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Not a Fair Go: A History and Analysis of Social Credit's Struggle for Success in New Zealand's Electoral System

This thesis is an examination of the main issues Social Credit contended with while trying to succeed in New Zealand politics. Its historical and political analysis is in the context of the electoral system. The first section argues for and describes the changing electoral context and outlines how this created difficulties for Social Credit. It concludes that the movement faced very adverse electoral periods for third parties. The second part examines founder Major C.H. Douglas's Social Credit vision and charts Social Credit's political adaptations from its New Zealand beginnings to the time Bruce Beetham took over as leader in 1972. It challenges the myths that Social Credit could not change without ceasing to be Social Credit and that its economics were unworkable. In the third section the centrality of Beetham's leadership to Social Credit success is explored by looking at his life, personality, beliefs and vision for the movement. It concludes that he believed in Social Credit and that his drive and dedication were essential to Social Credit's revival. Then the thesis follows Social Credit's electoral progress from 1972 to 1981. It examines the impact from its own activities and other political actors and circumstances. This includes effects from organisational changes, the effect of growing and changing membership and the sources of its votes. The fifth part outlines the factors that put Social Credit into permanent decline after 1981. These include the Clyde dam issue, the emerging New Zealand party, the 1984 snap election and the failure to revitalise the party. Finally, it examines Social Credit influence on the electoral system itself, particularly in regard to the move to proportional representation. Here its existence and size mattered more than direct action. The contribution of this thesis is, firstly, in challenging the usual roles assigned to third parties. Second, it outlines the characteristics of different electoral periods. Third, it examines the nature of Social Credit in a more positive way. Fourth, it looks at the electoral elements that shaped Social Credit's successes and failures. Finally, it shows the effects of professionalisation on a typical party branch.
Type of thesis
Calderwood, D. J. (2010). Not a Fair Go: A History and Analysis of Social Credit’s Struggle for Success in New Zealand’s Electoral System (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4268
The University of Waikato
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