The Dim-Post

June 27, 2011

Vacuum watch

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 12:39 pm

Via DPF, this surprised me:

Labour’s Andrew Little is moving to New Plymouth in the next two weeks but he already has a mountain of work to do.

The man many are touting as the next Labour leader and prime minister will have to quickly roll up his sleeves after a significant poll of the New Plymouth electorate he covets this week indicated National’s lead in recent nationwide polls is being reflected in the city, previously the country’s most marginal electorate.

The election may be five months away, on November 26, but incumbent National MP Jonathan Young has the early jump on his main challenger, polling well ahead of the former Labour Party president in a Witt School of Journalism survey.

Mr Young secured a tiny 105-vote majority in 2008, but he won 41.56 per cent of support in Witt’s random telephone poll compared with Mr Little’s 25.33 per cen

The poll, which had a margin of error of 4.55 per cent, asked 820 voters to choose between Mr Young and Mr Little. Of that number 462 people responded.

Mr Little said Labour’s internal polling showed the race was a lot closer than the New Plymouth survey suggested. “The feedback I’m getting is positive but I certainly don’t take anything for granted.

“I’ll be in New Plymouth virtually fulltime in a couple of weeks. It’s hard running a campaign from Wellington.”

I don’t know how robust a poll is when its carried out by a journalism school – but the stakes for Andrew Little in this race are pretty high. There’s a leadership gap within the Labour Party, Little is considered a candidate to fill that gap. If he wins his seat then he might be the first and only Labour MP to capture a new electorate in six years, which would be a pretty strong argument in his favor.

But if he loses then his pitch for party leadership goes something like: ‘I was party president during a period in which the party disintegrated, I have no parliamentary experience and I came in on the list because I got beat on the campaign trail by Jonathan Young.’  That’s not a winning spiel.

So if Little wins his electorate race he could be Prime Minister in four years time; if he loses, nada – seems like he’s leaving things a little late.

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54 Comments »

  1. “…asked 820 voters to choose between Mr Young and Mr Little. Of that number 462 people responded.”
    462 responses is not overwhelming.

    Comment by Ianmac — June 27, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  2. The fact that he is running in New Plymouth is in and of itself an indictment on the internal problems in the Labour Party. Winnie Laban didn’t bother to tell him she was going to step down and force a by-election in Mana, otherwise he could have had that seat – and entered Parliament already.

    Alternatively, also would have been much more sensible for Annette King to move to the list and for him to take over in Rongotai. Hard to run a party from New Plymouth.

    As it is, he’s now stuck running in a seat that is very difficult for him to win – National won the party vote in 2008 by about 6,000 votes there. Duynhoven only had such a large majority for so long through a massive personal vote, and a seriously un-Labour-like commitment to things like dairy farming and petroleum exploration. Given the current Labour Party is railing against both those things, it’s going to be a hard fight for him to win.

    Comment by fortunefavoursthebrave — June 27, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  3. It is not surprising to those who come from New Plymouth/Taranaki. Duynhoven was a very popular MP (and is now the city’s Mayor) who happened to be a Labour MP in a very conservative seat. It was the boundary change last time around that included Egmont Village (a typical Taranaki farming community) in the electorate that swung it towards Young, and with a party vote 6,500 votes higher than Labour in 2008 he should be favourite to win comfortably this year.

    Comment by Joshua — June 27, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  4. Little doesn’t live in New Plymouth and isn’t particularly well known outside of the union movement and compulsive news-watchers, and Young has incumbency and the fact that his govt is still popular going for him. It strikes me as a suicide mission for Little. Maybe Phil Goff told him it’d be a doddle…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — June 27, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  5. Little doesn’t live in New Plymouth and isn’t particularly well known outside of the union movement and compulsive news-watchers

    He really should have moved there at the start of the year.

    Comment by danylmc — June 27, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  6. This is good news for David Cunliffe/Parker

    Comment by Hobbes — June 27, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

  7. Meh, he can always try to argue that Young does less in Parliament than Ashraf Choudhary.

    Comment by Christopher Nimmo — June 27, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  8. To win NP, Little will need resources, and lots of them. It will be interesting to see how much is directed his way, particularly given the (alleged) parlous state of Labour’s funds.

    Who will even make those calls anyway? Goff? Little? The two of them? Hmmm…

    Comment by fortunefavoursthebrave — June 27, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  9. Also, uhmm, given that there’s no polling so far showing that Labour will get any more votes in 2011 than they did in 2008, how good of an idea is it to stand in a seat where they lost the party vote by 6k or whatever it was..

