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Some friendly advice for Labour

Written By: - Date published: 5:46 pm, March 10th, 2010 - 115 comments
Categories: labour, polls, spin - Tags:

I see the latest Roy Morgan is out and with it we’re seeing no change for Labour. To a certain extent that’s to be expected as this government is only a year and a half old and there’s still a residual media honeymoon. Which means Labour should be thinking more about maintaining a hard grind than being troubled by the polls.

The problem is they haven’t even got everything lined up for the hard grind. The “many not the few” narrative could have become a foundation for their positioning strategy like I suggested they needed nearly a year ago but instead they’ve treated it like a nice single hit that has now been passed on for the next clever idea.

My advice to Labour is that opposition is not about a whole string of clever tactics but about settling on the right frames and then doggedly applying them to a dozen stories a day.

They also need to realise that one good hit a week isn’t enough when you can clear two news-cycles in a single day. It’s like I said about the “many not the few” speech back in January:

They got a good hit in, the trick now is not to get too clever with the message and to keep the hammer down.

But there has been a distinct lack of focus. In fact someone asked me today what Labour stands for and I couldn’t tell them.

All I can do is repeat the advice I gave Labour back in July of last year (when it was already looking too late for the 2011 election):

You need three negative values you want associated with National (for example: arrogant, ‘out of touch’, corrupt 😉 )

You need three positive values you want associated with Labour (for example: democracy, justice, vision).

Pick them using focus groups (for god’s sake don’t use UMR they seem to think they are strategists rather than just pollsters). Do not think you’re clever enough to second guess the voters by coming up with your own ideas of what they think.

Take the three best performing values for describing each party. This is your communications strategy.

Create a short list of plain synonyms for each value (put the actual value at the top of the list)

These are your key lines for the next two and a half years. (Note: key lines are not research points and they are not 10 pages long).

Have your chief of staff (get a chief of staff), press secs, researchers and anyone else in a campaign advisory role meet each morning to discuss the day’s news agenda. Chair the meeting aggressively.

If your day’s plan is to attack National do so within the framework of one or more of your three values.

If your day’s plan is to boost Labour make sure you do so within the framework of your positive values.

Use your key lines constantly. Make sure every release/attack in the house/interview you do includes these words.

Rinse and repeat. And remember that simple, clear and repetitive is what you need. Don’t try to be clever.

See what I did there? I took what I had already said and I said it again. It’s that easy.

115 comments on “Some friendly advice for Labour ”

  1. lukas 1

    To use a Houseism, you say it here, it comes out there. Labour are clearly not listening to their core, and any point scoring that they are getting on trivial issues is easily negated by pointing out hypocrisy or labours own track record on something. It would seem to me that the public are just not that interested in them. Case and point would be Trevor Mallard, he is doing some great work at hammering Tolley in the House, yet, because the general public associate him with the former Labour Government and their arrogance (perception or reality) they just switch off when they hear him.

    This leaves Trev to score petty points on things like this… http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2010/03/10/chicken-shanks/ which the general public do not care about, and again hypocrisy can be pointed out to Trev http://lukasrants.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/hypocrisy-alert/ who then goes on to show once again that he is still tarred with the arrogance that comes with being in power for 9 years …. http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2010/03/10/go-the-coasters/comment-page-1/#comment-35213

  2. lukas 2

    You are right IB.

    Labour is stuck on petty issues, have a look at Trevor Mallard as an example today at Red Alert… http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2010/03/10/chicken-shanks/

    He is stuck on petty issues that only those following politics closely find interesting. He is tarred (rightly or wrongly) with the perception of arrogance that comes with being in power for nine years. When he does score a point, people can easily recall something that he did wrong when in power so the message doesn’t stick.

  3. PeteG 3

    Good advice IB, Labour need to take a hard look at what they need to do. It will be slow but they should be making progress by now.

    The negatives to work National on need to be credible. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen “Key is lying” and each time I see it I cringe. Words and meanings are being manipulated to try to fit a narrative, and it sticks out like dogs balls.

    If you want to make a mark you have to pick the right fights. Not “everything they say we’ll oppose it” niggles. It might mean having to be patient.

    As for positive points for Labour, for me it’s really hard to see anything at this stage. Goff seems a reasonable sort of bloke but he will never be able to do the fresh new initiatives thing, he’s been in the game far too long for that. An old hand working their way up can be done, (Helen Clark did it) but to pull it off he needs to have a compatible team around him. I don’t see a team at all.

    I’ve been called a rightie here, and a lefty in other places. That’s funny but irrelevant. What I do want to see is a government doing as well as possible, with support from the rest of parliament unless it REALLY isn’t warranted.

    And I want to see as strong an opposition as possible. That doesn’t mean strong like able to thump the other buggers at every opportunity. That means strong in support of running the country, and looking like they can take over strong leadership when the other lot aren’t strong enough to carry on (in the eyes of the electorate).

    Labour suffered from a real down trou at the last election. It looks like so far they have only managed to pull up a pair of shorts, and maybe they have pulled them up a bit tight at that. I hope they can deserve to wear trousers again, the sooner the better.

    Politics shouldn’t be a game of petty one upmanship. Running a country should be bloody serious business.

  4. Anne 4

    @ lukas
    Mallard has banned you for a month for being such a boring repetitive jerk.

    Labour’s ability to take advantage of the government’s appalling management is mediocre. There have been some good hits, but no-where near enough of them. There seems to be a timidity in so many of their utterances. I say to them… for god’s sake stop being so PC and get stuck into the bastards. Then people will start to sit up and take notice.

    • lukas 4.1

      @ lukas
      Mallard has banned you for a month for being such a boring repetitive jerk

      No. I pointed out the irony of deleting someones comment for poor spelling and his hypocrisy, his reaction… ban me. Pretty much sums up senior Labour MP’s at the moment. Looking forward to the resignations in 2011 when they lose the election and some younger MP’s without so much baggage can have a real crack at the Government, one sided politics is never good for the country.

  5. toad 5

    Got some friendly advice for the Greens too IB?

    I’m somewhat frustrated that despite National’s contempt for democracy, attacks on workers, and corruption among their Ministers and MPs; together with Labour’s lack of any apparent vision or strategy, the Greens are still polling under 10%. Even though the Green New Deal is the only economic stimulus package to create jobs that any party has come up with since the global financial crisis and its flow-on effects on employment hit.

    I would have thought the Greens should have been polling 15% in the current economic climate – instead, they are only about half that. Any idea why?

    • lukas 5.1

      toad, you probably wont want my 2 cents, but I am opinionated enough to give it anyway 😀

      The “green” brand of the Green Party has been damaged by going too far into the social engineering side of things and too little on the pollution side of things. There has been way too much scaremongering coming out of your camp, that it is becoming a bit like the boy who cried wolf, take peak oil as a prime example, I am pretty sure that when the Green Party came into Parliament that they warned we would run out of oil in ten years…

      If I were a Green Party strategist, I would be telling my MP’s to focus more on environmental issues without pushing the dooms day prophesies down the public’s throat. I heard one of your MP’s on the radio the other day talking about issues regarding water quality, it made sense and they got the message across without telling us how bad and awful we all are.

      Oh, and stop going around with people dressed up as animals 😀 its cringe inducing!

      Like I said, you probably wont want my advice, but that is a brief summation of my thoughts on how the Green Party is perceived by people around my age and background (early 20’s professionals).

      • felix 5.1.1

        “…that is a brief summation of my thoughts on how the Green Party is perceived by people around my age and background (early 20’s professionals who spend all day on blogs bigging up the National govt and would never, ever vote Green even if the Greens did behave exactly as I just suggested they should).”

        Fixed it for you.

    • Pete DGeorge 5.2

      Toad, two bob from me.

      I think 15% is dream zone. Greens are rebuilding, trying to get some leadership credibility and I don’t see it yet. Turei is in my electorate (when she’s at “home”) and I still know little about her, and what I’ve heard on an interview or two to be honest she came across as a professional politician more than an ordinary person. Off pat jargon and wasn’t impressed with a couple of things she claimed.

