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Get your house in order

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, July 9th, 2009 - 69 comments
Categories: labour - Tags:

Here’s some advice I’d give Labour if I was Crosby Textor:

You need three negative values you want associated with National (for example: arrogant, “out of touch”, corrupt ;))

You need three positive values you want associated with Labour (for example: democracy, justice, vision).

Pick them using focus groups (for god’s sake don’t use UMR – they seem to think they are strategists rather than just pollsters). Do not think you’re clever enough to second guess the voters by coming up with your own ideas of what they think.

Take the three best performing values for describing each party. This is your communications strategy.

Create a short list of plain synonyms for each value (put the actual value at the top of the list)

These are your key lines for the next two and a half years. (Note: key lines are not research points and they are not 10 pages long).

Have your chief of staff (get a chief of staff), press secs, researchers and anyone else in a campaign advisory role meet each morning to discuss the day’s news agenda. Chair the meeting aggressively.

If your day’s plan is to attack National do so within the framework of one or more of your three values.

If your day’s plan is to boost Labour make sure you do so within the framework of your positive values.

Use your key lines constantly. Make sure every release/attack in the house/interview you do includes these words.

Rinse and repeat. And remember that simple, clear and repetitive is what you need. Don’t try to be clever.

Oh and treat the gallery well and make time to hang out and shoot the breeze with them (they’re actually quite an interesting bunch) because the media’s mood dictates a large part of the public’s mood, and the media’s mood toward your party is simply a magnification of the inter-personal relationship you have with individual journalists.

69 comments on “Get your house in order”

  1. snoozer 1

    Excellent post.

    There’s an art to framing yourself and your opposition – and that’s how it’s done. Labour just isn’t doing at present.

    You should re-run this post every week until they start getting it right.

  2. Lew 2

    Outstanding advice, IB. Still, I think it’s too early – I don’t think Labour have really settled on a strategy, and this one presupposes the Goff-led fight-for-the-middle-ground strategy rather than the (other?)-led unify-your-allies-around-a-common-left-banner strategy, which I suspect would be stronger in the long term.

    Partly this is due to a lack of apparent allies. Labour’s first task should be to remedy that state of affairs. Attacking National isn’t necessarily the best way to go about doing that.

    L

    • Daveo 2.1

      I’ll let you in on a little secret. Labour has no strategy. None. At all. And they show no signs they’re in the process of developing one.

      That’s why people are starting to make a noise about it, because if they don’t its three more years of right-wing government.

    • Er Lew and Daveo

      The current strategy is to point out the weaknesses in the current approach. And despite the gross generalisations that some engage in this is happening.

      It started in December with National’s 100 days of action and Labour’s standing up to them.

      It continued with the Mt Albert by election. National really did present a policy framework (not a coherent one) and Labour presented an alternative. The people of Mt Albert then spoke. Their voice was really compelling. And since then Labour has continued to state opposition to what is happening.

      The electoral cycle is only 9 months old. Now is not the time to present an alternative but to point out that the current Emperor has no clothes. Swing kiwi voters tend to have a somewhat limited attention span. The process is to sew discontent and then present an alternative.

      In the meantime left wing activists can have sophisticated arguments about how the world should be and there is nothing wrong with this.

      Daveo, the LP has a strategy. Poke holes in the idiocy of what this current government is doing, collect its collective thoughts and then present them at a time when the Nats cannot steal them.

      Prey tell, what is the nats strategy?

      • gingercrush 2.2.1

        oh Mickysavage just say, “Labour is so amazing, any day now everyone in New Zealand will vote Labour. Labour is amazing”.

      • Daveo 2.2.2

        Labour don’t have a communications strategy. I know this for a fact. And right now their political strategy consists of sitting around waiting for the deteriorating economic situation to start denting John Key’s popularity.

        In the meantime they’re just making the occasional opportunistic attack, badly, and without any overarching strategy or narrative to fit it into.

        Something’s got to change in that office, otherwise Labour will be in opposition for a long time to come.

