Labour has made two serious mistakes in their campaign today. One was specifically rejecting a policy to take the minimum wage to $15 an hour and the other was tonight’s debate.
The first was an easy policy supported by every party other than National and Act that would have ensured a large chunk of people who needed a pay rise got one and would also have ensured a strong turn-out in low income pro-Labour areas like South Auckland. The feeling I got from that decision was that it was one that had been made by Cullen and was likely to have involved little consultation. If this was the case I would hope his colleagues take him to task on it because it was poor politics and they will know that.
The second was more complicated. Essentially the problem tonight was Helen. She is a very smart politician and very good on policy but she is not someone who is good at taking PR advice and over the last few years she has lost some very sharp advisers. Advisers that were willing to tell her when she was wrong.
Watching the debate I came to the conclusion that she approached it without realising how it would play out. No doubt her confidence in her own judgment would have been bolstered by her resounding success with her launch speech which was very much her own work and showed strong statesman-like vision. Exactly what was needed. On Sunday.
The problem was that come Tuesday she tried to play the same role and that was clearly the wrong horse for that course. Again as I have said in comments it was a youtube debate, with real Kiwis asking their real, jumbled, charmingly odd and downhome questions. This was never going to be the time to be statesman-like. In fact that juxtaposition clearly risked enforcing the “out of touch” image National has spent so much time and money developing for Clark.
By comparison Key was on-message, kept it downhome and used all the focus-tested lines and fabricated statistics (fabrications which may yet bite him on the arse). It wasn’t a great performance and Clark could have done better if she’d realised the rules of the game she was playing. But she didn’t.
So my advice? Helen, get yourself some good people and listen to them. They may not be as clever as you when it comes to intricate policy detail but if they’re good at what they do they’ll know how things like this will play and they’ll make sure you’re prepared. You can’t be the best at everything all at once.