Anat Shenker-Osorio on the creation of left metaphors

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, October 11th, 2015 - 66 comments
Categories: activism, capitalism, Deep stuff, Economy, Environment, journalism, labour, Left, Media, Politics, spin, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

Anat Shenker-Osorio

There was an interesting interview this morning on Q&A.  Communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio was interviewed about left communication with the electorate.  She spoke about public debate concerning politics and the best way parties of the left and trade unions should communicate with the public.  Video of the interview is here.

On the TPP she noted that the word “sold” was well chosen and the TPP had been sold to us on the basis that we are consumers, not people.  The only interests recognised are commercial ones.

For unions she proposed that it should be emphaised that they are not somewhat dated third parties but a collection of people.

She said this about the debate about the debate about the economy.

One of the most powerful metaphors we are seeing right now in the US and we have been testing it a bit in Australia where I am living now is the notion of imbalance and of an economy completely and totally out of balance.

When you contrast that with a kind of amorphous thing, a concept that you could not really draw as in a shape or a way such as a quality, [but] when you talk about too much wealth in too few hands and the economy rigged in the favour of a handful of wealthy and well connected people then people understand people coming together in union as the only possible countervailing force against that much power.

She was asked what works for voters and said this:

What works is the metaphor of balance and the notion of the economy off kilter and out of control and unstable.  People are really hungry … for economic stability, more even than economic opportunity.

And she had this advice for Labour.

I’d tell them stop playing the dominant game, the dominant game being who loves the economy best?

The right wing plays that game by saying “We love the economy best and the way you make sweet love to the economy is by giving rich people even more money. The economy will be happy and it will shower goodness and GDP growth upon us.”

And our side says “We love the economy best. The way to make sweet love to the economy is by only beating workers every other day.” I am joking but not by much.

The truth is that despite all of the reality that more progressive administrations the world over actually govern under greater economic conditions. We see that everywhere there is tons of economic evidence.

[But] evidence means nothing. The “we love the economy” brand isn’t our brand.  We have a better brand.

Our brand is that we love people and we are on the side of people and we are on the side of the nation and we just need to stop having the argument about who loves the economy best.

Her key message for Labour winning is

… to come back to a focus on what New Zealander’s need, what New Zealanders want. And … to paint a bright future and stop portraying yourselves as the losing team and speaking about everything as a disaster and as the Titanic.

People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. And if you keep having your leading message being “we are losing we have lost, we lost again our opposition is so strong, they are so powerful”.  No body wants to be on that team.

And so basically it is a fake it until you make it moment …

You and I know that what matters to Kiwis is the well being of our families and the well being of our land and the cleanliness of our water.  You and I understand that in order to have the best country possible for people for our children we need to take care of ourselves and each other.

Kiwis understand that and they are always going to pick a brighter future over a dirtier less equal unfair society.

Her comments certainly deserve consideration even if you do not agree with all of them.

If you want a flavour of her approach to politics and her scathing critique of the current infatuation of some with “middle ground” or “third way” politics then the video below provides this. Basically her message is that the left should engage the base, persuade the middle rather than cater to them and if it is not alienating the right it is not doing things properly.

Stephanie Rodgers has further videos up at Boots Theory.

66 comments on “Anat Shenker-Osorio on the creation of left metaphors”

  1. Pat 1

    great message….works on multiple levels and across all areas…are Labour likely to adopt though?

    • KK 1.1

      It’s overly simplistic and much of it is obvious platitudes that are actually much more difficult in practise. There’s some good stuff in there but saying Labour should just adopt is, well, also simplistic.

      • AmaKiwi 1.1.1

        Politics IS simplistic . . .”a brighter future” for example.

        Voting is about feelings more than ideas. We feel angry; we vote for the outsiders (Trump, for example). We feel safe; we vote for the incumbent.

        Her proposal is that the NZ Left can make you feel warm and fuzzy and therefore more likely to vote for them.

      • Chris 1.1.2

        They’re platitudes if Labour says them with no intention of following through. Labour does that now. Anat Shenker-Osorio’s message was more than just saying stuff.

      • Pat 1.1.3

        disagree entirely…it “simplifies ” a message that has been deliberately overly complicated….how often is the line “its complicated” trotted out as an excuse for lack of justification? …..and it is wondered why so many are divorced from politics.
        Besides whats not”simplistic” about the message “we are better economy managers” …… in the face of the evidence?

