New Zealand's 2020 Election in Six Songs

General elections are held every three years in New Zealand, and they’re due soon. Our electoral system is known as MMP – Mixed Member Proportional. Everyone gets two votes – one for a party and one for an electorate MP (Member of Parliament) – and a party wins seat in parliament if they either:

  • Win at least 5% of the party vote
  • Win an electorate seat

Here’s a song for each political party, coincidentally all from the 1970s:


Talent is an Asset – Sparks

Labour is one of New Zealand’s two major parties, dominating the centre-left. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has done a great job of dealing with emergencies like Coronavirus and the 2019 mosque shootings. Unfortunately her party has been lacking in talent – members like housing minister Phil Twyford and health minister David Clark have botched their jobs. Barring some unforeseen disaster, Labour’s going to easily win this year, but it’s mostly due to Ardern and a handful of competent MPs*. They’re going to need more talent going forward.


Send in the Clowns – Judy Collins

New Zealand’s other major party is National, and they occupy the centre-right. They last governed between 2008 and 2017. As a frame of reference, the National Party are much more similar to the American Democrats than to the Republicans, but I’d still had enough after nine years of not looking out for the little guy. Recently they named their third leader in a couple of months – Judith “Crusher” Collins – and they’ve had a chaotic time with MPs embroiled in scandals or resigning due to the multiple leadership changes.


Bop Gun (Endangered Species) – Parliament

National’s recent polling has been poor, due both to the popularity of Ardern for centre voters and their own disorganisation. One benefactor has been the right wing ACT – they’ve been an endangered species with just one MP in parliament for the last three terms. Partly due to their willingness to considering loosening up NZ’s gun laws, they look set to have half a dozen MPs this time. Unlike most right wing parties, there doesn’t appear to be much racism in ACT – they’re libertarians.

New Conservatives

Desperado – Linda Ronstadt

“Freedom, that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through the world all alone.”

The New Conservatives are another far-right party. Thankfully they’re polling down at 1%, partly due to a bunch of oddball parties (The Outdoors Party, Advance New Zealand, One Party) cannibalising each other’s votes. Their members like to wear MAGA hats to BLM rallies, claim that coronavirus is an excuse for the government to take away our liberties, and post bizarre memes equating their outspoken members to Gandhi. They make a big deal of unimportant things like gender identity in schools so they can ignore big issues like climate change, inequality, and systemic racism.


I’m So Green – Can

The New Conservatives deputy leader claims that “we would work with the Greens…if they removed 98% of their policies.” Obviously, that means I’m going to vote for the Greens. I don’t agree with everything, but I would like to have an environmental voice in government. They’re polling just above 5% and are likely to make it into parliament, but Labour are so popular right now that they may be able to govern alone without the Greens’ help.

New Zealand First

Where to Now, St. Peter? – Elton John

Veteran politician Winston Peters was the power broker in New Zealand’s last election, siding with Labour and the Greens over National and ACT. He’s served as Deputy Prime Minister for the last three years, but cracks in the coalition have been showing, and he’s unlikely to make it back into parliament. At 75 years of age, it may signal the end of a distinguished career.

It’s looking like we may have only four parties in parliament this year – Labour, National, ACT, and Greens – although it’s hard to predict what will happen in our Maori seats.

*Albeit, I have some personal history with current Health Minister Chris Hipkins. This goes back to the age of 8 when he made me read the first page of Roald Dahl’s The Twits out loud to him before I was allowed to issue it from the school library. He was just a primary school student like me – I guess bureaucracy starts early! He did recognise me when I bumped into him recently, and I have forgiven him.


  1. I wasn’t well versed on New Zealand politics except many around the world have sung Jacinda Arden’s praises as to how she has handled the mosque shooting and the corona virus. This was a very interesting way of explaining to us New Zealanders how your system works.

  2. Good Morning… Fun post but as an Aussie watching from across the ditch, young Winston Peters looks to be facing some big decisions, so thought you might have headed for Flash & the Pan’s “Hey St Peter” – in particular the lyrics “it really feels like hell”.

    • I had never actually heard of Flash & the Pan – I read they’re basically a reformed and reconfigured Easybeats? Both your choice and mine have similar themes about the afterlife, not surprising when St. Peter is in the title.

  3. Nice concept for a post, Graham. Teaches an overview of NZ’s political landscape and shows that the US and the UK aren’t the only ones with trouble in paradise with their governments.

    • We have had a lot of minor political scandals recently – most notably the health minister, who broke isolation rules during Covid, and the minister of workplace relations, who had a relationship with a staffer.

        • Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Although I’m pretty upset by extreme right wingers suggesting that Coronavirus regulations are an excuse for the government to grab power.

  4. I know nothing about politics but…I do like the Parliament the best! Out of the songs that is.
    You do have more legit choices than we do.

    • It is good having more than two viable options to vote for – although sometimes the complaint is that our two main parties are too close to each other. But I think two parties jostling for the centre is better than what’s happening in the states right now.
      I think Parliament is the best song, but Can, Elton John, and Sparks are all very good album tracks.

      • I couldn’t agree more about jostling for center.
        The only thing a third party does here is to takeaway votes from one of the main parties.

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