Updated: doing the math on the Labour list

Back in November I posted about getting more women into Parliament – particularly, through the Labour Party’s list process.

Now there have been a few key candidate selections which shift the math a little.

Here’s where we were in November:

  • Labour holds 27 electorates and has 5 list MPs (Little, Ardern, Parker, Cosgrove, Moroney).
  • 12 of the 32 Labour MPs are women – 37.5%

Since then a few key events have taken place:

  • The Mt Roskill byelection doesn’t change the balance
  • Women’s representation in electorate seats took a blow with Annette King stepping down and Paul Eagle being selected unopposed in Rongotai – this should be cancelled out with Jacinda Ardern taking Mt Albert on 25 February
  • Deborah Russell was selected to run in New Lynn following David Cunliffe’s retirement
  • Greg O’Connor has got the nod in Ōhāriu. This should absolutely be winnable given his public profile, Dunne and Hudson splitting the right vote, and building on Ginny Andersen’s hard work to get the majority down to 700.

My assumptions remain static for the sake of easier math, but feel free to leave your own variations in the comments! So: let’s assume Labour shouldn’t lose any currently-held seats (and I will flag here that there’s a lot of rumour and discussion going on about the Māori seats, but that’s well outside my political expertise). Some good hard campaigning should deliver Duncan Webb in Christchurch Central, too.

So on electorates, post-2017, we end up at:

  • 29 electorates, 12 of which are held by women, plus the top list position going to Andrew Little – that’s 40%
  • At this point, at a minimum, Labour has to win 30% of the party vote to bring in six more list MPs, literally all of whom have to be women, to get a 50:50 split.

However, add in Willie Jackson “in the single digits” with Trevor Mallard and David Parker ahead of him and Labour will require 35% of the party vote, with every single other list MP – 9 in all – being women, to achieve parity.

That’s, fair to say, a pretty substantial bump on Labour’s recent party vote results, and it’s hard luck for any other Labour dudes, if the moderation committee is genuinely dedicated to parity.

So even with an unwavering commitment to putting the talented, well-connected, dedicated women you hear about like Willow-Jean Prime, Liz Craig, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Janette Walker, or Jo Luxton high on the list, the math doesn’t look great. And that’s a real pity.

The easy excuse is “oh, but not enough women stood for selection in safe seats” and its nonchalant cousin, “oh but too many safe seats were held by men, what can you do?”

But those are cop-outs. The fact is, you can’t just magic equal representation out of thin air. And no one expects you to. Overcoming ancient, ingrained systemic discrimination demands action and will and planning, not a last-minute panicked search down the back of the sofa cushions looking for spare sheilas. As I said in my previous post:

We don’t set gender equity goals because women need help. We set them because our institutions need help, to step out of the past and be fit for the future. It’s nothing to be frightened of. It makes us stronger, not weaker, when we acknowledge the problems of the past and take action to rebalance the scales.

Doing the right thing isn’t easy. But that’s not the point, is it? You do it because it’s the right thing to do. And maybe in 2017, it’s simply mathematically impossible for Labour to reach gender parity. The question is whether the party will take a lesson from this, and get a lot better at promoting women, and people from other marginalized groups, and truly representing the diversity of New Zealand. That’s how the left wins, after all. The alternative is, well, a little bleak.

3 Replies to “Updated: doing the math on the Labour list”

  1. My biggest concern currently is the attitude to women by some of the men being selected and what this will mean in a caucus where women are a minority. Jackson and O’Connor have both have been rape apologists and I really find it difficult to believe that these two men have changed their views.

    Willie Jackson claims to have a better understanding now but he is still best mates with Tamihere, and it wasn’t long ago he was trying to get Mike Tyson over here. O’Connor may say his defence of some appalling police behaviour was just him representing association members – if so then he needs to make a statement about what he really does believe in.

    Obviously Jackson will get highish list seat but it should be based on Labour getting a much higher vote share – if he’s that good at recruiting disaffected Māori youth let’s see the evidence. O’Connor has been given a winnable seat – he needs to show he can bring votes to Labour and should not be given a good list placing as well.

  2. Can I just check my numbers with yours (setting aside the Maori electorates, which I also don’t feel competent to speculate on)?

    I make Labour’s present post-Shearer electorate split 16-10 male/female.
    – Mt Albert will make it 16-11.
    – Then in 2017 there are 3 known changes in Labour held seats to factor in: Hutt South could either make it 15-12 or 15-11 depending on outcome; Rongotai will make it 16-11/12; New Lynn will make it 16-12/13.
    – Then in 2017 we may well be adding (or not) Greg O’Connor (16/17-12/13) and Duncan Webb (16/17/18-12/13).
    – Add in Andrew Little and the range of “pre-committed” Labour seats is 17/18/19 male MPs to 12/13 female.

    Given that the list gender-balance ranking process only happens after assumptions about these sorts of questions are made, it shows how difficult it is for the Moderating Committee to create a list that delivers 50%+ female representation! Worst case (19-12), it actually has to allow for 8 “extra” female MPs before bringing in a male from the list. It’s only in the very best case (17-13) that it “only” has to allow for five. And as we know that there’s 3 other men going to get “winnable” list places … you’re right that the math is pretty ugly!

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