      • tracey 1.1.4

        The way National gained power and keep it is also simplistic.

  2. Olwyn 2

    She is spot on with this: …her message is that the left should engage the base, persuade the middle rather than cater to them and if it is not alienating the right it is not doing things properly. Especially since the putative middle they try to court is on the well-heeled side of the actual middle.

    • Chris 2.1

      Precisely. Why doesn’t Labour get this? Instead they’re out there competing with National for something they’ll never win. Anat Shenker-Osorio’s message is long overdue, but Labour will not hear it. Perhaps if Corbyn starts getting real traction they will, but even then there’s no guarantee Labour will take any notice. Labour needs a change of personnel before things can get better.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        It doesn’t matter if Labour start implementing Shenker-Osorio’s comms strategies.

        No one will believe that they mean it.

        Everyone still knows that a powerful bloc of Labour MPs still want to raise the retirement age because we “can’t afford” good things for Kiwis, and that they still buy into the monetary orthodoxy of the neoliberal economics and globalisation framework.

  3. Michael 3

    I doubt the party hierarchy will listen to this. Their strategy is to do nothing, say nothing, while hoping enough middle class voters grow tired of John Key and decide to give the B Team a tick in 2017. That way they can enjoy the baubles of office without having to change the status quo. It might work for them, it might not. Either way, I won’t be voting for them next time.

    • Ron 3.1

      For Fucks sake the Hierachy (whoever you think they are) do not control Labour the members do. If you want change join the party get involved with policy, put up sensible remits and get them approved at conference. That is how any proper democratic system works. If you cannot be bothered doing that then why waste our time complaining about imaginary things that you think happen inside the party.

      I doubt the party hierarchy will listen to this

      • AmaKiwi 3.1.1

        Ron,

        In 12 years I have never been at an LEC meeting where my Labour MP asked what WE thought should be done. NEVER.

        I worked my butt off for Cunliffe because I thought Cunliffe would be a better dictator than Key. I have no illusions that he, Shearer, Goff, or Clark believed the people had a right to decide government policies.

        They all abhor binding referendums. I asked each of them.

        • Ron 3.1.1.1

          Well so do I because binding referendums are not democratic they are just another form of tyranny by the majority.
          As for not being asked what you think maybe that says more about your MP than anything else. Of course you can always voice your opinion. If you feel really strong about something then do something about it. Get other LEC’s on side with you and put remits up. If you find remits not getting through get involved with policy committees. Do you think that anything worthwhile ever got done just because someone asked for it. Instead they got accepted becuase ordianry people got off their backsides and worked to get them accepted.

          They all abhor binding referendums. I asked each of them.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.2

        For Fucks sake the Hierachy (whoever you think they are) do not control Labour the members do. If you want change join the party get involved with policy, put up sensible remits and get them approved at conference. That is how any proper democratic system works.

        This system is broken and is a massive and unproductive waste of time and energy.

        To illustrate:

        – Which branches put forward remits to raise the retirement age?
        – Which branches put forward remits to target Chinese last names in the housing market?
        – Which branches put forward remits to hold off making a decision on the TPPA until we know the full details?
        – Which branches put forward remits to can taking GST off fruits and vegetables?

        Of course, the answer is none. Yet they all happened.

        • b waghorn 3.1.2.1

          You would think in the age of computers it would be very easy to put ideas to all members and get there feed back .

        • Ron 3.1.2.2

          CV you are arguing about operational things. No matter what polices one has things will still happen on daily basis as people react (sometimes badly) to things that arise. That still does not negate that remits do happen and do get to be come policies. in fact I can see some from down your way on the latest conference agenda. I am not sure if you are now no longer in the party if not then fair enough but if you are there are still plenty of things to do and if people feel strongly about things they can get busy and organise. My LEC has never been contacted by anyone from down your way to support policies and I am pretty sure none of the LEC’s in our HUB have either.

          This system is broken and is a massive and unproductive waste of time and energy.
          To illustrate:
          – Which branches put forward remits to raise the retirement age?
          – Which branches put forward remits to target Chinese last names in the housing market?
          – Which branches put forward remits to hold off making a decision on the TPPA until we know the full details?
          – Which branches put forward remits to can taking GST off fruits and vegetables?

          Of course, the answer is none. Yet they all happened.

