Campaigning on policy – what a concept!

Written By: - Date published: 9:55 am, October 28th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: election 2011, labour, leadership, Media, phil goff - Tags: ,

Got to hand it to Labour, they have no shortage of guts! The capital gains tax was supposed to be electoral suicide, but in fact Labour’s policy was almost universally well received (except by the incoherent Nats).  Confronting the huge “untouchable” issue of the approaching superannuation crisis is also supposed to be electoral suicide, but Labour have taken it on, see Eddie’s excellent post this morning.  Now if Labour get serious about peak oil and climate change they’ll be the first major political party in this country in living memory to be planning realistically for the future.  What an amazing thing that would be.

Another brave move by Labour is the decision to focus their campaign on policies and issues, rather than the usual cult of the leader.  I think it’s useful to gauge current reactions in the context of what has been said in the past. So here’s a random sample of opinions on “presidential style” campaigns, as reported in The Herald over the years.

Allan Peachy (2002): “National missed the opportunity to make education an issue. The presidential style of the election meant that the real issues were not examined sufficiently and I think the party vote reflected that.”

Austin Mitchell (2002): The election campaign concentrated too much on the main leaders and not enough on issues and policies, visiting British MP Austin Mitchell said today.

Various (2002):Jenni Raynish, public relations consultant, says … “I’d use all of them in different ways and move away from the traditional leadership head-to-head positioning. …
Marco Marinkovich, creative director of advertising agency Creativebank, says … “He needs to bring those people forward. They need to put the National brand ahead of Bill English the leader.” Mr Marinkovich thinks promoting Mary English smacks of a presidential style that New Zealanders mock …

John Roughan (2005): It has become ritual at general elections to rue the “presidential style” of modern politics. Everyone from party tacticians to the last punter will pronounce their regret that the campaign has been concentrated on the party leaders and strayed at times into the realm of – heaven forbid – “personalities”. … Meanwhile, in newsrooms editors resolve to broaden the focus this time.

Garth George (2008): And it’s all about freedom from presidential-style politics. We want – nay, need – to be rid of a dictatorial leader so that consensus politics again has a chance to flourish.

In general there’s an acknowledgement that “presidential style” campaigns are undesirable. And when National didn’t push Don Brash too hard in 2005 the reception was mildly positive:

Editorial (2005) The Labour Party, its eyes on a third term, is putting the emphasis on presidential-style campaigning. In contrast, National will stress the strength of its team.

So what’s the reception now that Labour has once again broken the mould and chosen very clearly to focus on policy?  Claire Trevett and Duncan Garner seem neutral and stick to the facts, as does RNZ.  Bryce Edwards rounds up a lot of commentary, and comments that “it’s a positive step forward (albeit only a tiny one) in the need for robust and meaningful election debate”.  Only John Armstrong, sounding shrill and very much out of step with history, tries his best to spin this as somehow damaging for Labour.

In short then, I think this is another bold (and also realistic!) move by Labour.  As a country we’ve been saying for a long time that elections should be about policies and not personalities.  Now we’ve got a chance to try it.  If the media is up to the challenge, of course.

26 comments on “Campaigning on policy – what a concept!”

  1. toad 1

    The Greens have always campaigned on policy.  Sadly, little of it gets reported.

    • queenstfarmer 1.1

      True (though probably with some exceptions, to be fair), and they deserve admiration for it, and I think are being rewarded in the polls as a result (even though in my view some of that policy is delusional…)

      Minor parties need to be much more disciplined than the major parties in this regard. The Greens are the benchmark. ACT is a good example of what not to do.

  2. Mac1 2

    Labour should put forward policies which appeal to people’s hearts and also their minds. People, so the political wisdom goes, vote more with their feelings than their intellect. A Presidential-style campaign such as National is presenting is based on feelings about the respective leaders. Therefore, Labour’s presentation needs to be acceptable at an emotional level.

    It is certainly far-sighted way beyond the three year electoral cycle to produce policy around capital gains, superannuation and savings. This might be a product of MMP thinking which should encourage longer-term thinking as coalitions are far more stable than the FPP ‘winner takes all’ short-term advantage thinking that we have seen in NZ politics.

    A new trend, though, in presidential-style popularity a la National is to avoid head to head debating between the two leaders as much as possible. This indicates that National are not sure of the secure nature of this leadership versus policy position. National’s campaign strategists seem to fear that John Key might not fare well in such debates against Phil Goff, threatening the efficacy of National’s focus on leadership and personal popularity.

    A besting of John Key by Phil Goff in debates would leave National with their policy more in focus. National would not fare well with their already announced policy such as that around wages, working conditions and industrial policy. Coupled with National’s economic mismanagement and inability in crisis management, this contrast in political styles makes for an interesting outcome on November 26.

  3. randal 3

    jon keys has gone bananas.

  4. shorts 4

    is it gutsy to treat the electorate as adults?

    Really?

    *awaits their policy on peak oil* 

    • King Kong 4.1

      I walked past a piece of cringeworthy politcal theatre being performed in Midland Park the other day on the subject of peak oil.
      It wasn’t a total failure as it did force me to ponder some serious questions.

      If you want to become a vociferous promoter of the peak oil doomsday scenarios:

      1) is it compulsory for your parents to be siblings?
      2) Is a lack of personal hygeine compulsory?
      3) Is a total lack of self awareness a must?

