Eventually but not yet

Written By: - Date published: 11:43 am, August 15th, 2009 - 40 comments
Categories: labour, phil goff, polls - Tags:

John Armstrong quotes a man who ran into Phil Goff during Labour’s reconnection tour last week:

“Listen, mate. You know we voted these guys in seven months ago. You don’t expect us to come up and say we did the wrong thing yet, do you?”

Now, Armstrong takes that as dooming Labour but look at the exact words. The guy is not coming from a point of view that Key is doing well or that Key needs to be given a chance or that he wants Key to be PM for life. He’s saying ‘you can’t expect me to admit I made a mistake so soon’. Now, surely, within that statement is a tacit admission of mistake or, at least, a worry that one may have been made. It confirms that support for National is soft.

Remember, Labour’s only needs to win back the 6-7% of voters who supported them three out of the last four elections, plus a share of former New Zealand First voters. According to the latest Roy Morgan poll (which has Labour at its highest level of support since the election), a swing of just over 8% in over two years would be enough for Labour and the Greens to govern. Add the Maori Party (likely to swing left when Turia leaves at the end of this term) and a majority really isn’t so distant. Labour just has to keep on chipping away.

I wouldn’t worry about Goff’s preferred PM rating either. It’s to be expected it would start low. Remember Key’s year long undermining of Brash – he started off in single digits as preferred PM and was only in the teens when he became leader two years out from the election. Clark was over 50% at the time. Goff’s support is growing quickly and it will continue to grow.

It’ll be a tough grind, for sure, but keep putting one foot in front of the other, show that you stand beside people, don’t make unforced errors, and there’s no reason why the Left can’t eventually get back those supporters and win in 2011.

40 comments on “Eventually but not yet”

  1. Daveo 1

    Does anyone still take Armstrong seriously? He genuinely appears to be in love with John Key.

  2. gingercrush 2

    It confirms that support for National is soft.

    So the opinion of one person is gospel for support of National is soft? How is support of National soft. It increased its large share of votes from the 2005 election of which was built on a more far-right neo-liberal agenda. The idea support for National is soft really speaks volumes about how you think.

    No doubt you still think people share your view that John Key is a lousy Prime Minister or will come to that view. Also you and others have formed a view that this is a government with a secret agenda that is now coming to the fore and this will cause National to self-destruct. That seems unlikely as well.

    Also any increase of support for Labour could well see the Green vote go down. Unlikely to go below 5% sure but more solid support for Labour is likely to hurt the Greens. As for the Maori Party going left. That just seems like more wish-making. You can’t say they’ll go to Labour, particularly when Labour is wanting those Maori seats back and treating the Maori party like shit.

    The problem Goff faces with low polling is that if it continues the media will create a narrative as they did with English in 2002 where Labour will not be treated as credible. Right now he is being cushioned by being in the job less than a year and the TV and Newspaper polls not being frequent. Next year those media organisations will likely be polling every month. Successive low polling will cause problems.

    I think Goff is going to struggle to get people to support him. He doesn’t seem to want to lift his profile.To be honest I don’t even know the guy. I don’t know if he has children nor am I even aware he is married. Unless he is willing to share things with the people he is not going to get the profile that gets Labour votes. That Labour’s messages right now are very blurred doesn’t help either. They say they’ve learned lessons but I don’t think they believe they were wrong. Its the same here.

    There is a presumption, Labour and by default left-wing blogs who presume that New Zealand voted for Labour-lite and that it wasn’t Labour that was the problem. Just that people wanted fresh faces to run the government. Until you come to the realisation that on the whole New Zealanders like John Key and National, you won’t get very far.

    • Eddie 2.1

      Oh no, that one guy in Taranaki vs that one guy called gingercrush. who’s right? Oh noes.

      Labour and the Maori Party will continue to have a fractious relationship while they’re on opposite sides. Then they’ll get over it if the numbers mean they can work together. That’s how politics works. Look at Peter Dunne, NZF etc.

      Hone’s well to the Left of Labour, Katene is big on work rights. Turia will be gone, Sharples too probably.