      Greens my still pick up some from people who aren’t ready to go back to Labour, but other than that will have to work hard to earn votes, Depending in Labour’s recovery the threshold would be a real challenge I’d think. (I have voted Green at times)

      • toad 5.2.1

        Pete, do I take that to mean your concerns are about the branding and the communications – not about the policy?

        I never really understand why people say that they prefer Green policies to Labour’s, but then after an election tell me they voted Labour anyway. Many people I meet socially say that.

        All they can come up with is “we’ve got to keep the Nats out”, which given a proportional electoral system is not a logical reason. And it didn’t keep the Nats out last time anyway.

        • IrishBill

          The greens’ problem has nothing to do with policy and a lot to do with politics. Labour has a bit of a problem with both.

          • lukas

            I think it has a lot to do with image too, they just come across and are portrayed as fruit loops in a lot of circumstances, some of it is media bias, but I would suggest that a fair chunk is of their own making… Morris Dancing, singing in maiden speeches etc etc.

        • Pete DGeorge

          Policies are important-ish, but people, personalities, that’s what a lot of people vote on. If you have great policies and look out of touch with the real world you’ll struggle. If you have mediocre policies and great people you can work towards better policies.

          Credible, real, connected people. And good policies will follow.

        • Pete DGeorge

          Just watched Back Benches.

          Norman doesn’t do it for me. Too waffly, doesn’t sound decisive. Political speech opportunist. He wouldn’t come straight out and admit it, but he appears to support breaking the law and causing major damage to government property. And the costume thing was real corny.

          And other impressions – Quin doesn’t do it for me either, nowhere near it. And (I’m not just sucking up here) Grant Robertson seemed like a guy I could talk to – and listen to. Seemed to not hesitate to say what he thought.That counts for a lot. Didn’t sound like political bullshit.

          • lukas

            “And the costume thing was real corny.”

            Seriously, another costume? I could have sworn I just wrote something about that.

            Anyone got a pic?

        • Chris

          The Greens need to be strategic with putting people up in seats. Keith Locke in Epsom drew alot of votes away from Labour which, had Keith been smart and not stood, could have tipped Epsom into Labour, and hence we wouldn’t be dancing to the wee man in the yellow jacket’s tune.

          I hear the same thing happened in Ohariu Belmont – a green candidate stood drawing votes away from the Labour candidate, meaning that Dunne got re-elected.

          I would suggest the Greens think very very carefully about their strategy around seats – they have enough support to get list seats – their behaviour in standing for every seat going backfires on them more than they realise. And they look arrogant doing it.

        • Chris

          The Greens need to think long and hard about their policy of standing in every seat regardless. Had Keith Locke not stood in Epsom, Labour may have had just enough support to win, meaning we wouldn’t be dancing to the wee man in the yellow jacket’s tune. Rodney I supect thanks and praises Keith Locke every day – but Keith I suspect wouldn’t see how he helped Rodney.

          I think the same thing happened in Belmont Ohariu, Wgton – had the Greens not stood there we may have not have had to suffer Mr “I don’t take ‘bribes’ from BAT” Dunne. I suspect he also gives daily thanks to the Green party.

          It’s not as if the Greens absolutely need a seat – they don’t given the level of support they recieve. However Dunne and Rodney *do* need a seat.

          I recommend that the Greens think very very carefully and hard about the policy to stand for everything that is going. It backfires on them, and they look somewhat arrogant doing it.

        • Lanthanide

          I was seriously considering voting for the Greens at the last election, right up until I got to the polling booth. Then, while there, some nutter came in and started loudly lambasting the electoral staff about how they had cardboard tables and cardboard chairs and cardboard voting partitions, because that wasn’t sustainable and she supposed they were just going to throw them all out after the election and what a waste of resources it was etc. That made me 100% sure that I didn’t want to associate myself with the same party that woman likely voted for.

          • toad

            I’m sure there are plenty of nutjobs who vote Labour and National too Lanthanide, even though Act and NZF attract a disproportionate share of them.

          • Pascal's bookie

            For real L?

            Honestly disappointed. That’s an awful way to decide your vote.

    • T 5.3

      “Greens should have been polling 15% in the current economic climate”

      The lay impression I get is that the Greens are seen by the non politically inclined public as well intentioned but knowing bugger-all about economics. So when it comes to getting out of a recession it’s best to trust National (or Labour if National is doing more harm than good).

    • George D 5.4

      Firstly, I would get very credible candidates in every electorate. Well known, highly respected people. In Australia’s ACT the Greens have just put the 2007 ACT person of the year up for election as their senate candidate. None of this “it’s the party vote that matters” bullshit. People want to connect with people, and they’re not being offered that.

      The Greens simply aren’t seen as credible on the issues that matter most to ordinary New Zealanders. Health. Education. Economic wellbeing. Still seen as fringe, and deservedly so, because the Greens usually choose to focus on issues that don’t speak to these concern.

      If I was going to run a campaign, it would be based on “working families”, rather than the “we live on an island, think of the future” tinge which dominates currently.

      And Sue Kedgely loses the Greens votes every time she opens her mouth – the perception that the Greens hate science is a pretty widespread one (and partly justified).

      • Lew 5.4.1

        Last point is so true. They should be the party of science — in many ways they are the party of science, and its responsible use, and yet they persist in defending pseudoscience and flakery of too many kinds, and opposing even responsible uses of science. It’s awful.


  6. prism 6

    Labour need to come up with some things that they are going to do, and talk about them. keeping some ideas up their sleeve for later nearer the election. Just wrong footing National isn’t enough though they do have to keep it up.

    National got in because Labour couldn’t fire people with enthusiasm for recognisable solid policies and people were sick of Helen’s ubiquitous management. Labour needs a new pledge card and to give us their vision that applies to all the country and all ministries.

    Its no use pounding the drum about homosexual law and prostitution reform though good, the rest of us have our needs to! What about the workers! Jim Anderton still sits in my mind as being closer to Labour’s enduring interests.

  7. I dreamed a dream 7

    Basically it’s all very simple. I don’t agree with Don Brash on most things, but one thing I agree with him is that VOTERS ARE IGNORANT! The things I would like voters to be not ignorant of are different from Brash of course.

    But, voters are not interested in issues. They are in love with John Key. It doesn’t matter if GST rise will hurt them or not. It is not hurting them yet. It does not matter whether the Super City is a mess or not. It is not hurting them yet. Whatever the issue, this NACT government is very good in managing the spin. But ultimately they love Key. Love is blind.

    The only thing that will change voters’ minds is when things really turn to custard and NZ is in a mess. Then and only then will the teflon wear off from John Key. But that is not likely to happen until well after 2011. Key and his government is doing a very good PR job. Because the voters love Key, as long as the government don’t do anything drastic to cause devastating suffering, Key will romp in.

    So the key (pun not intended) question to ask is: When is it all going to turn to custard? That’s when things will turn around for Labour. And it won’t be in this term because Key won’t allow that to happen. He’ll continue to be play safe.

    Is there hope for Labour in 2011? Well, as much as I love them to win and form the government, I think it is a foregone conclusion that National will get back in in 2011.

    Unless something drastic happens. The ball is not in Labour’s court I am afraid. We need the NACT government to score an own goal or two.

    Sad, but that’s how things are.

    I hope to be proved wrong.

  8. Move towards the centre, drop the anti western theme, and lose the “We know whats best for your money” attutide.

    • I dreamed a dream 8.1

      “Move towards the centre”

      The problem is that it is the centre that moved to the right. Generally, under HC, people did well and felt more prosperous. When the centre felt more prosperous, they began to associate more with the right.

      So, for Labour to move towards the centre is like chasing after a set of moving goalposts. It’s futile.

      The electorate needs to move leftwards towards the centre. But for that to happen, people need to suffer a little. Then they’ll identify with “the many” again. The problem with Labour’s message of the few and the many is that a bit of the middle has moved into “the few”. The “new few” need to be shaken again, i.e. suffer under NACT, before they realise the need to get back to “the many”.

      John Key is very good in keeping a tight grip on the middle, to make them feel like they belong more to the right. The middle needs to move back to the true middle. They need to suffer. Until then, goodbye to 2011 for Labour.