    • b waghorn 3.2

      Are you a labour insider who’s quoting a fact or are you just making shit up.

      • Chris 3.2.1

        Isn’t Michael agreeing with Anat Shenker-Osorio, but also saying that Labour are so entrenched in the neo-liberal agenda that her message will be either lost on them or they will ignore it? I think that’s what he’s saying. If that’s the case, then I agree. Labour is way beyond redemption. That’s not to say we shouldn’t keep saying what Labour must do – it’s our duty to keep criticising Labour for the direction they’ve taken and our that’s akin to colluding with Key and his mates. It’s just that Labour’s so far gone that it’s impossible to believe they’re ever going to change. I think this is what Michael’s saying.

        • KK 3.2.1.1

          I think the left should spend more time criticising National, and where they are going to criticise Labour offer constructive criticisms rather than this usual whinging crap about ‘Labour’s so far gone’.

          • Chris 3.2.1.1.1

            So you’re saying we shouldn’t criticise Labour because we should be criticising National, and it’s crap that Labour’s too far gone? FFS. It’s people like you Anat Shenker-Osorio is talking about!

          • Chris 3.2.1.1.2

            Anyway, a big part of the problem for the left is that it’s not usual for them to criticise Labour. It’s the Labour-can-do-no-wrong crap that we need to get rid of. And it’s the message from the likes of Anat Shenker-Osorio that is the constructive criticism that you talk of.

        • b waghorn 3.2.1.2

          He said “there strategy is to do nothing” that sounds like someone making shit up to me.

    • weka 3.3

      “Either way, I won’t be voting for them next time.”

      Who will you be voting for instead?

  4. ianmac 4

    As a democratic socialist I would like to hear the Left voice call for those issues that matter to me. And not those things that are meant for the “middle” ears. Middle things seem fuzzy and do not stir my heart.

  5. Nigel Gregory 5

    Good article and totally relevant I think.
    I am currently reading a book called The Extreme Centre: A Warning by Tariq Ali.
    He is arguing that most western states are basically 2 or 3 party states supporting the same policies.

    We have a world completely dominated by the needs of capital and coordinated by an extremely powerful United States enforcing this hegemony through managed trade and security cooperation arrangements.

    Would putting people first not require subordinating the needs of capital to some degree? Is this even possible?

    It seems to me democracy is an irritant and barrier to things like the TPP.

    I would love for Labour to have a principled stand on these issues. Maybe they could learn a few thing from the Jeremy Corbin or Bernie Sanders campaigns.
    The world is crying out for an alternative to this neo liberal austerity policy.

    • kenny 5.1

      Good comment Nigel.

      The trouble is that those who got us into this mess are still running the show – don’t expect THEM to change things.

      As I see it the quickest and most effective way to get rid of the neo-cons is to vote in people like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders; who else is going to instigate change for the better? Those who are not with us are against us, I don’t care which Party they are in. If the MSM are not prepared to behave ethically then change the environment, around ownership for instance, break them up and get back to more local ownership.

      • RedLogix 5.1.1

        The challenge is that even when you get a leader like Corbyn, Sanders or dare I say it Cunliffe who even vaguely looks like challenging the status quo their own party very promptly shuts them down.

        We are seeing with Labour in the UK already, the Democratic Party machine in the US will ensure Sanders is buried – however popular he is and even if it means losing to the GOP.

        In Australia it means Shorten who is too beholden to a compromised union movement to take an election off Turnbull – and so on. And while Little mouths all the right things, somehow it’s always muddled and ambiguous.

        I’ve long felt that the entire purpose of the so called left wing parties in the Western world is to ensure a genuine left-wing party can never take power.

        • kenny 5.1.1.1

          Agree entirely Red. The dilemma is to rid the party of centre-right members/MPs who are prepared to compromise the true social leanings of a party in order to ‘get elected’. Does this mean that only right-leaning parties can get elected? I don’t think so. I think the world is waking up to the injustice (not too big a word) of the last 40 years and is starting to realise that the causes of inequality etc have been propounded by those on the right who are now crying out for assistance from government in the form of trade deals which are there to protect their patch, not necessarily for the good of the people.

          It seems this agenda is mostly followed in the Anglo-American sphere of neo-liberalism as advocated by Milton Friedman; the Germanic and scandinavian economies with their more socially integrated business models have prospered by being more egalitarian in their practices.