    Comment by Hobbes — June 27, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  10. “Little doesn’t live in New Plymouth”

    He was born and bred there though, which is why he was always going to go for that electorate. In a conservative electorate like this things like that matter. However by the sounds of it he hasn’t established himself well there.

    “So if Little wins his electorate race he could be Prime Minister in four years time”

    Really? Little is ambitious but you need to be be more than ambitious to become prime minister. Any of them will do : Goff, Cunliffe, Parker but NOT this guy please! I dislike him (can he not even try to smile?)

    Comment by K2 — June 27, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  11. Yeah – wouldn’t read too much into the poll. But Mr Little’s public persona is uninspiring and humourless… Shane Jones, porn king or not, any day!

    Comment by Leopold — June 27, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  12. While there is a prestige factor in holding an electorate seat over a list seat, I don’t think the difference is so pronounced that we can confidently say that Little will definitely be leader if he does win this electorate, and definitely not if he doesn’t.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  13. It isn’t simply the prestige of electorate vs list. If Little had been gifted Rongotai or something it wouldn’t be much different from the list. But winning a Tory marginal? That is prestigious.

    I think Little will win New Plymouth; he’s a better politician than Young, he’s better value to the electorate, and so-on.

    Comment by Keir — June 27, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  14. Keir, I certainly agree that if Little can win this seat it will be a feather in his crown. Actually I would go so far as to say that if he can come within a decent margin of winning it will add to his mana. However the reality is that electorate votes usually represent the overall campaign, and the popularity of the local candidate is usually quite marginal in determining the result.

    What I disagree with is Danyl’s assertion that if Little loses he will never be PM.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  15. “462 responses is not overwhelming.”

    The implied breakdown is 192 for Young, 117 for Little, 63 for neither, 90 don’t know. Only 309 expressed a preference for one of the two. That’s even less overwhelming, yet I’m still surprised by the size of the gap, even though I don’t think it’s very informative for November.

    Agree that Little doesn’t have much of a leadership case if he loses New Plymouth, unless Cunliffe is the only alternative.

    Comment by bradluen — June 27, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  16. It isn’t simply the prestige of electorate vs list. If Little had been gifted Rongotai or something it wouldn’t be much different from the list. But winning a Tory marginal? That is prestigious.

    Yeah, that’s how I see it. If you get in on a safe seat then you have no real credibility as leader – you have to get in line behind everyone else and bid your time, and plot and wait. But if you win a seat off the enemy then you can argue that you have momentum, that you’re what the voters want, that you can take back the country etc.

    Comment by danylmc — June 27, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  17. If you get in on a safe seat then you have no real credibility as leader

    John Key, Phil Goff, Helen Clark, Bill English, Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore, Geoffrey Palmer, David Lange, Jim McLay and Rob Muldoon all held safe seats. The only leaders of the two major parties who didn’t get in in safe seats were Brash, who was List only, and Bill Rowling, whose courageous wrestling of the Nelson seat from the claws of National three elections in a row didn’t exactly make him a political colossus within his own caucus.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  18. Last time I looked Labour was about 20 points behind National, and Little, running a campaign from Wellington, is in trouble because he’s 16 points behind Whatshisface?

    JC

    Comment by JC — June 27, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  19. John Key, Phil Goff, Helen Clark, Bill English, Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore, Geoffrey Palmer, David Lange, Jim McLay and Rob Muldoon all held safe seats

    Yeah, okay, what I MEANT is that if Little gets in on a safe seat he has no credibility as a leader. He has to build a case for him over time, by which point someone’s replaced Goff and Little has to wait, which risks someone else in the party – Robertson – building up a strong enough power base.

    Comment by danylmc — June 27, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  20. When Muldoon took Tamaki (I think it was off Tizard the Elder) in 1960, it had been Labour and was considered marginal; Mike Moore deliberately moved to a safe seat in Chch North when he re-entered Parliament; Kirk shifted his seat from slightly marginal Lyttelton to safe Sydenham only after being elected leader; Holyoake was gifted ulta-safe Pahiatua just before he became leader.

    Comment by Leopold — June 27, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  21. Doubtful Leo, Tizard didn’t get into Parliament until the 1970s, by which time Muldoon was already Minister of Finance.

    On the wider point, yes. In fact the pattern used to be that you would win or make a strong showing in a marginal, and then be rewarded with a “promotion” to a safe seat. But my point was simply that having a safe seat doesn’t act as the credibility drain that Danyl seemed to be claiming it was.