      Actually, the media narrative is already that Goff doesn’t have a chance but his personal support doubled between the two colmar-brunton polls and labour’s is tracking up, not down. It doesn’t have to happen overnight (it didn’t for Key) but the track is the important thing, then the media narrative can change … and what narrative would be media love better than the underdog defying expectations and closing the gap?

      • gingercrush 2.1.1

        Key was touted as the future leader of National and ultimately Prime Minister during the 2005 election. He had already built a solid foundation with a party that was on the up. He had considerable media exposure before finally becoming leader of the National Party. Goff hasn’t been allowed to get that coverage.

        Oh and Goff is on 7% and National nor John Key’s ratings are going down. Nice try.

  3. randal 3

    support for national was always soft but somehow the media decided it decided it was nationals “TURN” and worked for their victory.
    the amount of shreiking on radio ritalin and the other squawkback shows just appealed to the most base motives of an intellectually impoverished electorate who listened to their blandishments.
    new zealanders are flaky by and large but when the full force of the national governments reforms and whatever other weasel words they use to disguise their depredations wears off then they will vote for their best interests. depend on it.

  4. Ianmac 4

    There is a lot of merit in what you say Gingercrush. However perception often defies logic, and as a Labour supporter I am quite sure that the faint murmuring that I hear from a few of those who I know voted for change, are hinting as above: “You don’t expect us to come up and say we did the wrong thing yet, do you?” No not yet but tomorrow….. Faith you see!

  5. mike 5

    Nice try Ed.

    National Party 53.5% (up 1.5%), and Labour steal 3% off the Greens and 1% off NZ first. The right block is up on the last poll

    Labours doom come 2011 is all but confirmed.

  6. i would doubt that eddie would have any friends that voted national.which means all your mates hate john key and you dont understand that he will do 9 years as pm minimum get used to the sight of john

  7. vto 7

    I don’t get it – why would you worry which party is in power given that you consider the nats to be merely “labour-lite”. Should make no difference to you.

    • Daveo 7.1

      I don’t remember anyone at The Standard making the case that National was Labour lite. It was one of the lone voices in the lead up to the election pointing out that National hadn’t changed its spots.

    • Eddie 7.2

      we specifically argued that National wasn’t labour-lite, that was just National’s marketing ploy – remember Bill English talking about ‘Labour-plus voters’ who liked Labour and thought they would get a little more from that ‘Nice Mr Key’

    • IrishBill 7.3

      They’re right, we’ve (and on this point there has always been consensus amongst the Standard’s writers) always held that National had a hard right agenda. So far they’ve proven us to be correct.

  8. outofbed 8

    Ofcourse they have a hard right agenda you don’t stand as a National Mp if you are a centerist do you? We all know what the bastards are like

    Now the thing is, they look like they are getting away with it
    Goff has got to go the left are making no traction at all.
    Goff it a nice enough guy but he is not going to beat Key in 2011, It will have hardly have sunk in to the “great unwashed’ what Key and Co are doing/have done by then.
    Stick someone in with a bit of charisma for christ sake. Move to the left and allow the Greens to to be more environmentalist party rather then having to hold the lefts ground all the time
    I might even come back to the fold then

    • mike 8.1

      “and allow the Greens to to be more environmentalist party ”

      Fat chance – they used to be under Donald before the social engineers took hold. The Greens will probably sink under 5% with the current leadership anyway

      • Eddie 8.1.1

        your problem is you create this false divide between social/economic progress and environmental progress. The Greens have always worked for advancements on both fronts because they go hand in hand.

        Their policy platform is not substantially different to what it was when Rod was around, he was just as much for social/economic change as he was for environmental change.

    • gingercrush 8.2

      It always surprises me that the Greens have no idea where their vote comes from. Look at where the Greens get their votes. Its the upper income urban areas and the lifestylers. Working class left do not vote the Greens and they stick with Labour. The only problem is they don’t come out to vote. I just don’t think John Key is scary enough nor is Goff inspiring enough to get them out and vote.

      • Eddie 8.2.1

        interesting. your comment basically admits it’s not in working class (ie most) people’s interests to vote National but it’s a personality thing…. if it weren’t for the personality traits you mention, you think working class people would be out there voting labour.

