Dr Liz Gordon: Governing alone in the MMP environment


There has not been a one-party government in New Zealand since 1993.  It was a crap government, led by Jim Bolger but determined to continue the strong neo-liberal path opened up by Labour (1984 and 1987) and confirmed by their own National Government (1990, the mother of all budgets, make the rich richer and the poor poorer).

Those four elections rained terrible policies down on the heads of New Zealanders. Let us make it clear that people voted for MMP because they hated the vagaries of one party government, when such governments were able to turn their backs on the people and just do whatever they wanted.  And we are still paying the cost for those neoliberal times. Not everyone – just the bottom 90% who are all worse off. That’s right.  You and I.

There have been good majority governments in the past, and bad ones. The best were probably the 1935 and 38 Labour governments. The worst were probably in the 1950s and 1970s, dreadful bullying National governments. The 1951 waterfront strike. And so on.

MMP has done the job it was expected to do from 1996. It mainstreamed voices that were never heard before. We got the gold card out of New Zealand First.  Paid parental leave out of the Alliance.  Environment sustainability out of the Greens. It brought us Act, and then marginalised it.  There are no big winners under MMP, although the voice of social democracy, the Alliance, was lost.

Those of us on the Left have to decide between whether to vote for Labour, and by doing so potentially support a one-party majority, or to support the Greens, thus potentially voting for a coalition government, or even risking a wasted vote.

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It needs to be said that the Greens have not covered themselves in glory during this campaign.  I am hard-pressed to find any positive policy reason to vote for them, and the shadow of the Green School funding error hangs over their heads. They appear to have nothing extra to offer.  As I have voted Green for several elections (interspersed with forays into Internet and Mana Parties), the potential loss of my vote, and others like me, might be the death knell for the Greens. I am still pondering this.

In case it needs to be said, I will continue to strongly support Megan Woods as my electorate MP. I like Megan (a lot) as a person, support her personal values and think she has been a wonderful Minister. I feel lucky that she is mine to choose.  I love Jacinda too, and Grant, and Andrew Little as my friends.  I am just worried that as a majority government Labour will not deliver all – or even a majority – of those things I hope for.

So, my vote is between the MMP savvy one as the Greens, and where my heart currently lies as a majority FPP type government for Labour.  My personal likes and loves are getting in the way of my political experience, which says ’never again a majority government’. Three weeks out, I am undecided about how I will use my party vote. Labour or Greens.  I would be very happy to receive your views on what I should do. Please note this is very significant for me.  I have not voted Labour since 1987. 33 long years. But I might change now. I might vote Labour. What else is there for someone like me? Can such a vote deliver a move to the society I want?


Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. Dr Gordon, Thank you for this post!
    It is certainly a question that I’ve been turning over, but now I’m clear as to what I want to do. I’m in the East Coast Electorate where Anne Tolley was unassailable for the longest time 🙂 But now it has changed and Labour’s Kiri Allan has a good chance of making it in. It cannot be taken for granted as this has long been a very “Blue” seat, so every vote counts. So of course my Electorate vote will be for Kiri.

    However I finally put aside my disappointment with, and at times anger at the Greens, for now anyway, and will give them my Party vote. I would NOT be doing this if I thought there was any chance of Jacinda not being returned, but I am now certain that she will continue to lead us safely through the times ahead. That being so, I want to see the Greens back in some form as well, so I’m party voting Green.

    The Greens do now have a raft of very good policies, brought out over the last week or so, including yesterday’s Oceans release. Can they implement them? I don’t know, but if no-one’s there to represent them then those new, excellent policies won’t get a look in. I am very much hoping that they do get that chance.

    • Agree with your decision. James Shaw stuffed up but it was the party that got him back in line. The Greens have been thwarted by NZ1st and have not achieved as much as they would wish. And I think that is because they don’t play dirty like Winston and that is something I admire So I will be voting Party Vote Green like you because I want honourable politics…. and clean water and no plastics and landscapes preserved and fish in the sea and a seriously less unequal society…. the list goes on. Like you I am going to vote for what I believe.

