New Zealand Political Mix

With New Zealand gearing up for one of its triennial parliamentary elections later this year, there is more interest than usual in the polls. These are less frequent than in the UK.. The latest one shows this:

National  46% Conservatives
NZ First  11% UKIP
Labour  30% Labour
Greens  11% Lib. Dem.
Other ( Mana /   Maori / ACT ) 2%

The right hand column above shows the very, very rough read-across from English politics. It is all eerily familiar.

What is different is the electoral system, which is Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP). That is to say there are constituencies with a first past the post system, and there is a list system to ensure proportionality in the final result. The slight oddity is that it is possible for a party or parties to “over-achieve” in the constituency section in a way that cannot be rebalanced by the list section. This results in the normal 120 seat parliament having extra seats. So, in 2008 the Maori party won 5 seats in the constituency section, rather than the 3 they were entitled to by their share of the vote. So that parliament ended up with 122 members.

As you can see National is closest to a majority, and they would need to do something pretty remarkable to take over 50% of the vote. In fact no party has had an overall majority for more than 20 years. The current government is a minority National administration.

Is that good or bad? Well NZ currently has a 0.5% (and rising)budget surplus, an unemployment rate around 5% (and falling), and national debt around 30% of GDP (and falling). Government spending is 35% of GDP (and falling). Comparable figures for the UK are; -5% ie budget deficit (and falling slowly), 5% (and static), 85% (and static), and 43% (and static). Optimists might point out that official projections are a tad more positive for the UK than my comments in brackets. So that is all pretty positive for NZ – and it is a cracking place to live, outside Auckland at least. Auckland does suffer in a small way from the usual problems of large cities; house prices, commuting, public transport, cost of living.

Is New Zealand’s relative success helped or hindered by its political system? Well residents seem pretty happy, judging by the way they vote. There is not the same anti-establishment groundswell in NZ that gave us Brexit and Trump. My read across from NZ First to UKIP may have given NZ First a more rebellious shine that they have yet earned. But they are tentatively exploring anti-establishment territory. So maybe . . .



UK Employment Figures

There is the usual difference of view over the latest figures in the UK from the Labour Force Survey reported by the ONS (Organisation for National Statistics).

The Daily Telegraph goes with: “Nearly 450,000 more migrants are working in the UK while the number of British-born people in work has fallen by 120,000, according to new figures.”

The Guardian goes with: “Of the 303,000 more people in work between October and December compared with a year earlier, 233,000 were non-UK nationals, taking the total to 3.48 million according to the Office for National Statistics. UK nationals working in Britain increased by 70,000 over the same period to 28.44 million.”

British workers “falling”, or British workers “rising”. Take your pick. This difference lies in whether we regard being “British” as “British born” or “British nationals”. For what it is worth, I am a British national, born in Ghana.

This is clearly a difficult area. Looking on the BBC website, I find . . . absolutely nothing on this important topic!

The Guardian goes on to say in a related article on wages that: “Employers have also been able to find workers from overseas. Between the final three months of 2015 and the final three months of 2016, the number of people employed rose by just over 300,000. Of those, 70,000 were UK nationals and 230,000 were non-UK nationals. The increase in the supply of labour has helped to keep the lid on wage increases.”

Eh! This is the Guardian, and they note that the availability of non-British labour, whichever way you define it, has “helped” to keep the lid on wage increases. HELPED!

If you are one of the traditional working class people in the Stoke Central constituency who  voted for “Leave” in the Brexit referendum, I imagine that you would rather view wage increases as not just a very good thing, but a suitable objective of government policy.

The liberal elite see the quarterly ONS employment numbers as a pit of vipers to be treated with extreme care, or not at all (BBC). Is there any other issue that encapsulates so clearly the yawning gulf between the UK electorate and the elite who have mis-governed them for so long?