The Dim-Post

December 24, 2011

Division of Labour

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 12:43 pm

Jordan has a post up about the challenges facing Labour and the changes it needs to make to its internal structure to get back in the game. Here’s his short-list:

  • a record low vote, lowest since the 1920s
  • low and static membership in the past three years
  • over centralisation of control over policy and strategy, with too little power for members
  • an inward focused ‘divide the pie’ approach by too many party units
  • a cultural acceptance of low to no organisation in too many places, and a related culture of federalism divided between electorates rather than a sense of a nation-wide, cooperating organisation
  • too much belief that our connections with a wide range of Kiwis are strong, when they are weak
  • a sense that we ‘own’ the voters that went to the greens and nzf, and that they are bound to return to us
  • a perception among some parts of the electorate that we are out of touch with their hopes and dreams
  • a structure that incentivises our inward focus

I’d narrow almost all of this down to the problem of candidate selection. The primary goal of a candidate is to win votes for themselves and the party, but Labour doesn’t seem to value this quality in any of their candidates or MPs. They’re chosen for attributes that seem mysterious to the rest of the country, usually from a small pool of parliamentary staffers, unionists and activists and then farmed out to electorates to which they pretend some spurious connection (‘whanau in the region’).

By way of example, let’s talk about Maryan Street. According to her Wikipedia biography she was born in New Plymouth, educated in Wellington, taught in Auckland, became involved in the union movement there, worked at Auckland University, spent much of her career in Auckland – yet she’s been the Labour candidate for Nelson for the last two elections, during which Labour’s party vote in that electorate has dropped from a sizeable plurality (45%) to 32%. And Street was Labour’s fifth highest ranked list MP during the last Parliament. Front row. The A team. Officer class. Presumably because she represents powerful factions within the party – but in this core role of getting people to give the party their votes she’s deficient. And there’s not much point in having a powerful faction in a party if this factionalisation helps keep the party out of power.

But if you let local electorates pick their candidates then they’ll act as advocates for those electorates instead of the various factions. And then all those other problems will fall into place. Locals will be able to draw on existing networks to organise and fund-raise. The party won’t have to ‘listen’ to the people: the electorate candidates will actually have a connection to their local communities – beyond a tiny base of local Labour activists – and be screaming at the party leadership about things that concern them. Nationals’ backbench electorate MPs drive the party’s Wellington based political staffers crazy, because they’re always running off to the Prime Minister and complaining about ‘some trivial little rural issue that no one in Wellington cares about’. Labour’s MPs are, increasingly, former political staffers who share the same elite background and Wellington-centric focus.

Of course parties need these Wellington-centric staffers. They know how things work. But notice how carefully National divides the roles of staffer and MP. With the exception of Paula Bennett – who was Murray McCully’s electorate secretary – I can’t think of any former staffers who are now National MPs (I guess there may be other exceptions). Generally their MPs are locals with some background of achievement who bring in the votes; the staffers are Wellington based professionals who know how government works. Labour’s caucus and candidate list is increasingly dominated by staffers. They tend to have degrees in political science, are extremely well connected and media-savvy and are well-thought of amongst their fellow elites – there’s just one problem: voters don’t vote for them.

Take Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, a Labour communications advisor who was given a high list position (although not high enough) and ran as a candidate in Tauranga, explaining that she grew up ‘further along State Highway One’ (SH1 does not run through, or near Tauranga). With Mahuta Coyle as a candidate Labour’s party vote in Tauranga was one of the worst in the entire country, declining by 33% (Labour’s nationwide decline was 20%).

Jordan endorses getting in touch with the voters, and Shearer’s said the same thing. Great. But Phil Goff spent a year ‘getting in touch with voters’ after the loss in 2008. The Labour team drove around the country in a bus singing songs and meeting with ‘real New Zealanders’ like, uh, Darren Hughes’ uncle. Goff then went back to Wellington and cheerfully went about promoting his own office staffers as electorate candidates, including Mahuta-Coyle.


  1. Sadly, it appears that I may have to punish Labour by voting for other parties until Labour is prepared to acknowledge issues that are more important than GST on fresh fruit and veges. I’ve no idea why other voters defected, but it appears neither does Labour. Maybe they should make opposition benches comfortable, as they will be their home for a while, as exasperated voters will continue to punish willful denial.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 24, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  2. i don’t think making parliamentary staffers candidates is always a bad thing. Russel Norman and gareth Hughes were both parliamentary staffers before being mps. Cath delahunty also worked for the party. and the green vote went up, not down. why not pick another arbitrary explanation? labour stands more women than national. that must be their problem…

    Comment by Amy — December 24, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  3. i don’t think making parliamentary staffers candidates is always a bad thing. Russel Norman and gareth Hughes were both parliamentary staffers before being mps. Cath delahunty also worked for the party. and the green vote went up, not down.

    Yes but the Greens are targeting affluent urban liberal voters. Their highest votes are in Wellington Central, Auckland Central and Rongotai. So running urban political elites makes perfect sense.

    Comment by danylmc — December 24, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  4. Anyone seeking to dispute this analysis, please first complete the following short phrase: “All politics is _____.”