        • Mike the Savage One 5.1.1.2

          I agree, see my comment below, which may address some of your concerns.

    • KK 5.2

      Jeremy Corbyn has won an internal Labour party election. Bernie Sanders is trying to win one. Neither of them have actually won anything with the general public yet. I hope they do, but let’s not get carried away just yet.

      • Colonial Viper 5.2.1

        Jeremy Corbyn has won an internal Labour party election. Bernie Sanders is trying to win one. Neither of them have actually won anything with the general public yet.

        Duh

        Except for winning their own Senate/electorate seats for the last couple of decades worth of elections in a row??? Why do you not count that?

        • KK 5.2.1.1

          Britain is not Islington North. The US is not Vermont. They haven’t yet shown they can win broad public support, so all your angry patronising Corbynista rhetoric is worth nothing until that happens. I hope you’re right, and that it’s the left wing sea change we’ve been looking for, I just don’t think it is.

    • Chris 5.3

      Unfortunately, our Labour party will never learn because it’s infested with neo-liberal ideologues. Until they go and the party’s rejuvenated with people who think differently, if that’s possible, nothing will change.

  6. nigel gregory 6

    A start would be to continue the rebuilding of unions that seems to be occurring, especially in the Unted States.
    In NZ here I guess we need to get people thinking about what our system is, how it works and who benefits.
    We need to increase union membership among the young as this I think is fertile ground.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Unions are definitely needed but they are also a 20th century solution to 20th century problems.

      Workers need to have democratic ownership of the economy and the businesses that they work in and unions will not deliver that.

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Workers certainly need to be included in the running of the businesses they work for. Also to receive bonuses for good years, and to struggle through along with management when there are difficulties, and not for management to receive huge bonuses still when revenue is going down. All should be tightening their belts then and bonuses should be received by all when things are doing well.

        And there should be suggestion boxes where suggestions for better flow of work, safer, small efficiencies can be made. And if adopted the person suggesting get a bonus. And this even when management was already thinking of it! This would encourage workers to have input and the company to benefit from their experience and knowledge. Of course this tacitly accepts that workers are valuable, an asset to the company, and not just a human resource – a pair of hands to be plucked from struggling humanity by the company at its whim – which is often the demeaning approach nowadays.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          And there should be suggestion boxes where suggestions for better flow of work, safer, small efficiencies can be made.

          I would disagree. Workers need to be empowered with managerial authority to make the required changes themselves (Japanese “Kaizen” approach). Suggestion boxes have long been shown to be a failed approach.

        • Chris 6.1.1.2

          “And if adopted the person suggesting get a bonus.”

          And gets awarded “employee of the month” complete with name on a cardboard plaque stuck to the staff notice board in the smoko room.

      • AmaKiwi 6.1.2

        Colonial Viper +1

        In their day, co-ops were successful. Not sure why so many died out.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.2.1

          In many instances, like for savings societies and the like, big corporates swooped in and gobbled them up. Fonterra is another example of what used to be a fairly pure co-op has turned increasingly into a corporatised financialised structure.

  7. nigel gregory 7

    I wholly agree that “left wing” parties today at firmly to the right of anything resembling a good social policy oriented party.
    The “extreme centre” .

  8. Vaughan Little 8

    national is shit on the economy. so was the 5th Labour government. anyone old enough to remember whether govts premuldoon were any better? and did the household budget metaphor for the national economy come in with thatcher?

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      First Labour Govt was pretty good. Got things done and paid for it using NZ government credit. No need to keep kowtowing to international banksters.

  9. Mike the Savage One 9

    I found her comments refreshing, very interesting and something overdue to think about. Yes, the language we use, the metaphors, they send signals, and they can shape public perception and match existing sentiment, that may otherwise be kept asleep under the surface.

    But just changing the talk will hardly convince voters, unless it is met with real action, with convincing programs and messages. That is where I fear Labour will struggle. They have been sending many different messages to the public and voters over years, and they seem to be so diverse, from within the party and MPs, they are often not reconcilable. So if Labour or any party tries to use new metaphors, to “appeal” to voters, they may actually fail abysmally, unless they change the whole message coming from the party as a whole.

    Walk the talk, and talk the walk, it must be happening in harmony and match each other, the messages, all else is wishful thinking. And with the so many blissfully ignorant Kiwis we have, we face a massive task to actually inform people about what really goes on. I think Labour and Greens may start becoming more credible if they refuse showing up or even lining up for the stupid Paul Henry Breakfast show and such programs.