        So, how do you feel supporting a government that doesn’t govern in the interests of most people?

        • gingercrush 8.2.1.1

          I mean to say urban working class. Rural and provincial working class people are different to urban working class. I never said it wasn’t in working class interest to vote National.I merely stated that they don’t vote National

      • jarbury 8.2.2

        Analysing where the Green vote comes from is quite interesting actually.

        Looking at the Mt Albert by-election, they polled far stronger in Kingsland (liberal, upper-middle class area) than they did in Avondale (more traditionally working class).

        There’s an interesting conflict in that while I would personally prefer Labour to become more like the Green Party on a number of issues, I think it’s actually beneficial for their vote to not do that.

  9. To predict the future, we need to look to our recent past. In the 1975 election, Muldoon & National demolished Labour. Although the media have been grovelling around Key, it’s nothing compared to the media wank fest which carried Muldoon through his first year as PM in 1976. However, in the 1978 election, Labour won more votes than National. If we’d had MMP then, Muldoon would have been a one term PM & today we do have MMP. Those who predict more than one term for Key, are suffering from premature interjection.

    • Yep, a very important point. Worth recalling the 1990 election when a centerist leader in Jim Bolger led National to a pretty strong lead. Funnily enough the incoming govt really botched the ‘decent society’ promise and there was a backlash. From a ‘born to rule’ perspective National kept the reigns of power for 9 year (pretty long and nasty years at that…), but if you look at the 1993 results there was what; 7,000 votes in it? And then there’s the matter of the 18% who voted for New Labour, which under FPP was irrelevant, but we isn’t under MMP now is we?

      The idealogies they followed in ’90/ ’91 prolonged the pretty shit state the economy was in, and they’ve done the same stuff here; pulling money out at the bottom for the sake of those who are ‘struggling’ at the top. The only thing they have to go on is a stagnant global economy to excuse the inevitable failure to lift real income here, and reduce the brain drain as those of us who’ve paid through the nose for our education may be better off with the crap wages here vs less jobs overseas.

      This Govt campaigned on Labour supposed failure to lift NZ worker’s wages to match Australia’s, was fronted by someone with a centrist brand image.

      I just don’t think we’re going to see any improvement for the lot of those who just thought it was ‘time the other guys had a go’. I heard lots of voices who had never voted National/ ACT in their life thinking that John Key was a nice guy and supposed it must be worth giving them a try. They’re not hurting now but I don’t think National strategists have the nous to hold off the nasty stuffs ’til after 2011.

      John Key looks like a doofus who never actually seems to say anything other than fluffy nothing other than ‘We’ll be looking at all the options’. National got to their peak by eating into ACT, they just managed a Parliamentary majority this time ’round and they campaigned on some sort of moral high ground that they’ve spectacularly been absent from lately. And come on, it’s been a bit more serious than signing someone else’s painting and selling it to buyers who know the deal and didn’t particularly give a shit.

      Sickeningly enough, I suspect the only thing that could prop up a National govt after 2011 is NZ First. Oh god please no.

  10. outofbed 10

    I am the last person to think there is a divide between between social/economic progress and environmental progress , I have the T shirt
    All I was doing was being pragmatic, if Lab starts doing the SJ stuff as it should
    then that that frees up the Greens to concentrate on more of the environmentalist vote

    • Pascal's bookie 10.1

      I hear what you are saying oob, but I think the problem is that if Labour move to the left then they leave the centre for the Nats, and the centre is where the swing votes are. What they have to get done is the job of fixing this:

      It will have hardly have sunk in to the “great unwashed’ what Key and Co are doing/have done by then…

      They have to get some of those that switched to National to switch back. Those voters didn’t switch to the Nats because Labour wasn’t left enough, they switched because they were comfortable about the Nats not being too rightish for them.

      Labour need to get it across that the Nats are in fact quite a bit to the right of Labour and that any next term they get will be very different to this one. They have to do this while reassuring those same voters that Labour isn’t a radical scary lefty party. Which it isn’t. They just led a govt for nine years and whatever NZ is as a result if that, she aint any sort of leftist flagship state.

