is now out of the leadership.
  • Ed Balls. Went from on the verge of being the Chancellor, to out of Parliament
  • Jim Murphy- led Labour in Scotland to a defeat so bad that the meme is Scotland now has more Pandas (2) than Labour MPs (1)
  • Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Danny Alexander, Ed Davey – Lib Dem Ministers who all lost their seats
  • Nick Clegg – kept his seat but lost his party
  • Douglas Alexander – the only thing worse than being the campaign chief for such a bad result is losing your seat to a 20 year old
  • The pollsters
  • Natalie Bennett – an embarrassing campaign from the Green Leader who failed to win a seat
  • Nigel Farage – failed to win his seat, and they lost one of their two defectors from the Conservatives. Has promised to resign, but is not ruling out standing again as leader (doing a Cunliffe)
  • George Galloway – the loathsome one is gone and buried. Not even close. He lost by 11,000 votes and only got 21%. Last time he won by 10,000 votes. One of the most vile people in UK politics who ran a disgusting campaign against Labour’s Naz Shah.

Green power prices

May 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Greens (and Labour) go on about how NZ must become 100% renewable energy, even though we are already over 80% renewable. They want subsidies on wind and solar power.

Well how did this go in Ontario:

Ontario’s Green Energy Act offered so-called “feed-in rates” almost four times existing electricity rates for wind and more than 10 times for solar power. Like bees to honey, wind and solar companies rushed in. By the time the government realized that these subsidies were driving Ontario from one of the lowest to one of the highest power cost jurisdictions in North America, the province had signed myriad 20-year-locked-in-rate-guaranteed contracts that will drive power rates up a further 40 per cent to 50 per cent in coming years.

And it gets worse:

Adding salt to this self-inflicted wound is the reality that much of the green power comes on stream when it isn’t needed. This unneeded electricity is dumped into the United States at bargain-basement prices that Ontario’s Auditor-General found has already cost Ontario power consumers billions of dollars, with much bigger losses yet to come before those 20-year contracts expire.

So Ontario consumers are paying more for their power so US consumers can get cheap renewable energy!


The UK result under proportional representation

May 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The UK has FPP. The Conservatives won a majority with 37% of the vote. The Greens and UKIP got over 16% of the vote between them yet got only a seat each. This is seen as unfair, and proportional representation does produce more proportional results which many see as fairer.

The activism for proportional representation tends to come from the left, but I’m not sure they would have liked a proportional result on the 2015 election. I show below what it would have been.

Of course it is likely people would have voted differently under a PR system. Yes. But we can only model with the data we have, which is the actual result.


So under PR the UK Independence Party would have 83 seats, instead of one. The SDP would hold 31 seats instead of 56 and the Lib Dems 52 seats instead of eight. And the Conservatives and Labour would have fewer seats – and the Greens 25.

If you look at the blocs, the right bloc would still have a majority under proportional representation. They’d be just 10 seats down. However it would be a Conservative/UKIP Government, not a majority Conservative one.

The left would do worse under PR with Labour and the SNP both losing seats, but the Greens picking some up. They’d be 33 seats down compared to FPP.

The Lib Dems in the centre would be best – going from eight seats to 44.


Who won seats off whom

May 9th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The final results for the UK election are:

  1. Conservatives 331 (+24)
  2. Labour 232 (-26)
  3. SNP 56 (+50)
  4. Lib Dems 8 (-49)
  5. DUP 8
  6. Sinn Fein 4 (-1)
  7. Plaid Cymru 3
  8. SDLP 3
  9. UUP 2 (+2)
  10. UKIP 1 (+1)
  11. Greens 1
  12. Others 1
  13. Alliance 0 (-1)

Now looking at that you might think the Conservatives won their seats off Labour and the SNP off the Lib Dems. But far more complicated. Here are the seat changes:

  1. SNP won 40 seats off Labour
  2. Conservatives won 27 seats off the Lib Dems
  3. Labour won 12 seats off the Lib Dems
  4. Conservatives won 10 seats off Labour
  5. SNP won 10 seats off the Lib Dems
  6. Labour won 8 seats off the Conservatives
  7. UKIP won 1 seat off the Conservatives
  8. UUP won 1 seat off the DUP
  9. UUP won 1 seat off Sinn Fein
  10. DUP won 1 seat off the Alliance

So Conservatives gained a net two seats directly off Labour.

The Lib Dems lost 27 seats to the Conservatives, 12 to Labour and 10 to the SNP.

And the SNP took 40 off Labour.

