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Love’s Labour’s lost

Written By: - Date published: 4:24 pm, February 14th, 2009 - 14 comments
Categories: articles, labour - Tags:

There were few Valentine’s Day sentiments for Labour in John Armstrong’s column today:

It is difficult to put a finger on it, but something does not feel quite right about Labour’s approach to being in Opposition…Labour is exhibiting a self-righteousness which grates when placed against the backdrop of its rejection by voters….

We have yet to be presented with any picture of how a Goff-led Labour Party will be different from Clark’s model – if at all. Meanwhile, Key keeps eating into Labour territory by demonstrating his centrist credentials, for example, by increasing the minimum wage and offering to fly a Maori flag on public buildings next Waitangi Day…

In marked contrast to Key’s reaching out across political divides, Labour cannot decide whether to destroy the Maori Party or work with it.

Meanwhile, Labour’s new leadership makes noises about “reconnecting” with voters, but so far seems to be paying only lip-service to the notion.

I hope that the Labour caucus reads such comments with an open mind. Armstrong isn’t the only one to turn the spotlight on Labour.  Earlier this week Gordon Campbell also raised questions over Labour’s performance. It seems timely to remind Labour that:

“To do good to one’s enemies is love’s labours lost.”

By not yet performing to their potential Labour are indeed “doing good” to their political opponents. It appears that they have yet to show that they know how to promote their message  – and there’s little sign of how they plan to go about undermining a popular PM. Shakespeare’s play may be a comedy, but I have no desire to see Labour fall into farce (unlike Mr Brownlee who’s already there). Labour need to prove themselves and their worth afresh. To do any less will see National sitting in the director’s seat past 2011.

14 comments on “Love’s Labour’s lost ”

  1. Lew 1

    Dancer,

    Labour need to prove themselves and their worth afresh. To do any less will see National sitting in the director’s seat past 2011.

    Do you think their path is clear, given that National have so comprehensively beaten them at their own game? I don’t mean to linkwhore, but I’ve recently argued that Labour is at something of a crossroads. I think they’re currently doing a great deal of ideological and practical soul-searching, and treading political water until that’s done. Regardless of how they eventually reposition themselves, I think this is what they should be doing – sit back, let a few things slide, and prepare for a proper comeback, rather than appearing to be bitter reactive partisan has-beens by blindly opposing everything the new government does.

    L

  2. Dancer 2

    I’m not sure what you mean by beaten them at their own game? Is it that National ran simple messages and repeated them – turning political points into “fact” (e.g. Labour ran the economy down). My observation is that Labour does not contest the space but rather lets the ground be re-defined around them. Simple things like using websites/communication tools. They don’t have to have all the answers worked out but look as if they are interested in reaching out. Having said that I heard good things about the range of discussion at the summer school. So perhaps I need to differentiate the parliamentary party from the Party!

  3. Joshua 3

    Yes I do think Labour are struggling a bit at the moment. They obviously want to differentiate themselves from what lost the last election, but at the same time they really do think they were doing an OK job of running the country and only got kicked out because the country was bored with seeing the same faces. I would agree with them on that.

    I think they should look at what the Labor Party in Australia are doing, what Obama is doing in the USA and take a lead from them. They should come up with a $5-10 billion stimulus package that they think should happen, they should say that any further tax cuts are stupid at the moment and they should do some good analysis to work out exactly what kind of stimulus spending would have the biggest bang for one’s buck. Last time I checked that was food stamps closely followed by increased welfare payments.

  4. Lew 4

    Dancer,

    I’m not sure what you mean by beaten them at their own game?

    Sorry, I was unclear – not their campaign strategy, their policy agenda. National more or less owns the orthodox `good for all New Zealanders’ space now, having adopted many of Labour’s policy platforms and even much of the general economic plan as their own and really having seemed to make only quite minor concessions to their more extreme supporters.

    L

  5. expat 5

    >>National more or less owns the orthodox `good for all New Zealanders’ space now,
    Yes they do. A good question is did National take it or did Labour give it away?

    >>having adopted many of Labour’s policy platforms and even much of the general economic plan as their own
    What are the 4 stages of recovery? Anger, Denial, then?

    >>and really having seemed to make only quite minor concessions to their more extreme supporters.
    Like the Maori Party? 😉

    Labour face many challenges and personally I don’t see them able to make the radical changes necessary to overcome those challanges within 3 years (leaving a <year for campaigning).