      • Herodotus 8.1.1

        NZ did well, sorry how about $23b in leaky homes, $7b lost in 2nd tier finance coy, 150k people that were not working at the height of this time, the timebombs of obesity and an aging pop?
        We had a great party in HC time, there is the hangover that follows any good party!!
        Cullen was a great custodian and just what NZ required 99-04 but after the foundation was layed we needed a follow up but got the start of a decaying carcus, that is still continuning to rot

      • lukas 8.1.2

        “The problem is that it is the centre that moved to the right.” No it didn’t.

        Nine years of a left leaning Government was always going to shift the centre to the left, hence our current “Labour lite” party. The centre could have been pulled further left if the Green Party had been in coalition in any of the three terms, ACT will now be able to pull the centre back to the right quicker than if National were in coalition with NZ First or a larger UF.

        • lprent

          ACT is currently continuing their long process of internal disintegration. At the rate they’re going, I think that the next election will merely provide the last rites on that party.

  9. Bill 9

    I’d have thought that the Nat’s were such obvious one trick ponies that Labour and the left would have no problem taking the bastards down. And that’s in spite of their ‘deep down in the panties’ relationship with msm.

    But then, I keep forgetting that the bulk of the ‘acceptable’ left is addicted to ‘sitting down and talking it through’ in a reasonable fashion because they have some strange notion that ‘winning the argument’ has got something to do with it…it being the proposition that a leftist agenda becomes a centre of attraction capable of holding wider societal dynamics and aspirations in orbit.

    But that will never come about as long as rational argument is seen to be the way to deal with ideological convictions.

    The Nats are corporatist bastards. They want undemocratic corporate influences to replace our somewhat democratic state influences. They are a threat to the little democracy we have and they don’t give a monkeys flying fuck for anyone but themselves. How hard can it be to take that truth…those truths…and bury the bastards beneath them?

    The answer we don’t want is anything along the lines of;

    “Well, really quite hard actually. We keep trying to sit down and talk about issues but they wont play fair. We are pretty sure it’s because they know we are right. Yes, that’s why they fight dirty. Wow, they really are bounders. But it’s okay because we are sure that deep sense of fairness endemic to the psyche of our people will prevail and that Kiwi’s will see through this National government and reject it. Just give it time. “

    • Pete DGeorge 9.1

      And that’s in spite of their ‘deep down in the panties’ relationship with msm.

      That’s a crack up. “The right” say the msm are leftie pawns.

      Most of the non-entrenched-partisan criticism of National is that they aren’t doing enough, aren’t being bold enough. I tend to agree with that on most things.

      Super city is my biggest concern (from a distance) – but that is more Rodney’s baby, the custard will be on his face if it’s a mess.

      • Bill 9.1.1

        Of course they do.

        But that can be put to bed real simple. Bearing in mind that almost all msm are corporations, when was the last time you heard of a modern corporation being a creation of or an outgrowing of left wing sentiments?

        Answer. Never.

        • Pete DGeorge

          I think they are quite evenhanded at regurgitating press releases, blowing issues up out of all proportion to their importance, and they don’t care what spectrum that base there trash around.

          TV media in particular couldn’t really give a toss about left or right or whatever, they are too busy worshiping themselves and pushing personalities – ie their own personalities. Left and right are peripheral to CELEBRITY. Self annointed.

          • Bill

            Your incorrect.

            Just watch the next political piece on the news and pay attention to he juxtapositioning of images and voice over. ( eg voice being critical of government but light fluff images lessening the weight of the criticism. And the converse, where the voice is positive and the image is negative. And reflect on what technique is used consistently and on who or what over time)

            Or cast a critical attention over the positioning of stories one to another. ( eg tough on crime coming straight after a shlock horror emotional hook piece)

            Listen to what opinions are portrayed as fact and which facts are sold as mere opinions. And reflect why.

            Or just listen out for the qualifiers such as JK ‘says’ whereas Goff ‘claims’.

            And on and on and on.

            A corporation can no more promote a left wing agenda than pigs and flying and all that. A corporation is not a neutral entity. It reflects and expresses a default position and that default is decidedly off to the right. It’s not even necessary to get all conspiratorial to understand why this should be.

            • lukas

              Bill, the notion that all of the MSM are right wing puppets or have right wing bias is rather strange quite frankly. One only has to watch Campbell Live to see a clear Left bias. Even Paul Henry was laying into John Key on Monday, despite his obvious bias!

              • Bill

                Just because I can read a left leaning opinion piece in a right wing newspaper doesn’t make the newspaper any less right wing does it?

                So yes, Campbell is nominally left…a mainstream liberal. And his slot is to overall TV3 news content as the left leaning opinion column is to the overall news content of the right wing paper.

                And I did not say that corporate msm are right wing puppets. That would be a fucking absurd assertion. A corporation naturally reflects corporate values. And those values are right wing.

              • lukas

                “Just because I can read a left leaning opinion piece in a right wing newspaper doesn’t make the newspaper any less right wing does it?”

                No, but I think you will find that they are more balanced than your perception.

                “So yes, Campbell is nominally left a mainstream liberal. And his slot is to overall TV3 news content as the left leaning opinion column is to the overall news content of the right wing paper.”

                I would suggest that most of the Media Works Group news coverage has a left wing leaning, just as the Radio Network, APN Group has a right wing leaning. Michael Laws being the only clear exception to the left wing leaning view of their regular opinion commentators and news presenters (Willie Jackson, Oliver Driver etc)

                “And I did not say that corporate msm are right wing puppets. That would be a fucking absurd assertion. A corporation naturally reflects corporate values. And those values are right wing.”

                Agree on the first half, but you would be amazed how many people think they are. Don’t agree on the second half, again Media Works being the example.

            • Pete DGeorge

              Wrong target, Labour needs forget crying about the media and earn some good coverage, it isn’t a right. There is a lot of crap in MSM for sure, either way, but Labour needs to fix Labour.

    • Bored 9.2

      Bill, nice to see you get worked up about the corporatist nature of the Nacts….its a classic example of why Labour get no grip. I have several times compared Hides political philosophy and actions to Mussolini. The moment you say “Fascist” everybody who should have read the historic record and be in agreement runs for cover. You become the big bad nut. The statement remains valid but the message is scorned and decried by the very people who flutter around the political blogs.

      Labour if they want to avoid waiting out the Nacts (2 to 3 elections before we get bored and want a “change”, to “aspire” or some other meaningless intangible that entails no real content) have to change the language of the “debate”. That might mean they have to see reality and change themselves.

      Back to problem number one….reality and evidence (historic record) may not be what the people want to hear.

      • Bill 9.2.1

        Not being one who bandies the fascist term about with gay abandon, I’ve found it really frustrating that the bar for what constitutes fascism is set so bloody high. It seems that unless people are rounded up by the hundreds of thousands and removed from existence, then it ain’t fascism.

        Meanwhile. Yes, I agree that the Italian gentleman ought to be brought up time and again and Italian corporatism compared and contrasted with the shit currently happening in the anglo saxon economies.

        But there are a couple of obstacles as I see it. Mussolini was a hero to capitalism. So was the German gentleman. And if WW2 was about power and empire and about the brokers of domestic power bases protecting their patch rather than about opposing fascism, then corporatist tendencies will go uncommented on. Afterall, if WW2 defeated fascism and corporations survived WW2, then corporations cannot be fascist.

        Second problem. Labour are on the same wagon as the Nats. The difference I can perceive is that whereas the Nats really don’t give a fuck for you or me, Labour will round off some of the sharper edges of corporate capitalism for those whom they deem to be worthy enough.

        Labour spent 9 years creating what it saw as a balance or a compromise between business demands and some diluted form of state driven social responsibility that was always ultimately advantageous to business, (eg biggest cuts to benefits since early 90s came courtesy of Labour while wff was always a sop to business that softened wage demands) But at the end of the day, business saw that it didn’t need to compromise with Labour any more.

        Which is all meandering away from my point.

