The Dim-Post

July 31, 2011

Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:04 am

I/S (and sundry other left-wing commentators) was astounded by the a finding in the recent Fairfax poll:

National’s yawning lead in the polls is built on an even larger gap in confidence on handling the economy, new polling shows. The Fairfax Media-Research International poll shows 49 per cent of voters think National has the best plan to fix the economy, well ahead of Labour on 17 per cent.

On the face of it this is pretty strange, because National doesn’t have a plan to fix the economy. I think what’s happening here is that the majority of voters pay little attention to economic issues.They’re complicated, a little dull and the so-called all experts disagree with other and they’re always wrong about everything (remember how the reserve bank was definitely going to raise interest rates last week?)

But there’s a general understanding that the economy is important and complex, so for most people the question comes down to trust and competence. For a majority of voters that’s a binary choice between the National party of John Key – who they adore – and the disaster prone, smear obsessed Labour Party. That’s a real easy choice.

The problem for the left is that the current front bench of Labour MPs don’t see any need to convince the public of their fitness for government. That’s because they see politics as a Manichean battle between good and evil, in which they are the good guys (obviously!) and all they have to do to regain power is show the public how cruel and vicious and evil John Key is. So this dynamic is unlikely to change until the line-up of Labour’s front bench changes.

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76 Comments »

  1. And the shame of the Labour ‘plan’ is that they will lose some of the young blood on the list that could springboard Labour upwards in the next decade because of the cured rump on front bench who are assured a place in parliament because of their list position despite being the reason for Labours deep unpopularity. Labour, making the Freemasons look like a transparent and progressive organisation.

    Comment by will — July 31, 2011 @ 9:09 am

  2. No doubt Stephen Joyce will fix that.

    Comment by Andrew R — July 31, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  3. The problem for the left is that the current front bench of Labour MPs don’t see any need to convince the public of their fitness for government. That’s because they see politics as a Manichean battle between good and evil, in which they are the good guys (obviously!) and all they have to do to regain power is show the public how cruel and vicious and evil John Key is.

    So you say, Danyl, over and over and over. Appalling lack of self-knowledge, etc.

    OTOH, the same front bench did recently launch a bold policy around capital gains tax, one which has found favor with a range of commentators — and, according to the Herald- Digi-Poll poll, with the public itself. The same poll also indicated that a substantial proportion of voters hates National’s keynote asset sales policy.

    Labour has not been shy about campaigning on the asset sales issue, and presented CGT as an explicit alternative to asset sales. I’m interest in what practical steps you think Labour could take to underline its economic competence, besides developing and emphasising policies that voters appear to like.

    Whether changing leaders is a practical step at this point will will, of course, be a matter of debate.

    Comment by Russell Brown — July 31, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  4. They did launch a policy initiative (bold?) that was on the face of it quite sensible but then couldn’t back it up with a cohesive, on message comms strategy because the policy detail wasn’t there in fact the policy looked like it had been cut’n’paste from AU and US CGT website information.

    What do Labour need to do? Self-immolation isn’t the kind of response you are looking for is it.

    Comment by will — July 31, 2011 @ 9:34 am

  5. As soon as every home owner in the country realises they are trying to backdoor death duties in, the CGT will be as dead as Goffs career.

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — July 31, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  6. But Russell: Part of your argument actually feeds into Danyl’s argument – the current Labour front bench are the ones who have effectively said “Fuck off” to those of us who were traditionally Labour voters, but would send emails and letters objecting to things like the Electoral Finance Act, their support of Winston Peters, etc. I was always told “You don’t know the full story. You are being misled by others. Trust us we know best.” They simply refused to acknowledge that there was any problem.

    And they still don’t. To sell any policy, you have to have credible people to sell it, and that is the crux I think of Danyl’s argument. And unless and until the Labour front bench does what is needed and commits self-immolation (thanks for the suggestion, Will), this will continue.

    Oh, and it is interesting that Danyl’s seems to have swapped to daylight savings time a bit early. That or I am in a time warp and everything is happening an hour ahead of time.

    Comment by David in Chch — July 31, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  7. I’m interest in what practical steps you think Labour could take to underline its economic competence, besides developing and emphasising policies that voters appear to like.

    Don’t have your senior campaign strategist sending out e-mails to the troops telling them not to get “bogged down in detail” of your flagship economic policy because it’s “boring” and the stupid peasants get confused?