      • Lew 2.2.3

        mickysavage,

        “Poke holes in the government’s agenda” is not a strategy. That’s a tactic. A strategy is made up of many tactics, combined into a coherent and interactive whole, flexible enough to adapt to new situations and take advantage of opportunities, and timed to peak at a point which advantages them and disadvantages the opposition.

        I agree that now is too early to be peaking, perhaps too early to show any cards, and I freely accept that just because I can’t see a strategy doesn’t mean there isn’t one. But the fact remains: I can’t see one; and I’m also not convinced Goff and King can get sufficient cut-through against a government which is getting down to business at a frankly frightening rate, and with strong popular support to boot.

        That’s National’s strategy at present; don’t sweat the petty things (dead rats; pesky communities getting in the way of progress; moderate unemployment; moderate economic downturn; etc) which possibly can’t be helped in any case, and set about making the sorts of structural and preparatory changes which will either make it easy for them to hit the ground running in 2011, or at least put the opposition in the position of choosing between swallowing their own helping of dead rats or undergoing a costly and complicated reversal process.

        L

  3. IrishBill 3

    Lew, the communications strategy should always follow the political strategy and the basic premise of this advice is applicable to any political strategy, all you would need to do is work with left allies to stay on song together (much as Act, National and their extra-parliamentary allies did last term).

    The British Labour government forgot that communications should always follow policy and it cost them. I think John Key’s government risks making the same mistakes.

    • Lew 3.1

      Fair enough. It’s not clear to me (on the outside) that there really is a political strategy, hence my seeing this as being a bit premature.

      L

  4. ghostwhowalks 4

    May work for branding FMCG but for a product with the same name for 80 years.
    And you dont have any money for your brand awareness outside the 3 months of an election.
    I reckon the first second and last value is TRUST.
    Nothing else works without this( and why they will do anything short of murder to stop anything about Key that makes him sound untrustworthy( newspaper reporters, cocktail party snoopers etc)
    And conversely this is what was used successfully against Winston Peters

    • Lew 4.1

      GWW,

      ‘TRUST’ as a campaign platform has recently failed Labour terribly. They can’t go back there.

      L

      • snoozer 4.1.1

        I don’t agree. Trust worked, the gap narrowed – there was some self-inflicted blowback but that’s not a fault with using ‘trust’ as a theme. Just because they didn’t win doesn’t mean everything they did was wrong.

        • Lew 4.1.1.1

          snoozer,

          ‘Trust’ was a bad platform because the message didn’t resonate with policy – Labour had eroded the electorate’s trust in them (with the EFA, the FSA and the s59 repeal, among others), making them vulnerable on the very issue they had nominated as the most important. Any future use of that sort of strategy will be:
          * rightly derided as unoriginal;
          * tainted by the previous loss on that issue; and
          * met with constant relitigation of the issues on which Labour lost the electorate’s trust last time.

          L

          • Phil 4.1.1.1.1

            Come on now Lew,

            The simple reason ‘Trust’ was a monumentally-fucking-stupid platform was because the voting public don’t trust the word of ANY politician.

  5. IrishBill 5

    Like I said, you don’t try to second guess the voters.

  6. Anthony Karinski 6

    Now how is this improving democracy? Seems more like governing ala Fox News.

    • Lew 6.1

      Anthony, I think having a coherent and competent opposition is an enormous boon to any democracy.

      L

    • IrishBill 6.2

      I agree. I never said it was about democracy and I don’t like the fact that this is what’s required to get to a position to make policy. This is PR advice. My policy advice would be to do everything possible to make this PR advice invalid. Such as increasing the focus on critical thinking in education by encouraging the teaching of civics or political philosophy in high school. Such as increasing democratic participation in policy making by way of citizen juries and devolution of authority to well-resourced community boards. Such as redistributing wealth and growing wages to reduce working hours and enable greater participation in education and community activity. Such as increasing funding for public broadcasting and the arts and heritage sector and tying it to tangible participatory outcomes.

      Of course that can’t happen if you can’t get in a position to make policy in the first place.

