Written By: - Date published: 2:20 pm, November 24th, 2013 - 101 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, election 2014, greens, labour, national, nz first, political parties, Politics, russel norman - Tags: coalition
I’ve been thinking about what next years’ election is going to be like. Not like 2011 that’s for sure. Labour was in the doldrums and ran a largely negative campaign around asset sales that failed to fire, resulting in the worst election result in history. To be fair it did introduce a bank of new policies but without enough time for people have a proper conversation about them, raising the age of superannuation eligibility was brave (political euphemism for suicidal) indeed and David Cunliffe has sensibly pulled back from the initial position. The capital gains tax remains on the agenda – hopefully in a simplified version. Labour also campaigned on Keep it Kiwi but inexplicably failed neither to run a Party Vote campaign nor to feature leader Phil Goff on its billboards, which was frankly bizarre – the message it sent was ‘we don’t back him, nor should you’. Another wrong-footed aspect of Labour’s campaign was that it was a direct appeal to the centre, seeking to pick up National supporters instead of the 800,000 disenfranchised who are in the main struggling, brown and the young – leaving that space to the Greens and Mana.
From memory it seems like National barely campaigned at all. In fact I can’t even recall its campaign slogan. I know John Key was everywhere, and why not? He was and is the Party’s greatest asset. However a quick google search reveals that it campaigned on welfare reform, employer friendly (anti-worker) industrial reform, and asset sales…all promising A Brighter Future.
The Greens took a giant step away from its usual environmental platform and campaigned for a ‘Richer NZ’, annoying some of its members and supporters but effectively rebranding the Party as one with serious economic aspirations. Russell Norman has since solidified that position and is now sought for economic comment as often as is Labour.
So what’s going to change next year? Most importantly the Labour Green vote is neck and neck with National, a fact not lost on the government which is already in campaign mode. I see a hard fought campaign from National – no one hands over power without a scrap and certainly not those who believe they are entitled to rule. The economy is likely to be running in its favour with business and consumer confidence predicted to rise. The downside will be higher inflation and the continual battle over Auckland housing prices.
NZ First is a cert to be back in Parliament with a full contingent and could well be in Winston’s fav position as king maker. Te Ururoa Flavell is likely to keep the Maori Party alive for another term by holding on to Waiariki and who knows perhaps even bring in another MP.
And here we come to the rub. Let’s assume that Labour has learnt its lesson about running an effective campaign and ticks all the boxes: a compelling narrative that can be condensed to one or two sentences that reaches those 800,000 non-voters, quality candidates, clever advertising, good policies announced in a timely fashion, smart opposition research so National is NEVER let off the hook, unequivocal support for the leader, a great organisational campaign that utilises Labour’s rejuvenated membership, really good use of social media and leaders’ debates that frame Cunliffe as the natural choice for Prime Minister. And as few cock-ups as humanly possible.
That’s what Labour needs to do just to maintain the status quo. The secret weapon that Labour and the Greens have eschewed for as many elections as I can remember is actually working together. And that’s what some commentators are now calling for; that Labour, Greens and Mana should get together to use MMP strategically, just as National does with ACT, Peter Dunne and now Colin Craig (the man the Herald calls ‘troublingly dim).
The funny thing is that so many on the left see strategies like this as an affront to democracy. I couldn’t disagree more. I think to fail to act strategically is an affront to the millions of New Zealanders who are struggling to keep pace with the cost of living, who are subsidising the rich and powerful, who watch helpless as whanau and loved ones move across the ditch as more local jobs disappear and who surely deserve a ‘brighter future’ that only a united left can accomplish.