    Just a crazy thought there, Russell.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — July 31, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  8. The problem for the left is that the current front bench of Labour MPs don’t see any need to convince the public of their fitness for government. That’s because they see politics as a Manichean battle between good and evil, in which they are the good guys (obviously!) and all they have to do to regain power is show the public how cruel and vicious and evil John Key is. So this dynamic is unlikely to change until the line-up of Labour’s front bench changes.

    That’s quite a comprehensive and categorical statement Danyl. Is it true?

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  9. Don’t have your senior campaign strategist sending out e-mails to the troops telling them not to get “bogged down in detail” of your flagship economic policy because it’s “boring” and the stupid peasants get confused?

    Craig, not explaining is _exactly_ how National are winning elections. “Explaining is losing”. Now excuse me if I feel no sympathy when the other side takes it up.

    I don’t blame either party, really. There’s a media-environment in New Zealand that has no tolerance for complexity, and thus pretending so is counterproductive. Most people live in information poor environments (partly because they select out from information rich contexts) and so simple messages are entirely appropriate

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  10. Don’t have your senior campaign strategist sending out e-mails to the troops telling them not to get “bogged down in detail” of your flagship economic policy because it’s “boring” and the stupid peasants get confused?

    Just a crazy thought there, Russell.

    I was just going to note which party internally touted the phrase “explaining is losing”, but George did it for me.

    I really, really do not think that National’s current poll joy is a result of their having deluged the electorate with policy detail and evidence. Do you, really?

    Comment by Russell Brown — July 31, 2011 @ 10:30 am

  11. That’s quite a comprehensive and categorical statement Danyl. Is it true?

    Well, he’s made it so many times it must be. Right?

    Comment by Russell Brown — July 31, 2011 @ 10:32 am

  12. And they still don’t. To sell any policy, you have to have credible people to sell it, and that is the crux I think of Danyl’s argument. And unless and until the Labour front bench does what is needed and commits self-immolation (thanks for the suggestion, Will), this will continue

    So you see no role for Cunliffe and Parker? Even though they’re the principal authors of the new economic policy? And actually have the executive experience you would think would be necessary to convince the electorate of the party’s competence? You’re really not convincing me there.

    Who do you think should be selling the policy?

    Comment by Russell Brown — July 31, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  13. That is true. If you repeat something enough times in enough different ways, it becomes true. Even statements about the veracity of oft-repeated statements.

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  14. You are wrong, incorrect, erroneous, false.

    Comment by will — July 31, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  15. Sometimes it works really fast. Watch:

    “will is a bell-end.”

    Amazing!

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  16. Hi Dizzy! You’re wit begats you.

    Comment by will — July 31, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  17. I was just going to note which party internally touted the phrase “explaining is losing”, but George did it for me.

    And I’m going to say this to the both of you: If you were (quite properly) fucked off by that display of naked cynicism and contempt for the electorate from National, please don’t give Mallard a pass for doing exactly the same thing.

    YOU DON’T GET TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — July 31, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  18. And I’m going to say this to the both of you: If you were (quite properly) fucked off by that display of naked cynicism and contempt for the electorate from National, please don’t give Mallard a pass for doing exactly the same thing.

    Nice use of bold, Craig.

    I’m firmly ideological. I have very strong policy preferences, and know exactly which parties are likely to express and implement them. The majority of those involved in political parties do.

    At the same time, most voters are not in this position. They know little, and until the narrowly defined election period do not pay large amounts of attention to political detail. Even then, it’s still minimal.

    Recognising this disconnect isn’t a sign of defeat, it’s merely recognising that what works for you isn’t what works for the voter. I’ve worked in direct sales (including recently), and the most important thing in sales is that you are not selling a product, you are selling a feeling. If you think it’s about what you’re selling, you’ll only get those who buy on technical detail. They’re a small part of the market (most people want or assume there is technical detail to back it up, but this is different). In politics, it’s a numbers game, and thus, _it’s not about you_*. It never is. Same goes in politics. The Greens usually fail to recognise this, and target the small section of the population they recognise themselves in, and thus perpetually bounce around on about 6-7% of the electorate. I’ve seen both direct and indirect evidence that this is not the case in the last year or so, and that they’re deliberately targeting wider, addressing the concerns of the electorate particularly with regard to the economy.