      • Anthony Karinski 6.2.1

        So say you get into position by way of PR tricks. Surely the whole democratic conversation has been altered and you would be less inclined to follow up on your good policy suggestions as you would expose yourself as a hypocrite and likely loose power. Sounds like means to an end to me. And as Luther said “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

        • IrishBill 6.2.1.1

          You fight your battle on the field you have. Not the field you wish you had.

        • Lew 6.2.1.2

          Anthony,

          The point is that this sort of thing shouldn’t be ‘tricks’, for the very reason you state – the opponent (assuming they’re competent) will test you and you’ll be required to put up. Woe betide the party who can’t do so.

          If your messages aren’t backed by something more solid, then you’re only as good as your last press conference.

          L

          • Anthony Karinski 6.2.1.2.1

            As I understand it a major point of the exercise is to brandish your opponents in a negative way and see if you can make it stick. Whether the accusations are true or not plays second fiddle. As we’ve seen with the “Iwi – Kiwi” saga, Anti- “smacking” bill, WMD in Iraq etc.

        • roger nome 6.2.1.3

          No Anthony – we’re merely dealing with reality – you don’t fight a lunatic with a machine gun using a feather duster (even if it is more ethical) – you get your best sniper and take him out.

  7. gingercrush 7

    “arrogant, “out of touch’, corrupt” – Funny that describes the Labour Party to a tee.

    • IrishBill 7.1

      How framing gets results: exhibit “a”

    • snoozer 7.2

      yeah, because National identified those as key framing words then relentlessly tied them to Labour.

      Irishbill is saying Labour needs to do the same. Find what positive associations people have with Labour and use them to be build an image, and do the reverse for National.

    • roger nome 7.3

      We’ll see what National looks like after 2 and a half terms in Government (if it gets there) then we’ll see what the jackals of the press-gallery are saying

  8. Richard 8

    While the later part of your post (having a co-ordinated simple strategy) is very sensible, the first part (picking your branding via focus group) is an appalling idea.

    The labour party should decide what it principles it stands for, and what it wants to do to improve the lot of NZers. Once you’ve done that, *then* there is a place for focus groups to help decide how best to communicate your message to the public, and to help decide which aspects of your message will appeal to different demographics.

    Becoming a party that needs a focus group to decide which way is up seems like a terrible idea.

    This does seem to be what the National party has become, and while sure this strategy might have helped them win an election it doesn’t seem to be beneficial to NZ or possibly even the long-term health of the National party. Take a look at practically any random post by DPF over on kiwiblog. Those that are not feverish holiday posts are all about how the handling of some issue will or will not influence National’s re-election chances / polling. The emphasis never seems to be on what is actually a good policy in terms of outcomes (rather than perceptions), or on what is good for the country that National is supposedly governing. This sort of mind-rot is what listening too much to focus groups seems to end in.

    • Richard: spot on in general. (Though I’m rather too loyal to National to see the Nats in quite the terms you do, you do identify a real danger for them.)

      In Farrar’s defence, well, he is a pollster by profession, so it’s kinda inevitable that he’ll see more issues in these terms than you or I would regard as perfectly healthy.

  9. IrishBill 9

    Richard, you pick the best results from the focus group that fit your policy vision I should have made that more clear. I certainly wouldn’t advocate governing by focus group.

    It would be good to be able to bring ideas to the group but you can miss the boat and spend too much money by trying to be proscriptive with FG testing. A cold-read is what you need to tap the seeds of strong PR. Perhaps I’ll write a piece on focus group testing some time – not many people do it well.

  10. The Voice of Reason 10

    Excellent post, IB.

    I’m interested in your comment above that the British Labour Party has put communication ahead of policy and it has cost them. Given that they invented this strategy in the early days of Blair’s NewLabour and have won every general election since, were is the cost?

    Just because Gordon Brown is unpopular and that has dragged down Labour in the polls does not equate to the strategy itself failing. NewLabour relied heavily on a smirking, pompous ass with no solid policy on anything and spun the hell out of the need for change. Some similarity, I’d suggest, for another smirking, pompous ass closer to home.

    But your basic message is spot on. I was told a long time before Blair and Campbell that most most news reporters will only ever use two or three sentences of any quotes you give them, so you may as well only give them the two or three sentences you want heard. Repeat, repeat, repeat until they turn the tape off and they will have to use your lines because you’ve given them nothing else.

