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Labour’s greatest challenge for 2011?

Written By: - Date published: 12:04 pm, January 9th, 2011 - 59 comments
Categories: election 2011, john key, labour, national, phil goff - Tags:

The Sunday Star-Times has produced an interesting article on the role of emotion in people’s voter choices leading into this year’s General Election.

While the results are not great news for Labour supporters, it’s the first poll of its kind to be made public in NZ.

There’s a lot of controversy over whether we ought to be encouraging the issues of perception in NZ politics. Many within Labour describe this as ‘Americanisation’, which they believe should be fought off with a very big stick. At the same time, many within Labour are mystified as to why after two years of producing complex media statements, holding ernest public meetings and articulating rigorous policy debate from the opposition benches, their message doesn’t seem to be getting through to the public.

Perhaps this poll shows one reason why. Die-hard democratic academics like Drew Westen and George Lakoff have been banging their heads against the wall as they’ve watched democratic candidates lose election after election despite polling higher than their republican opponents on matters of policy.

Westen and Lakoff show that people vote for candidates that appeal to their emotions, which is something the Republicans have learned to used to their advantage. In 2004, while Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry hoped that doggedly sticking to policy issues would win him the presidency, President George W Bush set about portraying Kerry as a weak-willed, flip-flopping intellectual and meanwhile built his own brand as a beer-drinking, gun-slinging, true-blue American. Although voters tended to support Kerry on policy, Bush’s ‘middle-America’ brand was better understood by voters and his campaign was successful.

This is an extreme example and I would never encourage this brand of politics to hijack NZ’s policy debate. However, John Key’s ‘smile and wave’ strategy is straight out of the Republican handbook and has helped produce one of the most popular governments this country has ever witnessed.

So leading into the election campaign, the challenge for Phil Goff is this:

Will you too doggedly stick to the policy issues and brush aside the issues of perception as if they are dirty American-style sideshows, or will you develop an ethical brand to compliment your manifesto in a way that reaches out to ordinary kiwis and demands they know what Labour really stands for?

For some guidance, hat tip to the big man.

59 comments on “Labour’s greatest challenge for 2011? ”

  1. M 1

    NACT is good at appealing to people’s emotions and especially prejudices.

    Prejudice being the powerful tool that it is can move mountains: lazy DPB slappers, couch potato unemployed, tree hugging hippie greenies, useless public servants (hope they include themselves in that group), gravy train Maori etc all help them to romp home to victory.

    With Crosby Textor in NACT’s arsenal Labour need to wise up from being the dumb saps they have come to be viewed by NACT and go for the sound bite – fight fire with fire. Much capital could be made of Key’s constant sojourns to Hawai’i, being a smile and wave marionette and the paltry job creation of the cycleway would provide much grist for the mill.

    Does Brian Edwards still have a connection with Labour? Maybe he could write a few choice sound bites for them and get Phil to practice them in front of the mirror.

    Anti-spam: comparing

    • BLiP 1.1

      Prejudice being the powerful tool that it is can move mountains: lazy DPB slappers, couch potato unemployed, tree hugging hippie greenies, useless public servants (hope they include themselves in that group), gravy train Maori etc all help them to romp home to victory.

      Yep. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Couple the public campaign with the behind-the-scenes blogger filth, and you’ve pretty much got the Crosby/Textor National Ltd™ John Key 2008 campaign spelled out.

      The trouble we all have now is that having stirred up the shit, its still floating about in people’s consciousness. Getting the populace to rally behind the New Zealand Government (as opposed to its brand) is that is that much more difficult because in smearing Labour, the entire democratic model was itself smeared. In terms of synergy amongst its client base, Crosby/Textor has done a wonderful job in furthering corporacy as voters become increasingly disenchanted with politicians. Thanks National Ltd­™ – I’m lovin’ it.