    It is bizarre that some in opposition seem to think they have to pop up on such biased programs, always making them look desperate or easy to buy into. If I was Andrew Little or Annette King or Jacinda What is her name I would stay well clear of Henry, Hosking, Garner and other media persons, who are known to only ridicule and harm the alternative political players in the game.

    Stuff to think about, to really think hard about, I reckon. Be principled, clear, firm and take a determined, solid stand, and do not sway, that is my recommendation.

  10. Chris 10

    Extremely telling that ten hours after the most important message about what’s wrong with the left and what’s so wrong with the current Labour party there’s 16 comments on the post. Even posts about social welfare benefits get more comments on here. Certainly says something about the state of the left in NZ. 16 comments? No wonder we’re fucked.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      This is not “about the Left.” This is about NZ Labour. Don’t get them mixed up.

      • Chris 10.1.1

        Yes, but Labour still call themselves left and many Labour supporters still call themselves left, which is a symptom of the problem of course, but I take your point.

  11. Incognito 11

    I will watch that video but it already seems to me that Anat Shenker-Osorio is hitting the nail on the head. I see some parallels with the work and opinions of cognitive linguist Professor George Lakoff as I mentioned in my comments to a previous post here on TS #Sheepgate and the war of metaphor [yes, self-citation used to be masturbation in publication but surely it has become more acceptable nowadays in the selfie-culture that we seem to live in]

    Just looking at the spin that is emanating from MFAT and MSM on the TPP(A) it is clear that this Government is very apt at communication – political rhetoric, spin, propaganda or PR are, at the end of the day, all forms of communication.

    The use of metaphors, which are some of the most powerful constructs in human language, is a dead give-away of political rhetoric and discourse.

    The NZLP is not particularly apt at communication. They fumble and stumble, it seems, they speak “out of both sides of their mouth”, they seem to send mixed or inconsistent messages, they seem to be “without a rudder”.

    Being in Opposition means, pretty much, that the word equals the deed, that talking the walk equals walking the talk. Opposition parties are being judged on their political messages and messaging, not on their governing of the country – fail at this and you cease to be an effective opposition IMO.

    At the same time, one could argue that the current Government’s popularity is due to their messages and messaging rather than their governing skills and being capable stewards of the ‘rock star’ economy …

  12. Lloyd 12

    Hey let’s get the left stating the obvious which is they are for the people, not the economy, but lets also remind people that the Labour party has for the last forty years been better at running the economy than gnats. With a left wing government you can get two for the price of one!

    Simple messages, repeated often, will win elections. Most voters don’t want to be bothered with thinking which will get in the way of sport, reality TV contests and celebrity news.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.1

      but lets also remind people that the Labour party has for the last forty years been better at running the economy than gnats.

      Actually, that would be for the last 80 years.

      That said, the problem is that Labour are holding on to the failed neo-liberal policies that just trashed the global economy yet again.

  13. keepLeft 13

    This is anti-revolution thinking!!! The poor like everybody else are addicts hooked on private property! Would you ask a heroin addict to give you their heroin??? No! Would you give them more heroin??? No! You take the heroin off them and force them into rehab. No individual rich or poor should be above the State. The rights of the individual are subservient to the rights of the State!!! Why should we waste time “caring” for the poor when after the communist takeover of Aotearoa their will be no rich or poor as their will no longer be private property???

  14. savenz 14

    Agree with a lot of what she is saying but also agree with the commentators that this is overly simplistic.

    In fact I think this is what Labour tried to do last election (i.e. appeal to good rather than self interest but got it badly wrong).

    Labour seems to be using overly simplistic marketing and polling data, interpreting it poorly (or maybe manipulated polls) to formulate it’s policy based on appealing to voters – but getting everything wrong.

    Corbyn works because he just says what he thinks – has integrity – and you can believe his word. But also the UK is a much larger economy and he can get away with more change.

    Nobody not even Labour believes Labour. The say nothing and everything and their actions betray them as seemingly not having integrity or a vision or (internal fighting stopping them from effective opposition).

