Post-election conference held at Parliament

The traditional post-election conference, organised by Professor Stephen Levine from the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, brought key political, academic and media personalities together to dissect the 2020 result.

The Hon Chris Hipkins speaking at the Post-Election Conference 2020
The Hon Chris Hipkins speaks at the Post-Election Conference 2020. Photo credit: Nigel Roberts

On 9 December 2020, Parliament’s final sitting day of the year, the Programme’s traditional post-election conference was held in Parliament’s Legislative Council Chamber. Participants included the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern (via a specially recorded message, as the conference coincided with the one-year commemorations of the volcanic eruptions at White Island / Whakaari, at which she needed to be present); Green Party leader James Shaw; National Party leader Judith Collins; and ACT Party leader David Seymour. A presentation was also given by Minister of Education (and Minister for Covid-19 Response) Chris Hipkins, drawing attention to the government’s policies and priorities for the three-year term to which it had just been elected.

The conference was opened with a welcome and address from the Speaker, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, two weeks following his re-election to that role. Participants in the all-day conference included veteran journalist / author Colin James; Henry Cooke, Chief Political Reporter, ‘Stuff’; and Tova O’Brien, Political Editor, Newshub, and one of TV3’s moderators on election night 2020. A keynote address, following the Speaker’s welcome, was given by the University of Otago’s Professor of Public Health, Michael Baker, putting the election into the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s response, outlining the steps taken and options for the future. Other presentations focused on the government’s record with respect to firearms control (Dr Hera Cook) and housing issues (Brodie Fraser); an analysis from UMR’s Executive Director Stephen Mills of opinion poll findings, exploring the reasons for the Labour Party’s convincing victory; AUT Professor Geoffrey Craig’s analysis of the campaign’s televised leaders’ debates; the impact of populist appeals on the election (Margaret Joiner).

Professor Michael Grimshaw (University of Canterbury) displayed and discussed an array of political cartoons produced during the campaign; Dr Lara Greaves focused on campaigns and election outcomes in the Maori seats; Luke Oldfield analysed features of the two 2020 referendums (end-of-life; marijuana legalisation); Dr Therese Arseneau and Emeritus Professor Nigel S. Roberts clarified what is meant by ‘special votes’, looking at their impact in 2020 (and previous elections); and political consultant Dr Stephen Church offered ’15 lessons’ arising out of the election outcome and Labour’s formation of its 2020-23 government.

Nigel Roberts’ photographs of political party campaign billboards were also made available, displayed throughout the day on a continuous loop in Parliament’s Grand Hall.

The conference – the 12th in a series initiated by Professor Margaret Clark in 1987 – was hosted by Professor Stephen Levine, a participant at each of these conferences and editor of many of the post-election publications, including “Stardust and Substance: The New Zealand General Election of 2017”.

The conference presentations, supplemented by additional contributions from authors in New Zealand and overseas, is to form the basis of the 2020 election book, to be published during 2021 by Victoria University Press.

You can view Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s conference message here.

A selection of photos from the event, taken by Nigel Roberts, can be viewed here.