      I try not to judge a concept by who is promoting it but I have yet to see a single person who is not totally bat shit crazy pushing this stuff and it makes it very hard to take it seriously.

  5. infused 5

    Well it’s not like they can campaign on anything else…

  6. Peter Martin 6

    ‘Now if Labour get serious about peak oil and climate change they’ll be the first major political party in this country in living memory to be planning realistically for the future. What an amazing thing that would be’

    Sounds like Labour ‘white anting’ Green’s policy…

  7. tsmithfield 7

    “Campaigning on policy – what a concept!”

    I would agree. Except, one shouldn’t bring a pea-shooter to a gun-fight. In this case Labour’s policies involve a complete flip-flop on their previous position on superannuation, and a Kiwisaver policy they themselves acknowledge is likely to repress wages (see page 3), which I am sure will be welcomed by their grass-root supporters (NOT). Sounds pretty much like pea-shooter policy to me.

    • lprent 7.1

      Changing the super and savings policies to cope with the increasing numbers of elderly is not going to be a costless policy. It cannot be done for free. The question is how it gets paid for before it becomes unsustainable to maintain at anything like the current levels.

      So the question is if it gets done through wages via raising taxes or through the wages directly. So I guess you favour raising taxes or cutting superannuation…. Come on – don’t do a JohnKey. Say what you’d do in the real world rather than vaguely wishing that the economy would have some growth….

      This is kind of obvious to anyone who uses their brains.

      • tsmithfield 7.1.1

        So what has happened since since July this year for Goff to change his mind?

        From the article:

        Mr Goff says Labour does not believe raising the age of eligibility is necessary.
        “We think that we can avoid that alternative through the mechanisms that we’ve put in place in the past that the Government has stopped funding – the Cullen Fund – and through a policy that’s not a one-off sale of state assets, but one that will raise tax revenue on an ongoing basis.”

        • r0b 7.1.1.1

          So what has happened since since July this year for Goff to change his mind?

          Double downgrades of international confidence in our economic future (that mention out superannuation costs as a risk). Doh.

          • queenstfarmer 7.1.1.1.1

            That is the purported reason, but I don’t think it will go down well with Labour’s rank and file if they think that Labour put up their retirement age in order to appease foreign financial giants.

            • tsmithfield 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Anyway, there are other options besides raising the age. For instance, means testing superanuation, offering tax free income for those who keep working over the age of 65 etc.

              So, there are a number of ways that Labour could have tackled this without flip-flopping.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Labour’s kiwisaver policy suggests Labour thinks that NZers are too stupid to make their own investment decisions.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1

      Why do you think Auckland high end property values are up? Wouldn’t have anything to do with tax cuts two years ago would it?

      So essentially giving money to the $80K earners gets wasted on quick fix spending on property and o/s holidays whilst giving money for people to save helps safeguard our future from international lenders.

      Read the Fitch and S&P reports when we got downgraded, they mention this too.

    • Kevin Welsh 8.2

      “Labour’s kiwisaver policy suggests Labour thinks that NZers are too stupid to make their own investment decisions.”

      You been out of the country the last few years smithy?

      I would say that recent history with regards to finance companies and New Zealanders savings history has shown that most kiwis are in fact “too stupid” to make their own INVESTMENT decisions.

      I have put investment in caps because there seems to be a dire lack of investment. New Zealanders seem to prefer speculation. Big difference.

  9. Stephen Franks seems to like personality politics over discussion of policy.

    I can see his argument, though I think he painted himself in this corner in the run up to the 2008 election and doesn’t seem to realise how it would play out this time … given the ‘personalities’ on the right (Key, Brash, Banks …).

  10. burt 10

    Interesting article on raising the age or retirement;

    Stuff: Pension change ‘too late for boomers’

    A professor specialising in demographics has weighed in on the debate on raising the retirement age, saying it would be brought in too late to affect baby boomers.

    Waikato University professor Natalie Jackson recently published a paper addressing the drivers of population ageing and its consequences on education, the labour market and governments.

    She has poured cold water on Labour’s announcement that if elected it would increase the pension age from 65 to 67 by 2033.

    ”The official baby boomer population, born between 1946 and 1965, will all be in the retirement ages by then, or at least 67 to 87 years of age. So it won’t do anything at all to resolve the impact of the baby boomer wave,” Jackson said.

    ”It will actually make things harder for those who will then be approaching 67, and whose taxes will have been stretched to pay for the boomers.”

    It’s hard to imagine that Labour’s policy analysts missed this reality… If they did then how well researched is Labour’s policy.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      An ageing bulge

      According to that NZ will start hitting the peak of the age wave about 2031. As Labour’s plan is to slowly increase the age over time I suspect that it’d catch more than what that rather short and apparently incorrect analysis says it will.

      • burt 10.1.1

        A professor specialising in demographics…

        But Draco knows better….

        • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1.1.1

          Don’t be daft. It’s not rocket science. For a start, Prof Jackson talks about “the official baby boomer generation”, whereas Draco points to Statistics NZ’s projections, which take into account a few more metrics than a 50-year old spike in the birthrate – like people are living longer for example.
          So yeah, Draco debunked the professor’s argument pretty well there I think.

          • burt 10.1.1.1.1

            I’ll take a Professor in demographics analysis over Draco’s opinion from a single graph thanks.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1.1.1.1.1

              Then you’re an idiot. Prof Jackson is clear about the figure’s he’s using and they are limited to his definition of “the official baby boom generation”.

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    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago

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