Magazine article New Zealand Management

A Definition for "Fresh"

Magazine article New Zealand Management

A Definition for "Fresh"

Article excerpt

The same but different: that's what voters want. But what they want to stay the same and what they want to be different varies from voter to voter--and from generation to generation.

These contradictory wants don't bother small parties. A small party's aim is to make a difference: a particular difference or differences. It is in Parliament not to manage the state but to prod policy down a liberty (ACT), or family (United Future), or oldies (New Zealand First), or green (Greens), or brown (Maori party) track.

A large party's aim is to manage the state, with a lean towards the party's core beliefs and the interests of its special support groups. Moreover, unlike small parties which can aspire at most to 10 percent of the vote, large parties which want to lead government must get 35 to 45 percent of the vote.

Such a large vote contains by definition many of the contradictory same-but-different hopes and angers: core voters and support groups, returning strays, converts from small parties and from the other big party.

For National, this year the most important target is converts from Labour: particularly liberal voters who in 2005 feared Don Brash. Generally, National is seeking centrist voters who can swing either way.

By definition centrist voters don't want big change. But to switch their votes requires either disappointment with the party they backed last time and/or comfort that the party they are moving to is in tune with their preferences.

Helen Clark in 1999 didn't promise a big change of direction. She proposed a "correction", a term drawn from market-speak to suggest a drawing back from an extreme position.

With 38 percent of the vote in 1996 held either by Labour or the Alliance (which by 1999 was in alliance with Labour) the core vote was secured. Clark's need was to reach across the divide, filch voters from National and its allies.

By and large a "correction" is what she delivered. Labour's vote grew in 2002 and held steady in 2005. National in 2005 reassembled its core vote but could not convert enough other voters from Labour or small parties to cross the line to the Treasury benches.

John Key has correctly identified that he needs some of Labour's 2005 votes to win. …

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