      Labour needs to start distinguishing itself with a more strident approach to governing rather than the trembling knock-kneed “managerialism”. Lets have no more bullshit about “NZ Inc”, and “leveraging state assets”, no more gutless caving in to disaster capitalism and more, better social justice programmes. It needs to talk about how government is “of the people, for the people”, strap “business” into the back seat and tell it to shut up. And, yes, get some decent staff and communication experts to help with the sound-bites.

      Prejudice is certainly powerful, but I believe hope and vision are stronger emotions. These are the ones Labour needs to stimulate in New Zealand before we all give up and head off to Aussie for the money and say, “fuck the justice of it all”.

  2. just saying 2

    many within Labour are mystified as to why after two years of producing complex media statements, holding ernest public meetings and articulating rigorous policy debate from the opposition benches, their message doesn’t seem to be getting through to the public.

    oh my god.

    I read Labour’s press releases, so I’m not just relying on a biased media when I say: Labour’s Not Saying Anything.

    ‘Don’t frighten the horses’ might be a winning strategy for a very popular party but empty slogans and tut-tutting at negative stories and statistics just make Labour look like a bunch of losers in lieu of actual policy. Refusing to stand for any principle for fear of being unpoular just looks pathetic too.

    And as for keeping a leader who needs to be kept out of the limelight for the most part, because of an almost preternatural talent for coming across as a jerk and f*#king things up….

    • QoT 2.1

      What’s infuriating is that it shouldn’t be that fucking hard to get some emotional response for Labour policies. Dropping GST on fruit/veg (though I completely reject the OBESITYOMG rationale) = about making sure every Kiwi kid gets an apple a day. Keeping ACC intact = taking care of hardworking salts of the earth who get off their asses to support their families every day. Focusing on prevention and rehabilitation rather than building more prisons = building friendly safe communities instead of being bullies.

      When your entire ideology is theoretically based on supporting the little guy and having a strong sense of community and solidarity it’s not fucking rocket science to make that hit people in their happy/aspirational centres.

      • higherstandard 2.1.1

        Whether you like it or not a fat population is an unhealthy and costly population compared to a less fat population

        • QoT 2.1.1.1

          Whether you like it or not your opinion on that is not based on evidence.

          • higherstandard 2.1.1.1.1

            Ummmmmmmm instead of linking to a blog why not find a link from any peer reviewed medical journal or medical association in the world that refutes obesity as being a health risk for numerous diseases.

            Try these to begin with.

            http://scholar.google.co.nz/scholar?q=obesity+and+heart+disease&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

            • QoT 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Correlation isn’t causation. One of many, many refutations provided at the blog linked above.

              • higherstandard

                Clearly you’ll never be convinced despite the overwhelming evidence – stay fat and happy and hopefully healthy.

                • QoT

                  Bit of a problem with that, hs – according to the OBESITYOMG panic-mongers it is literally impossible for me to be both fat and healthy. Still, I appreciate you acknowledge the possibility.

                  You might also like to consider the massive drain on our health system caused by joggers who wear out their knees before they’re 40 and of course all kids who smash their bodies to bits skateboarding. Interesting that we live in a society where fatties are considered harbingers of the End of Days but people like Phil Goff will get all red and veiny at the thought of ACC levies going up for rugby teams, isn’t it?

                  • higherstandard

                    There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that exercise is beneficial for both health and cognitive function – as always moderation in all things is a wise old piece of advice though.

                    One can certainly be fat and healthy however there is a certainly a greater risk of developing a number of health problems if one is overweight and unfit.

                    As an aside i’m sure you know that obesity is a risk factor for joint disease, especially osteoarthritis, at joints such as the knee, and non-weight bearing joints such as the carpometacarpal joint of the hand.

                    • QoT

                      “Risk factors” are amazing things, aren’t they. I’m also a woman who’s had sex, which is a pretty big “risk factor” for cervical cancer. “Risk factors” are not causation and until someone can unequivocally say “being obese CAUSES high blood pressure” (which they can’t as long as I’m alive!) I simply refuse to buy into the idea that I should undertake a risky, unpredictable, almost-certain-to-fail method of weightloss (i.e. all of them).