    • Lew 10.1

      TVOR, looked at a UK opinion poll recently? Did you entirely miss the whole ‘Iraq’ thing?

      And the recent European Parliament election? Far as I can see, coming fifth behind the Tories, Greens, the LibDems and a bunch of lunatic isolationists in one (generally Labour-loyal) region of England is a high cost, I’d say.

      L

      • The Voice of Reason 10.1.1

        I covered this, Lew. Blair won re-election despite ‘the Iraq thing’. Brown is in trouble because of his personal lack of connection with the electorate, not because the NewLabour strategy is wrong. Hell, the Tories have adapted it to their own uses and are now pitching Cameron as closer to Blair than Brown is. Which might be correct if you believe Blair was a tory in disguise, but whatever …

        This is a post about how to win General Elections, not irrelevancies like the Euro parliamentary elections were the dismal turnout always allows loonies to get elected. The council elections were a shocker, but again, more to do with Brown than the failure of the overarching strategy.

        • Lew 10.1.1.1

          TVOR, if you don’t think the electorate’s animosity toward Labour is anything to do with Blair’s cynical politicking, I have a bridge to sell you.

          L

          • The Voice of Reason 10.1.1.1.1

            Sweet, I’m in discussions with Rodders about the one in Ak anyway, so if you’ve got a better option, let me know.

            But as regards Blair, all wishful thinking, I’m afraid. He’s long gone, mostly forgotten and Brown has pissed away the substantial political capital he inherited.

            Oddly, my anti spam word is “church”, which is where Blair went in his times of need and still the only place where Brown has a prayer.

    • IrishBill 10.2

      It’s cost them in terms of making any real political achievements and I’d argue it was Blair that started the downward slide. Hell at this rate it wouldn’t surprise me if they become the third party that never makes it back into power.

      • The Voice of Reason 10.2.1

        Now that’s an interesting point, Irish. The most recent poll I read from the UK suggested that the only way Labour could possibly win was in coalition with the Liberals (or whatever they call themselves these days). Historically, they have been the unwanted third force, perenially the opposition’s opposition.

        They have, however, formed coalition agreements with both Labour and Conservatives at local government level. Perhaps they might prop Brown up if he offers a better deal than Cameron. I’d guess the price would be electoral reform of the MMP/STV kind, which could then lead to a viable green party in the UK as well.

  11. gobsmacked 11

    I do wonder what goes on in the “inner circle”, or whatever Labour calls it.

    Here’s what I could work out (armed with no inside info at all, and no great insights beyond a bit of blindingly obvious common sense):

    This was clearly going to be a quiet week. House in recess, no grand government announcements, no real news to get the poli-journos excited.

    Therefore: plan to fill the void. One issue, one message, one soundbite, one visual, and Phil Goff on the telly. Never mind which one – could be jobs, banking, night classes, whatever. Just choose one theme, and exploit it with energy and style. Not a press release.

    It has (sadly) never been easier to spoon feed the media, under-resourced and uncritical. And yet Labour don’t seem to know how to do it. They’d better learn, fast.

    If they don’t know where to start, try the local library. Search terms: Reagan, Clinton, Obama, Rudd, Blair, etc. Media, manipulation of.

    It’s all been done. No wheel re-inventing required. Just some average brains, and above all, some bloody hunger.

  12. coolas 12

    Fascinating read. I have no experience of the business of politics, but have operated other businesses, and the approach suggested is the same advice I get from the advertising/marketing ‘experts’: key words (emotive connection) to describe the product, branding, consumer identification, target marketing, consistent message. I know what they’re on about but loath the attitude, because at worst, people are convinced by clever advertising to buy utter crap. Hence Tony Blair became the MacDonalds of politics.

    I’m glad I/Bill said later in reply that sound policy(product?) must come first. I’d hate to see the NZ Labour party go Dextor on us, so would like to see ‘sincerity’ in the list of affirmatives, and ‘deceitful’ for Nact.

