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Imperator Fish: Winning in 2014: a prescription for Labour

Written By: - Date published: 11:04 pm, June 10th, 2014 - 38 comments
Categories: humour, parody, Satire - Tags:

Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish is well known for his inciteful insightful analysis of many issues. However he has really really outdone himself in this repost of his original work. With its clarion call for rioting clarity it will bring war unity to all parts of the political spectrum outside of Labour advising them on their strategy. Who can wait to read the few lines of commentary by David Farrar giving the 9th floor position as he quotes this post. Indeed!

Labour should be prepared to do a deal with Hone Harawira (pictured above), but any sort of deal with the Mana-Internet Party would be electoral suicide for Labour.

As a Labour Party member I get so frustrated at the constant negativity about my party. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what the party ought to be doing, and barely a day goes by without some blogger on The Standard, The Daily Blog, or Pundit, opining stridently about the strategic errors Labour is making.  It seems as if all is in turmoil, as those within the party and on its fringes debate the direction Labour should take.

But if the various factions would only stop denouncing each other for a moment, they would see that it’s bloody obvious what Labour needs to do to win the 2014 election. It doesn’t take a genius to work any of this out.

And yet it seems as if every day someone new is giving the party advice on what it should do, which demographic it should target, and which policies it should adopt. Honestly, reading the blogs these days usually leaves me with a headache.

It’s not rocket surgery, guys! Just get it together, will you?

It’s startlingly obvious. All Labour needs to do to win is move to the left and capture the support of all those disaffected voters fed up with our failed neoliberal experiment, while staying firmly in the centre where all the middle class votes are. Labour has been failing precisely because it has struggled to work out what it is about, and what it stands for, but it needs to stand up for the working classes and the poor, while remaining a party predominantly for middle New Zealand.

Hundreds of thousands of young people did not vote for Labour last time, because they could not see any point. Most of these young people are uninspired by Labour, because it offers them nothing new. In their minds, Labour is largely indistinguishable from National. Labour must therefore position itself as offering something quite different to National.

There are also hundreds of thousands of middle class voters who went with National instead of Labour last time, so if Labour wants to win these voters back it must look to steal some of the territory currently occupied by the Nats. These people want a steady reliable government focused on fiscal prudence. They’re largely happy with the way things are.

Labour is a broad church, and it cannot hope to win power without carrying the majority of the voting public with it. That means policies that address genuine middle class concerns. But Labour is also a party for the workers and the poor, and was born from the union movement. At its heart must be a concern for the welfare of workers and those struggling, even if this has to be at the expense of the middle class.

Labour also has an image problem, but that can be fixed easily enough. Many voters are frightened off by the perception that Labour is a party run by gays, feminists and minority groups. The party has driven off good blokes like John Tamihere and now Shane Jones, blokes who offer a different perspective and can communicate with working class males in a way that the current party leader cannot. Many voters are also frightened off by the perception that Labour is still a party struggling with its attitudes towards gays, feminists and minority groups, as evidenced by the Neanderthal attitudes of past and current caucus members, like John Tamihere and more recently Shane Jones. Labour needs to embrace all perspectives, while driving utterly from the party anyone who happens to have the wrong opinions.

Labour needs to end its obsession with identity politics, while remaining a fearless and unashamed champion of the rights of women and other traditionally oppressed groups in our society.

The policies that Labour adopts will ultimately determine whether it wins this election. David Cunliffe needs to be brave and adopt bold policies that get this country up and running again. But he can’t afford to scare the centrist vote by doing anything drastic. Indeed, although we need firm and decisive action to right this sinking ship, the economy is on the mend and there really is no need for a radical change of direction. We need to accept that our free market economy has failed ordinary New Zealanders utterly and completely and needs to be abandoned, while accepting that our free market economy is here to stay. Labour should focus on policies that moderate the worst aspects of the free market but otherwise allow businesses to prosper, while at the same time returning to an economy heavily controlled by the government.

People will respond to a leader who offers a bold and clear vision of the path ahead, so long as they realise that big government isn’t the cure for all ills. People have to take responsibility for themselves, because the world doesn’t owe them a living, and they should also expect the government to care for them when they fall upon hard times or are disadvantaged. The role of Labour leader is to promote policies that allow the government to take an active role in society, while accepting that people don’t necessarily want more government in their lives.