                      A recent study from Finland indicates that exercise simply does not have predictable or consistent results for all people. Humans are different.

                      I simply suggest that instead of our society freaking the fuck out because all fat people are gigantic slobs who are going to die and drag our economy screaming down with them is a massive misrepresentation of the fact that all human beings’ bodies are different. And it is simply impossible to say “fat people are unhealthier than thin people” or to predict that fat person A is going to live shorter, or cost more in the health system, than thin person B.

                      Yes, exercise might have health benefits. Yes, encouraging kids to eat more fruit and veg might have health benefits. Why that all has to be tied to OR YOU’LL GET FAT AND NO ONE WILL LOVE YOU by media and politicians baffles me.

                    • higherstandard

                      Well actually there’s plenty of evidence to show that across a population of individuals fat people are unheathier in comparison to thin people, there’s a vey good retrospective study on the effect of the blockade on Cuba’s population that shows just that and many modern studies as well.

                      But I certainly agree with your closing sentiments, I ain’t giving up my favourite foods and tipple for anyone else’s edification even if does make me somewhat portly.

                    • QoT

                      There are also studies to show that people in the “overweight” BMI category have higher life expectancy that those in the “normal” category (which is to ignore for the moment the ridiculousness of BMI as a measurement). And across populations poor people have lower health and men have lower life expectancy but we don’t demonize poor people for being a burden on the health system (just for other things). And men-in-general don’t get harassed for their documented general tendency to avoid preventative medical care to anywhere near the extent fat people do for their assumed poor health.

                      You know, I don’t expect people to just instantly jump on the fat acceptance bandwagon. I just feel the need to put it out there (ad nauseam!) that “health” is a massively complex creature which is not aided by judging people on their physical appearance.

          • Medico 2.1.1.1.2

            Oh yes it is, higher standard is correct. Try a lit search on health effects/costs of obesity on any reputable data base and come back in 5 years time when you have read it all. Perhaps like the oil industry funding the tea party, we now have the fast food industry funding obesity deniers? Either way people end up dead.

            • QoT 2.1.1.1.2.1

              You know, this always makes me laugh, when people respond to fat acceptance advocates by insisting we just haven’t read the research and just don’t understand that Fat Is Evil. We’re swimming in that rhetoric, dude. Every nightly news broadcast is sure to include yet another story about new studies with links to blood pressure or cancer or diabetes or tiny drops in life expectancy or eat more of THIS, wait no, eat more of THIS, if you just cut THIS out of your diet you’ll become thin (and ergo healthy).

              I don’t need to spend 5 years reading the research because I have had it blasted into my brain for my entire life, just like everyone else.

              How about you go spend ten minutes (reading up on the significant amount of
              research and critcism produced by fat acceptance writers (Paul Campos, Linda Bacon are good starting points, they’ve written Big Serious Books and everything)? Because the only person who apparently needs to apply education and critical analysis to the Evil Obesity Epidemic is you, mate. (Well, and plenty of others.)

              (The climate change denier line is awesome, by the way. Unfortunately whereas lprent et al can happily smackdown CCDs with obvious causative links established between human activity and climate change, there ain’t no such animal saying XYZ definitively causes obesity and obesity definitively causes abc and obesity can safely and predictably be “cured” by Diet Eleventy-Billion.

              Just because “everyone knows” something very rarely means it’s correct.)

    • handle 2.2

      Goff’s recent Herald interview shows he can do well with good talking points – http://thestandard.org.nz/goff-on-the-year-ahead/

    • Deadly_NZ 2.3

      I read Labour’s press releases, so I’m not just relying on a biased media when I say: Labour’s Not Saying Anything.