        At heart, the NZ Labour party embraces corporatism no less than the NZ National party. The difference between the two essentially comes down to management style. Labour simply wants to be pulling the levers in the cab..to be the puffed up driver steaming down the same track that the Nats are currently. The speed might alter and we might get served tea and bikkies back here in second class if we’re good, whereas the Nats would happily have us huddled in open wagons with nothing provided no matter what. The final destination doesn’t alter though, and that’s the bit that really matters.

        And that is why the Labour party cannot take down the Nats as they ought.

  10. ParkDrive 10

    One of the core problems I see with Labour is that it is heavily populated with a young and enthusiastic, if somewhat apathetic, group of activists. This in itself is not a bad thing, however many do not know, or remember what it was like to be in opposition.

    Hence, their entire strategy seems to be focused around the “lets pretend we’re government” when clearly they need to be an opposition.
    Being in Opposition gives them the opportunity to make mistakes, cock up, learn and move on. As it is, they’re so busy trying to be squeaky clean in the hopes of achieving a teflon coating, but it’s never going to work.
    Get out there, say what you think, you always have the opportunity to review your promises once in Government as National are proving adept at doing.

    So Labour. Be leaner. Be faster. Be honest. Forget about the constant reviews and focus groups. Let the MPs deliver their own messages to win back the electorate, and ensure there is a formal plan leading into the election. The last thing an opposition needs is people delivering the same message ad hominem as it’s boring, repetitive, and doesn’t strike a chord.
    If Jacinda told Aucklanders – we’ll review the super shitty within our first six months, and New Plymouth’s candidate said ‘jobs jobs jobs, gas pipeline’ it’ll resound.
    The core principle is to tell the electorate you will deliver on what they want. Not what the party wants which is what Labour are doing. There is no hope of winning an election if you don’t listen to what the voters want.

    • lukas 10.1

      “One of the core problems I see with Labour is that it is heavily populated with a young and enthusiastic, if somewhat apathetic, group of activists”

      Had a glance at the front bench of Labour recently? http://labour.org.nz/mps

    • ParkDrive

      I am not sure I agree with you about the activists. From my perspective the activists have held the party together over the past 16 months.

      Think about Mt Albert. Based on the polls that existed then and still exist the nats ought to have had a significant chance to win that seat. They failed miserably. When it came down to the fundamentals of on the street campaigning the nats were found wanting and David Shearer was given a luxury ride. On election day there were 400 people working for Labour and less than 100 working for National.

      This counts and its effect cannot be measured by opinion polls.

      Labour needs to actually up the number of activists. With a couple of thousand Auckland wide we can counter the adverse effect that the Herald has on Auckland’s thinking.

      • lprent 10.2.1

        Activists in a by-election are a *lot* more effective than a general election. The turnout is lower. So if you know who you want to roust out to the polls (from previous activist canvassing), keep track of who has voted, you can really target in on clusters of people to get to the polls.

        The canvassing itself has a large effect because you wind up talking to a lot of people (who in turn talk to other people) about the issues – without the media ‘interpreting’ it on the way through. In a by-election you can focus activists to do more of it. The Nats really cannot because they are poor in terms of active activists.

        In the by-election the Labour activists had an enormous effect on the day, because we didn’t target consistent voters (overwhelmingly Nat), we targeted people who’d support us but were less likely to vote. The nats couldn’t do that because they could only use really coarse demographics to help guide them.

        Unfortunately most of the Labour parliamentary team and NZ council don’t think in terms of what is required to run the election campaign. They tend to start thinking about it a year out if you’re really lucky. The problem is that you have start to get the conditions right 2 years prior to that. Basically I tend to find them to be a bit idiotic on setting up conditions to win elections. They’re too orientated to politics and not enough to operations. It is pretty damn exhausting trying to shove basics of the numbers game into their heads…

      • Lew 10.2.2

        Activists are all well and good, but they need to realise that their role is as a party’s direct connection with the non-activist voting public, rather than thinking of themselves as the people who are the public or who represent their views.

        Think of electoral politics as a crude two-piece jigsaw puzzle, in which a party holds one piece and the electorate holds the other. Neither can show the other their piece, but they can describe it in various ways, and each can modify the shape of the piece to fit that held by the other (if they want to). Activists often believe the electorate’s piece is the same as their activist piece, or they think it’s their job to convince the electorate to modify their piece to fit the activist piece. But it’s not: their work is to pass the messages about the shape of the respective pieces between the parties. The task of shaping either piece can only really be undertaken by those in posession of a decent view of both pieces: the party (assuming the system works as it should).

        I’ve written before that part of the problem with the fifth Labour government was that it got hijacked by activists who (either) thought they represented the electorate (or) thought they could force the electorate to adopt their positions. As a consequence, they stopped accurately describing what they saw in the electorate to the party and started describing (in many cases) what they wanted, or hoped, to see. So the party lacked crucial information about what the electorate wanted and became, as the Nats said, “out of touch”. The party then lacked the ability to respond to those nascent desires so as to set and properly control the agenda — the communication became one-way, and that way leads to electoral ruin. It’s not that they didn’t get a lot of good policy passed — it’s just that some of it was unecessarily electorally damaging, and could have been less so.

        So, yeah, activists are important, but they need to understand their role. It’s as intermediaries who pass information to and from, giving the party and the public the clearest view possible of each others’ puzzle pieces, without judging what’s a good shape or trying to change either side. This is tough, because activists are — by definition — people with strong political views. But there it is.


  11. Herodotus 11

    With all the ammunition Nats give Lab, Lab still mange to score even more own goals. Point in case the reduction in tertiary courses, which to me is understandable and a distancing from the “bums on seats” mentatially, and the perform to qualify for state assistance and what response
    do we get? This is not welfare, this from Miss Strett, excuses. Until there is real change in the mind set of lab then nothing will change. Reploying past strategies will not do it for NZ, and we get this, some heavenly body will need to help us. Our future has and is being mortgaged away there is a ever growing mountain of issues out there that need addressing.
    Then we get Anton Oliver being chased by both parties, how can both sides chase the same person. Is there any differentiation of the 2 parties this suggest Nats-Lab the only difference is ???


  12. Anne 12

    Good one Bill.
    It’s long-hand compared to my contribution but you’ve put it in a nutshell!
    That’s sounds contradictory but you what I mean…

    Lets hope they start to take some notice!

  13. Lew 13

    Bill, wasn’t it just last week you were chiding me for being impatient? In any case, I agreed with your advice last year, and it’s still every bit as valid now.

    Prism, to be successful, they need to do both the positive and the negative: the “why they’re bad”, and the “what we’ll do differently”. For my money the core negative matter is the old-fashioned cronyism and nest-feathering which has begun to be exhibited by this government. This ties in nicely with the nascent “the many, not the few” narrative. I’ve written about this pretty extensively in the past few weeks, though I won’t linkwhore.

    As to the positive aspects, Labour’s people need to pick material they can work with, so all the advice in the world from outside is of little use. They need to play to their own strengths. “Axe the Tax” is part of this, and while it’s ok, it’s hardly setting the world alight. There’s more; the usual troika of health (including ACC), education, welfare. They need to define and state clearly who and what they stand for, because the electorate has forgotten.

    Just as important is cultivating and reaching out to allied constituencies and those who represent them. That means not returning to the reflexive Māori-bashing we saw late last year (though that’s absolutely not to say the māori party should be treated with kid gloves); and as importantly, the Greens. The cronyism narrative I’ve proposed makes the Greens a particularly strong ally, due to the strong environmental aspects in many of the cases of cronyism we’re seeing: around the ETS, around mining the DOC estate, and now around the ECAN debacle. The greens are having their own crisis of competence at present, and the two parties could do no better than to help each other prepare to face a common enemy.


  14. bobo 14

    Doesn’t Labour need to concentrate more on suburbs that swung away from them at the last election such as west Auckland instead of the small towns which the bus trip is aimed at? Watched the news tonight channel flipped between tv1 and 3 no mention of Labours axe the tax, Girl Guide biscuits that are too crumbly outranked any story of the Labour bus trip… I would normally blame the MSM but surely Labours need to be more aggressive getting coverage.

    • IrishBill 14.1

      The bus tour is about provincial media (or at least it should be). You’d see something about it in the Nelson mail, the Timaru herald, the Northland advocate but not on the six o’clock news. Because that’s not the point.