The world has changed, and we simply can’t afford as a nation to try and return to some golden age when health and education were free for everyone. But the world is changing, and people are finally realising that the only reason we can’t all have free health and education is because the elites who run this country don’t want to pay more tax.

Labour must promise to be fiscally prudent, so as not to alarm the markets, and so as to encourage people worried about government spending to vote for them. That doesn’t mean, however, that Labour should focus too much on controlling government spending. An increase in government spending will provide a much needed stimulus to the economy, so long as it is done in a way that doesn’t increase government expenditure. Government debt is an ongoing problem and has to be kept under control, regardless of who is in power, but this country has quite low levels of government debt and we can afford to loosen the purse strings considerably.

In the end the difference between victory and defeat may come down to a few percentage points on the night. It may also come down to the results in a few electorates. Labour should be prepared to do deals with other parties on the left in key electorates, such as Epsom and Te Tai Tokerau. But people just don’t like Hone Harawira, and any sort of deal with the Mana-Internet Party would be electoral suicide for Labour. Labour needs to campaign on its own values and just refuse outright to do any sleazy deals, while being smart and strategic in the messages it sends to voters in key electorates like Epsom and Te Tai Tokerau.

Only by shifting left while remaining firmly in the centre, and breaking from the past while adopting a steady-as-she-goes approach, will Labour win back all those voters who abandoned it because the party was too radical or not radical enough.

But it’s all so obvious that I’m surprised I even have to tell you this.


38 comments on “Imperator Fish: Winning in 2014: a prescription for Labour”

  1. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 1

    Now that really is insightful.

  2. Mike the Savage One 2

    I have been waiting for exactly this!

    Yep, promise everything and (deliver) nothing, and all will be well, the people are used to it anyway. Nothing to worry, this is great advice, very “insightful”, so deep, I cannot see the bottom of the well.

    Great stuff, we now only need to print the leaflets and banners.

  3. anker 3

    Brilliant. I was trying to write something on open mike that conveyed this. SY has done this for me!

    I have been thinking a lot lately, that Labour gets criticized every which way, by almost everyone, included on this site. Including being told they are the one’s sabotaging a win this election. This came after many of this site criticized the deal between Mana and IP (prior to we knew about Ms Harre) and supported Sue Bradford for walking away from Mana if an agreement happened.

    • Tracey 3.1

      i guess the thing is many of us now voting green or looking to mana, ip etc were probably labour voters once. So, you have a point. Maybe we all need to stop pining for labour to become again what it used to be. For me it is its apparent snubbing of some of its obvious partners that is a little difficult to stomach, but that could be it aiming for the middle class vote 😉

      • lprent 3.1.1

        Labour as a party really doesn’t make much accommodation at the voting level.

        Some of its candidates and volunteers have been known to. I always used to plan campaigns to roust out the green supporters for instance. From memory Stuart Nash as candidate made a statement in Epsom in 2005 when he saw that he didn’t have the numbers to defeat Rodney Hide (who ran a frigging good campaign).

        And very late in the campaigns, usually days out from the election, you’d sometimes get Labour leaders pointing out the obvious electoral logic for a particular seat when asked. This is usually after a poll in that seat showing Labour well behind and in 3rd place. Coromandel in 1999 being the clearest example.

        Seats are far too important as a centre for organisation to give up. Parties have to hold them against Labour or to take them off Labour. I’d also point out that it is damn good for the other party as well. Look at the remanent results of making deals with National. The husks of mostly dead parties.

        But generally you’ll find the pre-election accommodations are rare.

        Labour will usually make their accommodations at the parliamentary level after the voters have made their choices. As it stands, they have excellent past working relationships in government with the Greens, NZ First, Peter Dunne, and the current head of the IMP.

        The obvious exception was the purported MOU with the Alliance in 1999. It was apparently a response to Winston working with National after the 1996 election because the Alliance and Labour were having problems with their post-election coalition and/or support agreement.

        The trick always is going to be for any party in an MMP environment to win enough places at the table to get a place in the formation of a government. Everything else is dangerous for both parties. Just look at what happens to parties that depend on deals with National.

