After the provisional election results were announced a couple of weeks ago I ran a post looking at how National and the other right or centre-right parties had done in this election compared to the experiences of the other two times (since National and Labour first dominated the scene) that a party had won a fourth term (1935 to 1949 under Labour, and 1960 to 1972 under National). In both those cases, the winning party actually increased its vote share in the election that secured the fourth term (1946 and 1969).
MMP muddies the waters somewhat. But here is a chart showing, using the final results this afternoon, the combined vote share for National, ACT, and the Conservative Party for the last four elections (numbered along the bottom) and comparing it with National’s experience in the four 1960s elections. I’ve argued previously that most Conservative Party voters would (a) otherwise have voted National or stayed at home, and (b) had the Conservative Party won seats they’d have sided with National as surely as the Greens side with Labour.
The centre-right parties did impressively well to increase their total vote share in 2011 and again in 2014. But the fall-off in this election – 6.6 percentage points – is pretty stark.
It may still be enough to lead the next government – time and New Zealand First will tell – but, if so, it is hardly a ringing endorsement. Here is some contextual material around National’s 1969 victory that I included in the earlier post.
Now that looks more like a genuinely impressive performance – the governing party lifting its vote share in the election in which it gained a fourth term. There had been industrial action at the time of the election which had hurt the Labour Party, but the previous three years had been a very tough time to govern. Wool prices had collapsed (and with them the overall terms of trade), the New Zealand government had been forced into a devaluation in late 1967, and had borrowed from the IMF under a pretty stringent domestic austerity programme. Things here had been tough enough that over the three calendar years 1967 to 1969 there was a small overall net migration outflow (the first such outflows since the end of World War Two).