  15. I think that Key continues to present Labour’s biggest problem. I saw him give a speech today and he gave a reasoned sensitive speech using ideas that came out of the left. He sounded like a Labour PM. The crowd, quite sophisticated and intelligent, warmed to him.

    The chaos being caused by the people below him such as Tolley, Smith, Brownlee and co have not affected his support and it is clear to me that politics is even more presidential than before.

    Having said this I believe that Goff is doing a good job. This year especially he has been focussed and on message.

    But it will take time to dent the Key effect.

    Helen used to give us the same advantage. The nats had to go into all out attack to bring her down.

    Key is the tories greatest strength but also their greatest weakness. If he trips their lead will evaporate.

    • RedBack 15.1

      mickeysavage I agree with you. Key is just smile in a suit. Nothing more. You scratch the surface and there ain’t too much political nous or inclination. I just hope this isn’t going to be the case for future PM hopefuls for Labour or National. There is a long year ahead and time before the next general. I don’t think Labour will win. Voters don’t tend to throw out govt’s after one term anyomore. Some will say we are more patient these days I just think its more down to voter apathy and believing what the MSM keep shovelling out as their version of the truth. But once the media get tired of John Key’s PR schtick, which they will, his resolve for politcis will crumble and with it the Nats lead. Once Key makes his exit I can’t see anyone in the National Party that has the same teflon charisma to win them another general election. The 2014 election is very winnable for Labour which I’m sure is their real aim.

  16. Anne 16

    Congrats to IRISHBILL for his post. I hope Labour politicians have read it and the sound advice being given by some of the commenters.

    At the beginning of this year Shane Jones got stuck into the Maori Party over the Hone Harawira affair. He didn’t mince his words about them or Hone, and he was rewarded for it. The MSM gave him top billing. He was in prime spots in the newspapers, radio and television. Soon he was being touted as a future Labour leader. Whether he is – or isn’t – is not the point. The fact is, he used the MSM to maximum advantage and it paid off. That is what we need to see a darn sight more of… from Labour politicians. As I said earlier, stop the PC stuff and say it how it is!

  17. Salsy 17

    Bring on Shane Jones as PM and stop stuffing around Labour. He is the only labour minister who can truly offset the “key effect” and he will do it quite naturally, taking out the Maori party in his wake. Where Key is fumbling, guilty, lying and nervous, Jones is relaxed confident, forceful and agressive.. Goff is lovely, but too much of a close relative to Clarke and hasnt enough of the wolf in him… Ill shut up now now cos i’ve made this point round 5 times…

  18. Jenny 18

    The future for leftist type parties like the Labour Party is to choose between one of two ways to proceed, which can only have one of two outcomes.

    Comments to this thread have said that Labour need to move closer to the centre, to keep all sectors happy.

    The other option of course, is to remain steadfastly partizan to your constituency and stare down the howls of outrage from your opposition.

    This too has been suggested as a strategy that Labour should follow.

    So let’s see how these two different choices are working out;

    Evo Morales elected president of Bolivia at the head of a leftist coalition as the first ever indigenous president of Bolivia, was compared to black man, Barrack Obama’s election to the U.S. presidency.


    Barrack Obama elected on a huge majority with a campaign slogan of “Change You Can believe in”.


    In my opinion, the path chosen by Obama is more similar to Goff’s Labour Party choice of stragegy than Morales’ path.

    In fact (in my opinion) the similarities between our Labour Party and the U.S. Democrats is striking. Though in a mirror image of Labour, the Democrats are in power. (With a governing majority bigger than either major U.S. party has had since ’70s).

    And as the link shows, though the Democrats have suffered a loss in Massachusetts, their large congressional majority is still intact.

    Yet like Goff over the rise in GST to 15%, Obama seems to dither and hedge.

    According to the link, “Instead of taking advantage of their big majority. To win “bipartisan’ support, (which commenters to this thread have suggested Labour should do.), the Democrats limited the amount of money allocated to jobs creation and explicitly ruled out direct government jobs programs.”

    “What seems most bewildering about Obamaand most demoralizing to his most fervent supportersis his failure to “lead’ in the way that they thought he should.” (does anyone else recognise echoes of Goff here?)

    (Like Goff), “Obama’s penchant to reach for compromise and “bipartisanship’ is exactly the opposite of what is required, particularly in a time of economic crisis, when deliberation and compromise can foster disaster.

    In the U.S. the Democrats still have many ties to business interests and quietly look for excuses to avoid doing things that might offend them.”

    I wonder if this could be said of the Labour Party too?

    Whereas Morales couldn’t care less if he offends these sorts of people if his constituency is better off for it.

    Though the Labour Party is in the opposition and Obama’s Democrats are in power, both parties face a similar trial by fire, for the Democrats, the upcoming mid-term elections, and for Labour, next year’s national elections,

    The link has this to say on Obama’s upcoming trial by fire:

    “Obama still has a reserve of goodwill in the American population to tap. His approval rating stands at about the same place Ronald Reagan’s did at the same point in his administration, which likewise assumed power during a deep recession. If Obama and the Democrats change their approach and begin producing “change’ that more people can perceive, then they might limit their losses in November.”

    The problem for Obama (and Goff) is that the changes in people’s perception, may not happen fast enough to save them.

    The duopolistic (two-party) nature of mainstream American (and New Zealand) politics constantly reduces complex reality to these kinds of choices.

    “Most people who aren’t so ideologically committed to a right-wing program end up voting for conservative politicians for more mundane reasons.

    First, there are usually only two choices. In America the Democrats’ failures have created a political vacuum that the Republicans and tea partiers are trying to fill. Second, when the left look like they’re not sure what to dowhy should anyone vote for them?

    “Under the U.S. Two-party system, the Democrats offer an electoral outlet where workers, the poor and oppressed groups such as women, racial minorities and LGBT people feel like they can make themselves heard. But the Democrats’ nature as a big business or capitalist party means that when they are in power, they are constantly forced to attack their “base,’ thereby undermining their own support.”

    (This sort problem of falling between two stools also has echoes of the Labour party in power here.)

    [lprent: Trashed the duplicate comment. ]

    “If working people in the U.S. end up opposing health care reform because it’s going to cut Medicare and raise their taxesand if the people who are in favor of health care reform can’t convince them that there’s a tangible benefit in it for them (and not one that only takes effect in 2014!)then Democrats shouldn’t be surprised when their “base’ refuses to turn out to vote, or when independent voters desert to the Republicans.

    The Massachusetts election showed both phenomena. Voter turnout in heavily Democratic Boston was down 35 percent from the 2008 election, and one out of five Obama voters voted for Brown.”

    To paraphrase the linked article:
    ” If there isn’t an alternative to the tories coming from the left(whether it’s from the Labour Party) or even a third party, or a strike or a social struggle, or even the unions standing up and saying “we’re not going to take this anymore’then opposition to the status quo will fall by default to the right.”

    • RedLogix 18.1


      Thanks for the work and thought you put into this… some comments should be whole posts on their own.

  19. Labour needs a ballsy young turk who just gets out there and says shit in a way that connects with young voters and doesn’t remind older voters of the Clark era.

    Preferably youngish, male, goodlooking, with a cheeky smile and keen sense of fashion and Not Anton Oliver or any other rugby munter turned wannabe politico. Someone with a bit of street cred and a ready made profile. Someone that talks the walk and walks with a swagger. Someone like a young Winston Peters who your gran would think is a bit of a larrikin yet would enjoy a nice cuppa with

    Someone schooled in the dark arts of media manipulation who can look John Key in the eye and say…’Aw c’mon John thats bullshit and you know it, I’m not some dumb hick you can fob off with a wave, a smile and a meaningless soundbite. The least you can do is tell the truth ‘

    • Jenny 19.1

      Someone with some solid policy and principles, and prepared to fight for them, would be nice too.

    • marty mars 19.2

      not that i know you – but it sounds like they need you pollywog – could be the best thing that ever happened to them and it would cut messiah jones off

      • pollywog 19.2.1

        haha…oh hell no marty mars ! no one needs me on their team. I dont play well with others, not even ones i like. I’m more of a lead from behind kind of guy.

