Left has to vote strategically this election


Chess composition

The dedication, loyalty, and tribalism of party politics means that sometimes the left lets itself down by not voting strategically. We all want our favoured party to get maximum votes, naturally, but the winner-takes-all approach doesn’t always suit multi-party left wing politics against a hegemonic and undivided right. Part of National’s strategic advantage is that it is a relatively undivided dominant bloc, whereas the left is a house divided and competing against itself. This is even though we share the same interests.
No party on the left has a monopoly on good policy – and we share overlapping values. And we all know we have to vote out National to save our country. The centre-to-left parties of Labour, the Greens and Internet/Mana all want to address poverty, inequality, to protect the environment and workers’ rights, and a transition to a cleaner economy. We’re concerned about surveillance, sovereignty and the future. Yet because many of us have such loyalty to our particular parties, we sometimes cast constituency votes that lead to a right, rather than left wing victory, in our particular seat and the country. We saw that last election, in Ohariu-Belmont when a split Labour-Greens vote saw the re-election of Peter Dunne; in Waitakere, when Carmel Sepuloni was beaten by 9 votes by Paula Bennett, and when Nicky Wagner defeated Brendon Burns by 47 in Christchurch East.
As we saw with the Epsom ‘cup of tea’ deal in 2011, National and parties on the right have no qualms with brokering deals to gain strategic advantage, but we haven’t quite mastered it on the left, despite our more communitarian views. Last election some suggested that the Greens should have focused on the party vote and left winnable seats to Labour instead of splitting the vote and letting National candidates slip through. There’s a strong case for negotiation and agreement when high ranking list MPs will get in anyway. We’re all better off if seats that are unwinnable by Green candidates are conceded to Labour who then win more constituency seats that would otherwise go to National.
This election has again shown the Left’s difficulty in the fine art of strategic political compromise. We can still stay loyal by advocating party votes for our preferred choice. But in marginal seats where the main contest is between National and Labour, it makes sense for even dedicated Green Party voters to give Labour candidates their support.
It gets even more difficult for the parties to concede votes in other areas. In Te Tai Tokerau where some polls show a tight race between Kelvin Davis for Labour, and Hone Harawira for Mana, the election of Hone could make the difference for the whole party and lead to the election of three or four new MPs of real integrity, therefore improving the chances of a left wing government for the benefit of the country. If Hone doesn’t win TTT, all the Internet/Mana votes could be wasted. A victory for Kelvin in Te Tai Tokerau, might lead to a loss for the left as a whole. It’s not just TTT that’s at stake, it’s the whole future of a left wing Government.
Which party you support determines what you think it means to vote strategically. But in close seats, sometimes the votes for other, sympathetic party’s candidates are the wisest votes of all.


  1. Well said and detailed, Christine. I am in complete agreement, and although I work for one left party on the ground, I am in agreement with you. The path to gaining a left majority in Parliament must be considered by each individual voter to favour the entire LEFT in the long run. Strategic voting will need to be practiced by all the left to oust National–as national has used it to gain nefarious power in Epsom, Ohariu, and now probably Te Tai Tokerau (look for the right wingers there to try to vote Hone out)
    And PS, ignore the polls. I know not one single Pacific Islander or young person on a cell phone, who has been called.

  2. The Green Party has only ever contested for the Party vote, and Internet Mana Party are only contesting for the Party vote as well. This is very clear at the candidate meetings as well as on all the literature.

    My very clear recollection of the matter is that Labour are the ones who refused to do any deals before the election. I will leave it up to others to speculate why.

  3. Simple rule of thumb this election for the Electorate Vote, if you want National out and you’re in an electorate with any chance of Labour winning then vote Labour (Te Tai Tokerau excepted of course!!).
    As pointed out by Keith Rankin here, every Labour electorate seat counts especially if the party vote doesn’t get up.

    • Did the Greens make this clear in their contact with constituents? Would have been much better if they were resolute in this from the very beginning. (Oh, wait….it was Labour who rejected their suggestion of running a Labour-Green campaign. I guess they deserve to lose seats due to the vote split).

  4. I have been studying the electoral results from 2011 quite closely at my place of work recently, and it really is staggering to see how many seats there were around the country where the margin of difference between the National and the Labour candidate was significantly less than the amount of votes cast for the Green candidate.

    Now I’m a Green party voter myself, and I have a lot of love and respect for the Green candidates standing for their local electorates. However I think most Greenies will agree that having a Labour MP in those seats may not be our ideal scenario, but it is leaps and bounds above having yet another right-wing National MP get in.

    Paula Bennet in Waitakere. Nicky Wagner in Chch Central. Nikki Kaye in Akld Central. Kate Wilksonsin in the Waimak. These are all National MPs that would have lost if even half the Green electorate voters had gone for the Labour candidate. I realise I’m just parroting what has already been said by Christine but Green voters, I implore you–go for the lesser (much lesser) of two evils and electorate vote Labour.

  5. I have to agree with Shenanigans here, the Greens have cost Labour an awful lot of electorate seats, and that robs Labour of the ability to fund offices and do the important constituency work that National refuses to do. While I’ve always found the local Greens do campaign specifically for the party vote, they have to actually stop putting candidates on the ballot paper as they inevitably take votes away from Labour candidates.

Comments are closed.