    This Gruen Nation ad from last year, commissioned as a hypothetical Greens ad explains this perfectly. It has extremely simple policy messages, and ridiculously powerful amounts of emotion. It is among the best election advertising I have ever seen, and if the NZ Greens do similar I will be very impressed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4jI1atQwp4

    What does piss me off, and gets me very angry, is misleading use of non-explanation. If National has an agenda to partially privatise ACC and massively cut public transport spending (both of which are now stated policy) but presents themselves to the electorate in such a way as to give the impression that they do not, then I have every right to be angry. If you can provide me an instance in which Labour or the Greens are misleading the electorate by fudging the detail, go ahead. I have beliefs, but they also include honesty.

    *generic ‘you’, rather than a specific one.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  19. Need a copyeditor. Meh.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  20. And I’m going to say this to the both of you: If you were (quite properly) fucked off by that display of naked cynicism and contempt for the electorate from National, please don’t give Mallard a pass for doing exactly the same thing.

    YOU DON’T GET TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

    It was your contention in the first place, though. Not my argument.

    FWIW, I don’t think Trevor Mallard’s advice for activists to avoid getting bogged down in detail when explaining the policy to voters was in bad faith, or even particularly unwise — although I can see how it would suit Cameron Slater, who gave us the “story”, to have the idea that it was gain currency. Saying “don’t get bogged down in detail when you explain the policy” doesn’t actually seem the same thing as saying “explaining is losing”.

    And I do not see how it explains the apparent huge disparity in perceptions of economic competence, which was the original issue.

    Comment by Russell Brown — July 31, 2011 @ 11:25 am

  21. Nice use of bold, Craig.

    Don’t forget my Ninja-like deployment of the caps lock. Particularly proud of that, thought the on-line equivalent of raising one’s voice is never seemly.

    Look, who knows – but “explaining” sure seemed to be a big bag of win for Labour in 1999. Cullen could often be a condescending dick-bag, but in ’99 you’ve got to give credit where due that he was very clear about what Labour’s tax policy was — and also dampening expectation on the left as well as calming down business. Also didn’t hurt that he was a large part of a terrifyingly disciplined and on-message campaign.

    Helen’s famous mantra was “under-promise and over-deliver” not “there’s a sucker born every minute”.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — July 31, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  22. Craig, I was too young to be paying proper attention in 1999, but even then it seemed to me that Labour was fluffing up narratives of policy correction and national reconciliation (from 15 years of ideologically driven extremity) while actually having plans to implement quite restrained policy change, as you note. The electorate was free to believe a range of things, and they did. Labour wasn’t quite a floating signifier, but it wasn’t entirely fixed either.

    The Alliance was pumping for considerably more, of course, but Clark, Cullen, and Anderton shut them down.

    he was very clear about what Labour’s tax policy…. a terrifyingly disciplined and on-message campaign.

    How is the first different to what is being done now? And yes, they got their campaign settings right, and did well as a result.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  23. um, will….it’s “your”

    Comment by Chris Bull — July 31, 2011 @ 11:57 am

  24. On the face of it this is pretty strange, because National doesn’t have a plan to fix the economy.

    That was the most salient point to draw from the story, you’d have thought – it’s not an insignificant or unrelated fact. Still, I guess Fairfax aren’t going to run a story with the headline “49% of voters thickos – official.” You don’t sell papers by insulting half your readers.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — July 31, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

  25. “Oh, and it is interesting that Danyl’s seems to have swapped to daylight savings time a bit early. That or I am in a time warp and everything is happening an hour ahead of time”

    He never left last year’s daylight time :-)

    Comment by aj — July 31, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

  26. I’m a lot clearer on the details of Labour’s CGT than I am on National’s asset sales policy.

    I mean, will there really be no costs associated in selling them such that the whole sales price goes into the kitty? And how is that we can book that sales price, and at the same time book all the dividends of 100%ownership? And how can we achieve the sales price Treasury says can only be managed by selling a large chunk of it off shore, and at the same time take some unspecified action that will make sure it doesn’t go offshore?

    I guess Labour just really sucks at not explaining shit, bastards.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — July 31, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  27. @Chris

    I don’t think he knows what ‘begats’ means, either, so don’t worry about it.