        Roust out your own vote should be what every political party does.

  4. Tracey 4

    Very clever, and amidst the satire a big grain of truth… Labour doesnt know who it is trying to represent and many others dont know either. Be something. Anything.

  5. Chooky 5

    ” But people just don’t like Hone Harawira, and any sort of deal with the Mana-Internet Party would be electoral suicide for Labour. Labour needs to campaign on its own values and just refuse outright to do any sleazy deals, while being smart and strategic in the messages it sends to voters in key electorates like Epsom and Te Tai Tokerau.”

    WHAT A LOAD OF BULLSHIT!…Labour needs to be forging links with Mana /Internet

    “Only by shifting left while remaining firmly in the centre, and breaking from the past while adopting a steady-as-she-goes approach, will Labour win back all those voters who abandoned it because the party was too radical or not radical enough.”

    IS THIS FOR REAL?!…How can you shift left and at the same time stay in the centre?

    This is a joke piece right?…imo not helpful because it is confusing to the naive and unsophisticated (like me)

    For Labour, my prescription under Cunliffe is ….as my Father used to say when out at sea with his diesel motor …. “Steady as she goes”

    BTW…David Cunliffe has been sounding exceptionally good on radio lately ( i dont watch tv much …but I hear the same on tv)…also John Key is looking increasingly flustered and fat around the gills in the newspapers

    • Tracey 5.1

      ” This is a joke piece right?”


    • Tracey 5.2

      ” This is a joke piece right?”


    • Colonial Viper 5.3

      the humour parady and satire tags give it away…

      • ianmac 5.3.1

        Too right satire. Obviously satire but it does illustrate the problem in having a democratic party system. Everyone believes that their opinion matters. Good? Bad too because the variables become grounds for debate and dispute.
        The answer this far down the Election track is to support the leadership. David and Russel are doing a great job so as far as I am concerned, so no quibbling over detail. Just a collective “Hear, Hear!”
        (Unless you are a Right Wing Mole intent on sowing seeds of disharmony!)

    • Treetop 5.4

      I am not a fan of coat tailing and it has to go. Dealing with reality is necessary for Labour to coat tail in Harawira’s electorate and Sykes electorate. The minority party with the most electorate seats is going to be the Mana Internet Party.

      Key is in no hurry to do a deal with the Maori Party because I do not think they will win an electorate seat. Key has not embraced the Maori Party, now that Banks is gone.

      I hear Cunliffe’s principles over coat tailing. I also hear him not being prepared to prop up the Mana Internet Party in at least two electorates. Labour candidates will get the party vote in most of the Maori electorate seats, (except for Harawira and Sykes seat) because there is a long history with Labour compared to the Mana Internet Party.

      There is a dilemma here for Cunliffe and he has to swallow a couple of dead rats (which are in the rules). Key got into government by swallowing two dead rats.

      There is a definite trend that swallowing two dead rats is required to win an election.

      Labour need to thrash housing and to grab the center vote by saying they will build 5,000 mixed and single dwellings to accommodate those on NZ Super and benefits. Labour need to make clear statements for the build e.g.

      The 50% who cannot afford to service a mortgage.
      We will house the elderly who cannot afford to live on the NZ Super.
      A healthy home is vital for all children so they can concentrate better at school.
      An insulated double glazed home saves power so people can eat better.

      I do not think that there are many landlords who are center voters either.

      • Shrubbery 5.4.1

        We have to deal with the reality that electorate seats are still FPP rather than preferential voting, and also that there is a high threshold for parties to get list seats without an electorate. This system means that parties with substantial support can miss out on electorates and their votes are undemocratically wasted. The coat-tailing clause allows the election to be more democratic than otherwise, as at least parties winning an electorate get to have their party vote count.

        The electorate system also encourages two candidate races. When the left splits its vote between two candidates, it can lose a strongly left leaning seat to a right leaning candidate, as in Waiariki last election. Similarly, voting for Green in Ohariu stopped the Labour candidate beating Peter Dunne, but if the green votes had all gone to Labour, a left wing candidate would have won a significantly right leaning seat.
        Shenanigans involving cups of tea will continue until the election system is fixed to remove the threshold and to allow PV in electorates – don’t blame National for using it better than Labour. Blame them instead for refusing to fix it. It would be nice if the left made them pay the consequences for not fixing it.

