Now, a historic fishy story… It is so entertaining lately with a ‘cliff-hanger’ election looming. So many TRM inmates have come fishing for some peace and quiet away from all the election nonsense. But over a strong cup of tea at ‘confessional’ after fishing they had found time to think about it all and were impatient to vent their frustrations at the NZ election process encouraging such a poor system of Government. They consider we can do much better. This was recently also confirmed in TRM’s facebook – i.e.
Mainfreight group managing director Don Braid suggested New Zealand needed to rethink the political landscape. “I think having an Opposition that sits there and says no to everything – to have no bipartisan agreement on health, on education, on investment in our infrastructure, across political lines – has created the environment that we’ve got.”
That sums it up. Below is a wonderful, although now historical, example of how NZ’s political future and the Government from 1981 was decided in Taupo by a game of darts. Absolutely true! The same could happen again.
The Taupo Workingman’s Club dart team had organised a darts tournament against the Horowhenua Darts Club at 1 pm. on the same date as the election – 28 November 1981. About forty members of the Taupo team decided to meet at the club at 10 am to have a social drink before casting their votes. When the Horowhenua team arrived early, before lunch, they were greeted by their hosts wearing red ribbons. The Taupo team and supporters applied the usual darts club host strategy to oil them up as much as possible before the game – hoping to spoil their concentration and aim. As you would expect, soon their darts games started and the election was neglected as none left to vote. It turned out to be critical as the Labour Party lost by one seat. The Taupo majority to National was 36 votes (see below for more detail)
In case you imagine this is a TRM fishy story see following historic accounts: x-Wikipedia:
Before the 1981 election, the National Party governed with 50 seats, while the opposition Labour Party held 40 seats. The Social Credit Party held two (one of which had been taken from National in a recent by-election). The National Party had won a landslide victory in the 1975 election, but in the 1978 election, although remaining in office, had lost ground. The style of Robert Muldoon‘s leadership was growing increasingly unpopular, both with his party and with the public, and there had been an abortive leadership challenge by Brian Talboys in 1980. Some commentators believed that the 1981 election would mark an end to Muldoon’s government.
Some pundits have since claimed that the Springbok Tour increased votes for National in provincial electorates, despite the tour not being seen as a major election issue. (We disagree – it was a major factor – see below)
The opposition Labour Party was led by Bill Rowling, who had been leader of the party in the past two elections. While Rowling had performed poorly against Muldoon in 1975, and was generally viewed by the public as weak, he had gradually recovered a measure of public respect. In the previous election, Labour had won a plurality of the vote, but did not win a majority of the seats. Many believed that this time, Labour would manage to convert its support into seats, although that did prove not to be the case.
Not all of Muldoon’s opponents gave their support to Rowling and the Labour Party, however. The small Social Credit Party, traditionally New Zealand’s “third party”, was enjoying strong support, but the first-past-the-post electoral system made it difficult for Social Credit to win seats. After the East Coast Bays by-election, Social Credit reached as high as 30% in the polls, but it then declined.
The election was held on 28 November. 2,034,747 people were registered to vote, and 91.4% turned out. That was a markedly higher turnout than recorded for the previous election, but as the official statistics for that election are regarded as highly misleading, the comparison is probably not valid. It is likely that turnout in the 1981 election was about the same as in the election before it.
Summary of results
The 1981 election saw the National Party win 47 of the 92 seats in parliament, a drop of three from before the election (National lost Hunua, Kapiti, Miramar and Wellington Central but won Taupo). This meant that National kept its majority by only a single seat, which became highly problematic over the next parliamentary term. The Labour Party won 43 seats, a gain of three (Labour won Hunua, Kapiti, Miramar and Wellington Central but lost Taupo). The Social Credit Party managed to retain its two seats, East Coast Bays and Rangitikei.
For the second election in a row, Labour won more votes than National, but fewer seats, allowing National to retain government despite not winning the popular vote. Social Credit won more than 20% of the popular vote but only two seats. This result, and that of 1978, contributed to New Zealand adopting the Mixed Member Proportional system of proportional representation in the 1990s.
We could hardly believe it was happening in New Zealand. There were acts of violence and civil disorder such as we had not seen since the 1951 Waterfront Strike. At times the country seemed to be gripped with a civil war mentality.
The country’s police force was stretched to its limits trying to maintain law and order. Riot squads equipped with long batons confronted a civilian army of protestors.
The Rugby Union was determined to press on with the Springbok Tour. Rugby fans wanted to see the All Blacks pitted against the Springboks and they would not be put off by threats of civil disorder. Few of these rugby supporters favoured apartheid but they did not see why they should be forced to miss an opportunity of seeing the world’s two top rugby giants in action.
The Government maintained that withholding visas would set a dangerous precedent. Foreign Affairs Minister, Brian Talboys, had called on the Rugby Union to cancel the tour and with this the Government considered it had fulfilled its obligations under the Gleneagles Agreement.
In Hamilton on 25 July, thousands protested and thousands more streamed into the park to watch the second match of the tour. Protestors circled the park. They found a weak point where they pulled down the fence. Suddenly, anti-tour protestors were pouring through to occupy the football field. As tension mounted, the match was called off. Angry scenes followed in and around the streets of Hamilton.
One week later, five thousand protestors encountered Auckland’s Red Squad in Palmerston North. The sea of hard hats was unprecedented in New Zealand protest history. Confronted with row upon row of police with batons drawn, the protestors were told “if we wish to beat the Government and get the tour stopped it is not going to be by going through police lines.”
For another six weeks there were ongoing acts of violence, confrontation and civil disobedience up until that last awful day in Auckland. The game carried on under a barrage from a small plane which swooped low over the park at regular intervals bombarding players with flour bombs and flares. Riots in the streets of Auckland reached a new peak. Police were pelted with rocks. Palings were torn from fences. A car was overturned and smashed in Onslow Road. Police charged demonstrators only to be repeatedly driven back under a hail of missiles. The battle of charge and counter charge lasted perhaps half an hour and then the tour was over.
Ten weeks later, the 1981 General Elections were held and the Springbok Tour was an issue. Prevailing attitudes in provincial centres were anger and resentment against protestors who had impeded the democratic right of people to assemble for lawful purposes.
The election which was held on 28 November proved to be a cliff-hanger. It was finally determined on the basis of an electoral petition in Taupo where National’s Roger McClay was confirmed as the successful candidate with a majority of 36. This meant National held 47 seats, Labour 43 and Social Credit 2.