    @Everyone else

    Previous points about the validity of Fairfax Media Research International research – in the absence of actual data or methodology from Fairfax Media Research International, which appears to have grown out of their market research focused on advertising – still stand.

    The problem is twofold. First, they have no real experience aside from market research trying to sell advertising space to businesses and aggregating overseas polls (they have a partnership with Warren International, but I’m not sure how FMRI is related to this). And their expertise in these areas are in doubt – as measured by Fairfax’s competency in its own business of selling advertising space and being journalists and reflected in their share price over the last two years (here). So you have to wonder about how good they are at what were supposed to be their primary functions and whether or not this expertise can be transferred to the sticky world of political polling with the apparent ease they’re attempting to display.

    Secondly, there’s no real option for journalistic impartiality when discussing research figures from the parent company. If a journalist questions the data, methodology or samples, then it’s likely to be edited out, either by the actual editor or by the now outsourced sub-editors under strict instructions that this kind of thing just doesn’t fly. Where’s the validity from the impartiality of source? It’s not there. And it’s why major media companies usually shy away from very close associations with polling companies – because your own people can’t question the validity, which reduces your real legitimacy, and because it generally won’t be published in other organisations’ media because they won’t be hanging around advertising for their competitors polling companies. That means that you get polling results without an ounce of self-reflexivity that exist only within the bubble of your own organisation.

    Dare I say that neither the ownership model nor the methodology of FMRI wouldn’t meet the standards set out by the British Polling Council.

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  28. You don’t sell papers by insulting half your readers.

    Comment by Psycho Milt

    Fairfax don’t sell papers. I don’t think they’d be particularly worried, given that.

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  29. Dare I say that neither the ownership model nor the methodology of FMRI wouldn’t meet the standards set out by the British Polling Council.

    Comment by Dizzy

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  30. John Key’s record of corporate welfare is long and distinguished. There’s the $43million sweetheart loan to an Australian investment scheme who run a radio network over here, a $35million subsidy to Warner Bros, $1.7billion paid to a finance company, and a $4milllion gift to AMI who forgot to insure their grass pitch.

    He’s certainly delivered to his base.

    Comment by taranaki — July 31, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  31. “I think what’s happening here is that the majority of voters pay little attention to economic issues.”

    Not quite.. the public is effectively board members and shareholders with the Govt of the day the management. We might be quite happy for management to adopt a “steady as she goes” strategy in such a volatile environment. We might be quite interested in the other management team’s ideas.. but the last thing we need right now is for that bunch to be in charge of the cheque book.

    JC

    Comment by JC — July 31, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  32. My mistake, AMI stadium recieved the $4,000,000 for grass, AMI the company gets bailed out $500,000,000 million.

    This is me just wondering where Key’s economic credentials are coming from – Key’s greatest coup seems to be getting Sky City to expand their casino if he relaxes gaming law.

    Comment by taranaki — July 31, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  33. if you think about it Dizzy & friends, nah too much.

    Comment by will — July 31, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  34. and the shame of the Labour ‘plan’ is that they will lose some of the young blood on the list that could springboard Labour upwards in the next decade

    One of the advantages of a list-based system is that if/when Labour loses the election their deadwood list MPs will be able to retire mid-term. It’s not near as good as keeping ‘em around through the election, but it’s not as fatal to the long-term as you imply. The more concerning problem is electorate MPs who will have been around too long.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — July 31, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  35. ami isnt a company it is actual a co-op what the socalist love
    what it could have done by law was send a bill to every ami customer/shareholder and made then all pay a certain amount of money
    what the government did(us) was sign a guarantee and let them trade out of their problem

    Comment by graham lowe — July 31, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  36. the true horrible cost of SCF is 700 million not 1.7 billion but hey why let the facts get in the way of a story

    Comment by graham lowe — July 31, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  37. “I don’t think he knows what ‘begats’ means, either, so don’t worry about it.”

    I don’t know what ‘begats’ means either. I’m familiar with the root word ‘beget’, but ‘begats’ is a part of speech I’m unfamiliar with.

    Comment by Kahikatea — July 31, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

  38. link break fail

    Comment by bradluen — July 31, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

  39. the election is relatively far off and they’re paying attention yet.

    That’s true. But there’s the Rugby World Flop between now and then, and because the newsmedia sell most of their advertising to the powerboat set, there will be only very cursory attention to anything important. You’ve only got a few weeks after that in which to correct the news agenda.

    What would focus public attention on the economy would be a drop in the dollar combined with continued oil price rises. $3 petrol would destroy disposable income and be very good for the opposition in the next 10 weeks. However, because the US is also controlled by incompetent right-wing ideologues, investor confidence is plummeting and a run on the USD has become a rush on other stable convertable currencies. This includes the NZD, unfortunately.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  40. Danyl, your summation when you took your summer break still sticks with me – to the effect that National knows everything about politics, but nothing about governing, while Labour is the reverse.

    I’m trying to think of a Rove-like strategy for Labour that could build a campaign round National’s strengths, rather than its weaknesses.

    Comment by Southernrata — July 31, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  41. The problem for the left is that the current front bench of Labour MPs don’t see any need to convince the public of their fitness for government. That’s because they see politics as a Manichean battle between good and evil, in which they are the good guys (obviously!) and all they have to do to regain power is show the public how cruel and vicious and evil John Key is.

    It’s not just the front bench that think this way if oft repeated posts and comments on The Standard are anything to go by, it may be a more deeply entrenched belief system.

    But hey, for all we know that could be the Labour front bench.

    Comment by Pete George — July 31, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

  42. “On the face of it this is pretty strange, because National doesn’t have a plan to fix the economy. I think what’s happening here is that the majority of voters pay little attention to economic issues.They’re complicated, a little dull and the so-called all experts disagree with other… ”

    Spoken like a Philosopher King. A party composed of similar higher minds clearly needs to rule as benign dictators since the proles don’t have a clue and can’t be trusted to vote in an informed and responsible manner…

    Comment by annie — July 31, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  43. John Pagani has rightfully been panned here (for advice that Labour needs to be like National) but I think he clearly identifies the issues at play here.


    1. People fundamentally accept the narrative about John Key’s rags to riches story, and impute if he can do it for himself he might do it for the country somehow.

    2. Expectations for what a government can do in the prevailing global conditions are exceptionally low, and the priority is not to muck things up. National hasn’t run amock in the economy – a relief heightened by Labour’s previous warnings.

    3. Voters perceive competence managing crises, including Christchurch and the Pike River mine; and suppose that if they can do that, they can do the economy.

    4. Labour’s positioning is all mostly policy, not about narrative. Therefore its story is not really answering a question on voters’ minds. Take the capital gains tax – it answers questions a lot of analysts have about what they’re going to do to change the economy’s structure, and about the credibility of spending promises. Those aren’t quite the same questions voters are asking

    I think I agree with him. To the extent that Labour has messages like “Own Our Future”, it’s in a position to improve. Since they’ve moved away from negative/smear politics they’ve at least had the chance to cast themselves in a positive light, which is what all the polling suggests they need to do.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  44. 1. Yes, but the impute part is just posturing from Pagani.
    2. Yes.
    3. Yes, but again Pagani is posturing with the supposition.
    4. Labour can’t tell a story because they have low/no credibility in the eyes of the voter, ya gotta start somewhere and policy is usually a good place.

    Comment by will — July 31, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  45. “On the face of it this is pretty strange, because National doesn’t have a plan to fix the economy.”
    Perhaps the majority of the population doesn’t think the economy is ‘broken”?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — July 31, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

  46. “Perhaps the majority of the population doesn’t think the economy is ‘broken”?”

    Just so. Spending was out of control with Core Govt Expenditure increasing from $34 billion in 2000 to $70 billion last year, and tax payers and companies were overtaxed to cover it. Now personal and company tax is more in line with OECD averages, the tax base has been broadened, the Govt is controlling expenditure and peace and love has broken out throughout the land.

    Now thats a plan!

    JC

    Comment by JC — July 31, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  47. Dizzy wrote: “Fairfax don’t sell papers. I don’t think they’d be particularly worried, given that.”

    that’s a bit harsh. Last time I checked, they still had over 50% of the newspaper market in New Zealand.

    Comment by Kahikatea — July 31, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  48. Perhaps the majority of the population doesn’t think the economy is ‘broken

    Let me draw your attention to this graph.

    If this is not broken, I’d hate to think what actually broken looks like.

    Ah, but you say, ‘the current 13 quarters of are all/mostly/somewhat Labour’s fault, and imagine how bad things would be were those wreckers and haters in power now, forcing everyone to use efficient showerheads!’ Since Labour never sailed through much of a global economic downturn, it’s hard to argue against a speculative counterfactual.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

  49. National must have some sort of plan, they do put out the occasional budget and stuff like that, they must plan a bit for those.

    Labour try the “National no plan” line a bit but the public must see a bit more in it than 17% faith in Labour’s economic “plan”.

    Comment by Pete George — July 31, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

  50. @Kahikatea

    Well, yes. True. But they’re absolutely haemorraghing readers. Their sales are awful because they publish nothing newsworthy, their share prices are suicidally depressed and their response is to fire everyone, outsource as much routine stuff as possible, sell assets (TradeMe! The only profitable part of their empire!), pay journalists less and administrative staff even less than that, and all the while try and centralise aspects of the business where they’re convinced they can save money by doing so (shutting down NZPA and going for their own substandard ‘wire’ attempt, binning buying polls from people and using FMRI, shutting down Marlborough’s print shop).

    I’d urge you to check out the ABC figures for Fairfax NZ – it’s very interesting reading, and it’s not something they’re making up for with paltry online advertising revenue.

    The acid test is asking if Joe Q. Public would buy content if it weren’t available for free online – seeing as Fairfax routinely produce unmitigated shit in their standard output, the answer would probably be no.

    Of course, the other side of the foreign-owned coin – APN – aren’t doing any better because they both own the same atrocious business model.

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  51. Nothing newsworthy – let’s rephrase that – they take the newsworthy and they destroy any attempt at real analysis and patronise their readers without actually calling them idiots. They over-rely on opinion and craft it as news; and they’re very keen on advertorial. Filters right down to sport. Grab a headline, fuck the actual news.

    They behave like UK tabloid editors because that’s where a lot of the senior staff have come from, but they have a broadsheet format for faux legitimacy.

    Comment by Dizzy — July 31, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  52. Pagani is right with those four points. The trouble is it was at least partly his job to change that — to develop and proumlgate tha narratives that are missing — and he didn’t. Or the party, on his watch, didn’t.

    So what we have are a bunch of people who sort of look like they know what they’re doing, and a bunch of policies which sort of look like they’re pretty good, and no bellyfeel to tie it all together.

    Most of the complaints I see about Danyl’s (and my own) constant harping on Labour to sort their act out end on a sort of “they’ve got an awesome policy plan for the country, what else are they supposed to do? note. What else they’re supposed to do is have prepared the electorate — tilled the soil for the policy plants to grow in; laid the rails for the policy train, pick your metaphor — so that this great policy plan can actually make a difference. The policy announced earlier this month should have been what brought the whole campaign together and made people go ‘a-ha, now it all makes sense’. It could have. But the party seems to think that the sort of narrative-construction that National engaged in from when Key took the leadership — the DPB kid from Burnside done good — is a bit dirty and all somewhat beneath it.

    No amount of policy and almost no quantity of policy chops can make up for the fact that the electorate doesn’t have a feeling for you in their guts.

    L

    Comment by Lew — July 31, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  53. Incidentally, as far as practical, concrete actions Labour could take — since I started blogging early in 2009 I’ve given them plenty of unsolicited suggestions for narrative, with specific points from meta-strategic (whether to approach the campaign from the traditional safe-pair-of-hands perspective or whether to bet the farm); to more specific stuff (cronyism and nepotism; the importance of capitalising on the proposal to mine the conservation estate; turning the government’s abandonment of the ‘underclass’ narrative against them; and a ton of other stuff. Some of this advice is good, some bad, some indifferent, and it’s not that I’m slighted that it hasn’t been taken. I’m just another dickhead with opinions; more and more strongly-stated than most. And nobody from outside a party can make up a narrative for them; to be authentic it must be theirs. But there has to be something there. Seeing the hole where a narrative ought to be genuinely makes me wonder, at times, whether they actually stand for anything.

    L

    Comment by Lew — July 31, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

  54. They used to stand for whatever Helen told them to stand for. Flippant but also very true and explains the black-hole of narrative, policy and raison d’être.

    Comment by abel the amish — July 31, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

  55. Abel, whenever I hear reductionism of this sort I reach for my revolver. Or at least for the saying that, for every problem, there is a solution that is simple, elegant and wrong.

    Of course they stand for something. Feverish delusions of the far right aside, nobody signs up to the 80+-hour weeks, stress, family disruption, constant public vilification and substantial likelihood of eventually being humiliated in personal or political defeat just for the chance to ‘slurp at the trough’. They do stand for something, as individuals and as a party. We just don’t know what the fuck it is.

    L

    Comment by Lew — July 31, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  56. I don’t know Lew, the party has no story, no strategy that’s going anywhere and this situation is directly related to the leadership vacuum that Helen and Co left behind. Seems pretty reasonable and then there is the concept of reading too much into something that has a very simple cause.

    The “don’t know what the fuck it is” part I can’t argue with.

    A

    Comment by abel the amish — July 31, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

  57. We just don’t know what the fuck it is.

    Well, I do. Working for families, superannuation, ACC, paid parental leave, schools and education, moderate rights for workers, a relatively (by international, not absolute standards) unconstrained private sector, motorways and public transport, a decent environment, and an economy that grows at reasonable rates. Pretty much the same as the last time they were in, except they won’t unscrew your lightbulb or force you to gaymarry this time.

    The problem for Labour is that the electorate has been told by National they can have, and are going to get, all of that except with less tax. Isn’t it awesome?

    Ponies! For everyone!

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  58. George, that’s not a narrative, it’s not what they stand for — it’s a policy grab-bag.

    L

    Comment by Lew — July 31, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

  59. it’s not what they stand for — it’s a policy grab-bag.

    Well, if I said that they’re moderate centrist social democrats, would that make you happy?

    If I look at their list this year, and the way in which any one of those politicians or candidates has held themselves, very few would not fit comfortably within this definition. Labour is currently a party with very rounded edges, moreso than at any time in history. If others read this as bland, then that’s not really Labour’s fault (ACT aren’t bland, but nobody wants that). Where they have failed has been in selling this as interesting, because they’ve gone: “we’re going to be like we were, but we won’t bring Sue Bradford into your living room this time” and the electorate has gone “cool, but we just voted you out because National will give us all that and cut our taxes (ponies!)”. Basically, until that disconnect hits the electorate squarely in the solar plexus, Labour are fucked. Which is why they’ve gone negative, but negative has done badly because their brand is so tainted by Winston Fucking Peters.* They’ve had to rebrand themselves by reasserting what they stand for. Unfortunately, they seem to have left that until this year, and have very little time to establish that.

    I judge people on what their policies are and how they implement those, rather than their stated ideological preference, so obviously I’m starting from a different place.

    *Lew tweeted @Spudlabour going “aw, Winnie’s okay :D :D :D” this evening. Idiotic troll. Whoever does Labour comms should go round to their house, give them a truckload of pamphlets, and forbid them to use a computer til the truck is empty.

    Comment by George D — July 31, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  60. “So you see no role for Cunliffe and Parker? Even though they’re the principal authors of the new economic policy? And actually have the executive experience you would think would be necessary to convince the electorate of the party’s competence? You’re really not convincing me there.

    Who do you think should be selling the policy?”

    Oh Russell.

    How about some blue collar workers as MPs who actually believe what they’re saying?

    The problem with Labour is that nobody believes what they say anymore, unless it’s to tell people that don’t agree with their frenzied sense of entitlement that they’re wrong.

    Honestly, if you think Cunliffe and Parker are the ones who ought to be selling the message then I hope you’ve got some more taxpayer funded airtime coming your way.

    Comment by Dean — July 31, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

  61. So you see no role for Cunliffe and Parker? Even though they’re the principal authors of the new economic policy? And actually have the executive experience you would think would be necessary to convince the electorate of the party’s competence? You’re really not convincing me there.

    I would actually keep Cunliffe and Parker – but no one else in their top nine spots on the list.

    Comment by danylmc — August 1, 2011 @ 7:02 am

  62. I would actually keep Cunliffe and Parker – but no one else in their top nine spots on the list.

    Quite – or in the short-term, I’d be pushing Cunliffe in front of the cameras during the campaign and contriving to trap Goff in a lift for four months. I’m not the man’s biggest fan, but he can open his mouth on his portfolio without making me pre-emptively cringe.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — August 1, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  63. Phil just destroyed any pretense to a rational CGT this morning. Commenting on the Rich List he basically said he wants to take money off the rich pricks and give it to the poor, ie, there’s no more strategy to the thing than playing Robin Hood. Thats a terrible message to put before the electorate.. 80% of whom are *not* struggling.