      • Very true. Also, it isn’t likely James will remain as co-leader far beyond the next election. He doesn’t appear to really get what survival for the planet is going to take. Having said that, he is a nice guy and will probably do the decent thing after the election.

  2. So it seems you must have voted for the continuation of Rogernomics in ’87 Liz. What can I say?
    I agree that the vote for MMP was an attempt by the people to prevent another hijack of the democratic process that enabled neoliberalism to be imposed on an unwilling and unsuspecting electorate. But MMP has inevitably made it that much harder for a government to make the radical changes necessary to reverse that system.
    If you believe this labour government wants to do this you should give them the opportunity. If not then you should vote for the coalition partner you believe most likely to influence them toward doing that.
    D J S

  3. Spud bolger is a traitor to his chosen vocation, farming, and I told him so to his face back in 1989. I also told dodgy old dim wit SIR pete eleworthy that he was a useless bastard and contrary to what he’d have us all believe he’d done fuck all for farmers unless you could call selling them into debt and despair ‘something’.
    That was at a time of don brash’s up to 22% interest rates back when brash and winnie ‘pin stripes’ peters were mutually back scratching each other which was famously caught on camera
    @ LG?
    You write:
    “Those four elections rained terrible policies down on the heads of New Zealanders. Let us make it clear that people voted for MMP because they hated the vagaries of one party government, when such governments were able to turn their backs on the people and just do whatever they wanted. ”

    “…people voted for MMP because they hated the vagaries of one party government…”
    No they didn’t. They voted for mmp because the all but mythical people you mention were head fucked by an all bought and paid for MSM to armour plate the natzo’s and their minions against getting their arses kicked and their offshore numbered swiss bank accounts audited. Aye piggy muldoon? ( Photo in press of pig scurrying off a plane in AO/NZ with his little brief case and fresh back from switzerland. He was known to have a numbered swiss bank account.)
    If any government can simply turn its back on the people and do what it likes, that’s on the people. Not the government/s.
    We, the people have to get past this cap in hand approach to our politics and start telling our government what to do. NOT the other way around.
    When a government can convince we the people to look the other way, you silly little people, we know better now run along like good little workers, nothing to see here? That’s the day we’re fucked. Because like all naughty little children they’ll very soon get up to mischief. In the case of politics, politicians will get lobbied by Big Money and Big Money can only be made out of the want and despair of the many. Remember? It takes a lot of people working for miserable money to create one billionaire.
    This is a sobering and extraordinary watch.
    We, are all the same. And [we] all have the same parasites exploiting us. That must stop.
    “This film explores the true meaning of poverty in Southern Appalachia.”
    3 months ago (edited)
    I’m was born in 1968 in eastern KY…I had the best childhood you could ever imagine, I didn’t realize how hard my mom struggled to raise me, she worked so hard and I remember, I stayed with my Granny a lot but always enjoyed it so. I miss those simpler times and think of them often. I still live in the same county I was born in and if you think times were tough then you should see it now. I wish more docs were out there focusing on this subject. ”
    So is this.
    1965 Bluegrass/Mountain Music TV Special
    David Hoffman. Film maker.
    My subscribers and others have been asking me for some time to post the full film I made back in 1965–I first professional documentary–primetime television at that time. I was 22 years old. I had never really traveled outside of my home area of New England. Being with these wonderful people taken around by the extraordinary collector of talent, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, was one of the most memorable experiences of my life as a filmmaker. I know that some commentators will say that this is not bluegrass but mountain or old-time music. To me, the distinction is irrelevant. Bluegrass. Country. Mountain. Old time. The creative source is all the same. The wonderfully talented people of the Appalachian Mountains. This is not the entire film but a good part of it.