        I was thinking of someone like John Campbell. Woo him with a labour list seat and give him free rein to have a go at Key, English, Farrar, Tolley, Collins, Bennett, Joyce and Power. Thats the kind of media manipulating dark arts schooled type of person i was thinking off and it would make for great telly.

        …though if someone wanted to pay me shitloads to school them in street cred and swagger with a pro poly twist, then make me an offer i can’t refuse 🙂

  20. Pete DGeorge 20

    Someone schooled in the dark arts of media manipulation who can look John Key in the eye and say ‘Aw c’mon John thats bullshit and you know it

    That’s a contradiction. The obsession with media and media manipulation has gone far too far. You might win small victories but you won’t win the war with the media, if that is the battlefront.

    Being straight up and saying it “like it is”, looking people (or the camera) in the eye and coming across as believable, no bullshit or beating around the bush, that will score points with me any day, even if I don’t agree with the message or if a mistake is made.

    People don’t like it if they think they are being manipulated. Why do you think the straight forwardness of Key is working? He can get away with changing his stance, and making mistakes, and most people don’t see it as lying or backflipping, they see it as normal. Situations change, more information becomes known, and adjustments are normal.

    Goff comes across as ok-ish but with the obvious care of an old school politician who watches his words for fear he might not be consistent with everything else he has ever said.

    This topic here is refreshing because there seems to be much more open and honest assessments and comments rather than clumsy attempted manipulation.

    I think ordinary people want to see politicians who look ahead, who have vision and drive and are prepared to speak their minds, not back watchers.

  21. tsmithfield 21

    I think Labour might need to consider a more austere message with regard to public finances.

    If you look at what is going on in Europe in countries such as Greece, Portugal etc, there is growing public awareness and support for measures to reduce government spending to reduce public deficits. This is because it people seem to be catching on to the huge risks involved with Sovereign debt issues, as per the recent post on this issue.

    Perhaps voters in NZ are supportive of moves to reduce the size of the public service etc in NZ for similar reasons. Aferall, we are still borrowing huge sums to fund the public deficit. It might be that they support the need for radical change for future good. Therefore, Labour might be pushing against the tide of public opinion if they try to resist such measures.

    • Bill 21.1

      What planet you on?

      Growing public awareness and support for austerity measures my arse!

    • lprent 21.2

      Aferall, we are still borrowing huge sums to fund the public deficit.

      Compared to what? Basically you’re comparing apples with oranges. Our public debt debt is really low after a decade of careful management by Labours Cullen who has dropped it down to virtually nothing. Sure we’re adding maybe $150M per week about our normal lend and repayments. However that is what governments have to do in a recession. Of course almost all of that was due to the numbskulls who did tax cuts at the start of a recession.

      We do need to cut debt in this country, but it is private debt. Looks to me like we need to tighten up the controls on imports of foreign money or figure out how to make our currency less attractive. I vote for putting curbs on the banks.

      • gitmo 21.2.1

        Oh dear – nothing changes the Labour team and the National team throwing meaningless shit at each other in relation to an economy which neither of them has anything but a inkling of control over.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 21.3

      Have you forgotten all the mocking Cullen got when they called him “Scrooge”? Labour protected the public finances against the shrill cry of “tax cuts, tax cuts”. How bad would the finances be now if Brash had got in and started slashing taxes?

  22. Olwyn 22

    What’s strange is that since the election there have been no inroads made on Labour’s core of committed voters. If anything these people have become more passionately involved – take a look at some of the comments on facebook’s save RNZ group. But so far we are not winning back the non-committed. I am supposing that there is a certain amount of strategy going on, and that Labour wants to keep its solid policies up its sleeve until closer to the election, but it is very disheartening to see poll after poll saying much the same thing. What is most worrying in this is that the present government’s only plan seems to be to deliver what slender pickings are left in NZ up to their friends.

  23. tsmithfield 23

    Bill: “Growing public awareness and support for austerity measures my arse!”

    Look at the Roy Morgan chart. The graph is diverging, not converging. So, Labour is missing the message somewhere.

    Iprent “Compared to what? Basically you’re comparing apples with oranges. Our public debt debt is really low after a decade of careful management by Labours Cullen who has dropped it down to virtually nothing.”

    True. But those reductions were achieved in the best of world economic times. We were running huge surpluses despite ourselves. It is highly unlikely that we will be in that position again for quite awhile. Sure, public debt may not be that high. Yet. However, deficits can explode very quickly. It doesn’t take long to get deeply into debt again if the fixed costs aren’t being covered. To avoid getting into this sort of position, it is vital that we get our public expenditure more into line with public income based on trends going forward.

    • Bill 23.1

      Look at the riots in Greece and the strikes across Europe…

    • lprent 23.2

      We were running huge surpluses despite ourselves

      Yeah but ONLY if you look on the P&L level. On the balance sheet side we were reducing our government debt precisely because it allows the government to borrow in the hard times thereby protecting the country from the type of financial meltdown that happened in the 30’s. look back to that matter, in NZ you only have to look back to the stupidity of the last national government in the early 90’s panicking into major spending cuts in the early 90’s recession, thereby shutting down the NZ economy for much of the 90’s.

      Sure there is always room to improve the spend. However the middle of a recession is one of the worst times to start doing it. It is too frigging dangerous to do unless you absolutely have to. 1985 was such a time, because Muldoon had destroyed our ability to borrow. 1991 wasn’t. 1997 wasn’t. 2009-10 isn’t.

  24. Anne 24

    In one way or another, be it shorthand or longhand, most commenters seem to be on the same wave-length. It looks to me we want to see a more aggressive and up-front approach that will attract the attention of both the voting public and the MSM. Only then will Labour start getting some traction.

    Btw. Good on them for the bus tour. I hope there was a bit of hell fire and brimstone along the way 😀

  25. Brett 25

    This is what’s killing labour
    News story about the poor state of the economy or job cuts on the Tv, reporter interviews National Mp, Mp says government have to cut budgets or jobs because there is no money.
    Labour Mp then gets interviewed and proceeds to tell viewing audience what a crap job National are doing etc
    Voter at home thinks ” If it wasn’t for you Labour arseholes we wouldn’t be in this position or why the f*ck didn’t you do that when you were in power”

    Best thing Labour could do would be to keep a low profile for the next year.
    People are only interested in politics for about 6 weeks before the election.

  26. randal 26

    the problem at the moment is that national is still riding the groundswell of the kiwi capons who listen to radio ritalin and take viagra for better performance.
    once the drugs have worn off and new zealanders come to their senses then Labour will be back in the drivers seat.
    Its hard to fight the anti intellectuals because reason doesnt work with them so we just have to wait till the paint wears off this mudguard government.
    i.e. all shiny on top but all shit underneath.

    • Bill 26.1

      “Its hard to fight the anti intellectuals because reason doesnt work with them so we just have to wait till the paint wears off this mudguard government.”

      No. No. And no. We do not ‘just wait till’ anything!

      We stop with the intellectual banter and start on the metaphorical knee capping. It’s easy. The Nats are corporatists. Corporatism is fascism. How much ammo you need?

      Their ‘philosophical’ underpinning can be cogently tied back to the fictional work of a sociopathic dumb bitch fiend. You still need more ammo?

      They hate you. Everything they do is robbing you and enriching them; disempowering you and empowering them; destroying democracy and promoting fascism. You still need more?

      Then just keep running from one through three and back again ’cause the magazine just never empties.

      One word of caution, don’t expect the Labour party to lead the way, ’cause as signposted and argued above, they also embrace, or at the very least accept corporatism ( minus the mad Randist cherry on top).

    • slowcoach 26.2

      Keep it up Randal

      Your “shiny on top but all shit underneath” is just a no-holds barred street version of the type of negativity that permeates the main Labour blogs and many of the Parliamentarian’s media efforts.

      People in the real world are fricken hurting, and they are hurting bad. What do they get from Labour? Little more than clichéd platitudes. This is served up with the public knowledge the deliverers are not only all on very high wages, but many of them cost us liberally at the over and above expenses trough too. No point telling us how bad the Nats are managing or who’s paying for two hours of housekeeping a week – we all have very long memories and saw off the first Government Minister into prison for corruption and fraud some time ago!