    Danyl, you’re certainly right that winning New Plymouth would be a kick in the pants to Little’s leadership aspirations. Winning a marginal isn’t necessary but it would certainly be a huge help, and Little doesn’t really have any other prospects for boosting his profile in time to neatly succeed Goff. On the other hand, Robertson’s profile isn’t super great either – sure, he’s a solid parliamentary performer, but there’s no reason Little couldn’t build his profile on a similar performance despite “only” being a List MP.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  22. Helensville wasn’t an entirely safe seat in 2002: Key’s majority was only 1,705 (and Labour beat National in the party vote). Although that was when National was at its lowest point, plus Brian Neeson was splitting the blue vote.

    Goff has also been battle-tested: remember he was turfed out for a term after the 1990 landslide.

    Comment by bradluen — June 27, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  23. Ah I would love it if Robertson got to be leader, and I hope, HOPE that NZ is ok with an openly gay leader of a major political party…having said that, do you not think he might be a bit too Wellington?

    Comment by david c — June 27, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  24. Trivia question I’m not 100% sure of the answer to:

    When choosing a new leader, Labour tends to respect rankings much more than National does. When was the last time Labour chose a new leader who wasn’t previously #2 or #3 in the party hierarchy?

    Comment by bradluen — June 27, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  25. Danyl … I was pretty sure you were right about this when you first mentioned it, and it’s becoming clearer by the day.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — June 27, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

  26. Problem with that question Brad is that prior to 1996 there was no party list to determine party rankings, and Labour has only had a single leadership choice since then.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  27. Hugh – there were cabinet rankings and caucus rankings. For example, when Helen Clark took over as Labour leader she was no.2 ranked in caucus and the Deputy Leader.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — June 27, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

  28. I echo Grame’s sentiments at #25. And David c #23, unfortunately I think he is too `Wellington’.

    One thing that Little has going for him in New Plymouth is that people up there don’t really rate Jonathan Young.personally, he just happens to be the National guy up there. I have spent a bit of time in the area since the last election, and most people that I spoke to when asked about it told me that they thought of Young as the kind of `nice but dull and dim’ sort of guy, and they were actually surprised that he managed to pull of the win.

    Comment by DT — June 27, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  29. - finally checked – Bob Tizard took Tamaki in 1957, but lost to Piggy in 1960. Tizz never re-contested bu moved to Pakuranga for 1963. Tamaki could have been still winnable in 1963 – Muldoon took time to establish himself. If only Tizz had had another go – Muildo vanishes to obscurity and history of NZ is greatly changed

    Comment by Leopold — June 27, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  30. @Ianmac: 400 is the phone survey size for the NRB’s annual local government survey in New Plymouth District, so they think the number is statistically relevant for the size of the population.

    As for Jonathan Young, he is a thoroughly nice man and I’ve heard he does a lot for people in the electorate, but he hasn’t learned the trick of being *noticed* doing good things. His profile isn’t as high as it should be for an incumbent MP, even one who is in Government.

    Comment by Ataahua — June 27, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

  31. Ah I would love it if Robertson got to be leader, and I hope, HOPE that NZ is ok with an openly gay leader of a major political party…having said that, do you not think he might be a bit too Wellington?

    I think the Nats will run parallel campaigns, one a black ops based using people like Ian Wishart and Cameron Slater, targeting Robertson’s sexuality, and another overt campaign based on Auckland provincialism, and how Robertson represents civil servants who want to tax the rest of the country into oblivion to enrich themselves. Grant would have to be pretty tough to survive it.

    Comment by danylmc — June 27, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

  32. “I think the Nats will run parallel campaigns, one a black ops based using people like Ian Wishart and Cameron Slater, targeting Robertson’s sexuality,”

    As Grant Roberston is open about his sexuality its hard to see what additional leverage a campaign using this as a target might generate whether the ops are black or any other colour

    Comment by Tinakori — June 27, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  33. “As Grant Roberston is open about his sexuality its hard to see what additional leverage a campaign using this as a target might generate whether the ops are black or any other colour”

    Because while many NZers may accept someone being gay and in a position of authority. They don’t want to be reminded of it at every turn.

    “Grant would have to be pretty tough to survive it.”

    He strikes me as someone pretty tough, but I don’t think Labour has the comms in place to win that battle.