    The release of policy (marketing?) with slogans and sound bites will only be

  13. Bevanjs 13

    IB, I think you’ve highlighted what Labour really needs.


    Do not think you’re clever enough to second guess the voters by coming up with your own ideas of what they think.

    reverse the above thinking so they have a leg to stand on when throwing stones about being out of touch.


    You need three negative values you want associated with National (for example: arrogant, “out of touch’, corrupt )

  14. Rex Widerstrom 14

    For goodness sake IB if you keep publishing this sort of thing for free, people like me aren’t going to be able to make a living out of charging idiot pollies a fortune for what is, essentially, common sense.

    I know you’re anti-capitalist, but really, taking the bread off my plate…! 😉

    It’s very good advice and I’d love to see Labour heed it, because policy-wise they have much to offer and because democracy benefits from a strong and focused Opposition.

    But while gc did leap in there with the “arrogant, out of touch and corrupt” line it would do those who’re defending pre-2009 Labour well to remember that any negative imaging of your opponent has to be grounded in some fact.

    I’d be an idiot if I advised a Republican primary candidate to characterise Sarah Palin as a cold intellectual with liberal leanings – your target has to be, or be behaving as though they were, the kind of person you’re trying to portray them as.

    Labour in its last term under Clark acted in a way that was perceived as being arrogant and out of touch and to a degree was deserving of that perception. It was also unlucky to be both hit by compartively minor corruption within its own ranks (e.g. Field) while being inexorably bound to a coalition partner who was either corrupt or behaving in a way that appeared corrupt to a majority of voters.

    I’m sure Labour’s own focus groups were telling it this, so to not change tack and at least try for a bit of humility further reinforces the impression of arrogance.

    Anyway, that’s in the past and there’s not much to be gained from either beating that particular dead horse or from trying to defend the way it was ridden (other than to learn from past mistakes).

    The important thing is that they take on board your advice, IB.

    • Daveski 14.1

      As always, I enjoy reading your comments Rex and again you make some very interesting points.

      I don’t have your experience or the involvement that many here do but I would have thought that the one of the central planks of getting back into power in an MMP environment is to build bridges if not allies with potential coalition partners. (This was actually well covered by DPF but I assume it wasn’t well read here.)

      Labour seems intent on scoring points against the MP (no bridges here!). The Greens are a different matter but to an extent Labour and the Greens are competing for at least some common ground.

      What about a Winston comeback, Rex??

      I think it’s fair to say that the Labour outplayed the Nats under MMP until the last election. You can’t say that now.

      • Rex Widerstrom 14.1.1

        Thanks Daveski.

        Building bridges is fine… but if the continent you’ve built the bridge to starts sinking in an ocean of corruption it’s time to pull back the bridge (if I may torture a metaphor to death in order to make a point).

        The negatives outweighed the positives* almost from the outset and certainly by the time it was all sent to the Privileges Committee and Brian Henry started getting more “recovered memories” than a witness at the Peter Ellis trial.

        Yes Labour outplayed the Nats in terms of using MMP to its advantage though to be fair it had a wider choice of stable coalition partners in that Anderton and the Greens were never going to cross the divide and the latter were always going to poll well unlike most of those who’ve supported National (the cravenly ambitious rump of ex NZF MPs like Deborah Morris who refused to walk when Winston did, Ross Meurant, Graeme Lee… I mean you try forming a stable government with that lot, let alone getting them re-elected for next time).

        A Winston comeback? I’d suggest a laying a trail of whisky bottles to the edge of a cliff…

        You were asking how to prevent one, right? 😀

        *and the only positive I could see was supposed “stability” – never a Winston strong point at the best of times.

    • IrishBill 14.2

      You’d be depressed if you knew how Labour used (or didn’t use) focus groups, Rex. Depressed.

      • Rex Widerstrom 14.2.1

        Let me guess. “They’re uniformly agreed we’re completely and utterly wrong on x, but what do they know, they’re only citizens. Clearly we need to either a) tell them to move on, we know best or b) devise a propaganda campaign to convince them we know best”.