      Activists, in my view, need to be careful to let labour campaign for the centre. If Labour can’t win back those voters, the left can’t govern.

      That’s what concerns me most about the greens MOU, it paints National with lefty credentials and makes the job of getting the ‘Nats are not centrists’ message out there that much harder.

      To me it makes more sense for the Greens to be attacking National much more hard out than the Labour party is. If you look at policy the Greens are going to grow their vote by taking votes off Labour’s left wing. Labour competing for the centre helps the greens in that respect.

      Labour needs to win back centre voters for any sort of left wing government to be formed, and the more lefties that vote green, the more leftwing any such govt will be.

      • jarbury 10.1.1

        Agreed PB, on all counts.

      • blacksand 10.1.2

        I hear what you are saying oob, but I think the problem is that if Labour move to the left then they leave the centre for the Nats, and the centre is where the swing votes are.

        —————-8< schnippety poo 8<————-

        Activists, in my view, need to be careful to let labour campaign for the centre. If Labour can’t win back those voters, the left can’t govern

        Couldn’t agree more; historically Labour have been the centre party, & in most cases with a decent chunk of voters unrepresented who voted for parties to the left of Labour (Social Credit/ Values/ etc). Far less instances of this sort of vote splitting on the right. This & the urban/ rural electorate demographics is why National have been the ‘historic’ party of Government, far more than anything else.

        That’s what concerns me most about the greens MOU, it paints National with lefty credentials and makes the job of getting the ‘Nats are not centrists’ message out there that much harder.

        To me it makes more sense for the Greens to be attacking National much more hard out than the Labour party is. If you look at policy the Greens are going to grow their vote by taking votes off Labour’s left wing. Labour competing for the centre helps the greens in that respect.

        I disagree with this though. It rankles my political leaning, by I can see the arguement for working with the government to get stuff done. Maybe it undermines painting the Nats as ‘not centerist’, but here you’re putting more importance on the propaganda value of not working for an outcome, and I don’t think that’s a good set of values to apply. I think that kind of strategic thinking is prone to backfire; what would be the propagande value to the right if the only reason for the Greens not to support their own policy was that above?

        More to the point, I think in the long term that if this cooperation paints National in softer tones, it would do exactly the same for the Greens. It undermines the (not particularly insightful but still effective) ‘watermelon’ meme & shows the Greens maturity as a party. Insisting that the Greens can and should only work with Labour led governments has exactly the same problems as thinking of Maori voters in the same way. It’s is paternalistic, and one of the centre-left’s biggest weaknesses.

        And I think in the long term, it’s the likes of Peter Dunne & Winston Peters who benefit from the Greens being politically isolated, not National and certainly not Labour.

        PD and WP did represent a constituency who were genuinely concerned about the Green’s influence on government, and as long as they can scaremonger like they did the likes of them will:
        a) be able to whip ignorance up into a frenzy of voting
        b) be able to treat ‘keeping the Greens out of govt’ as an achievement that they’ll be rewarded for.

        If you look at policy the Greens are going to grow their vote by taking votes off Labour’s left wing. Labour competing for the centre helps the greens in that respect.

        well, that depend on whether one thinks the Greens increasing their vote is the be all and end all. Personally (and I don’t speak for any other Green supporter here) I don’t think it is. Look what ACT’s hemorrhaging of support to National on Brash’s assumption of leadership lead to; it got the ball rolling, the press started taking Nats seriously again, and now we have a Govt which has the idealogy of ACT and a nice smile. It almost came 3 years sooner.

        I don’t mean that the Greens should be loosing support by any stretch, but if they are to grow, it needs to be sustainably. The most important thing is to make sure that the 5% mark is held. I believe that the Greens have the most stable core support of any party; there’s no-one else who represents our core values, and (though I’m not that involved personally) the Greens have the internal structure to ensure that that continues to be the case.

        So long as the Greens are seen by centerists as being out there on the loony fringe (and successfully painted as such by their would be representatives…), their ability to achieve anything with a Labour party dependant on those very centerist voters is going to be compromised.

