2008 Election in Aotearoa/New Zealand

NZ employs the Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) voting system. The NZ Parliament has a total of 122 seats, 7 of which are reserved for Maori candidates. The Nationals won 59 (gaining 11), Labour 43 (losing 7), Greens 8 (gaining 2), ACT New Zealand 5 (gaining 3), Maori 5 (gaining 1), Progressives 1 (no change) and UnitedFuture 1 (losing 2). The election marked a generational sea change, with 47-year-old millionaire former currency trader John Key (National) taking power from Helen Clark (Labour) a long-serving veteran of the Left of New Zealand politics… such as it is, and such as it may be found within the ranks of Labour.


Parties what won seats:

Parties what didn’t:

On the whole, and leaving aside the Greens and Progressives, it was a fairly dismal result for the (Socialist) Left. On October 10, RAM boasted that “RAM’s ‘Protect Our People’ campaign has been swinging into action nationwide – and our election campaign has been going from strength to strength!” In reality, it received an extremely meagre total of just 405 votes. What’s especially odd about this result is that in April, RAM claimed a membership of 500. RAM ‘co-organiser’ Oliver Woods stated “I’m from RAM, New Zealand’s fastest growing political party with more than 3000 members in only a few months!” Further, “RAM won 87,000 votes in the 2004 ARC election, and over 100,000 votes in the 2007 council elections which saw a slightly higher average vote for our ARC candidates as compared with 2004.”

Where did they all go? Did RAM forget to remind its (incredibly absent-minded) 3000 members to vote for their party?

For the bizarros of the Workers Party, the results are a little more pleasing. After all, it was only a few years ago that its Leader, Daphna Whitmore, was singing the praises of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and even Presidente Gonzalo.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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5 Responses to 2008 Election in Aotearoa/New Zealand

  1. Asher says:

    Actually, the NZ Parliament has 120 seats. Extra seats (there are 2 this election) come because a party wins more electorate seats than their share of the party vote would normally entitle them to. One of the quirks of MMP.

  2. Asher says:

    Oh, and some of your descriptions are a little bit off.

    ACT isn’t conservative, it’s classical liberal (with a bunch of libertarians inside it), although it does contain conservative elements as well.

    Jim’s party isn’t left, its probably centre-nationalist these days. Essentially identical policies to Labour, just that Jim would never rejoin them because of historical differences.

    The Alliance are social-democrat (if you’re feeling crueler) or democratic-socialists (if you’re feeling nicer), but def not socialist.

    And RAM aren’t socialist either – they’re social-democrats (much of their program was actually to the right of the Alliance). Although they are essentially a front for Socialist Worker (similar to Respect in the UK), and in fact SW has essentially dissolved itself to work within RAM, they aren’t a socialist party at all.

    Personally, I find it hilarious that RAM’s watered down social-democrat policies that they took specifically to win votes ended up getting them even less votes than the Workers Party.

  3. @ndy says:

    Right. Thanks for the corrections. I was kinda fudging it a bit…

    Re RAM. Yeah: what’s going on with that? 3000 members and only 400 votes?!? (Serious.) Also, I noticed Oliver only received $70 in his efforts to obtain $1000 towards his election campaign. By my calculations, this suggests that each RAM member was only prepared to donate 23 cents. This would also suggest a certain lack of confidence in the party.

  4. @ndy says:

    A dirty stinking Communist called Phil Ferguson (Workers Party) makes the following comments on Oliver’s blog. it appears to be a fairly reasonable assessment of the results for teh Left… that is, RAM and WP, at least!

    Hi Oliver,

    I don’t know about any nasty comments by any Workers Party people, but I’m WP and I have some comments, which you’ll hopefully take as constructive.

    One of the first things the left is obligated to do is tell the truth. Unfortunately, a section of the left in NZ prefers the same kind of vacuous politics and bloated exaggeration that characterises standard bourgeois politics.

    I think a serious problem that RAM activists are faced with is this same credibility gap. RAM has long exaggerated its real size and impact and this election has cut you folk badly because of this exaggeration. The election has revealed a much more realistic picture of RAM than the one put forward by a section of RAM (especially the SW [Socialist Worker] comrades).

    RAM is not some kind of “political tsunami”, but a tiny group of activists; its petition is a modest little effort (both in aims and real support); and RAM has no serious roots at all in the working class. (I don’t believe that the Workers Party does either, by the way, but we don’t pretend we’re riding a political tsunami or that we’re the fastest growing political party in the country, and all the other hyperbole which has been dished up by some RAM key figures who really should know a lot better – eg, Grant Morgan [RAM co-organiser and SW member]).