        Until such time as there is preferential voting in electorates, the parties of the left have to work together in electorates and where the are multiple left candidates likely to get votes in key electorates, pick one to be the focus of the campaign. Kelvin Davis shooting his mouth off in Te Tai Tokerau helps no-one, and the left should also be looking to get Annette Sykes in in Waiariki.

        • Tracey

          is it wrong that whenever i see your handle i think of monty pythons holy grail

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          The minor left wing parties only get to have Labour/Green approved candidates?

          I think you’re ignoring the power of cynicism.

  6. Jenny 6

    I.F. is conflicted. IF Labour go Right they are criticised if Labour go Left they are criticised, if Labour throw Epsom and Te Tai Tokerau they are criticised, if they don’t they are criticised.

    If Labour drive out intolerant anti-environmental misogynists like Shane Jones and John Tamahere, Labour are critised, if they embrace these self styled champions of ‘masculinist culture’ Labour are criticised.

    Like all good art, this satire piece holds a mirror up to the reality, accurately describing the bind that Labour are in.

    The way out of this bind is obvious. For good or ill, a clear direction is needed. A clearly defined separation between the Nats and Labour, or between the Greens, Mana/IP and Labour.

    Are Labour part of the Centre Left/Right, or are Labour part of the wider Left.

    If Labour are part of the centre that is what they will be, a part of the centre, if they throw in with the Left they will be biggest and leading part of the Left.

    Party of the Centre or Party of the Left.

    Those who support Labour remaining a Centrist Party argue that if Labour move more Left they will become unelectable, even if this is true, the question remaining is this; Is it better to vote for something we want, and not get it. Or, vote for something we don’t want, and get it. Faced with this mind and spirit numbing conundrum is the reason I feel that many don’t vote.

    What is needed is something to inspire them.

    As the ancients said; “Man does not live by bread alone”.

    What is needed is somehting to inspire us all.

    • ianmac 6.1

      Of course the “move to the left” is a National warning to undecided voters. But it doesn’t have any meaning at all.
      So let us avoid debating the Left/Right and go for “it is in the interests of all New Zealanders who want a fair and equal society.”

      • greywarbler 6.1.1

        Jenny pops the question?
        Labour – Party of the Centre or Party of the Left?

        Let’s hear the answer. We are on our knees, will you be ours Labour or the inconstant companion thinking to dilly-dally between us and the flashy flirt in the up-market apartment on the hill?

        This is the song for now.
        No I don’t believe in ‘if’ any more
        It’s an illusion
        ‘If’ is for children, building day dreams.>/i>
        Roger Whittaker

        Time for commitment, constancy, and depth of passion to the people.

        If I knew then what I know now
        (I thought I did you know somehow)
        If I could have the time again
        I’d take the sunshine leave the rain
        If only time would trickle slow
        Like rain that melts the fallen snow
        If only Lord if only

        • Colonial Viper

          Let’s hear the answer. We are on our knees, will you be ours Labour or the inconstant companion thinking to dilly-dally between us and the flashy flirt in the up-market apartment on the hill?

          A centrist, pro-capitalist party with left leaning historical roots.

    • Tom Gould 6.2

      Labour has been successful in winning elections in the recent past, in the modern era, only when it has a leader the public warm to and like. Kirk was one. Lange was one. Clark was one. Sadly, for the left and the centre left, Key now occupies that space. And there is pretty much nothing that can be done about it. Until he gets tired of the gig, and until the left can organise themselves a leader the public can warm to and like. And moreover that the media like and can follow.

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.1

        Winning in NZ politics has rarely been about superficial likeability Tom. Instead, it is about smarts, gutsiness, and an ability to make political values very real in every day life.

        The Labour Party wins when it stands for what it believes in. The electorate always punishes Labour harder when it appears to be less than sincere in it’s aim of advocating for the bottom 80% of NZ society.

        The majority of this group earn less than $35K pa. They are in households with a total household income of around $60K pa or less.

        When the Right (in National and in Labour) talk about middle class votes they are always talking about the top 20% in this country, typically those earning say salaries of say $75K pa or more.