    Comment by Lew — December 24, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  5. And during previous decades most Labour MPs were unionists for at least some part of their career, yet they won elections and successfully represented their electorates, in many cases famously well. It’s about establishing and maintaining a connection. Candidate selection is only a part of it.

    Comment by George D — December 24, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

  6. Because it is Xmas I will explain why things will not change in Labour. The “elite” would have to willingly loosen their grip on the spoon and as the saying goes.. Turkeys will not vote for an early Xmas. You could also cast Beyer as the ghost of Xmas future for most of them to really ram the hopelessness of the situation home.

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — December 24, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  7. No, you cannot seriously dispute this analysis – right winger, left winger or centrist, moderate common senser.

    I liked David Shearer’s first attempt at kite-flying – “hey, let’s change the flag”.

    Mind you, I don’t vote for them so why do I care. But this post is 100% the truth.

    Comment by Nick K — December 24, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  8. None of the above Greens won an electorate, and Norman has stood for Rongotai, Mt Albert, and rimutuka, that I recall. I voted Green as the least worse policy option, not because of the candidate quality.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 24, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  9. And during previous decades most Labour MPs were unionists for at least some part of their career, yet they won elections and successfully represented their electorates, in many cases famously well.

    See, the thing about back in the day is, we ain’t back in the day. The unions are smaller, a union background far less meaningful to voters, they’re more centralised and the pool of quality candidates for political office is far smaller.

    Comment by danylmc — December 24, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  10. Yes but the Greens are targeting affluent urban liberal voters. Their highest votes are in Wellington Central, Auckland Central and Rongotai. So running urban political elites makes perfect sense.
    I voted for the Greens in one of those electorates, and I can assure you my reasons for doing so had nothing to do with them putting up “urban political elites” as candidates. It had more to do with the Greens having been a more effective opposition party than Labour, having more coherent policies, not being douchebags, and being actually, y’know, left-wing.

    Comment by Purple-Shirted Eye Stabber — December 24, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

  11. I agree that the perception that the Labour caucus and candidate pool is dominated by former staffers is problem that needs to be addressed by Labour as part of any review.
    Shearer, Robertson, Ardern, Hipkins, Mallard, Faafoi , David Clark all spent time as staff. For some of these – Shearer, Mallard, Faafoi, Clark it was a very short period relative to others parts of their careers. For others, particularly Ardern and Hipkins their time as staffers is the bulk of their working experience.
    Ardern and Hipkins are interesting examples. Both ran in electorates where they had no strong personal link. In the case of Hipkins he won his (2008) selection through local support despite the Engineers Union promoting Paul Chalmers. Yet he won the selection based on local support. He went on to win the 2008 election and increase his majority in 2011. This from perhaps the stereotypical student-student politician-staffer- carpetbagger-MP.
    I have a different view on why “staffer-dominance” is not a problem identified with the Greens. Former staffers make up a greater proportion of Green MPs than any other party (Russel Norman, Eugenie Sage, Holly Walker, Jan Logie, Julie Anne Genter, Mojo Mathers have all worked as parliamentary staffers). At least part of the reason this isn’t seen as so much of a problem for the Greens, and part of the answer for Labour, is the legitimising effect of having a much more transparent and democratic list selection process.
    National has far fewer former staffers than Labour or the Greens: Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye, Jami-Lee Ross being the only ones who are easily identified as staffers and only Kaye as a Wellington-based Parliamentary staffer.

    Comment by Bkiwi — December 24, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  12. I think that people can comment that they, or some class of people, don’t have a problem with the way Labour’s list is put together. But most people look at the people on Labour’s list and see people that don’t appeal to them, and they got there pretty much for the reasons that Danyl gives. Seriously, I was at one of the regional list selection meetings and one of the comments that I remember hearing was about a young, white, gay male. He seemed pretty good to me, but the comment was that, “unfortunately, we probably have an over-representation of them already, so he may miss out”. That was f***ing demented. The whole byazntine, behind closed doors list moderation process is insanely non-transparent and non-representative. Its no wonder membership is so low now.

    Comment by DT — December 24, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  13. Yep central planning doesn’t work.

    Comment by Simon — December 24, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  14. Off topic of Labour’s failings but picking up on the point that National picks candidates with connections to the electorate. Not always. I live in Helensville (as I may have mentioned from time to time) and I don’t see John Key as having *any* connection with the electorate. He tried to register as a voter here saying he owed a property in the electorate but was told he couldn’t – because he had never spent a night here. But he stands for National in a safe National seat so who the feck cares where he lives.

    I do. I think he should put himself forward in Epsom next time and let someone with a connection to the electorate stand.

    This is a problem with safe seats of all stripes – electorate MPs don’t need a connection with the electorate at all and it is hard to find locals to stand for opposition parties. So all candidates end up being carpetbaggers, leaving voters like me who give a damn finding it hard to decide where to put their electorate vote. In 2011 that went to Labour because at least the guy, no longer a resident, had been to Kaukapapa primary school so actually knew where the electorate was. The Green candidate lived in Mt Albert.