    • Good stuff there Country boy, – Our past travelling family fell in love with KY/Tennessee.

      We stopped at Bowling green KY just over the Tennessee border north of Nashville while on our way to Toronto in 1987 and picked up a small property for sale magazine and fell in love with that region and consequently went back months later and bought two homes there so we could rent and keep part for us to come back to every long weekend from working in Toronto, and Country music was so good we got a yearly family pass to Opryland – (Nashville, TN) gaylordopryland.guestreservations.com/

      We almost bought a 15 room motel in east KY and a farm nearby on the Tennessee River at Somerset KY where houseboats go all the way down the river to Nashville. – WOW factor there.

      The whole pastoral region reminded us all of NZ rolling farms and hills.

  4. Well our case is that we are oldies (over 70) so we will vote party for NZF and labour for MP.

    This ‘Green Party’ was not the Green Party we joined in 1999 as they then attracted us then as they were talking hard and protesting for the environment and to restore ‘public rail’ after it was sold.

    Now this Green party is not fighting for ‘our regional rail’ and we are so pissed off about that as they have lost the plot.

  5. A number of people are thinking through what you raise Liz. Party Vote Green for tactical reasons I say. I have not voted Labour since 1984, but have always voted. New Labour, Alliance, Mana, Green.

    The Greens showed where they were heading when Sue Bradford was rejected as leader, but none the less, one party rule is not worth contemplating. Greens have the best workers policy–even according to usual Labour supporters the NZCTU. Their policy document goes pretty close to a Basic Income by another name, and many other practical ideas.

    There are people in NZ Labour that have never truly embraced MMP, and dream of “one Labour to rule them all”, a scenario where we would not see Rogernomics rolled back as it so needs to be.

  6. Perhaps the crucial question is at what point does a wasted Green vote allow National/ACT to govern?

    I haven’t yet seen any calculations of the effect of wasted Green and NZ First votes. If there’s any risk at all, then one has to vote Labour for safety.

    • It will only be a wasted vote for Greens if everyone stars thinking that way. This is the time to vote Greens. Let’s make it a Labor Green government. Go to their website and read some of the 45 policies….the short version.

      • Well, The Greens gave into identity politics and run down any favor’s they had with Labour. In the end, once you start resting on policy formula and going no further you’re no use to anyone. The Greens have had 2 years of mediocre performance and 1 year of non performance where you’ve got to get the Prime Ministers commitment or try and get it for the big reforms. But y’know they’ve run out of puff.

  7. In case anyone’s not aware of this, every NZ Electorate has its own Wikipedia page, showing the history of how voting has gone in previous years, with all the results and those who were standing. Some have a history of being very close. Some used to be clearly for one or other party, but this year a lot seems to be changing.

    • Well, I sure hope that is the case in terms of changing!

      There only needs to be ‘enough’ Green Party votes to get them over the line. And the new Jacinda supporters likely come from elsewhere.

      But it is a worry relying on polls and pundits. I highly value our esteemed TDB editor, for his track record and recent travails battling the cops and state forces. But, I will wait till the votes are counted before I actually believe long time Tory voters will turn. Happy to be wrong.

  8. Looking at Labours disinterest in change over the last three years (just more globalist neo liberalism) and its reluctance to tell us what its policies going forward or is that resting on its laurels are, I’d say vote for anyone else (well expect National who look much the same as Labour).

  9. I traditionally vote Labour but when disillusionment set in I voted Green.
    Then disappointment set in so I voted TOP
    Then reality set in and I’m back to Labour.
    This election is different.
    I will vote Labour not because I am entirely happy with them. I am not.
    They are really just National light.
    But the very thought of this current iteration of National led by that woman, that deputy and that finance spokesperson scares the bejesus out of me.
    I will vote for any party that will ensure they are not only defeated but thrashed.