    Comment by david c — June 27, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

  34. Hugh is right in that rankings have not always been well-defined. Nevertheless, here’s your complete list of Labour leadership changes:

    1933: Holland dies, succeeded by his deputy Savage
    1940: Savage dies, succeeded by Deputy PM Fraser
    1950: Fraser dies, succeeded by former Deputy PM Nash
    1963: Nash quits, Nordmeyer takes over because all the other contenders are dead
    1965: Nash rolled by party president Kirk (this was the answer I was fishing for in post 24)
    1974: Kirk dies, succeeded by Finance Minister Rowling
    1982/83: Rowling quits, replaced by deputy Lange
    1989: Lange quits, replaced by Deputy PM Palmer
    1990: Palmer quits, replaced by #3 Moore
    1993: Moore rolled by Clark
    2008: Clark quits, replaced by #3 Goff

    Besides Kirk, the only other Labour leader close to a precedent for Little is Lange, who within a year of entering Parliament was outpolling Rowling. (How did his 1980 coup attempt fail?) Then again, this is a small data set and what happened in 1933 isn’t exactly relevant.

    Comment by bradluen — June 27, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  35. Jesus. That’s a high rate of death in office. And Nash was dead within a few years of losing to Kirk.

    This is really really bad for Phil Goff.

    Comment by Dr Foster — June 27, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  36. I may be being naive here, but I don’t think that Robertson’s sexuality in and of itself is electorally a problem. The small remaining percentage of the population that his being gay would be an issue for wouldn’t ever vote for labour anyway, so there is no electoral downside. I don’t think that Cameron Slater would go along with a plan to attack his sexuality, and I don’t think that Ian Wishart is relevant.

    On the other hand, Grant Robertson’s image as a Wellington based former Policy analyst, who has a slight lisp and has a proclivity for being photographed in tight-fitting black skivvies conjures up an image that many outside of Wellington wouldn’t like. It is of the Helen Clark era, the perceived too-PC `we-know best’ brigade that seems to be hated outside of Wellington. If Robertson could shed that image without going all Trevor Mallard on us, I don’t think that his sexuality would matter much. But the latte drinking Wellington image won’t wash with many (said as a latte drinking Wellingtonian).

    Comment by DT — June 27, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

  37. I just don’t think Robertson is all the ‘skivvy’ wearing overly PC type. I have heard him speak several times at various events and he has far more charisma and ‘likeability’ than either Clark or Goff. I think he is more the John Key type of politician – but a little smarter. He has Clark’s cunning, but Key’s disposition.

    They would try and hang the ‘policy wonk’ meme on him. But I think he doesn’t have the same level of affectation as Cunliffe or Goff. He comes across a little more ‘normal’, so they would not be as successful.

    Would be an interesting race. Just wish they would drop Goff now and go into the election with a fighting chance. I despair! Who to vote for? Norman has sold out the left, Maori party would do anything for a government hand job, Winston is a blatent racist, Mana looks all whack job, Labour has Goff, National have failed to do anything but make their mates richer, Act are as close to facist as we get and then there is United; who I am sure have some strange Christian fundamentalist leanings. Looks like I just won’t vote…

    Comment by Tim — June 27, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

  38. Because I have no life and am nearly unemployed (spot the correlation), here’s the list of National Party leadership changes:

    1940: Hamilton rolled by his secretary Holland
    1957: Holland quits for Deputy PM Holyoake
    1972: Holyoake quits for Deputy PM Marshall
    1974: Marshall pushed out by deputy Muldoon
    1984: Muldoon rolled by deputy McLay
    1986: McLay rolled by deputy Bolger
    1997: Bolger pushed out by #4 Shipley
    2001: Shipley pushed out by #3 English
    2003: English rolled by #3 Brash
    2005: Brash quits, replaced by #4 Key

    Note that Brash and Key rose through the hierarchy more quickly than any of their predecessors.

    Conclusion: National’s leaders are much better at not dying in office (insert Brash joke here).

    Comment by bradluen — June 27, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  39. Little doesn’t live in New Plymouth and isn’t particularly well known outside of the union movement and compulsive news-watchers, and Young has incumbency and the fact that his govt is still popular going for him. It strikes me as a suicide mission for Little. Maybe Phil Goff told him it’d be a doddle…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — June 27, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    A++

    Comment by abel the amish — June 27, 2011 @ 7:01 pm

  40. Graeme, there were deputy leaders and when within government there was a cabinet order of precedence but AFAIK there was no “caucus ranking”. While there were obviously senior figures and nobody would claim that the Shadow Minister of Finance didn’t substantially outrank some wet-behind-the-ears backbencher, when a party was outside government there was no formal way to tell the 25th ranked MP from the 26th, for instance.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  41. But the latte drinking Wellington image won’t wash with many.