        • IrishBill 14.2.1.1

          Nope, but I’m not spilling all the trade secrets on a public forum. Maybe I’ll tell you over a beer one day.

  15. gingercrush 15

    The problem Labour has is it is very rare for any party to be out of government in one term. Indeed, the National party has never been kicked out after one term. Contrary to what you lot on the left might think. The general feeling in this country is that John Key and National are doing pretty well. I know you think John Key and National are doing a horrible job. But you’re really reaching if you think that way.

    Polling does matter. If Labour can’t get a significant lift in its poll numbers after one year increasingly Phil Goff will be questioned by the media. Increasingly, other Labour MPs will question Phil Goff leading their party. Look at what low poll numbers did for Jenny Shipley and Bill English. No doubt someone is bound to say, but Helen Clark had low numbers and she didn’t go. That was a very Labour party. That was a Labour party essentially destroyed by the in-fighting between fractions of the right and the left. Helen Clark remained leader because Labour really didn’t have a choice. The 1996 result was very good for Labour, there was no doubt its numbers would increase and likely win in 1999. Indeed, in many ways Labour should have formed the government in 1996.

    As for the economy, most predictions are that we will grow in the December quarter and unemployment will peak next year. Meaning, the economy is likely to be in a good position at the 2011 election. Certainly, that may or will do damage to National but eventually if those predictions prove correct National is going to be able to form a good argument for the 2011 election.

    That is why Labour can’t actually wait around for this government to stuff up. For one, it isn’t stuffing up. Secondly, even if it does (or has since that is how you lefties see it), typically that doesn’t hurt the government till the second term. The likelihood of National holding office again post 2011 is very high. Labour has a hard job to get back into office so soon. That is why Labour essentially needs to throw everything at National because otherwise National will steamroll into the 2011 election and win.

    • gobsmacked 15.1

      The problem Labour has is it is very rare for any party to be out of government in one term.

      Yes, that’s what every commentator says. Except … there is no “rare”.

      There is only one precedent: Labour in 2002. A sample of one is not the ideal basis to draw solid conclusions.

      There were, of course, many examples under the old voting system. Trouble is, the governments would have lost after one term (assuming people voted the same way, which is a whole other story), if the elections had been held under MMP.

      National in 1993 and 1978, for example. Re-elected under FPP, after losing a large percentage of their vote.

      Of course National can win in 2011, by holding or increasing their vote. But historical elections when they lost votes are not a relevant guide to their re-election prospects under MMP.

      • Lew 15.1.1

        GS,

        There is only one precedent: Labour in 2002

        Come again? How is 2002 (won by Labour, who were incumbent, and followed by a Labour win) a precedent for a government getting ejected after one term?

        L

        • gobsmacked 15.1.1.1

          Only one precedent supporting Gingercrush’s assertion.

          • Lew 15.1.1.1.1

            GS, yeah, sorry, I might just be dense, but you’re going to have to connect the dots for me if you don’t want me to think you’re just making shit up or getting your dates mixed up.

            L

      • felix 15.1.2

        Sorry, gs. I’m still confused.

        Come again again?

  16. gingercrush 16

    I think GS is saying in a post-FPP (so a MMP) parliament there is only one precedent of a party keeping government after one election.

    I would agree GS that MMP certainly changes things in that you have to surround yourself with support from other parties. Meaning despite polling lower than another party you are quite capable of gaining government. I would suggest that Labour won’t get numbers high enough that they will be able to form a government. I also think a resurgence in Labour’s vote (or even higher support for Labour) will hurt what the Green’s support is in 2011.

    • gingercrush 16.1

      You also assume this government will be unpopular like National was at the 1993 election. I don’t think it can be assumed that National and John Key are or will be unpopular. The left may not like John Key. But it is dangerous to assume that swing voters think that way.

      • gobsmacked 16.1.1

        No, I’m not assuming anything, Ginger. In fact, I’m saying that what happened in 1993 is not relevant. You were saying it is relevant, because it resulted in a second term.

  17. gobsmacked 17

    OK, I’ll try again. (though Ginger has got it, at least)

    There has only been one new government elected under MMP (before this current one). That was Labour in 1999. And they were indeed re-elected, in 2002.