    • Given the vagaries of our MMP voting system and what happens to wasted votes, in this election you don’t need to vote Labour to thrash National as Labour is so far ahead of National that Labour will pick up the lions’ share of the wasted votes. So vote for a minor party and get two bites at the cherry where Labour gives you only one.

  10. I traditionally vote Labour but when disillusionment set in I voted Green.
    Then disappointment set in so I voted TOP
    Then reality set in and I’m back to Labour.
    This election is different.
    I will vote Labour not because I am entirely happy with them. I am not.
    They are really just National light.
    But the very thought of this current iteration of National led by that woman, that deputy and that finance spokesperson scares the bejesus out of me.
    I will vote for any party that will ensure they are not only defeated but thrashed.

  11. A little while ago I wrote bemoaning the fact that Social Credit never gets any recognition for their policies. I have just seen Bryan Bruce’s blog not only giving the Party a good cover of Social Credit policies but saying that they are worth voting for. Thanks Bryan.
    Having said that :- What became of my original comment? it looks like it has been deleted. This seems to happen to nearly all my comments. Am I correct?

    • Bonash, Your other comment is in this thread: 26 Days Until the NZ Election . It’s quite a way down.

      Here is a way to keep exact track of your comments:
      As soon as you have clicked “Post Comment” you then go to the link line at the top of the page, where you will see that your comment has an individual number. If you copy and paste that that link immediately (before changing pages) then you have that permanent record of your comment.

  12. ” I am just worried that as a majority government Labour will not deliver all – or even a majority – of those things I hope for ”
    I voted MMP in 1993 to end the plutocracy of the FPP system that has given us governments who acted dictatorially and enacted policies that a majority of the public could see were damaging but had only two choices Nasty National or Neoliberal light Labour.
    I don’t want the NZLP to be governing alone after polling day. If they have get a majority then there will be no need for a coalition which always delivers negotiation and compromise because the major party need the numbers to govern so that gives us a fairer mix of policy for three years because they have to negotiate.
    I still believe that this unprecedented covid election is still not decided and may throw up some interesting scenarios.
    A National majority although unlikely would be a far scarier prospect.

  13. Nothing is the same this election, we have a Muldoon type Blue National party, who NZF seems to want to align with. Act who wants to destroy the welfare system, no one seems to apart from labour focus on the now.
    Labour would in any event probably invite the greens into the fold as a type of insurance, even if they don’t need to.
    Top could be a party to surprise and could cause some problems for who ever wins.

  14. I’ve voted Labour for electorate and Green for party for all elections since MMP and see no reason not to do so now. Labour will always play it safe in order to keep power, but I want to see transformative action for the sake of my grandchildren – only Green policies provide that

  15. Thanks to all of you for your comments. You are a high class of reader – not one of the usual nasty swipes that I am the worst blogger in the world. This has made me wonder though about the metrics of voting Green. Bomber, would one of your mates write a considered, data-full blog on whether voting Green (with a pinch of redemption) will honour MMP or be a stupid wasted vote?

  16. I’m in that same dilemma too. have been a labour, Green, Maori Party, Mana voter. Definitely wont be voting the Gweens or labour this time because they’ve both failed to deliver anything substantial that you can say that has improve anything for Maori.
    Overpromised and again, under delivers, again. Just like the Clark era. We’re still at the bottom of all metrics.

    I’m struggling to talk myself into voting! It’ll be a first for decades for me. I could well join the 20.9% of voters that didnt show up in 2017?

  17. The tendency towards majority government and fewer parties in the House is baked into our MMP system.
    1. The 5% threshold is too high – the 2012 commission recommended 4% but that’s not in the interest of Labour or National.
    2. Wasted votes predominantly wind up going to the two big parties – that militates against savvy voters voting for minor parties.

    If you’re a left-leaning voter, then with Labour so far ahead of National you can risk a wasted vote on a minor party as it will mostly get redistributed to Labour. http://www.tiny.cc/WastedVotes


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