      If there is a single Labour Parliamentarian who has told us about his/her personal cost-cutting measures I’ve yet to hear them. Labour need to engage with the middle not piss them off with their pettiness. Not a good look either is their efforts in the House. Mallard’s “no change for me, I’m paid a fortune” nastiness is something the average voter wants to wipe off his face.
      It’s bollix of the first order to carry on like there’s no world-wide recession, or worse still to imply that had Labour still the reins we’d be doing better.

    • Salsy 26.3

      LOL Randal!

  27. belladonna 27

    Labour politicians need to be reminded that they could be out of a job after the next election.
    Some fighting talk and a change of leader would be a start.

  28. prism 28

    Great similes randal. You’re a circus ring master, a real word tamer, keep them jumping through hoops.

  29. prism 29

    I’ve just been looking at Red Alert – Labour MPs talk about the issues. Bill you are a red alert on your own, just remember it’s the high fire risk season.

    I was thinking what if Labour had an Open Mike where people could ask questions of shadow ministers or specialists and talk about the things that are important to them. Have to be some controls as on The Standard but with some sort of template, it could be kept manageable and not all time-consuming for the pollies. It would be a way of connecting with current thought and explaining how things might have to be done differently from popular opinion.

    Labour would have the advantage of a focus group thinking and the ability to reply or advise that the question has been put aside for later – the public could read the answers – dialogue would be a positive thing overall I think.

  30. prism 30

    OOh sarky Lew. Where do you find these True Believers? Do you mean the Standard? Don’t be so enigmatic. It’s good to believe in something with human values, I hope you do.

    • Lew 30.1

      That wasn’t sarcasm, that’s playing it completely straight.

      I don’t mean The Standard is solely populated by True Believers for Labour — though there are a few, I’m very aware of the diversity of opinion here. But the blogosphere is predominantly populated by True Believers of one sort or another, and as a consequence isn’t anything really like the electorate. The point of focus groups is to represent, or at least vaguely resemble those to whom you are ultimately going to be accountable. The major parties already know what “people on the internets” think. The problem is with the rest of the electorate.

      A much more useful role for “people on the internets” is in the sort of thing which already happens here and on RA — throwing around policy and strategy ideas, arguing them back and forth, teasing them out and trying to break them. Because if a policy or strategy idea can’t withstand the sort of critique it gets on a blog, there’s no way in hell it should be released to the tender mercies of the public sphere.


      [lprent: The Standard has a society that is divided into the sysop and moderators (when they’re acting in that role), authors, and then everyone else (or more generally into sysops plus minions, content providers, and lusers). Personally, when I’m in sysop mode, I really don’t care what the hell the lusers believe in. If they don’t annoy me, then I’ll tend to leave them alone. It seems to work for everyone who reads the policy and acts accordingly. ]

      • IrishBill 30.1.1

        For once I agree with Lew. The people political parties are trying to reach are not the people who write on political blogs but swing voters.

        Similarly all this talk about Labour needing to “go to the left/right/centre” are missing the greater point which is that the people they need to attract mostly don’t know left from right but, as National has shown, rather respond to a marketing approach.

        At the point you have such a cluttered market of ideas and such a politically disengaged electorate you can either go on a massive organising and educating campaign which costs a fortune and takes years and is still likely to fail because its opposition isn’t political in the parliamentary sense but in the western culture of late-capitalism sense or you can play the marketing game better than the other crew and that’s what Labour need to do.

        It helps a little that they have a better product but not as much as they seem to think.

        • Lew

          The education/awareness/political maturity and organisation drive needs to proceed in parallel with the drive to get back into government, and will largely proceed as a consequence of getting back into government.

          So talking about voter education and inspiring people with stunning policy and such is all well and good, but it’s putting the cart before the horse. It doesn’t matter how good your agenda is if you never get to implement it.


          IrishBill: I suspect you misread my comment.

          • Lew

            Bill, this comment wasn’t a criticism of yours, but an expansion on the point about organisation.


        • Bill

          “…the people they need to attract mostly don’t know left from right…”

          But they do harbour negative emotional connotations towards fascism, right? Because a couple of generations ago their family members died to defeat it, right? And corporatism is fascism. And the Anglo Saxon economies of which we are one are becoming more nakedly corporatist by the day.

          Meanwhile, even the thickest of the thick and the most distantly unaware know when they have been ripped off and know that it was the banks’ own fault that they lost a heap of money and are fucking angry to be told that jobs and livelihoods and futures are all down the tubes for the sake of a relative hand full of bankers.

          But where do they go? Who do they vote for? Who is fighting their corner? Oh, that’s right. Nobody.

          So along will come the corporate right and tap into a general dissatisfaction towards a state perceived as having coerced a taxpayers bailout of thieving bastards…

          • Lew

            And they have negative emotional attachments toward socialism as well, because of … well, the history of socialism almost everywhere it’s ever been implemented on a national scale, and the extent to which it’s been propagandised since the war ended. Stalemate.


            • Bill

              Not quite Lew.

              If the socialist bogey man line was run here as it has been in the states it wouldn’t get traction.

              • Lew

                Bill, correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re not the anarcho-socialist Bill with whom I’ve previously argued, right? You might consider changing your name to avoid confusion.

                Remember the Dancing Cossacks ad? Yeah, so does everyone else. It aired once — three seconds of Cossacks, and permanently branded on the psyche of a nation.

                Remember the NewLabour Party, which was discredited by what one of its founders — himself a socialist — recently called “earnest young men and women preaching revolutionary communism”, which in the public psyche is exactly the same thing as socialism?

                Do I need to continue, or have you got the picture? Without a worldwide revolution, no first-world left party will ever succeed at electoral politics on a socialist platform, just as no right party will ever succeed on a fascist platform. The predominant political affiliation of mainstream parties on both the left and the right is to one form or another of liberalism — classical, social, Rawlsian, Burkean, or any of the others. Liberalism is the common ground, it’s where the electorate’s identity is, and it forms the middle ground.

                The battle is for this middle ground — and to redefine your opponents as lying to either side of it, either “socialist” or “fascist” depending on where you stand. National and ACT (and the Republicans, etc.) have understood this for decades and do it every chance they get — and they get plenty of chances, and make chances when they’re not given them. Labour and its allies (and the Democrats) are only just barely beginning to cotton onto this need to campaign on symbolic, representative matters which speak to political character and identity , and they’re as yet not much good at it.

                But better late than never, and I intend to wish them all strength; because the only thing worse than an all-out propaganda war is an all-out propaganda war in which only one side is armed. That’s a massacre.


              • Pascal's bookie

                @Lew, that’s all true, but ‘socialism’ doesn’t seem to mean things like wff and public health care, quality free education, state owned assets, national super, etc.

                Not saying we should try and reclaim the “socialism” name, but NZers aren’t teabaggers.

                Back in the day it was sold here as “applied Christianity” or some such. That’s not really a flier today, but the actual policies have deep support. There must be some terminology available in the kiwi psyche.

                mateship. tight five. one for all. jacks as good as his master. fair go. straight up. just plain old fashioned not being a wanker.

                I think it’s hugely important to note that the right failed to describe that list above as the dreaded socialism. So we know what socialism isn’t, it must be something well to the left of that.

                When the right calls it “socialism”, that accusation itself becomes “un-kiwi”.

              • Lew


                I don’t agree that Savage et al. is any meaningful form of socialism, but I’ve argued that point before (I say revisionism/no-true-scotsmanism; others accuse me of same until it gets tiresome), so I won’t do it again.

                It’s dead right that this is a labelling game, and what I’m driving at is that the left not give the right any more ammunition than is strictly necessary for the socialism-gun. It’s beyond rehabilitation and should be abandoned as both doctrine and positioning and Labour’s reluctance to abandon the last vestiges of the socialist position is in large part the fault of its activist base who are living in the hallowed pre-Rogernomics past. But those values you list are vital yet, and must be retained, and their expression and communication reinvented. They aren’t socialism, and they don’t need socialism; it holds back their implementation in policy, and it holds back the whole progressive movement.