    Damn right. A real political leader drinks Espresso… with a shot…

    … for BREAKFAST.

    Comment by Phil — June 27, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

  42. Hugh 2.14

    It’s either a feather in his cap or a jewel in his crown which, of course, goes to the nub of understanding arses and elbows.

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — June 27, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  43. Graeme, there were deputy leaders and when within government there was a cabinet order of precedence but AFAIK there was no “caucus ranking”.

    Labour has a caucus ranking now, and I know National did when they were in opposition. It’s not necessarily the case that all MPs are ranked in it (e.g. the new class might all be grouped together), and I don’t know when the practice started, but it did and does exist.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — June 27, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  44. “The small remaining percentage of the population that his being gay would be an issue for wouldn’t ever vote for labour anyway, so there is no electoral downside.”

    It would not surprise me if the those for whom it would be an issue are more heavily represented amongst Labour voters. The key question is whether or not it would be a vote changing issue.

    Comment by Tinakori — June 27, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

  45. As Grant Roberston is open about his sexuality its hard to see what additional leverage a campaign using this as a target might generate whether the ops are black or any other colour

    It’s pretty easy to imagine how this would play out – Wishart publishing endless bullshit articles based on ‘anonymous informants’ about Robertson trying to lure primary school children into his car, etc.

    Comment by danylmc — June 27, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  46. It would not surprise me if the those for whom it would be an issue are more heavily represented amongst Labour voters.

    Opinion surveys usually show Maori and Pacific Islanders have, on average, relatively more “traditional/conservative” views about supposedly liberal-and-left-leaning issues (civil unions and immigration spring to mind) than Europeans.

    The ethnic stratification is, I believe, more stark in the US with African American and Hispanic voters. However there’s little reason or evidence to believe that these issues hurt Democrats at the polling booth when these voters actually vote.

    Comment by Phil — June 27, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

  47. No reason to believe not either however it’s all a bit beltway and the real story is about Mr Teflon looking a bit shaky without any major war chest to see the union favourite home if campaign funding is to be drawn from the Labour purse. Maybe the unions might stump up to entrench their man for the long game back in the provinces while the Labour incumbents out spaz each other. I wouldn’t be writing off Little if I were the Government.

    Comment by will — June 27, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  48. They do now Graeme, but I’m pretty sure it’s an innovation that resulted from the need to have a party list. Prior to MMP the caucus pecking order, while very real, was more informal. I certainly don’t think it goes as far back as 1993.

    Comment by Hugh — June 27, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

  49. As left and pro union as I may be, I dont think Little will win NP for the following reasons:

    1) NP is traditionally pretty conservative, and apart from the education, and health sectors, and the factories over in Bell Block, not really that unionized.

    2) Young’s on the winning team

    3) Little’s 15th on the list. Barring a huge disaster he will be in Parliament anyway. New Plymouth voters will keep that in mind.

    Comment by millsy — June 27, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  50. “It’s pretty easy to imagine how this would play out – Wishart publishing endless bullshit articles based on ‘anonymous informants’ about Robertson trying to lure primary school children into his car, etc.”

    If you follow Parliamentary behaviour the most prominent examples of homophobic behaviour are directed by Labour MPs at a National MP.

    Comment by Tinakori — June 27, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  51. Bradluen @38:

    Interesting that the Holland Government ended with Holyoake briefly in charge; the Holyoake Govt ended with Marshall briefly in charge; and the Bolger Govt ended with Shipley briefly in charge. Muldoon was the only captain to go down with his own ship.

    Comment by Newtown News — June 28, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  52. Generally seen as one of Muldoon’s flaws, he had no plan for the ienvitable erosion of support that comes from being in government beyond “Hang on until grim death” and didn’t just not nurture any successors, he actively undermined them.

    Comment by Hugh — June 28, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  53. @ Hugh

    You could replace ‘Muldoon’ with ‘Clark’ and the story would read the same.

    Saying that, HC by no means undermined Goff but has certainly undermined the party in general by nuturing / positioning so many hacks in the upper echelons and a charisma free lame duck as her natural replacement.

    Comment by Gregor W — June 28, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  54. Well, Clark didn’t run for re-election after the election loss, or hang around slagging off Goff whenever the media asked her for a soundbite, or encourage Independent Labour candidates to run in marginal seats, or demand a front-bench seat in the shadow Cabinet. But yea, she certainly doesn’t get an A in succession planning.

    Comment by Hugh — June 28, 2011 @ 11:41 am


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