Sunday, 31 January 2010

United Dunne points out Greens' Record of Failures

United Future "Party" leader Peter Dunne isn't known as the country's most charismatic or inspiring politician, but his latest blog post seems to have really offended Tumeke! blogger Tim Selwyn. (Although Selwyn does correctly point out that Dunne has a fight on his hands to retain Ohariu next election).

I certainly couldn't describe myself as a fan of Peter "party of one" Dunne, but he does sometimes come out with some good thoughts, and his most recent blog post contains a number of interesting truths about the so-called Green Party of Aotearoa NZ.

Dunne argues that despite the regular praise heaped on the Greens by the news media, the Green Party has actually "been our most unsuccessful small party under MMP".

He comes to this conclusion by arguing that "the usual hallmark of political success is being part of a government", which of course the Greens have spectacularly failed to accomplish, even under Hillin Cluck's watch!
First, no member of the Greens has ever held office as a Minister in a government.

That sets them apart from every other small party that has emerged under MMP. The Alliance, ACT, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture have all had Ministers in government, able to push through key aspects of their respective parties’ policies.
Apart from a short-lived term following the famous/infamous "worm" debate on State TV, Dunne has helmed a very small parliamentary party. Yet he has somehow managed to persuade the majority party that his one or two votes are useful and beneficial to forming a government.

And to give Dunne due credit, he has managed to extract more in policy concessions over the years than ACT's Rodney Hide has managed to get out of National in the current parliament with 5 MPs.

Dunne sounds frustrated but is correct in his assessment of the attitude of the self-proclaimed "mainstream" media towards the Greens. There is a definite media bias towards the Greens here, with reporters happy to repeat statements and assertions by the party's MPs verbatim, while often treating comments from other MPs with scepticism.
"... the news media and the commentariat have failed consistently to acknowledge this point, let alone draw it to public attention.

Moreover, they have actually gone to the other extreme and generally lauded the Greens for their “success”, although they have been noticeably light when it comes to pointing out what those successes have been."
A survey completed in 2008 by Dr Babak Bahador from Canterbury University looked at the media coverage of New Zealand's political parties in the 2008 election, comparing the level and tone of the coverage for each party.

The Greens received 32.6% positive media coverage, 49% neutral, and just 18.4% negative coverage. In comparison, National's positive media coverage was just 22.3%, along with 39.8% neutral and 37.9% negative coverage. Labour got 25.4% positive, 39% neutral, and 35.6% negative.
The most glaring evidence of msm bias in NZ was the finding that during the 2008 election campaign, every party received more media coverage than electoral support, except for National and ACT.

Stories specifically featuring the Green Party made up 7% of the stories during the election campaign. (The Green's other big political failure is the fact that their pre-election poll ratings have never translated into the same level of support on election day.)
Some have questioned whether the Greens can crack the 5% MMP threshold next election, with Jeanette Fitzsimons leaving the building, Sue Kedgley on her way out, and loudmouth Sue Bradford already gone.

Electoral statistics guru David Farrar blogged last year about New Zealand's 5% MMP threshold, and the effects on representation if the threshold was lowered or abolished altogether.

Even Winston Peters has been analysing the success (or otherwise) of MMP this week, with a speech to Political Science students at Auckland University. As usual, Peters has some bold claims, but manages to make a few good points...
The Royal Commission recommended that a hundred MPs in a new MMP system would work. We ended up with 120 because the two old parties reckoned that the 20 extra would put voters off the change.

In time, the Maori seats were supposed to go. We were all to be blended in – as we should be!
It's time for MPs to become bold enough to introduce MMP as the Royal Commission recommended... Reducing the threshold to 4%, axing the separatist Maori electorate seats, and increasing the Parliamentary term to 4 years.

* Peter's Position - A couple of Unpleasant Facts to Ponder
* Kiwiblog - Final Results of the 2008 Election Media Study
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