    Last election for example Labour tried to appeal to their version of ‘good’ i.e. raising taxes and pensions, but their message had no return on that investment back to the people. It seemed more like lets get Kiwis to pay more so we can give to business and government and immigrants to transform our country into a better economy. It was pretty much the same as National but National appeared to be able to do the same without raising taxes (by borrowing but most Kiwis have no clue about that).

    In addition Labour’s train wreck of action and their lack of believability to run the country when they couldn’t even run their own party and their side attacks on their own leader, the Greens, Dotcom and Internet Mana seemed to make them look not just like National but meaner, stupider and more out of touch.

    National have a team of minders that teach them to say nothing and keep out of the contentious issues. Labour rush to any photo op set up by the Nats and put their oar in and so appear in league with them. Now the Greens may be falling into this trap aka flag.

    It was like Labour was more interested in themselves winning than the country itself. And voters did not like that. Just like they did not like National in Northland doing the same thing.

    A lot of blame from the left is put on voters, but my feeling is that the voters are actually smarter than many of our politicians. Voters are being asked to choose between very similar sounding parties who are all mean and out of touch. Last election even the Greens unusually came across as a bit petty over the Internet Mana debacle and wanting to crash property.

    In addition the capital gains is a red herring. For most Kiwis their home is their only asset and not only does it house them, it is their nest egg. Anyone in Auckland knows that migration is fuelling the boom with 30,000 new migrants coming in and open foreign investment to boot. After crippling interest rates in the past any party that seeks to cripple property or raise interest rates (while not wanting to tackle it’s main cause or look at other reasons building is so high here) is angering voters. Many Greenies as well as labour voters are home owners. In fact one of the coups of the Nats is to appeal to the poor and tell them voting conservative (with a few All blacks to seal the message of course). They are taking over the working poor vote.

    All the mixed messages, meanness and confusion lead to many lefties not voting due to property and pensions and young people not voting due to the mixed messages against Dotcom and for digital rights. Some of the younger ones might have been Green/Internet Mana voters but would have been put off by the frost between all the opposition parties, likewise Labour/Green voters.

    I think the left can win next election but they need to actually self examine their actions and stop blaming voters. To win will require a change of policy and to be MUCH SMARTER and CO OPERATE MORE. Now even the Greens seem to be alienating their voters and the lack of vocal and effective opposition to TPP is not helping them.

    Voters are in punishment mode to Labour and Greens. Personally I think the deserve it. The Nats with lobbyist and specialist support are running not just the country but also the media and the opposition still have not clicked on with a rival strategy and doing nothing and waiting for voters to tire off National is not working anymore).

    The opposition can and must win and use the very successful Northland strategy of co operation and dedication (which had a very seasoned Winston who beat the streets and just says what he thinks) with opposition support to keep the messaging consistent for voters. Northland shows it can be done, but it is not easy.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Agree with a lot of what she is saying but also agree with the commentators that this is overly simplistic.

      Let’s recognise it for what it is: a branding and public relations strategy. As such it’s not supposed to be much deeper, substantial or complex.

  15. McFlock 15

    I think the right won last time because they are very good at simplifying their message and pulling the old “strength through unity” gambit.

    I submitted a post on this a wee while ago, but it was very long and I’m not sure what the status is atm. Basically, what I did was take Max Weber’s theory of leadership and hammer it into political party support. Weber identified three main reasons that people followed a leader: the leader had traditional qualifications (e.g. hereditary king or respect for elders), charismatic authority (fancy talker, looks “trustworthy” or like you’d drink with him in a pub), or bureaucratic reasons (qualified manager, best person for the job based on CV).

    The right is very good at identifying its support advantages and plugging them, ignoring all else, and its support is largely charismatic and traditional. The left has a problem in that it also has a lot of bureaucratic support – many core supporters really do care about the nuances of policies that might not directly affect them.

    A recent Daily Review had a very good Labour attempt to replicate the nat’s simple message style, essentially a copy of the old iwi/kiwi format. Nat: “pandas/flags”, Lab:”jobs”.

    However, the general drawback is that there was nothing about how Labour stands for jobs. There is nothing to appeal to bureaucratic voters, people who actually read policy. So my addition would be a simple web address in a banner below the image, red on white background: e.g. http://www.labour.org.nz/votejobs. And have a /voteXXXX for each graphic produced.