They key to the Conservatives getting a majority was that they won so many seats off the Lib Dems, and Labour failed to pick up (net) seats from the Conservatives.


Why the UK polls were wrong

May 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


As you can see the UK pre-election polls were wrong. Quite massively wrong. The Conservatives beat Labour by 6% and have won a clear majority. Only one poll of of the several dozen in the last few weeks got close to this. The poll were near unanimous that the Conservatives and Labour would be tied in the vote, and Conservatives would get only a few more seats. Instead they got 98 more.

So why were the polls do wrong? Not one poll, but almost all of them. There three broad plausible explanations – which are not mutually exclusive.

1 – People lie to the pollsters

Someone tweeted that the British have shown the one thing they’re really good at is lying to their pollsters.  A more polite version of this is what the Guardian calls Shy Tories. People don’t like to admit they are voting for a party. One has seen this in the US when one candidate is African-American. Also in NZ to a degree where I suspect one of the reasons NZ First often exceeds the polls, is people don’t like to admit they are voting for them.

But I think it is unlikely this explains most or even much of what happened.

2 – People change their mind

Either the undecideds decide to vote a certain way disproportional to the already decideds, or some decideds change their mind. One reason for this is tactical voting. This is why ACT keep winning Epsom despite poll after poll showing them behind. People only get tactical at the last minute.

Major newspapers published guides as to how to tactically vote to maximise the outcome for your preferred PM. This could have had quite an impact.

However while I think this may have been some of it, I don’t think it was the major factor. Even in seats where there was no ability to vote tactically (no major third party), you saw the Conservatives pick up seats off Labour.

3 – Turnout was different

Turnout was higher than expected in many areas. If one side does better at turning out their supporters, this can have a big impact.

In NZ the impact of Dotcom was to so enrage Government supporters, they advance voted in record numbers – determined to keep him out.

If you look at the motivations to vote in the UK for Conservative and Labour voters, they were quite different. Conservative voters had a pretty strong motivation to vote to keep Ed Miliband out, and to stop a party which wants to dissolve the United Kingdom, from holding the balance of power. A Mliband Government propped up by the SNP was very scary to many.

However if you are a Labour supporter, your best outcome was a Labour minority government that could only govern with the SNP’s votes. This is hardly motivating stuff.

So I suspect (we’ll know more as we get more data) that the major difference was turnout.


Of some interest is that in several elections now, it has been the more right wing parties that have exceeded their polls. In Israel Likud did massively better than the polls, as did the Conservatives in the UK. In the 2014 US mid-terms the Republicans did far better in the Senate than projected. And even in NZ National did better than the polls (but within margin of error). I’m not saying this is significant – just that it could be. Or it could just be chance. In one Victorian state election the Liberal Party did far far worse than the polls, and in NZ in 2011 National did a bit worse than the polls. But

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Idiocy in Nepal

May 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A row has broken out between Nepal and some international agencies over the handling of aid that poured into the country after last month’s devastating earthquake, with each side blaming the other for confusion and delays in getting help to victims.

Relief efforts have been slow to reach many people affected by Nepal’s worst disaster in more than 80 years, leaving an unknown number of people stranded, injured and hungry for days.

The 7.8 magnitude quake, which struck 10 days ago, has killed more than 7500 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Relief material initially piled up at the airport as Nepalese customs officials checked each crate that came in so commercial goods did not slip through.

Senior government officials said customs checks were necessary, because they did not know what was coming into the country.

That’s idiotic. You’ve had a major disaster and people are dying waiting for relief. What is more important? Even if a small amount of commercial goods did slip through, what is the impact of that compared to delaying vital supplies at the border for days and days?

Supplies included goods that Nepal did not need and many relief workers arrived without proper documents to enter the country, complicating efforts to move the aid effort along, officials said.

Again, so what? Again what is the bigger problem – a few forms not filled in, or getting relief workers in quickly to where they are needed?

The Nepalese Government is generally known to be incompetent, but this takes things to a new level.


Another Abbott smear

May 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

Tony Abbott has become embroiled in an ugly diplomatic incident that’s seen his office accused of being homophobic after an Australian Ambassador’s same-sex partner was told to “wait in the car” rather than greet the Prime Minister on his arrival to Paris.

Following Anzac Day centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, Mr Abbott flew to a private airport in Paris where he was to be greeted by Stephen Brady, the Ambassador to France.

Mr Brady’s partner of 34 years, Peter Stephens, was reportedly told he wouldn’t be part of the welcoming party on the tarmac by a protocol officer, much to the upset of the Ambassador who refused the request and had Mr Stephens accompany him as the RAAF plane arrived.