    Comment by MeToo — December 24, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  15. I think John Key has the largest majority in the entire country, so the people of Helensville must think he’s doing something right.

    Comment by danylmc — December 24, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

  16. Anyone seeking to dispute this analysis, please first complete the following short phrase: “All politics is _____.”

    About emotional connection. Geographical connection and the authenticity it delivers is obviously a clear and tested way of establishing it.

    However, because of the way she engages her ostensible electorate, Street could have lived in Nelson for 60 years and still have no chance of winning. Which is unfortunate.

    Comment by George D — December 24, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  17. I think John Key has the largest majority in the entire country, so the people of Helensville must think he’s doing something right.

    But he’s a carpetbagger. So he’s come in and given the local population more than enough reason to vote for him, despite extremely tenuous geographic links.

    For what it’s worth, I do think that strong local connections are extremely important. I chose not to put my name forward for pre-selection in my electorate because (although I’d lived there 20 or so years) I was no longer somebody of that place. I might be again in the future.

    Comment by George D — December 24, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

  18. Ahh right Labour’s problem is parachuting people with no connection with the electorate into safe seats because they are promoted by powerful factions in the party or they used to work in the parliamentary offices.

    So I expect the person to get right on that is David Shearer then. Sheesh.

    Also: Simon Bridges? Educated in West Auckland. Didn’t seem to be a problem for him.

    Also while we are bagging Ms Street: what is the trend with Labour voting in the last few elections? Surely she was the only one who is doing badly? How did Grant Robertson, the other man to deal with the problem go in his electorate at winning the party vote? Surely Robertson’s problem is that he is supported by powerful factions and used to be called H3 for working in Helen Clark’s office?

    I also think having seen the media that the sooner unions are outlawed the better- fairly much every commentator thinks they are A Bad Thing, and must be responsible for all this poverty, including working poverty and inequity we keep hearing about.

    And while I’m ranting: surely being part of the vestiges of a National-led government so farcical that it relied on an Alliiance list mp who jumped ship to exist is more cause to be embarrassed than of a solid 3 term government with plenty of achievements?

    How come Bill English gets to be DPM and Minister of Finance, and yet anyone with any experience of government on the other side must be purged???

    rant over/

    Comment by sheesh — December 24, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  19. Not going to dig in to Danyl’s solution, but it strikes me that problem #3 and problem #5 are contradictory. How can the party be simultaneously over-centralised and over-federalised?

    Comment by Hugh — December 24, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  20. simon bridges was licing and working in Tauranga as a crown prosecutor so he was hardly parachuted in

    Comment by rjs131 — December 24, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

  21. sorry that should be living and working!

    Comment by rjs131 — December 24, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

  22. I left Cosgrove off the list. He was a staffer for longer than Faafoi, Shearer and David Clark combined.
    Everyone forgets Cosgrove when listing the “urban political elites” Labour keeps imposing on electorates.

    Comment by Bkiwi — December 24, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

  23. Actually you know what I am going to dig at Danyl’s solution, because low-hanging fruit is hard to resist.

    Danyl, it seems that your theory is based on the idea that the main determination of people’s party vote is what they think of the party’s electorate candidate.

    There’s little evidence of that. In fact, all the research tends to demonstrate the opposite.

    Comment by Hugh — December 24, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  24. Labour here is turning slowly into what Labour in the UK has been since before the Blair years.This book gives a decent run down of what happened over there.Being a Daily Mail columnist he over eggs it as much as you’d expect but the point that so many in Labour go from varsity to some sort of union role or job in the party or for a minister then find themselves on the list or bein selected as a candidate without ever having much contact with the world outside a very narrow band of like minded people is just a relevant here.
    .Labour just don’t seem to get how unconnected they are with NZ anymore, a classic exaple was this waffle about Shearer not being a great performer in the house.Outside of a few political geeks who really gives a fuck?Goff could rant and get that vein in his head popping out at the drop of a hat but that’s hardly likely to gain many votes.

    Sheesh , that rant is a bit embaressing don’t you think?Very Standardesque all that was missing was a few digs at RWNJs to have a full leftwing bullshit bingo card, the “biased MSM” dig was fantastic.It was the unions themselves that caused anti union protests on Labour day of all days last year.

    Comment by Raumatibeach — December 24, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

  25. Way, way too much common sense, Danyl. Another difference is that National tend to hire staffers, especially press secretaries, without requiring a political declaration of undying love and loyalty as the initial entry point into the selection. With the Nats – in most cases – its more like, “ahh, you’re ok with us as the government, right?” at the end of the interview.

    Comment by Tinakori — December 24, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

  26. Danyl, it seems that your theory is based on the idea that the main determination of people’s party vote is what they think of the party’s electorate candidate.

    There’s little evidence of that. In fact, all the research tends to demonstrate the opposite.

    I’m not sure what research you’re referring to. After every election Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts publish an election summary and analysis, and they always show that standing local candidates has a huge impact on party vote (for non personality based (ie Dunne, Peters) parties at least.)

    Comment by danylmc — December 24, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

  27. Excellent post, Danyl. The best (or worst) example of all was Andrew Little. Will he ever be seen again in an electorate?