    What are those challenges?
    For starters:
    A loss of the top table execs (Helens inner circle)
    A legacy of shortcuts, expediancy, judgements of error, arrogance and I think we’ll see some graft pop out of the woodwork
    A relatively inexperienced management layer
    A transitional leadership
    A lack of public confidence
    A loss of a phalanx of Govt dept and Ministerial staff who did the machines bidding (leaving very few ‘doers’ in the mix)

  6. coge 6

    It’s getting late & I normally don’t offer genuine advice
    to Labour party types, but here goes. Obviously changes need to be made. Whatever form those changes are to be, it’s better to do them soon rather than wait three years & have them forced on you.

    The immediate effects may not be pretty, but it takes time to yield results.

  7. burt 7

    Every criticism ignored because it was the party line to ignore it is a lesson Labour probably did not learn. Labour need to reexamine the things they glossed over in the last nine years as in there are their credibility and popularity issues.

  8. …I think this is what they should be doing – sit back, let a few things slide, and prepare for a proper comeback, rather than appearing to be bitter reactive partisan has-beens by blindly opposing everything the new government does.

    That’s my view also. As long as John Key’s got such a huge reservoir of public good will, Goff will just look petty and bitter every time he appears on TV to disagree with govt policies. Best to keep a low profile for a while.

  9. burt 9

    Psycho Milt

    Best to keep a low profile for a while.

    I agree, about 2 or 3 terms should do it.

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    Every criticism ignored because it was the party line to ignore it is a lesson Labour probably did not learn.

    What they didn’t learn is to shoot them down. Don’t let people start believing the BS spouted by others.

    What they should be doing now is put out their own budgets, pricings and predictions so that people can compare them with Nationals.

  11. Daveski 11

    I read this with interest yesterday and rang out of time to respond. Frankly, it’s healthy to see the Standard criticising Labour – at times (not always) this site has slipped at times into Labour cheer squad mode.

    I’ve noted a couple of times that Labour has a battle on three fronts – Greens, Maori, and centrist.

    I’ve also noted that you may not rate Key’s policies but he is supremely adept at building relationships and politics is as much about pragmatism and relationships as it is policy.

    Perhaps this is the last phase of our devolution from a FPP model to a true MMP model.

    To provide a simplistic answer, Key has been refreshing in the way he’s remodelled the Nats. IMO, Labour is lacking the same – Goff is capable but he’s last century’s man. Labour needs new blood – perhaps that’s where SP’s Green Deal concept comes in but right now Labour risks losing a second election when the economic events should have made it easier for them to get back in.

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    “I’ve also noted that you may not rate Key’s policies but he is supremely adept at building relationships and politics is as much about pragmatism and relationships as it is policy”

    Fair enough, and I agree, but to me it seems like different things. There is the politics that is about policy, and concerns how we are governed. This is the bit that’s more important IMV.

    Then there is the politics that is simply about who wins elections and gets to govern, Party red, blue, green, or chartreuse in whatever combination. In as much as those parties have policy agendas that they represent, it’s important. But when those policy alignments start to shift about, then things get interesting in a different way, and bookie’s first rule of politics watching comes in to play.

    If the main party that normally espouses policy settings opposed to those you favour,

    starts to steal policy off the party that

    normally supports the policy settings you support;

    you are winning.

    Regardless of elections.

    (convoluted-ness:deliberate.)

    nb, it does necessarily follow that you should, or will, switch support to the policy thief party. They may be just responding to the electorate without a change of heart (high percent), or in any case may not go as far as you would like, (high percent), and your party may now have room to go further in a direction you like, given the centre has toward your direction.

  13. Pascal's bookie 13

    errr, that should be “not necessarily“. Old browser crashing on the edit, grumble..

  14. northpaw 14

    Dancer, Lew,

    You both have a point. Certainly reduxed to one Mike Moore, a former (labour) MP and PM whose characteristic style was simple and often. As Mr Cosgrove would I am sure confirm ‘I like Mike’ s on just about every lamp-post through their electorate made so very clear. Given this we could reasonably assume such success rubbing off in the WTO.. perhaps our most recently elected reps picking up from such example. Of course, electoral success is no guarantee of governing success.. more especially in a vastly changing global environment..

    To Lew also my thanks for the term linkwhore which I had forgotten about, and which – with this blog’s permission could apply to solution uno though I sincerely in everybody’s interest they will go with as framing around the title of Dancer’s topic.

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