        • Pascal's bookie 10.1.2.1

          It undermines the (not particularly insightful but still effective) ‘watermelon’ meme & shows the Greens maturity as a party. Insisting that the Greens can and should only work with Labour led governments has exactly the same problems as thinking of Maori voters in the same way. It’s is paternalistic, and one of the centre-left’s biggest weaknesses.

          And I think in the long term, it’s the likes of Peter Dunne & Winston Peters who benefit from the Greens being politically isolated, not National and certainly not Labour.

          V.good point (alongside with many others). Thanks.

          I don’t think the greens should refuse to support legislation just because the govt, proposes it, I agree that that would be stupid on all sorts of levels.

          If the Greens can make it obvious that these things wouldn’t have been done without the the MOU, then that’s great. But I suspect that they’ll barely get a mention, the policies will just be seen as National ones, ‘as endorsed by the Greens’.

          I’m convinced by your argument that this will help soften the green image with regard to centrist voters though, it’s a great point.

          It’s going to be interesting to see if Dunne can finally get the shove in 11, and where the NZ first mob will find a home.

  11. I also read the comment and drew the exact opposite meaning of it than the meaning Armstrong drew. The comment explained why National’s support in the opinion polls is not going down. People do not wish to admit they made a mistake, yet.

    The experience in the Mt Albert by election suggests to me that the support for National is shaky. What should have been a tight race was a rout, and bad as Melissa Lee’s performance was the result should not have been that bad for a new government in its honeymoon.

    I spoke to many local voters during the by election campaign. Very few said that they had changed their mind about the party vote, quite a few identified themselves as National voters who were nevertheless going to vote for Shearer. For many of these people changing their mind about the electorate vote is the first part of the process for them deciding to change who to support with their party vote.

    Armstrong is very stupid for criticising the Standard and other lefty blogs for finding fault with Key and his comrades. Fault is found because there is an abundance of it to be found. He would be better off analysing the issues rather than trying to brand the messengers.

    • MikeG 11.1

      Melissa Lee… is she still in Parliament?!

    • mike 11.2

      Poor Mick, looking at the latest TV3 Poll the only thing that is looking very shakey is Labour – and poor old Fill still polling behind the control freak from NY -go figure

  12. gingercrush 12

    Labour need to get it across that the Nats are in fact quite a bit to the right of Labour and that any next term they get will be very different to this one. They have to do this while reassuring those same voters that Labour isn’t a radical scary lefty party. Which it isn’t. They just led a govt for nine years and whatever NZ is as a result if that, she aint any sort of leftist flagship state.

    So another negative campaign that didn’t work in 2008 and is likely to burn more voters. Not a great idea. Labour really can’t go negative heading towards 2011. They need to present an alternative government that exudes positivity and it has to be built around distribution of taxes for a fairer society. Anything else and they’re doomed to failure.

    That you lot haven’t learned anything from 2008 is bewildering.

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      Don’t put words in my mouth ginger, you’re not smart enough. There are many ways to skin a cat.

      I’ll start taking you seriously when you show at least some consistency in what your criticism of me is, and start actually analysing politics rather than trying to analyse what you think people here really mean and think.

      I’d take your criticisms a bit more seriously if I thought you had any idea about just how negative National’s campaign actually was. “corrupt, out of touch, arrogant” ring any bells g?

      You have no idea how National won do you? It’s really bewildering. (Gosh that’s an easy thing to say isn’t it? Fucking pointless though.)

      If you thought about your advice for more than a half a second, you’d see that what you are suggesting is that Labour campaign for the centre. Gosh, who’d have thunk it? Of course they have to offer a positive centre left agenda, that goes without saying. Which is why I didn’t say it. But if you think that that alone is enough, then you’ve not been paying anywhere near enough attention to politcs and history over the last 50 odd years.

      You keep mentioning Nationals disaster under English. The more relevant election is Bolgers second ‘victory’. You should also think carefully about how English campaigned.

  13. gingercrush 13

    Right you’re the one providing the same stupid analysis that this blog has been doing without success. The idea that National and John Key have a far-right agenda that is going to make middle New Zealand unhappy and go vote Labour is truly maddening. That you accuse National of the negative campaign is truly stupid as well. National didn’t have a great campaign but they sure as hell campaigned better than Labour.