The “bizarre” incident caused so much offence to the career diplomat he was said to be “literally screaming” at the protocol officer who delivered the request, according to Fairfax, and he later offered his resignation over the incident.

The media are painting this as Abbott being so homophobic that he couldn’t even bear to have a same sex partner meet him. But Andrew Bolt provides details many media left out:

Mr Abbott hosted a farewell dinner for Mr Brady and Mr Stephens when the couple left Canberra to take up the Paris job.  The prime minister also invited them to a staff dinner in Paris on April 26.

So Abbott had specifically hosted them for a farewell dinner in Canberra. So what happened:

the order was not driven by homophobia but – I am informed – a fussy insistence of the usual protocol, that the prime minister travelling alone is met by the Ambassador without partner. Only when the Prime Minister is accompanied by his wife is he greeted by the Ambassador with his partner, too.

Now it may be a silly protocol, but it is the protocol. It has nothing to do with Abbott or the sex of the partner. But most people in Australia will have no idea of this.

Bolt notes:

Hartcher’s suggestion of homophobia is based on zero evidence, and is on the face of it is preposterous. Hartcher seriously believes the Prime Ministers gets someone to ring ahead to make sure no gays greet him at the airport? Really?



The Independent endorses Conservatives/Lib Dems as the UK votes

May 8th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Independent newspaper has backed the continuation of a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government if Thursday’s general election produces the expected hung parliament.

In a verdict that took many Westminster observers by surprise, the newspaper said in an editorial that a minority Labour administration reliant on the support of the SNP would be “a disaster for the country”.

Not only did Ed Miliband’s opposition appear “unready for government” in too many policy areas, there would be “justified fury” if nationalists seeking the breakup of the UK were to hold sway, it said.

This is unexpected.

Most UK newspapers endorse the party that reflects their readership and ideology.

But The Independent is regarded as coming from the centre-left. For them to endorse the Conservatives as well as the Lib Dems is significant. But not sure how much weight endorsements carry.

Results should start to be known from around now onwards.



UK Seat Forecast

May 7th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The seat forecast site I use the most is May 2015. They have their own forecast and also list five other ones.

Here’s what their final pre-election forecast is:

  • Conservatives 273 (33.6%)
  • Labour 268 (33.3%)
  • SNP 56 (4.4%)
  • Lib Dems 28 (8.8%)
  • DUP 8
  • Sinn Fein 5
  • SDLP 3
  • Plaid Cymru 3
  • UKIP 2 (13.4%)
  • Greens 1 (4.8%)
  • George Galloway 1

Of the 650 seats, you need 326 to govern. But Sinn Fein tend not to vote or turn up so of 645 votes in play you need 323.

If we look at rough blocs you have:

Right – Conservatives 273 + DUP 8 + UKIP 2 = 283

Left – Labour 268 + SNP 56 + SDLP 3 + Plaid Cymru 3 + Greens 1 + Galloway 1 = 332

Centre – Lib Dems 28

Labour is definitely in a preferred position. Even if the Conservatives get Lib Dems support they are 311 – 12 seats short. They need to beat the poll predictions by 12 seats.

Labour can’t govern without SNP support. Without them they are 276 and even f Lib Dems support are 304.

The SNP has said they will not vote confidence in a Conservative government. Labour have said they will not do any deal with SNP, either coalition or confidence and supply. So SNP has to back a Labour Govt even if no policy deal, or force another election.

It is interesting to consider what the result would be if the UK had proportional representation. Based on the polls, a proportional Parliament (excluding 18 Irish seats) would be:

  • Conservatives 212 (vs 273)
  • Labour 210 (vs 268)
  • UKIP 85 (vs 2)
  • SDP 56 (vs 29)
  • Greens 30 (vs 1)
  • SNP 27 (vs 56)
  • Others 11

So a proportional system would see UKIP gain the most, followed by Greens and SDP. The losers would be the SNP, Conservatives and Labour.

However a Conservative government would be more likely, as the blocs would be:

Right – Conservatives 212 + UKIP 85 = 297

Left – Labour 210 + SNP 27 + Greens 30 = 267

Centre – Lib Dems 56


It will be interesting to see the results tomorrow. I’ll be at the UK High Commission and will do a bit of blogging and tweeting during the day. As it is FPP, you should take the projections with caution. There are rarely national swings, and while there has been a lot of electorate polling, some of this is now quite dated. Also turnout motivation may be higher on the right – to stop the SNP having the balance of power.