              • Bill

                Jeez Lew.

                Let’s just see Labour run as a genuine social democratic left party.

                You are correct that no party running on a socialist platform will succeed in NZ…and why should they? I’d not vote for them. In fact, I’d probably campaign against them. Vociferously. Because they would be representing a return to truly awful state socialisms or communisms.

                Politics is as much about possibility as anything else. So all I want insofar as parliamentary politics goes is a genuine social democratic left, because that in and of itself presents further possibilities that are off the table at the moment.

                Meanwhile, you would seem to be agreeing that the Nats should be cast as the corporatists that they are. Time will tell whether I am correct in asserting that Labour cannot take that route because they themselves are essentially corporatist.

                I’d like to be wrong.

                Here’s a wee fact to mull over. Right wing parties will not win on an overtly fascist platform. Lets say that’s true. But all they have to do is capture the state by stealth or cunning and they have what they want.

                The left can’t do that though. Not unless we wish to settle for the mad and bad days of state socialism/communism.

              • Lew

                Purple Bill, it looks like we agree more than I might have thought.

                Let’s just see Labour run as a genuine social democratic left party.


                You are correct that no party running on a socialist platform will succeed in NZ and why should they? I’d not vote for them. In fact, I’d probably campaign against them. Vociferously. Because they would be representing a return to truly awful state socialisms or communisms.


                Meanwhile, you would seem to be agreeing that the Nats should be cast as the corporatists that they are. Time will tell whether I am correct in asserting that Labour cannot take that route because they themselves are essentially corporatist.

                Well, I do agree with the first bit, but I think the problem is the type and extent of corporatism, rather than the simple fact of corporatism. I think that’s what eneds to be emphasised, and the way I’ve advocated emphasising it is by pointing to the Nats’ tendency toward crony capitalism. And yes, Labour is not without sin in this regard, and in order to properly prosecute that case they need to distance themselves from those aspects of their history.

                Here’s a wee fact to mull over. Right wing parties will not win on an overtly fascist platform. Lets say that’s true. But all they have to do is capture the state by stealth or cunning and they have what they want. The left can’t do that though. Not unless we wish to settle for the mad and bad days of state socialism/communism.

                I disagree, and so does the right (particularly the libertarian right). The left, by progressing a reasonably moderate social liberal agenda, shapes the very institutions of our civil society, and that is “what they want” — to create a society in which liberal social democracy is the orthodox norm. This was the Clark government’s greatest achievement, and that orthodoxy, while it is being eroded by the current government, remains fairly well intact as yet.


            • Bill

              And besides (missed the edit time out) the intention is to make the right wing agenda unexecutable.

              If that then means a swing beyond social democratic leftism becomes viable, then fine

              • PeteG

                If you get too obsessed with “right wing agenda” and “left wing agenda” it’s easy to lose sight of that fact that most policy that happens (as opposed to what is on wish lists) is closer to the middle.

                Go with what makes sense. Painting yourself into ideological corners doesn’t make sense. When have we last had a true right or true left government? Ever?

              • Bill

                As I’ve said in reply to Lew. We cannot ever have a true left government under the structures and strictures of parliamentary representative democracy.

                Unfortunately, we can be landed with a genuine right wing government under these conditions.

      • prism 30.1.2

        Sorry Lew didn’t see where you were coming from. I agree with much of what you say.

  31. PeteG 31

    The people political parties are trying to reach are not the people who write on political blogs but swing voters.

    Not entirely. I’m a swing voter and write on blogs. I don’t think “left/right/centre”, I just make up my mind on issues however I see them. I often change my views after thrashing things out in blogs (I value learning at least as much as trying to push points).

    There are many more unbloggers than bloggers, but informed opinions can flow out and influence the “sheep” (not intended as derogatory, but many people seem to go with the populist flow).

    It’s not a simple nor a fair environment. Media can be a help or a hindrance (to any party). Having the right story at the right time can be gold, and the wrong story at the wrong time can be toxic. C’est la vie.

    But the weight averages and of decent people and decent policies will mostly come through in the end.

  32. Rich 32

    They need to ditch Goff. It’s that simple.

    Who to replace him with, I have no idea. Bring back Helen? Persuade John Campbell to enter politics?

  33. “Remember the Dancing Cossacks ad? Yeah, so does everyone else. It aired once — three seconds of Cossacks, and permanently branded on the psyche of a nation.”

    Remember the dawnraids ? That permanently branded polynesians as overstayers and who, because of it, have always now wanted to remain invisible and fly under the radar. That damaged our national psyche more than some dancing cossack ads and forever made us subserviently grateful to even be here.

    If you want to swing the vote. Educate and enlighten polynesians, inclusive of maori, as to what the issues are and the difference between the parties otherwise we’ll vote for whoever has the biggest smile and put on the biggest feed at the election rally while palling up to michael jones.

    And dont pretend to speak for us from some high minded, left/right ideology or throw in some token, silently invisible polys handpicked by the church for list seats or continually throw us in jail when we fuck up.

    Treat us like equals. Is that so hard ?

  34. PK 34

    **Treat us like equals. Is that so hard ?**

    But you are continually saying here how you require different treatment based on your background.

  35. PK 35


    That article notes:

    “Crime rates have fluctuated over the last few decades — they are currently at historical lows — but imprisonment rates have consistently soared. ”

    What the author overlooks is that the high imprisonment rate is a major contributing factor in the lower crime rates (see “Levitt, Steven D. (Winter 2004). “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not” Journal of Economic Perspectives 18: 163190.

    • Bill 35.1

      Crime rates fluctuate but imprisonment rates consistently rise.

      So that being the case, there is no causal link.

  36. prism 36

    You are talking like Sticky Hide. He says it is racist to ask for assured places on boards etc for Maori and PI. As he is one of the creme de la creme he can spout that off with aplomb. He knows all the flash words. But its a bit like horse racing starts. Some will be handicapped to equal them out, perhaps because their jockey is too light.
    In this country you can say all are equal (or think that everyone has the same opportunities) but no – and when you start further back in the race it is hard to get a place. So people to advance, sometimes need to be considered specially to ensure they can reach equality.
    I never saw any Maori elected to the board of the public schools that my children went to. I knew one to be a good candidate, the other was a chap with a ponytail – he had no chance. Working professionals or their wives got elected in the main and the same bias will apply on local boards in Auckland. There should be some guaranteed seats, and in the others they can join in the scramble for election.

  37. Choice link Bill and clearly indicative of our future path towards private run prisons and 3 strike laws. Just replace black America with brown NZ

    “But you are continually saying here how you require different treatment based on your background.”

    not background…CULTURE and yes. Treat us as you have treated your good selves since y’all frst set foot in polynesian territory, with your own culturally biased systems and initiatives. Re empower and resource us to implement our own culturally biased systems and initiatives. You owe us that much !

    The left and the right have always been treating themselves as better than us no matter who is in power, while helping yourselves to all the treats and treaties of our cultures yet giving nothing back except tokenism and welfare dependency.

    And here’s the thing Key has over Goff. He can talk to polynesians inclusive of maori without coming across as condescending or patronising.

    captcha : chaos

  38. Descendant Of Smith 38

    We (Europeans) can’t even organise ourselves to take into account our own different cultures. It’s a mistake to view all Europeans as of the same culture though easy to see how that can happen.
    If we can’t manage that it’s difficult to see how we can manage to share with others of even more disparate cultures.

    Personally I’m quite comfortable with a political system for instance with a even number of Maori and general seats – joint governance in a partnership situation. Seems to me to be a much more equitable arrangement given that for New Zealand the treaty was not in any way with a nation that had been conquered or defeated in battle. The growth of general seats over time has clearly dis-enfranchised Maori in the political system. The alternative to have all general seats would more than likely just be further loss of political power for Maori.

    It is no doubt a challenge for all cultures to work out what to hold on to and what to let go of as the world changes around them. While sometimes I do think that some people want to keep their culture as it was in a fixed point in time, as if it would not ever change I’m quite confident that most cultures given real power and resource to determine their own destiny can adapt quite nicely.

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