    Previously, new governments were sometimes re-elected (Holyoake’s, Muldoon’s, etc), sometimes not (Labour 1972-75). Generally National had the better record under FPP.

    But the voting system has changed. So governments under MMP need to retain their vote (or find partners). Governments in the past, who lost substantial support at the next election but still got re-elected thanks to FPP, do not tell us anything about National’s prospects in 2011, under MMP. Different game, different rules.

    OK?

    (of course there is an entirely separate debate, about current polling, minor partners, etc, which gives National cause for optimism. But that has nothing to do with historical precedent, of FPP second terms).

    • Lew 17.1

      GS,

      Ok, I get it now. Thanks.

      But they were re-elected in 2005, for a third term; that speaks to some sort of electoral loyalty, absent catastrophic uselessness. In addition, the overriding narrative of elections was, even in 2008, of a horserace between National and Labour; the same narrative as before. Even if the voting system is different at a fundamental level, it doesn’t necessarily look different to Josephine Q. Public.

      L

  18. ak 18

    Ewwwww. Isn’t this approach exactly what we hated about the NACT campaign? The only consolation was that the focus groups wanted Lablite policies – and hence a good deal of the current angst, as Sunny has yet to push hard enough to the right for Joe Swingvote to notice. “He seems to be doing ok doesn’t he? – now where’d I put that crescent?”

    And Joe only gets his info from a few sources: the paper, the TV news and a bit of talkback. The most super-dooper keywords and messages in the world are entirely at the mercy of how the msm wants to frame them. “Labour claws back with Core Message Campaign” Repeat repeat repeat? Where? Only if Dunc and the spinner bros want to repeat them.

    Exhibit A: Orewa One: near-identical speeches given by other tories and assorted cretins (English for one at a Local gov conference) in preceding months – and ignored. Suddenly editorials and “opinion pieces” everywhere.
    Exhibits B, C, D: “anti-smacking”, Mallard/Henare scrap, Kill Winnie: all seminal poll-shifting events sheeted to Labour’s debit sheet despite all empirical evidence to the contrary.
    E – Z: flip-flops, sleaze, jobs, north-of-fifty, supercity etc etc – imagine the press treatment if Hels were still at the helm.

    Solution? The brand’s been a winner since 1935. Stick with it and shout loudly it’s enormous successes to date (including Labour/lite). Boast Labour heritage in every progressive move – from whomever. Bypass the MSM at every opportunity: right here and Red Alert are good starts, but lighten up a bit (look at the Huffington Post – titillate and intrigue). Persuade Phil and Trev to stand aside within a year.

  19. Zaphod Beeblebrox 19

    Just because something has never happened before before does not mean it won’t happen.

    If National perform like they did in their first test (Mt Albert), they will lose. For National to assume that economic recovery will save them would be naive. They will be judged on how NZ perform vis-a-vis Australia, on that score so far we are not doing well. If NZ does not come out strongly from recession- they will be blamed. Sometimes doing nothing is the worst thing to do.

    So far, National have attempted to play it safe. They will, however have to make some difficult decisions soon- which are bound to cause problems (ETS, Auckland Council, RMA, FSA, the Hide productivity agenda).

    • gobsmacked 19.1

      ZB, your last sentence is particularly true.

      I’m intrigued by Key’s strategy, really. It is against the grain to think that deferring decisions actually increases political capital (as opposed to taking the hit early). Perhaps there is a public need not to have to think about anything difficult, and Key has tapped into it.

      But it’s not “leadership”, and that may be his undoing. The “have a look at, yeah, I’m relaxed, we’ll see” style of non-decisions has a limited shelf life, not least with his own base, who will want him to be “tough”, sooner or later.