    Merry Christmas to you, your wife and little one.

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — December 24, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

  28. The Levine & Roberts books giving an interesting insight into the elections, but for the indepth research you should look to the Vowles/Aimer election studies:

    Comment by Bkiwi — December 24, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

  29. @15 Brand Key is strong everywhere. My point is he has no connection in particular with the *electorate*. (Unlike Helen Clark in Mt Albert.) National seems happy to parachute in candidates when it suits them, including Brash, Key, Joyce. Key’s local campaign pamphlet claimed gains for the electorate including National Standards in schools (he didn’t mention they were opposed by the local schools), and a new motorway extension (that was begun and funded under the last government). Let’s see what local gains we get from our local MP this time.

    Comment by MeToo — December 24, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

  30. Yeah Danyl, I’m familiar with Nigel’s research, but all it establishes is that the presence of a candidate has an effect. It doesn’t establish anything beyond that, which is why your inference is unsupported.

    Comment by Hugh — December 24, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

  31. Cox and others have suggested strategic voting can be also based on candidate appeal to voters, who also know that the party vote is the determinate of parliament composition. Assuming some voters support electorate candidates who appear good for the specific electorate regardless of party is reasonable. Labour seems to assume that voters wouldn’t split votes, but if candidates were not supporting important local issues, some voters apparently fled.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 24, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

  32. National seems happy to parachute in candidates when it suits them, including Brash, Key, Joyce.

    Brash and Joyce never stood in an electorate. Key wasn’t so much parachuted in as took the seat from a semi-incumbent. Also, claims of National parachuting people into safe seats have less cogency when those safe seats are likely to be National electorates with strong memberships, such that head and regional office get basically no say (other than a pre-selection veto of unsuitable candidates).

    Parachuting claims have more cogency with Labour and/or the Unions in Labour, because the party structures have greater influence of candidate selection.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 25, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  33. Er, except that vetoing unsuitable candidates is a pretty massive influence. That doesn’t exist in the Labour Party. I am as always suspicious of claims any party is more internally democratic than an other.

    Comment by Keir — December 25, 2011 @ 11:30 am

  34. Adolf – Andrew Little lived in New Plymouth until he left for university, his elderly mum still lives there, he’s on the board of the local polytechnic and he heads back every few weeks to visit. For someone who has to live in Wellington for his career I’d say he has a pretty strong connection to the electorate. Didn’t stop the Nats going on in the media about him being a carpet-bagger who plans to run in Rongotai though.

    Comment by Tom J — December 25, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  35. “a structure that incentivises our inward focus”

    Nailed it with that one.

    Comment by Redbaiter — December 25, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  36. …all it establishes is that the presence of a candidate has an effect. It doesn’t establish anything beyond that, which is why your inference is unsupported.

    Well yeah, we don’t know that treating the potential Labour voters of Tauranga with the contempt displayed by making Mahuta-Coyle their electoral candidate was directly responsible for the drastic erosion of Labour’s party vote there, but as unsupported inferences go it seems a pretty reasonable one. If a majority in the Labour Party think that’s a sustainable model for the future they’d better get used to being in opposition.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 25, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  37. Only fair to note that some staffers and union representatives have been very good local MPs – Hipkins and Swain were parachuted into Heretaunga – both lived there and both got involved in local affairs. The most obvious parachutee, Heather Simpson, was quickly bounced out by a local NZ First candidate. We UpperHuttians arent that stupid

    Comment by Leopold — December 25, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  38. I’m afraid Danyl’s theories do not pass any objective test – eg if Grant Robertson is so unpopular, how come he won 49% of the electorate vote? That hardly indicates voter discontent with him personally. Also the fact that a few exceptional MPs like Dunne or Peters have a personal vote does not mean that most others do – all evidence is that the majority of voters have no idea who their local MP is or what he/she did before being elected. Opinions, we got ’em; but real evidence on why voters didn’t give their Party to vote to Labour is thin on the ground.

    Comment by deemac — December 25, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  39. Marion Hobbs had a slightly larger percentage when she retired from that electorate. Robertson’s campaigns have focused on local issues, and it may be the electorate voters rate him. Some of electorate voters elected Richard Prebble in the dack ages. Perhaps they learnt from their mistake.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 25, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

  40. “Well yeah, we don’t know that treating the potential Labour voters of Tauranga with the contempt displayed by making Mahuta-Coyle their electoral candidate was directly responsible for the drastic erosion of Labour’s party vote there, but as unsupported inferences go it seems a pretty reasonable one.”

    Don’t you think that the failure of Labour’s national campaign may have had something to do with it?

    Comment by Hugh — December 26, 2011 @ 3:09 am

  41. I’m afraid Danyl’s theories do not pass any objective test – eg if Grant Robertson is so unpopular, how come he won 49% of the electorate vote?

    Maybe being a Wellington-centric member of the political elite isn’t so bad if you’re running in . . . Wellington Central.

    Comment by danylmc — December 26, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  42. “But if you let local electorates pick their candidates then they’ll act as advocates for those electorates instead of the various factions.”

    Aren’t electorates just more factions?