      I have been saying the same thing for a while and all i get back in reply are platitudes like if a single tree falls in a forest does it make a noise and shite like that. Not exactly reasuring is it?

  3. Kevin Welsh 3

    In regards to the link:

    For all Clinton’s failings, jeez that boy knows how to speak to people. And it was quite sobering to think we are still fighting the same battle against the same failed economic policies that he was highlighting in 1992.

    Antispam: saint

  4. ZeeBop 4

    Don’t be silly. You’ve got the oppressed voter, the people doing it hard, thanks to fair and balanced tax cuts
    rushing out in Auckland to vote in the non-neo-liberal in.

    The people you need to win over are business voters. Who know that neo-liberalism no longer will make them richer.

    Farmers take handouts when drought is called, farmers know that leaving the paddocks with weeds is bad for business, so not only have Labour a huge opening (they haven’t for a generation) to win votes from National bed rock.

    National policy hurts business and farmers. If a carbon tax is introduce it will fall on everyone, its not going to hurt NZ farmers if all their competition is also paying the carbon tax.

    Farmers want their kids to have a future, have a farm, but when National and neo-liberalism rigs capitalism to feed short term capital farming, farmers begin to see that voting for National might not be working for them.

    That’s the priority. National are very weak. UK Conservatism had to form a coalition with the Liberals in the UK.
    A black man is President! You have to be completely bonkers to buy into Labour can’t win, National are going to win,
    bollocks. Labour just has to charge at the National grass roots voter with some basic common sense and it
    will romp home (and get their voters out by having Labour members with cars, door knocking, get people to
    the polls!).

    • handle 4.1

      And what, pray tell, will all these door knockers actually say to persuade voters?

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        “Go out and vote” will be enough to get Labour in this year.

      • ZeeBop 4.1.2

        If Labour doesn’t know it really should not be in politics.

        The economy is in recession again. Food prices about to spike again. Petrol prices
        are going higher. Paint National on the poor economy. Tax cuts for the few flowed
        offshore. You can’t run a country when the profits are taken offshore, we can
        only work so hard as nation so we need policies that keep a significant share of profits
        here in NZ. Booming a sector of the economy, like housing into a bubble should not
        be construed as good economic maanagement.

        Now the only good from Labour can’t win, and National will win, is that Labour
        is the under dog fighting for the ‘real’ battlers.

      • higherstandard 4.1.3

        “I’m your national candidate and I’ve just shat on your front lawn.”

    • just saying 4.2

      You’ve got the oppressed voter, the people doing it hard

      Labour has not ‘got’ these people. If it did we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  5. Irascible 5

    Labour could also campaign vigorously on the issue of corruption that has caused the Botany by-election, seen the Deputy PM exposed charging the taxpayer for rental of his own property (gaolling offence in the UK) and being involved in the PEDA scandal, a PM whose “Blind Trusts” are not so distant from his sight, a candidate who allegedly used taxpayer money to support making TV / film clips in support of the National Party…. and on and on. Surely the NZ public must be concerned about the ethics and morality of such abuse??

    • handle 5.1

      Two years of polls would suggest the answer is no. Better then to focus on incompetence rather than immorality.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        But that has more to do with the fact that such corruption by NACT hasn’t been reported MSM whereas any misdemeanour by the left is howled loud and long. If the MSM wasn’t owned by the people who want NACT in power would this be true?

        • handle 5.1.1.1

          If you are right, why would you put your eggs in that same basket this year?

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1

            I tend towards using multiple baskets and still think that at least trying to get out the message that National is corrupt is essential to stop the ongoing corruption of the government.

            • handle 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Because it has worked so well to date. Why not try another tack?

              • Carol

                Or you could look at this from another angle. The pro NAct MSM & the NAct PR & spin machine has been working overtime for the last couple of years. This is probably why a high proportion of those surveyed believe that Key & co will win the next election. But, in spite of that, National don’t have an outright 50%+ majority according to this poll.