    • gingercrush 19.2

      Some good points. I’m not saying a recovery is going to be a winner for National. What I am saying, that by the time the economy recovers which looks likely to be before the 2011 election (though its unclear what will happen to economic growth or how quickly jobs will be created once the economy recovers). Labour isn’t going to be able to hold that over National. In comparison to Australia. Australia will come out of this recession stronger because it never had an induced-recession and it tends to export to still-strong economies (Australia trades much more heavily with China and Asia than New Zealand and what it exports tends to always be in demand). But Australia is likely to have unemployment as bad as New Zealand. So whilst Labour is likely going to compare New Zealand’s performance to Australia. I’m not sure New Zealanders are going to buy that. Where the focus is economically will be what we do now that we are recovering. National is likely to point to structural problems in our economy whilst Labour is likely to focus on job creation and assistance to workers.

      I would agree that if National runs a Mt. Albert like campaign they’re in for trouble. I don’t think that will happen. I think John Key stood up well in the 2008 election and if anything its Goff performance that is going to be important (on that count Goff will be good in debates but I do wonder whether he can get the message out). I also wonder how important Mt. Albert is on the whole. We know that by-election saw an increase in activists for the party. But by all accounts Mt. Albert already had organisation there. Its questionable whether they have that organisation in other electorates and National’s organisation is far better elsewhere.

      I agree that National have perhaps played it safe. But I think they had to and will keep doing so. National has to pander to its base but it also has to be moderate (though if you read this blog you’d think National was a fascist party). Though I don’t think Key was that far-right in the first place. Whilst Auckland Super-City will be an issue and you’ve pointed to others. There are also a number of areas where National can get gains. A new electoral finance act will be one. The Foreshore and Seabed could potentially be a winner for National. We’re still to see a proper infrastructure plan and its likely National will be moving with its broadband plan. So whereas there are some areas that could be problematic for National, there are also areas where National can make gains.

      —-

      I do wish I could write much tighter. I tend to say too much whereas any other person would be able to say the same thing in just one paragraph.

      • lprent 19.2.1

        Activists help a lot. Software that enables activists helps a lot. You trade time for people, brains for money. None of them are magic bullets but used effectively obviate a large chunk of the NACT’s advantages (mostly money).

  20. gingercrush 20

    In terms of policy shifts. The one thing I’ve certainly noticed post-2008 election is Labour going back to being very pro-worker. Whether, that is a genuine strategy or not I can’t decide. But what we might see in 2011 is a focus by Labour on low and middle class workers. Whereas Helen Clark’s Labour party focused more on them being a social democratic party. This Goff-led Labour is likely to really target low and middle class families.

    As such, I expect we’ll see policies emerging that focus on helping families and focus on the poor in New Zealand. Part of that shift may be a re-focus on South Auckland but also the working class provincial types.Many of those did not come out and vote Labour in 2008. They won’t go to the Greens (have a look where Greens get their votes) and thus the only real party they will vote for is Labour. Labour assumes some of their liberal base in the cities will also go back to them.

    What will be interesting to watch if this is their strategy. Is what happens to their more green policies. This doesn’t mean they’ll dump green policies but they may choose not to focus on them. But in particular how in focusing on more pro-worker policies what happens to their more liberal policies. Indeed, what role are their liberal members in their party going to have.

    I’m not sure any of that makes sense. I’m trying to say: Labour is going very pro-worker. In going pro-worker there is a certain contradiction in that this might well be a more a conservative Labour.

    • Bevanjs 20.1

      Phil would have to take his tie off and pretend to be a real kiwi. Impressions count. I think he’ll struggle.

      • Quoth the Raven 20.1.1

        One should wish for a country where you’re not judged on what you wear. What is a “real kiwi”? and why should one have to pretend to be one?

    • jarbury 20.2

      Gingercrush, I think that would be a clever shift for Labour. They need to win back west Auckland and get out the South Auckland vote if they’re to have any chance of winning the 2011 election. Those areas are full of the very people you suggest Labour are (or should be) aiming to go for. Plus, the time of a recession and rising unemployment is a clever time to go pro-worker.

      Oddly enough, I’m probably advocating for Labour to shift away from the direction where I personally would like to see them move to (somewhat of a cross between Labour and Greens). Then again, if they lose a few liberal votes to the Green Party it doesn’t really matter in the end, as they’re likely to need the Greens to help govern anyway.

  21. Lew 21

    Edit: Bah. I should post this on my own soapbox.

    L

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