The polls show that New Zealanders, quite rightly, prefer the policies of the Left, such as capital gains tax, over National/ACT’s ‘plan’ to hock off our assets. But the majority still seem to favour returning a Key-led (and Key’s the, um, key) government, even if they won’t like what it does. What the Left needs is Goff to build personal trust with the people.
The prevailing theory seems to be that Labour and the Greens should do what they have, pretty much, being doing this year: stop trying to drag down Key and talk about their policies instead – ie. stop bashing your head against that brick wall and play to your strengths.
I’m not so sure. Well, I agree about dropping the attacks that haven’t hurt Key and have too often gone off half-cocked, but not that trying to make the fight about policy is enough in itself.
You see, people don’t just vote on policy, they also vote for people whom they feel they can trust, not just with the re-election promises but dealing with the unexpected. And people clearly trust Key and not Goff.
Hard to believe they would trust Key, eh? It’s not because he’s done anything great. It’s because they think they know him. He uses tricks that American politicians have used for a long time, talking about his family, referencing his upbringing. It’s often hypocritical or crass but it achieves its aim of making people feel a personal relationship with him.
Key’s succeeded in making his persona, which people feel they know and trust, the lynchpin of the electability of his government. He is personally trusted a lot more than his government is trusted, and far more than his policies are liked. Attempts to expose that persona for the con job or distraction it is have failed, not least because most of the opinion leaders are either taken in or see him as a useful device for getting those unpopular policies through.
Where Key brings votes to National, Phil Goff, at best, doesn’t bring any to Labour.
I’m not calling for Goff to go. I think he would be an excellent Prime Minister. Certainly better than the current bozo.
But a one-track campaign focused on policy isn’t going to be enough. Goff and Labour have to address the trust side as well. And that’s about Goff being personally open with people.
Goff knows how to do that. You don’t win an electorate nine times without being able to personally connect. But, as Paul Holmes points out, the Goff we see seems almost over-prepared with that he’s meant to say, perhaps a hangover from being our country’s leading international representative for nine years:
Phil Goff is a good man, no doubt about it, a good, intelligent, hard-working servant of the people… You can have a decent chat to Phil. Put a camera on him or a microphone and you get the lecture from the old party machine man, or the university man.
This suggests to me that Goff would be better off not going into everything with a full script written. He knows what he stands for, he knows what his party stands for, and if there’s any detail he forgets in the moment, do what Key does, say he’ll get back to the reporter. And, for god’s sake, don’t try the cheap shots like that Israeli spy story.
Before the last election, National put out the infamous’ Clocks’ DVD that was meant to introduce us to Key. It was a failure because it was so artificial and so derivative of Blair , not to mention its theme tune ripped off Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’, which ended up costing the Nats a healthy sum. Last month’s video on capital gains tax by David Cunliffe ended up humanising him a lot. Something along these lines could work to build personal trust in Goff.
It’s not too late. Not by a long shot. It’s just a matter of Goff showing the public that, not only does his party have the right policies, but that he can relate to their values and their concerns, and that they can trust him.