                They may have been able to convince a few floating voters, but there’s a high proportion of people who haven’t been convinced. That maybe why Key is worried enough to consider an exit strategy.

                • handle

                  Yes the calculation that counts is an MMP one, not FPP as the media serve up. However, there has been no noticeable impact in any polls from Labour’s repeated attempts to pin “corruption” on a government which has delivered consitutional outrages like CERRA, ECan and the Auckland supercity, never mind the usual parade of sleaze and troughing.

                  If the public don’t care and Labour cannot articulate a convincing story about this, then why carry on with the same losing tactic? It’s not as if the Nact spin machine is going to shut up shop, is it?

              • Draco T Bastard

                Why not continue trying numerous tacks? It is possible to do more than one thing at a time.

                • handle

                  Sure, any campaign involves more than one front but publicity during the last election and over the last couple of years is a prominent succession of failed attempts by Labour to trumpet corruption. The original quote was “Labour could also campaign vigorously on the issue of corruption”. I have disagreed with putting any energy into that. Voters do not have unlimited attention.

                • Deadly_NZ

                  Now thats the idea not one thing but hit em with lots of different things and then watch The Smiley wavey one show how useless he really is. And dont let up in the end the message will get out because of the crumbling in the NACTS

  6. Jenny 6

    .
    Last week John Key Absentmindedly forgot about the $50 millions in his own bank account and publicly stated there is no money.”

    “…..there is no money”.
    “There won’t be money for us and there won’t be money for Labour,”

    John Key

    Maybe this might help that nice man Mr Key to concentrate his thoughts on where the missing money might be. (or how to explain why it doesn’t exist)

    Rich Pickings

    …..Greene has become the number one target of UK Uncut, a protest group that has sprung up since the conservative government came to power in Britain in May, and subsequently announced a spate of tax and government fee increases and cuts to government services and spending. Amongst the most controversial measures has been an increase in tuition fees for university students.

    While much of UK Uncut’s power base comes from left wing and student groups, the organisation’s core message – that super-rich entrepreneurs and corporations should be prevented from dodging tax at a time when the rest of the nation is being hit with cutbacks and tax increases – is clearly resonating.

    Greene has become a target over the ownership arrangements of Acardia. While he is a British resident and taxpayer, and head of the company, the group is actually owned by his wife Christina Greene, who lives in Monaco and does not pay tax in Britain.

    UK Uncut has particularly targeted a $1.8 billion dividend paid by Arcadia through a company in the tax haven of Jersey to Christina Greene in Monaco. UK Uncut says the arrangement – which is legal – cost British taxpayers $467 million in tax. This is money that the protest group says could pay for the (increased) tuition fees of 32,000 students, or the salaries of 20,000 nurses.

    Maybe this is the sort of emotive left campaign that would capture the attention of the public here.

    • Deadly_NZ 6.1

      “…..there is no money”.
      “There won’t be money for us and there won’t be money for Labour,”

      John Key

      Thats a spiteful message from Shonkey almost a yeah and what ya gonna do about it?

  7. bomber 7

    Labour’s largest challenge will be to get the electorate into accepting Winston as it’s coalition partner, Labour needs a new political party to cut a deal with. People like Key because he’s well spun and has little actual criticism from the mainstream media who cosy up. What the Polls do show us is that the election will be much, much, much closer than most in the right wing pundit world are claiming.

    National have made a dreadful tactical mistake by going to the polls in November, by that time the economic collapse can’t be hidden any longer and the deep social cuts the budget will have to cause early in the year will focus resentment towards this Government in a way that will give policy more oxygen.

    There will be a new left conference in Auckland in Feb, there may be a resolution out of that conference.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      National have made a dreadful tactical mistake by going to the polls in November

      nothing stopping Key from changing his mind, surprising the pundits, and going to the polls in July or Aug.

      • Deadly_NZ 7.1.1

        yeah but he’s as good as said he’ll go after the world cup if he goes early it’s n immediate ‘flipflop ‘ start to his campaign and people will also ask why . The a july date will probably be cold and wet keep the rich pricks at home, hopefully lol

        “I would be very reluctant to go early,” Mr Key said when asked what reason there could be for holding an election earlier than November.

        “You can never say never, but my view is that the electoral cycle [three years] is quite short. In return for a relatively short cycle, the voters expect you to go the distance
        for those that missed it
        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10697623

    • I agree that Winnie will cloud matters. I would prefer that he was not on the scene at all. He and his happy bunch of xenophobic climate change deniers actually belong in National but personalities will obviously precent this from happening.

      The rumoured new left party MAY (and it is a big “may”) help things as long as they gain an electorate seat and then bring in others. If they run and get to 3 or 4 percent then National is back.

      The most important development for them would be for Hone to align himself with them. If he does not then I would prefer that they back the greens.

      MMP elections tend to be about which minor party is there at the end.

      • Inventory2 7.2.1

        You’re right about the xenophobia Micky, but it was NZ First’s votes which allowed Labour to pass the legislation for its ETS just prior to the 2008 election, Sure; their support was lukewarm, but history and Hansard have recorded the Aye vote. One can only speculate as the whether or not it was quid pro quo for Labour NOT voting to censure Peters after the Privileges Committee reported back. Given Peters’ reputation for doing back-room deals, one wouldn’t rule it out.

        I don’t want Winston Peters anywhere near the baubles of office after this year’s election, irrespective of which party is trying to form a government. Three times a Minister; three times sacked or stood down. It’s hardly a record to inspire confidence.

    • handle 7.3

      Given the history of incoherent bickering from the minnows of the left, any new party is only likely to siphon votes from the Greens. Not that Winston will agree to work with them anyway.

    • M 7.4

      ‘National have made a dreadful tactical mistake by going to the polls in November, by that time the economic collapse can’t be hidden any longer and the deep social cuts the budget will have to cause early in the year will focus resentment towards this Government in a way that will give policy more oxygen. ‘

      Dear me, bomber, I hope so.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.4.1

        By November I suspect that Peak Oil will be making itself known. National can watch as the B/C ratio on their Roads of National (Party) Significance goes down and the B/C on P/T goes up. Throw in the fact that the costs of our exports will go up decreasing the profits available and jobs will be cut decreasing GDP even further. Costs of going to work will increase and, due to climbing UE, wages continue to go down in real and, perhaps, absolute terms.

        Of course, Labour and the Left will have these things to deal with as well but they may have a plan to do so. The Greens do but I haven’t seen anything from Labour yet except that they seem to be planning on the economy continuing to do what it’s done for the last 150 years which is to grow.

        • Colonial Viper 7.4.1.1

          If you have a society which makes heavy use of interest bearing bank debt, you have a society which needs economic growth just to survive.

          Sooner or later someone is going to have to deal with the fact that our system relies on masses of interest bearing debt to create the ever expanding money supply we all use.

          No one has shown signs of doing so thus far.

  8. Drakula 8

    I would take polls with a pinch of salt I suspect a lot of them are loaded and I will elaborate.

    When I was living in Christchurch I knew people on Hamilton St. Fendalton right in the middle of Jerry Brownlie’s territory real blue.

    During election time they were being constantly polled even twice in a day, no kidding while in places like Linwood, Opawa, Woolston the polling was very thin indeed.

    So certain areas are definately targeted.

    I would like to see Labour get in but as a minority in a coalition where the other parties could keep them in check because quite frankly I don’t trust Geoff.

  9. Chris73 9

    Considering that during the last election Labour seemed to focus on how bad John Key is (thats a negative emotion they were appealing to) with no actual proof (didn’t stop the attempted dirt digging though) its a bit rich for some on here to proclaim only the Nats do it…

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