    Or are electorates some sort of holy cow of politics which is the fuel for the arguments about having electorate opinions override all else in MMP (e.g. the change being sought by some so one canot be on the list and stand in an electorate at the same time aka altering MMP into FPP)

    Comment by Andrew R — December 26, 2011 @ 9:03 am

  43. Aren’t electorates just more factions?

    No. They’re the VOTERS!

    Comment by danylmc — December 26, 2011 @ 10:45 am

  44. Brash . . . never stood in an electorate

    When one is presented with an jopportunity to beat the New Zealand blogosphere’s most pedantic man at his own game, one must seize it. Therefore:

    This is incorrect.

    Comment by Jake — December 26, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  45. Don’t you think that the failure of Labour’s national campaign may have had something to do with it?

    According to the post, Labour’s share of the vote fell 33% in Tauranga, compared with 20% nationwide. So yeah, the problems at national level account for a lot of that fall, but the fall in vote share in Tauranga is so far from the average it would pay to look for local factors, wouldn’t it? And the clear message from Labour to the electorate that electorate voters count for nothing seems like a good place to start.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 26, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  46. “No. They’re the VOTERS!” And people in non-electorate based factions aren’t voters?

    Comment by Andrew R — December 26, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

  47. And people in non-electorate based factions aren’t voters?

    This is getting a little silly and pointless. Yeah, sure – they’re voters, but Labour doesn’t need to capture the votes of its own parliamentary staffers to win elections. It does need to capture the votes of people out there in electorates who aren’t employed by the Labour party.

    Comment by danylmc — December 26, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  48. “But if you let local electorates pick their candidates then they’ll act as advocates for those electorates instead of the various factions.”

    Dead right. I despair at how long it is taking Labour to accept this simple fact.

    Comment by Alistair — December 26, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  49. Tauranga is nz first land, remember. Mahuta Coyle was not shockingly bad candidate, Peters just did really well. She did about as well for candidate votes as anyone since Wilson, and not much worse for party votes when you take into account the rise of NZ First. Factually, Danyl, I think this argument has flaws.

    Comment by Keir — December 26, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

  50. With all this reference to Hipkins and Robertson and Swain it feels a wee bit Wellington centric,

    Lets look further a field, Tim Barnett was a local in Christchurch and had worked with the Local Community Law Office in the Christchurch Central Electorate. This gave Tim a very good base to work from and he ran a very good Electorate Office operation. This reflected in his majority.

    When Tim left Parliament Brendon Burns was Parachuted in from the Beehive ” Burns Unit” and it took him only two Election to take a safe Labour Seat to a National win, he was not local he was not liked and he did not have the same organisation behind him that Tim had.

    You can Parachute Candidates in some of the time and it works, but the Parachute Candidate/ MP needs to put in a large amount of effort to gain the respect of the Local Organisation. The Local Candidate has already done this and so then has time to ut an effort into other areas such as creating an excellent Electorate Office Operation that is vital in retaining and gaining the “Votes that Belong to Us”.

    Comment by Ex RNZN RM 1 — December 27, 2011 @ 7:17 am

  51. Keir, Mahuta Coyle may not have been a shockingly bad candidate (I have no idea), but your claim about how good her results were in Tauranga don’t stand up.Coming third in the party vote behind Bridges (19,858), NZFirst (5,455) with 5,496, a little ahead of the Greens (3,208) can hardly be painted as an okay result. And, contrary to your claim, it doesn’t compare well to 2008. That year, even with Peters standing in the electorate, Labour came second to National in the party vote (20,418) with 8,504.

    I don’t think that there is any way of painting the 2011 Tauranga result as anything but awful. Then again, with Mahuta-Coyle for some reason campaigning mostly in Wellington Central (party directive???) rather than Tauranga could explain some of it.

    Comment by DT — December 27, 2011 @ 7:55 am

  52. No, it wasn’t ok. It was pretty shocking. But that wasn’t mainly Mahuta Coyle’s fault. It was national failure, and Peters.

    In 2008, Peters didn’t get into Parliament. In ’11, he did, in large part because of a strong campaign in Tauranga fronted by one of NZ First’s rising stars. And most of those votes will have come from Labour, looking at the trends overall.

    Roughly speaking, local factors in Tauranga, of all electorates, means Peters.

    Comment by Keir — December 27, 2011 @ 9:00 am

  53. Yawn, you’ve certainly drawn out the Labour apologists here Danyl.

    Comment by will — December 27, 2011 @ 9:18 am

  54. i still think all these explanations as to why labour failed are flawed because they are retrospective. id be more impressed if you had said before the election “candidates labour stands in rural areas or small towns who were once parliamentary staffers or journalists and have little connection to the local area w ill do very poorly” and then provided stats showing this appeared to be true. but you didn’t. these are explanations after the fact so its easy to make whatever theory that suits your particular prejudices suit

    Comment by Amy — December 27, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  55. Ok, engaging with the post, now I’ve got over the picking on specific people and saying they represent everything wrong with Labour.