    I also think it’s not helpful when you make claims that RAM somehow did OK in the elections and was just the victim of a general shift right. If that was the case then, given the claims RAM made before the elections, you would still have been able to outpoll the WP and the Alliance. Why didn’t you?

    In Christchurch, for instance, WP polled 116 party votes to RAM’s 13. That’s a fairly accurate reflection of the balance of forces between RAM and the WP in Christchurch. Indeed, it’s a fairly accurate reflection of the balance of forces between WP and RAM in the entire South Island.

    In Wellington Central, Grant Brookes told one of our comrades on election night that he expected to get 1,000 votes. He got 48, less than a third of our candidate’s vote and only about a dozen party votes.

    Even in most of the Auckland electorates where RAM had candidates, it only got a few more party votes than us – the place where the difference was biggest in RAM’s favour was actually Epsom.

    And look outside the big cities to seats like Northland. We got 21 votes there compared to RAM which, I think, got 3! There are a load of electorates all around the country where our much more hard left platform got far more votes than RAM. Indeed, we got votes in every constituency in the country, whereas RAM got no votes in a number of seats.

    We’ve always argued that playing down left-wing politics is both unprincipled and a loser. I’m not accusing you of doing this, since you have never claimed to be hard left, but your SW partners have. They have consistently shifted further and further to the right and away from class politics, and the RAM election fiasco is the harvest. (And I’m not being nasty here – when you get less than a 7th of your claimed party membership voting for you, it’s hard to suggest any other term than fiasco is appropriate.) We ended up with about 550 or 570 members being accepted by the Electoral Commission and I can tell you for sure that if we had’ve got less than 80 votes (1/7th) we would have been upfront that it was a disaster and there would have been a genuine and serious critical rethink.

    SW seems simply so far gone that I wouldn’t hold my breath for any sort of critical rethink there, although I would be delighted to be proved wrong. In your case, however, I hope that you do seriously rethink the whole RAM project and consider that maybe something a lot more left is both necessary and possible.

  5. Grant says:

    The 2008 general election was a harsh one for many people in New Zealand, not only for the three socialist, or socialist-inspired parties contesting the election, which are the subject of discussion on this page.

    But for the sake of correcting a footnote-to-a-footnote to history, I feel I have to set the record straight.

    Among Phil Ferguson’s voluminous output over many years, there are some insights and useful analysis. But he has proved constitutionally incapable of providing anything approaching accurate comment on RAM or the organisation known as Socialist Worker.

    I am the “Grant Brookes” who stood as the RAM candidate in Wellington Central. Phil’s claim that I “told one of our [WP] comrades on election night that he expected to get 1,000 votes” is simply not true.

    What really happened was this… I stopped by the Workers Party function around 7pm on election night in 2008. At the ground floor entrance to Anvil House, I stopped and talked briefly with Jasmine, a Workers Party member who’d had a few drinks by that stage. She asked me how I thought I would do. I said I didn’t know, but said there was no way I’d be getting over 1,000 votes. I said I’d feel satisfied with 150-200.

    I then went inside, to congratulate the Workers Party candidate, Don Franks, on running a strong campaign. I told him I thought he was going to do well (better than me).

    Phil Ferguson wasn’t at the party that night, so somewhere along the line Chinese whispers created the story above (which has sadly been reposted many times – testimony to the internet’s great strength in spreading unfounded rumours).

    I can’t say where the miscommunication took place.

    Perhaps Jasmine misheard me (after her few drinks).

    Perhaps she passed on inaccurate information to Phil Ferguson (very shortly after this, she was expelled from the Workers Party and branded a purveyor of “lurid fiction” – see http://expelledfromworkersparty.blogspot.co.nz/, or http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/05/20/statement-on-jasmine-freemantles-expulsion/).

    Or perhaps Jasmine passed on an accurate account of our brief conversation, and Phil heard only what he wanted to hear – that is, grounds for launching yet another attack on fellow socialists like us.

    The real story behind this otherwise insignificant event is the openness of RAM activists to work with and to express personal support for others on the left, and the implacable hostility of Phil Ferguson to anyone outside his own party. For anyone who knows these tiny groups, this will surely ring true.

    This footnote-to-a-footnote to history does have a salutory ending. Phil Ferguson later turned his boundless hostility towards members of his own party, and walked out (http://workersparty.org.nz/2012/01/18/on-the-party-question/), closing a long chapter on antagonisms like the one expressed above.

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