Matthew Hooton sometimes lets his vehemence carry him astray as it did this morning on Nine to Noon discussing or rather dissing Andrew Little’s views on the centre ground of politics. It was Hooton’s topic of choice, picking up on a story in Stuff where Little expressed a view on political strategy that the article considered different to Helen Clark’s.
As Hooton indicates, saying that elections are won in the centre is banal, a truism; but a truism is not a strategy. And Helen Clark didn’t say it was – she said you consolidate your base then fight for the middle. Stephen Mills agreed; location is not the important thing for strategy, it is policy that makes the difference. As he said Labour under Little will also fight for the centre ground with their set of policies.
The argument illustrated the difference between polling analysis and political strategy. Polling numbers can tell you who votes; political strategy is about how to get people to vote. Hooton’s objective was simply to use the Stuff article as an excuse to attack Little, accusing him of setting up a “patchwork of minorities to gang up on the majority” as well as “having an extreme left-wing view developed from being a union boss.”
Katherine Ryan introduced Jeremy Corbyn to the discussion saying that it was perhaps a case of “status quo establishment politics having a rocket put under it.” That led to more apoplexy from both Hooton and Mills, and an examination of another Hooton invention the so-called “missing millions” of non-voters.
Here Stephen Mills also got vehement describing this as a “mirage.” According to him increased turnout in the 2005 election was all down to Don Brash. It was nothing to do with non-voters: Labour won because women in his sample who liked tax cuts couldn’t stand Don Brash. I think he’s quite wrong about that, which illustrates the different perspectives of pollsters and strategists.
In my opinion, Labour’s policies of Working for Families and interest-free student loans were crucial to the outcome. Then a massive under-the-radar direct mail campaign targeted at these groups, plus identified non-voters and state-house tenants, was what made the difference at the end. In effect, a coalition of constituencies. Hooton was right when he said even a missing hundred thousand would be influential; we know they were in 2005.
Status quo political commentators are also getting a rocket put under them in the UK and the US as Corbyn increased his majority in the Labour Party leadership ballot and Trump draws level with Clinton prior to the Presidential debate. Most are finding it hard to adapt and understand.
Andrew Little’s comments simply indicate that he’s looking to connect with different groups of voters on issues that are important to them. Some of them might even be people who are looking for a reason to vote at all. Makes sense to me.