    (I think it is the lack of a critical mainstream left wing outlet that used to happen nationally through say the Listener and now is isolated on blogs, and lacks the authority and respect of a former state publication. The people who favour Labour, but have also voted National are much less likely to participate in these discussions.

    Is there a centre left media figure with the same respect and position that Findlay McDonald held? Tapu Misa? Rod Oram? Bernard Hickey? Brian Gould? Brian Easton? Simply no.Spread a bit thin and without the same licence or opportunities. The traditional media is cash strapped, knee-capped and declining.

    Pundit is a website that brings a range of influential commentators together. It is perhaps a bit light on science, but as to be expected of a politics focused site. However it lacks the presence on the nations coffee tables the Listener had.)

    Candidate selection is indeed something problematic.

    I have always thought the front bench seemed strong in 1999.

    Were the problems with candidates the same then? What were the major differences there? How many long serving electorate MPs were represented then? Why is inexperience the new black?

    And for all the looking down on focus groups and polls- um, aren’t these what political parties do to ‘listen to the voters’?

    Also quite often what voters want is someone who knows what’s going on and seems likely to be able to do something about it or at least keep it from their door. Key fits this at the moment, as does English.

    Labour needs it’s own meta-narrative of understanding of what is going on with Europe, Christchurch, peak oil, climate change, water and all the coming future shocks and how it won’t really be a problem, while continuing to reinvigorate the social justice, fair society message that has been a part of the NZ politics since the Liberals. I think it needs to get the right story to tell first, and then refashion an organisation people can buy into around that.

    The Nats have a lot of central-casting, insert-name-here characters- but it is fair enough to say Labour does seem to be light on heft in its caucus ranks and lacks cohesion. I’m not sure I buy into the former being a much lesser evil than the latter, but neither are good.

    Comment by sheesh — December 27, 2011 @ 10:48 am

  56. Ahh @Raumati: to be pro-union is to be a raving lunatic. I’m not embarrassed at all- the genre was quite clearly and consciously a rant.

    Union influence is seen as THE problem with the Labour party in story after story. It just seems enormously ironic to me that at a time where working poverty is a problem and employers are asking for more regressive powers. We’ve just had a lockout in an attempt to force a wage-cut!

    Most unionists have dedicated their lives to preventing working poverty and exploitation of those who are desperate, weak and unsure of their rights. I want them involved in the solution in our country, presuming of course we are genuinely concerned by inequality and poverty.

    And a cheap shot about the Hobbit dispute. This meeting?:

    “Despite Peter Jackson knowing otherwise, workers at the meeting were told that the dispute was not settled, the ”boycott” was still in place, and that the Hobbit was moving off shore. An inflammatory handout was distributed repeating much of the previous misinformation about the dispute and reiterating that it was ongoing….The “impromptu” rally was supported by pre-prepared signs including “lift the boycott’ which were available at the studio. About 1000 workers who had not been told the truth, descended on the Equity meeting which had received a tip off and had been cancelled to avoid an angry confrontation.”

    Alternative media for the win. I hope you enjoyed your holiday then and enjoy your daily 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of recreation that we expect as a given.

    Comment by sheesh — December 27, 2011 @ 11:03 am

  57. My experience was that most union members only wanted to pay the fees necessary for collective bargaining, and resented other union activities. The overall decline of union membership has several reasons, but for many young employees, they were confident that they could negotiate with their employers without the need for collective action. My suggestion would be that many NZ unions are no more in touch with members’ aspirations than Labour is with voters’ wishes.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 27, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  58. Yeah, I heard a rumour that Simon Bridges was involved in spreading lice about in Tauranga. Thanks for confirming that, rjs131.

    Comment by swordfish — December 27, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

  59. Danyl’s anti-Labour party views as expressed ad naseum in posts like this one are as guilty of the charge of being those of a member of a certain out-of-touch urbanist-intellectual clique as any so-called “parachuted in” Labour candidate might be. I doubt Danyl actually knows much about provincial New Zealand – he probably just has an anecdotal/intuitive best wishes guess of what that place might be, a guess informed by nothing more than the view from a confortable government sinecure in Wellington.

    So we’ve got a lot of sniping about by people who it seems to me can’t see the wood for the trees. I would agree a political party doesn’t exist in a vacuum. But the simplistic idea that Labour has lost touch with the provinces solely because it is now elite cadre party of urban political professionals is utterly ridiculous. A political party exists in a time and place for a reason, and if that reason is weakened then so will be the political party. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this would be to talk about Hawkes Bay, my families home province for six generations now and somewhere whose “secret history” I am familiar with. If we were to roll the clock back thirty five odd years to the centenary of the province in 1976 we would discover a reasonably robust and diversified provincial economy. In addition to farming and fruit production, Well paying blue collar jobs existed in the tobacco industry (Rothmans), freezing works (Tomoana and Whakatu), on the wharves and in the railways. A full service hospital dominated Napier’s skyline. My parents neighbours were a newly arrived Maori family from up the coast, a freezing worker and a nurse. Both in good-paying work (unlike now for Maori in provincial cities). My parents best friends were a well-paid wharfie and his wife, and a self-employed blockie who was doing very well for himself. My sister’s first job was in an electrical assembly plant and my first wage job was at PDL, a plastics factory in Hastings. The province had a thriving news media, being served by two independent newspapers. Both papers had vigorous local reporting and even broke local stories. The local ZB station was just that – local. It reported on local news and had long format interviews of local interest. The general outlook was bright. In 1976 the province had celebrated its centennial, and the people were in a optimistic and proud frame of mind. It was in this place that Labour thrived, the tribal party of prosperous blue collar workers in good paying jobs who could afford to take part in politics.