    Additionally, you could make the graphic slightly more complex – have a picture of an energy-saving lightbulb one side, bad nact newspaper headlines the other, and have a caption underneath saying “Remember when the biggest complaint about the government was lightbulbs?”. Even whack into each panel “good idea”, “bad ideas” respectively. And, of course, have a web address that itemises every bad headline in the graphic.

    But the additional complication is that Labour and the Greens need to complement each other and work naturally together, showing the electorate a relationship of equals rather than the dom/sub relationship that the tories have for their coalition. But that’s another matter…

    • Ergo Robertina 15.1

      I think the left is as capable as the right at forming the best memes of the day, but the right still holds that claim over the ‘common sense’ narrative since neoliberalism took hold.
      I’m from a Nat background and always voted Labour/Green but could have gone either way at first. My first election was ’99 so it was only going to be Labour after the Bolger/Shipley debacle.
      Then, I was in the ‘they’re both as bad as each other’ camp.
      The turning point was a couple of years into Lab5, with the realisation that while it had its faults, it was the first Govt in my lifetime that did things in the interests of people, and not just for the sake of abstract ideas (like budgets). It felt like a profound observation (I wasn’t that well informed about politics) although now that National plays a much slicker game, it might not be that straightforward.
      I have to admit my political reasoning is a tad simplistic sometimes. In 2008, I instinctively disliked John Key, voted Labour, but was like, ‘oh, this won’t all be that bad, the financial crash means no-one can be in favour of free markets now…’
      I thought it would irrevocably change things for better, but if anything had the opposite effect.

      • mickysavage 15.1.1

        Good comment. Many of us wondered about the GFC. Bernard Hickey, a bright originally right wing economist talked about how he could not understand why there were not Bankers’ heads on stakes after the GFC and I do not disagree with him.

      • McFlock 15.1.2

        National, in my opinion, largely pushes the charismatic angle (teamwork, nice mister key) and leaves the traditional angle largely to serve itself (which is why Northland scared the shit out of them). I suspect that the only people who vote for specific national party policy packages made their wishes known at the appropriate cabinet club.

        My point is that left support is more divided between the three areas, so memes might be good for people at a more “seat of your pants” vibe that election, but they need to deliver substance for the core bureaucratic-oriented voters and have traditional left values. All three gardens need to be tended with as little work as possible, so each communication needs to have more depth and sophistication without becoming so wordy thatthe vibe-voters turn off.

        • Ergo Robertina 15.1.2.1

          What do you mean by vibe voters?

          • McFlock 15.1.2.1.1

            the ones who vote more on feeling than analysis

            edit; both for traditional and for charismatic reasons.

            • Ergo Robertina 15.1.2.1.1.1

              I agree memes aren’t everything, as I suggested in my comment.
              I suspect you’re setting up a false dichotomy between policy and vibe.

              • McFlock

                no I’m just clumsily trying to get out of the ‘if labour only did this‘ routine.

                Basically, each of the three main areas (charisma, tradition, bureaucracy) can be followed by a voter in depth, or shallowly (although a policy approach requires more depth than a nice smile). Shallow is the vibe of “nice meme”. Depth is the desire to see more than a pretty meme.

  16. tracey 16

    I agree with the commentator.

    People like Josie Pagani fall into the camp that think you have to outdo National on being national.

    Too often people have under estimated the power of passion and sincerity. Some haven’t, and have worked hard to fake it (I put Key in this category – he take his passion for making money and imposes it on other areas to appear sincere about things that aren’t about making more money – like vulnerable people).

    If Labour struggles in this area it is because they back down too quickly from positions of passion and sincerity.

    National will die in the ditch for its lies.

  17. Coaster 17

    Kiss, keep it simple stupid is one of the best pieces of advice you can give in many situations, This is what she is saying. For a long time left leaning partys have tried to look like the right, speak like the right and dress like the right. Its time to get back to basics and be the parties of the people rather than of the companies.

    Socialism =society and people first.
    Capitalism = companies and money first.

    Its not too simplistic, it just needs a genuine person saying it, not a snake oil salesperson like so many of our politicians are.

  18. Thinker 18

    The problem with the message “…care for the people…” is that sounds too much like a return to the welfare state for voters sitting either side of the middle of the road. Some people I know have said this kind of thing to me.

    Instead, I’d prefer “…care for the core values of honesty, equality, fairness etc..” and in my campaining I’d be working to ensure that I could drown out the cries of such policies being unaffordable ‘…in a time of fiscal restraint’.

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