    Go and have a bloody listen to yourself. You’re listing the same things as what this blog and you left commentators said in 2008. That you use the example of Jim Bolger in 1993 doesn’t make sense either. I don’t hear crowds of people calling hate on this government like they did with the “mother of all budgets”. 2011 will not play out as 1993. More likely it will be a 2002 scenario because you lot are thick. Sure you have great grasp of language and are able to speak from an intellectually but you’re still quite capable of spouting bullshit.

    As Danyl over at Dimpost rightly points out you’re using the same bullshit the right are and did use on Obama. It doesn’t work. You can’t play the great Labour government of 1999-2008 anymore because it just isn’t relevant. Things have changed. Helen Clark is gone and a new political era has come. If the left want to get lost in that, that is your choice. But just as the right are truly stupid with their attacks on Obama and how socialist he’s made the United States. So too are the increasing hordes of left-wing people that frequent the blogosphere.

    • Pascal's bookie 13.1

      For god’s sake ging. Try paying attention to what I actually say and try not reading your own imaginings about what I really mean into it.

      That you accuse National of the negative campaign is truly stupid as well. National didn’t have a great campaign but they sure as hell campaigned better than Labour.

      I didn’t say nat ran the negative campaign, I said they ran a negative campaign. They ran it parallel to a fairly wishy washy positive campaign. It’s not an either or thing, a party can run two or more campaigns ging, and just because one party (Labour 2008) runs a mostly negative campaign, that doesn’t mean the other party’s campaign is therefore purely positive.

      Go back and read my original comment that you responded to, I’m not anywhere talking about what sort of campaign Lab or the Greens need to run. Seriously I’m not. What I’m talking about is strategic rather than tactical. I’m talking about where the votes are that Lab need to get back. The tactics of getting them back, (go negative, re run the 2008 campaign etc) is a separate question. You are assuming that I’m implying those tactics by saying what you quoted. I’m not. That quote is a statement about the strategic objective of what any campaign strategy must have.

      Perhaps, in light of that, you could explain to me how Labour could win without regaining some of those centrist swing voters, or alternatively, how they could get them back without in some way convincing them that National is too right wing for them.

      I’m not suggesting any of the things you claim I am saying. I’m saying this:

      1) National won the election, but did not do so by promising a lurch to the right, in fact they explicitly ruled that out.

      2) They fact that they felt the need to swallow all those dead rats, and won the centre by swallowing them, implies that those dead rats define the centre.

      That’s about as far as I’m going and yet you read that as:

      You can’t play the great Labour government of 1999-2008 anymore because it just isn’t relevant. Things have changed. Helen Clark is gone and a new political era has come.

      I can only understand that if you think that 1 and 2 are false, and that National actually did campaign and win by promising a step to the right, but you’ll need to explain all those dead rats and promises.

      I certainly agree that a new era has come, but I’ve no idea what you mean by it. It’s an empty phrase without context. It’s my opinion that the Nats are trying to shift the centre rightwards. That’s not an uncontroversial thought. It’s what political parties are for, to shift policy.

      All I am saying is that if Labour wants to win, then it needs to articulate that National are shifting the centre to the right, and convince some of those centrist voters (who voted Labour for 9 years don’t forget), that they’d rather vote Labour.

      The point about Bolger’s second election is about what happened on the left, the Alliance took a crap load of votes from Labour, Labour took some from the centre. You are quite right that there has been no equivalent yet to the mother of all budgets. I’m assuming that National is actually going to come up with some sort of agenda soon, and that if they do, it will be further to the right than where they campaigned at the last election. Again, I don’t think that’s a stretch.

      The difference between now and 2002 is that Labour won in 99 promising a step left. They didn’t swallow many dead rats on the campaign trail. They promised to repeal the ECA, introduce a new tax bracket, stop privatising shit and generally shift the country to the left. That gave rise to a totally different dynamic to what’s happening now.

      Now what exactly is there in that which you find to be so fucking stupid?

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