    In 2011, provincial industrial activity in this country is practically extinct. Rothmans is long gone. The freezing works – vanished. The wharves employ a fraction of the old workforce on considerably reduced terms and conditions. One hospital in Hasting, so reduced in size that it operates in a permanent atmosphere of semi-crisis, serves both cities. The Napier hospital, on it’s beautiful hilltop site, has sat empty for decades. PDL has long gone. Try getting your birth certificate or a passport quickly in Napier or Hasting. They are abandoned citizens, treated as second class in the country they helped build. Like all the provinces, The Hawkes Bay economy has been eviscerated by almost thirty years of neo-liberalism’s slow strangulation, it’s population lied to by successive governments. Only in places with some sort of bright spot like New Plymouth (energy), Palmerston North (university), or the West Coast (tribal tradition) has the light of provincial Labour not gone completely out. In Hawkes Bay, the economy is now completely dependent on agriculture (including viticulture) and some tourism. Low paid service jobs and seasonal labour is all that is left. The local media has been destroyed, replaced by a shabby single newspaper that is barely a notch above a free community newspaper. The editorial line from the ACToid Louis Pierard, such as it was, was to uncritically equate the lifestyles and interests of the rump provincial elite with that of the province in general and act as their house broadsheet. No alternative political narrative existed for local citizens outside the crazy political conservatism of Mr. Pierard, a man personally convinced Helen Clark was part of a lesbian polt to undermine his christian values. In that unaccountable atmosphere of back-slapping of the annointed it is hardly surprising that the province has lapsed into semi-feudalism and patronage in it’s power structures, dominated by a crude reactionary and grasping class of sharp-practice survivors who aspire above all to ape the values and behaviours of the old money Hawkes Bay squatocracy. Not for nothing that half-wits like Anne Tolley thrived there, or that Chris Tremain (a local feudal lord) is MP or that Paul Holmes feels at home in Haumoana, or that those political reactionaries par excellence Jordan Williams and Simon Lusk all hail from the same place. The certain optimism of thrity years ago has been replaced by an air of siege, a closing of the mind and fear.

    Candidate selection won’t fix the fact that for Labour, it’s traditional provincial support base in that place have been deliberated destroyed by neo-liberalism, de-unionised, atomised, migrated to Australia, reduced to servitude and/or living pay day to pay day in dead end jobs that don’t change no matter who is in power. Labour’s presence has withered with the loss of it’s key supporters.

    One thing that piqued my interest in David Shearer was his statement that he believed in having a regional development policy. All I can say is it is the restoration of good paying blue collar jobs to places like Napier and Hastings that will revitalise the party there, not some idiotic internal/online debate about how candidates or the leadership is elected. Good jobs for working people – jobs, jobs, jobs – is what will win the provinces back for Labour, not arguments like this thread. The provinces are blue because the people there have been engulfed in a Pavlovian psychology of despair, and the neo-liberal consensus of the last thirty years has for them reduced elections to picking the candidate who best appears to pander to their small town fears and prejudices – something the right can always do better than the left. Given a proper choice, provincial New Zealand won’t care if the candidate is a parachuted in lesbian Maori, as long as she gets them good jobs and actually represents their economic needs and desires.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 27, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  60. We all have different views of our childhood. i was born in 71 so have little memories of the 70s.but rember all to well the 80s.Growing in mid-canterbury at that time post Smps,droughts,high interest job losses and forced farm sales made life interesting .Dont get me wrong smps were evil along with all the other crap that happened at that time.Its easy to blame piggy for all that but it not that simple the peroid from 1950-84 were wasted by more than one government.So when i left school in 88 their were no jobs advertised in the local had to know a relative to get a job at the freezing works (or play for celtic) and have the shops were closed on the main forward to the mid 90s the ministry of ed were planig to shut several schools the hospital was faceing being closed all due to a falling population.
    Now in 2011 it is changed again we are 2nd behind queenstown for population growth(provinical not urban) record low unemployment the hospital is busy now(due to feb earthquake).we produce 10% of fonteras milk 80% of new zealands grain. its retail was up 20%this christmas its is a great place to live

    Comment by graham lowe — December 27, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  61. half the shops

    Comment by graham lowe — December 27, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  62. and people i know havent locked there houses for 20 years

    Comment by graham lowe — December 27, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

  63. Cheers Sanctuary. I guess I fit equally well into that urban ignorance category. How well did Jim Anderton do with economic development do you think?
    Shearer and with Jones taking Maori regional development suggests that they are aware of your analysis.

    It suggests the obsession with identity politics is with those who critique equally. So apart from mining, what substantial state-lead industries would you suggest need to be pushed?