      • Anne 6.2.2

        Given the chance, I believe the public will warm to Cunliffe. He has an endearing side to his nature that the public has yet to see. If the membership had been listened to, he would have become the leader two and half years ago and the public would know by now he was a leader in waiting.

    • Tracey 6.3

      the only people i saw sad to see jones and tamihere go were from tge right

  7. Jenny 7

    <So let us avoid debating the Left/Right and go for “it is in the interests of all New Zealanders who want a fair and equal society.”

    Ian, before we shut down the debate could, you be a weeny bit more specific about, what you think is “.. is in the interests of all New Zealanders want a fair and equal society”?

    • ianmac 7.1

      Jenny. What I believe is that it is a bit late to debate what is a fair and equal society. The Election is so close so I will applaud and defend the official announcements of David and Russell. The finer debate about fairness and equality starts again in October.

      • Jenny 7.1.1

        Yes, let’s us all keep the politics out of politics, for those not ideologically partizan, or interested in politics that should make the elections a really gripping contest, Not.

        Aren’t elections supposed to be the forums contending parties debate issues like fairness and equality?

        Hmm, I think I see the problem….

        • greywarbler

          There are a lot of things that we could be discussing in the run up to the elections.
          1. Whether we should be eating meat.
          2. Ditto sugar.
          3. Legalising cannabis.
          4. Tightening up on alcohol.
          5. Getting another constitution.
          6. Whether we should even try for a constitution at the risk of a plague of giant borer beetles arising to eat away at the fractured one we have.
          7. Christchurch
          8. Auckland
          9. Roads of notional significance, or decent rail.
          10. Getting anything made in NZ instead of going for cheap overseas.
          11. to 111. I won’t go on. My point is that we have to narrow down our dissent and get concentrated on the goal. Ianmac is right as so often.

          And Jenny you can enjoy yourself disagreeing and bringing up this and that point – you can win your argument but I think most of us now want to win the war. And the battle is on for retaining what’s left of our country and hope for a return to better lives.

          We won’t get that through National even though they trumpet themselves as being centrist, with a socially responsible leaning. Labour isn’t all that we want, but it’s more than National so we need to keep our eyes on the goal of getting them in whether they are perfect or not. It’s quite clear to me, and I believe that is what Ianmac and a significant number here think.

  8. Enough is Enough 8

    The worrying aspect of where we sit today is many of the debates raised in IF’s satire are not too far from the truth.

    Here we are, weeks away from the election and still “everyone seems to have an opinion about what the party ought to be doing”.

    That debate is well and truly over for every other party contesting this election. From Mana to ACT, they are all going in with a consistent message which their respective activists are screaming in tune with each other.

    You only have to look at the recent immigration cluster fuck to see how confused the Labour message is this close to the election.

  9. greywarbler 9

    Farrar’s 9th floor position. Is that a yoga posture? Somehow the mind slips to Yogi
    and then Jabba the Hutt. Likeness?

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    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Speculation fever spreads around country
    House prices in Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga are going off as a result of uncontrolled property speculation spilling over from the Auckland market, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Speculators who have been priced out of Auckland are now fanning ...
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand lags on aid targets
      The National Government needs to live up to its commitments and allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on development assistance, says Labour’s spokesperson on Pacific Climate Change Su’a William Sio.  “The second State of the Environment Report ...
    3 weeks ago
  • War on drugs needs more troops
    The Minister of Police must urgently address the number of officers investigating illegal drugs if she is serious about making a dent in the meth trade, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “Answers from written questions from the Minister show ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Doctors strike symptom of health cuts
    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government starves RNZ into selling Auckland asset
    Just weeks after TVNZ opened its refurbished Auckland head office costing more than $60 million, RNZ (Radio New Zealand) has been forced to put its Auckland office on the market to keep itself afloat, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government must be more than a bystander on the economy
    Despite what he might think John Key is not a political commentator, but actually a leader in a Government who needs to take responsibility for the conditions that mean a rise in interest rates, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori Party all hui no-doey on housing
    The Māori Party should stop tinkering and start fixing tragic Māori housing statistics in the face of a national housing crisis, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesman Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour committed to eliminating child poverty
    Labour accepts the challenge from Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft to cut child poverty and calls on the Prime Minister to do the same, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 weeks ago