    JC

    Comment by JC — August 1, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  64. I had a wait and see attitude to Cunliffe. After waiting what I saw was his attempt to stir up populist anger over the SCF bailout rather than try and conintue Cullen’s approach of trying to make the quite difficult Greater Public Good case for the bailouts. Cheap populism vs the longer term and Cunliffe chose.

    If Cunliffe had any real doubts about the legislation then perhaps he should not have voted for it, which he did at every opportunity. Which does seem to be a bit of a pattern with Labour.

    Comment by NeilM — August 1, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  65. Thats a terrible message to put before the electorate.. 80% of whom are *not* struggling.

    I guess it depends on what you class as ‘struggling’. Nice broad-brush figure though.

    Maybe it’s more accurate to say that 80% of expected voters are not struggling.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 1, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  66. @66,

    The figure comes from this article:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5367322/Strugglers-still-backing-National

    JC

    Comment by JC — August 1, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  67. From the article:

    The poll asked voters to categorise their financial situation.

    About 22 per cent said they were “comfortable” and about 20 per cent were “struggling”. The rest – about 58 per cent – said they were “getting by”.

    Let me get this straight.

    The FRMI/SST polls an unverified number of punters and asks them to subjectively identify themselves as ‘comfortable’, ‘getting by’ or ‘struggling’.

    Sounds rigourous in its objectivity to me.

    So for arguement’s sake, I class myself as ‘struggling’ on a 6 figure salary; does that backs up your supposition?

    Comment by Gregor W — August 1, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  68. Kris Fa’afoi is a media communications don. He could sell policy to us like it was fried chicken to the homies. Give him a crack i say…

    Comment by pollywog — August 1, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  69. Labour need to re-evaluate their whole policy. Putting forward a CGT might be a good start but it needs structure around it to make it work and we are not seeing that structure, I would love to see them adopt a couple of American ideas and create two shadow portfolios like the HEW & HUD and build up policies based on these. Imagine having a minister resposible for Health, Education & Welfare. Each of these areas locks into the whole. It is pointless worrying about Education for instance if we have people struggling without work or on low pay. Likewise with Health, you cannot have healthy people if they are not educated and do not have the means to earn money to access health systems.

    If a minister were resonsible for all the HEW areas even if they had associate ministers to help with work load, they could ensure that one part of the portfolio was not sacrificed to other areas. It needs a composite approach.
    The same applies to Housing and Urban Development. The two areas are dependent on each other you cannot isolate them like we tend to do now.
    Just a thought…

    Comment by Ron Wilson — August 1, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  70. Ron, I’m pretty sure a shadow cabinet reshuffle is not going to prove the breakthrough with disinterested voters that Labour needs.

    Comment by Hugh — August 1, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  71. George D @49: Nice graphs showing a drunk sobering up and going through withdrawal, repeatedly!
    :^)

    (PS: How does a high $kiwi indicate NZ’s economy is broken? To my mind, it shows the rest of the world is a bit broken, making NZ look good, hence cash flocks here.)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 1, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  72. Clunking fist, a high value to the NZ dollar does not result from inward investment, but thanks for playing.

    Comment by Hugh — August 1, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  73. ’73.Clunking fist, a high value to the NZ dollar does not result from inward investment, but thanks for playing.”
    Nasty saversis and speculatorssis, bidding ups our dollarsis for absolutely no reasonsis whatsoever.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 1, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  74. I would actually keep Cunliffe and Parker – but no one else in their top nine spots on the list.

    I’d be a bit more generous – Dyson is at least competent, and while I loathe Cosgrove with a passion, he seems to have done good work over Christchurch. The rest though? Yesterday’s man, yesterday’s woman, yesterday’s Maori Affairs Minister, an empty space, and a constant fuck-up, a pack of time-serving hacks. There’s little there to inspire. And these people will have their jobs protected at the expense of new talent.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant — August 1, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

  75. Ardern’s got a nice set of t-t-t-teeth, as Matt McCarten would say

    Comment by pollywog — August 1, 2011 @ 5:55 pm


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