    Comment by sheesh — December 27, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  64. In 1976 – Sanc’s reference point, Hastings was National, and had also been from 1960 – 1972 which were the boom years. It was Labour from 1978 – 1990, the period of decline, mainly due to farming and agricultural changes, along with the national economic changes such as tariff reductions etc.

    The regional decline seems to be a subject all parties want to avoid, because there are few simple solutions that could fit into electoral cycles, and the main solution may be global market changes, along with diversification.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 27, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

  65. Bruce – Hasting had a strong Social Credit vote that split the vote for years, to the plurality advantage of National. Social Credit, an insane street numbering system and a stupid one way system that crippled their downtown for years – that town was the home of bad ideas for years. To top things off, it also had a much larger rural component in the seat than Napier. And finally, Hasting people were shocked that Labour wrote off Napier’s earthquake debts when they had dilligently paid off their one. Conversely, everyone in Napier knows Hastings is very jealous of Napier and wants to take everything off it – or so the story goes.

    Diversification is exactly what has not occured in Hawkes Bay.

    sheesh – Jim Anderton declared himself economic development minister, but then did precious little. In areas like communications, the East Coast has in some ways gone backwards. The rail links are now in a very poor state due to the disasterous privatisation and asset stripping. The roads are much better, but off-set against that is the huge cost of flying and therefore of doing business in any convenient time. There is no jet service. I am flying to Queenstown, Napier and Sydney over the next two months and the most expensive airfare of the three is to Napier – a wopping $450 return from Auckland. This monopoly rack-renting scandal by Air New Zealand on all its routes with no competition has been going on for years, yet no government has the stomach to direct the National Airline to do one of the things you have a National Airline for – provide decent links to all parts of the country as a right to the citizens who live there.

    We need central government to subsidise the luring of new industry to this country and locating it in the provinces. The Australian states do it, we allow them to pinch our businesses without a murmur so Wellington based new-right technocrats can piously claim we are the most pure in our application of free the market system and play the wronged party at the next round of go-nowhere trade talks. The slow exporting of our nations wealth via an over-valued and unstable currency needs to be stopped. Investment capital is desperately needed in the provinces. We should re-create the State Advances Corporation to offer low-interest loans for businesses that need money to get established or to expand. We need workplace reform to re-empower workers. I described the local business elite in Hawkes Bay as grasping survivors. Actually, everyone who owns a business in the provinces is a survivor. The locals know how to make money. They just want a fair suck of the sav when they go to market. From the point of view of a Labour supporter, I see self-interest in this. A new, engaged, and organised working class is the most potent weapon a Labour party can manufacture in its war against greedy reactionaries who seek to drive most people back to Dickensian servitude.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 27, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

  66. Oh and I forgot to add Hastings was the home of crakpot anti-flouride activists for years as well. Strange, strange people they are over in Hastings.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 27, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

  67. Yeah, yeah, Class warfare is where it’s at Sanctuary. Nek Minit is woz 2011.

    Comment by will — December 27, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

  68. Hastings was the first towns to Introduce Fluoridation in water in 1954, and the results were used to justify expansion elsewhere. It was a forward-looking decision. As one of the few children in my schools who had lived only in Hastings with fluoridated water until my late teens, my teeth were frequently examined by visiting dental specialists. Given both my parents had lost all of their teeth by their forties, I greatly appreciate the introduction of public water supply fluoridation.

    It’s disappointing that vocal opponents of public water treatment can triumph over the clear and obvious statistics available on the Dept of Health web site, condemning future at-risk children to the rotten teeth of our parents and grandparents. It’s easy for the “socialised medicine” opponents of fluoridation to say people can purchase fluoride ( toothpaste etc ), but the benefits are greatest for children, and their parents already have many calls on their available money.

    Sure, fluoride is toxic, but over time the water dose has been reduced – based on the information from studies of children using treated water. Chlorine is also toxic, but the public health benefits are even more obvious to most. Some of the opponents complain about the cost of public water treatment, but they always have the option ( and increased risk ) of using water purification systems to remove such “nasty” chemicals from their household water.

    The street number system was cool, based on a USA model, every block incremented by 100, starting at the central post-office. Street number 1100 meant eleven blocks from post office, Adding North, South, East and West for roads that crossed the origin lines eg 610 North was 12 blocks from 600 South. How hard is that?.

    I left before the one-way system was complete, probably taking some of the strangeness with me.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 27, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

  69. Couple of quick points:

    Tinakori #25 – it’s like you were in the room at my interview!

    Street’s partner comes from Nelson, and they have a house there, so that may be why she stands in Nelson.

    Isn’t Danyl’s point less about the ‘candidate effect’ and more about the idea that selecting candidates that are more “of the electorate” means that they will be more likely to reflect the concerns of constituents? Labour’s selection appears to be based on whether the candidate has been a loyal servant of the party, whether through the parliamentary staff or through the union movement. Perhaps they need to approach a few people who don’t necessarily fit this prism, but who already reflect Labour’s values through their work in the community? Sort of a meritocracy, if you will…

    Comment by Augie — December 29, 2011 @ 10:37 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: