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Lessons unlearnt

Written By: - Date published: 6:04 am, June 22nd, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: mt albert, national - Tags:

Matt McCarten, who has managed more than a few election campaigns, does a good post facto analysis of where National went wrong in Mt Albert:

Despite what the Nats said after the by-election, their internal polls (and Labour’s) at the start of the campaign showed they had a chance of winning. At the very least, the campaign could have been competitive.If National can win Auckland Central, it could have taken Mt Albert. Instead it ran the worst by-election in living memory and got the worst result in living memory.

Key picked Lee. He has no excuse. His senior ministers such as Murray McCully and Stephen Joyce are experienced campaigners and would have known she wasn’t up to it. Lee has a media background and knows to stick to a script. But it’s clear she didn’t have one. Astoundingly, she got worse as the campaign progressed. Next time, don’t go for the superficial, go for competence.

By-elections need seasoned management. Why is a minister doing what the party organisation is supposed to do? Is there something more sinister to Bill English and his allies not showing up?

They botched the motorway issue

Anyone can hold the job as leader when things go well. The test of a leader is when things are not going well…the unforgivable act was Key’s holiday on by-election weekend…If this is how National copes under stress in a campaign, I hope the recession doesn’t get too difficult. This by-election shows us that our Prime Minister and his Cabinet can’t be counted on when things get tough.

To that I would add two more points about the choice of Lee as candidate.

It was a mistake to choose a sitting MP. What could Lee offer Mt Albert that she didn’t already give them as National’s buddy MP for the electorate? David Shearer on the other had could only get in if the people of Mt Albert supported him.

It was a mistake, rooted in bigotry, to think that because Lee is Asian she would win the Asian vote. Asians are not a homogenous ethnic group and even homogenous ethnic groups don’t vote for someone just because they are a member of a group.

So why did they make all these mistakes? Only one answer there: arrogance. By down-playing the arse-kicking they got in Mt Albert, they’ve shown that arrogance remains undiminished.

12 comments on “Lessons unlearnt”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    It was a mistake, rooted in bigotry, to think that because Lee is Asian she would win the Asian vote. Asians are not a homogenous ethnic group and even homogenous ethnic groups don’t vote for someone just because they are a member of a group.

    By that measure, Eddie, it has been a mistake for Labour to select Pacific Island and Maori candidates in seats where there are largely PI and Maori populations, rooted in bigotry.

    You might get more response to your posts if you tone down the hysteria.

    • Anita 1.1

      I’ve written elsewhere about Anae Arthur Anae’s similar experience as a Pacific Island candidate for National: it didn’t swing traditional Labour voting PI over to him. National should have learned the lesson then, although perhaps they thought that the asian community of Mt Albert was less tied to Labour by class and history.

      Perhaps what we can take from Anae’s perspective is that pasifika voters do appreciate and support pasifika MPs, but that ethnicity is not the primary decision point when deciding who to vote for: class and historic allegiances seem stronger. Labour selecting a pasifika candidate for a south Auckland seat is smart, it recognises that if you have already got class and historic allegiances, then tapping into ethnic community solidarity is a smart addition.

      Is that bigotry? I don’t know, but there is a whiff cynicism and political expedience about it. On the other hand we could expect Labour to have good PI candidates, and sheer demographics would say they’re more likely to come from seats with large PI populations.

  2. gingercrush 2

    One also has to question whether its the right that is being arrogant or the left. After all, you keep repeating the thrashing line. You keep thinking only you party has any right to hold political power. You also consider all right-wing politicians to be USELESS. So who is being arrogant? The left who don’t think they do anything wrong and still can’t work out why they lost the last election. Or the right who all agree Lee was a mistake to put in Mt. Albert.

    As for this being the worse by-election result ever. That would be Labour who could only get third place being beaten by Alliance in the King Country-Taranaki by-election. Of course we all know what happened soon after. Labour swept into power. On that count, the right should do very well in 2011.

    • felix 2.1

      But you didn’t think it was a mistake ginger. You were singing her praises right here on this very website. Do you want me to dig up your statements?

      You only decided it was a mistake when the voters of Mt Albert told you it was.

      • gingercrush 2.1.1

        Yes the mad writings of a fool as I recall. What with my praising about how uber-talented she was?

        • felix 2.1.1.1

          Don’t try to back away from your statements by calling yourself a fool, ging.

          No need to be dishonest as well as stupid.

  3. Zaphod Beeblebrox 3

    Tim, you’re right the focus on a candidates background, gender, age, skin colour etc.. I find excruciatingly frustrating.
    This is NZ not the US, where dog whistle politics is everywhere (and overrrated). People look at the candidate and their ideas in their totality. Labour had a better candidate- nothing else needs to be said.

  4. Rodney 4

    “If this is how National copes under stress in a campaign, I hope the recession doesn’t get too difficult.”

    Exactly.

  5. craig 5

    “By down-playing the arse-kicking they got in Mt Albert, they’ve shown that arrogance remains undiminished.”

    So you think it would be good politics for them to talk about how badly they lost??

    I mean Labour doesn’t seem to have thought it good politics to talk about how much they lost the general election by…

  6. Ianmac 6

    Maybe it is a deliberate plan to raise the image of National. Instead of appearing as the tie-wearing middle class male party lets highlight the women, and the Asians and the Polynesians and the Chinese , (but of course the decision making is still in the hands of the original team.)

  7. Rex Widerstrom 7

    McCarten writes:

    Lee has a media background and knows to stick to a script. But it’s clear she didn’t have one. Astoundingly, she got worse as the campaign progressed.

    Let me propose an alternative scenario. One entirely made up, of course.

    Lee’s arrogance was much larger than that of anyone else involved in this fiasco (Key, Joyce, McCully et al). Having been selected she not only believed she could strategise a winning campaign but that the poor simpletons of Mt Albert were simply waiting, collective breath bated, for their Princess… sorry, electorate MP to claim her crown.

    Then when things started to go horribly pear-shaped she insisted on continuing to do things her way. She was, after all, a “media professional” and knew how to communicate with the abovementioned simpletons. Any attempt to suggest otherwise was met with pouting and foot-stamping.

    So when the whole thing collapsed into a big smelly pile of defeat, the Leader and the President made sure they were unavailable in a very public “you made your bed, now lie in it” message to the candidate.

    As I said, all entirely speculative…

    • Anita 7.1

      That hypothetical assumes that Key, Kirk, Joyce and McCully are incapable of managing an electorate candidate and MP.

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