The Dim-Post

January 10, 2014

New Zealand politics and the English language

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:29 am

Stuart Nash writes:

One of the biggest challenges for Labour this year is to get its language right.  A good start would be to quickly change the way in which the media talks about the scenarios re the next government.

We always hear about the Labour-Green coalition v the National government.  I cannot remember if this was coined by the National party and adopted by the media or vice versa, but however it came about, it’s damaging to Labour’s brand.  Labour has to start talking about ‘the next Labour-led government’ and get right away from talk of a Labour-Green coalition.

Maybe I’m biased because I voted Green last time and my wife works for them now, but I think ‘Labour-Green coalition’ is a framing win for the left. And the reason for that is pretty simple: National are miles ahead of Labour in the polls, and it’s gonna seem pretty weird to a lot of people if there’s an election and Labour gets to be the government even though they ‘lose’ by a huge margin which, on current settings, is what will happen.

Doesn’t talking about ‘the Labour-Green coalition’ and how they’re ahead of National in the polls (or, currently, ‘neck and neck’ in the polls get around that legitimacy problem? I guess it would make Labour feel better about themselves if they talk about the ‘Labour-led’ government, but I can’t see the Greens buying into that framing, and from my perspective it kinda highlights the fact that Labour are ten to fifteen points behind the actual, current government.


  1. Key has already started trying to delegitimise a Labour-Green win by suggesting a plurality should be enough to govern. I don’t see why Labour should help him with that.

    Comment by pete — January 10, 2014 @ 11:39 am

  2. Australia seems to deal okay with understanding that the contest than matters is Labor versus Liberal-National. We ought to be able to cope with it here.

    Comment by pete — January 10, 2014 @ 11:41 am

  3. Really we should be describing Nat govt as National-led or the four party government or, maybe, the dance of fools.

    Comment by Andrew R — January 10, 2014 @ 11:43 am

  4. the dance of fools.

    The Axis of Mediocrity.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 10, 2014 @ 11:51 am

  5. Bitchy Daniel, Labour does need to stand alone from the Greens who will self destruct sooner or later under pressure.

    Comment by bart — January 10, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  6. One day the Greens will stop whining like some over-sensitive daddy’s princess whenever someone is mean to them.

    Today is clearly not that day.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

  7. I’m obviously not a Seasoned Political Operator like Stuart Nash … but when does *Labour* ever *not* say “Labour-led government”? It’s always Cunliffe saying things like “The Labour government I lead will …” and drawing lines about whether Russel Norman can be Minister of Finance.

    I’ve had my eyerolls in the past at Labour fans who bag the Greens on a constant basis and then suddenly get all “left bloc!!!” when the polls put Labour/Greens ahead, but like you say, Danyl, it’s the reality of MMP.

    Comment by QoT — January 10, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

  8. I don’t really think that the use of “Labour-Green coalition” over “Labour-led government” or vice versa is going to be a decisive. Some on the right think that it is important to use “Green-Labour” over “Labour-Green” in order to smear the left, which seems to me the same sort of “beltway” PR advice that makes no difference one way or the other.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — January 10, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

  9. Green-Labour over Labour-Green does make sense if (a) you’re hoping to terrify soft centrists who dallied with Key in 08/11 but swinging leftward as the shine comes of Key, but deep down are a bit freaked out by Gareth Hughes and (b) Nat loyalists who might stay home on polling day, assuming (with some justification) that the NZLP will auto-cannibalise in the run-up.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 10, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  10. There’s definitely a rich vein of resentment and fear running through the Labour caucus at the prospect of Greens filling “Labour” cabinet seats. The rejection of Norman’s finance aspirations (years before any election), Shane Jones’ continual diatribes against them, and now Stuart Nash’s wailing about people perceiving the left block as a possible “coalition” with Labour as only a part of it.

    As last time around – the biggest threat to Labour turnout is the performance of the Labour caucus itself. There’s no sense of renewel or change coming from Labour, despite the new leader. No fresh policy, even less discipline.

    If there’s one thing Labour could learn from Green MPs – it’s how not to rat-fuck their party leader.

    Comment by Oh Busby — January 10, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

  11. I think Labour has more to worry about than being delegitimised by National after forming a government.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 10, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

  12. If those nice, sensible National ministers are going to stick to their current strategy, calling the Greens “the Taliban” and “suicide bombers”, I don’t think the opposition have too much to worry about.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — January 10, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

  13. “a Seasoned Political Operator”

    pass the salt

    Comment by Sacha — January 10, 2014 @ 8:11 pm

  14. @pete: The difference, btw, is that the Liberals and National are in a permanent coalition, at least on the national level. The Greens and Labour are not, and there doesn’t seem to be any hunger for it on either side.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 10, 2014 @ 11:37 pm

  15. I think that Nash is right. Labour can only win the Govt benches by taking soft National votes. There is no way those soft centre voters will vote Green. For Labour to associate itself too closely with the Greens will scare off those centre votes. “Framing” the brand as Labour-Green might give the left a thrill but the majority of responsible NZ voters look at people like Delahunty and Hughes and want to run a mile.

    Comment by Mike — January 11, 2014 @ 6:52 am

  16. Nash is still being a zero-sum dunce. What about all the voters who stayed home? You’d think Labour’s thrashing last time following the same ‘logic’ might have learned him something.

    Comments smarter than article:

    Comment by Sacha — January 11, 2014 @ 8:31 am

  17. “get around that legitimacy problem”

    Thats the issue though, what ever words are used they are still a coalition of losers.
    Until Cunliffe ballses up and makes a principled point of difference it will always be the case.
    Core Labour voters do not like the greens, Labour voters want well paid jobs, a functioning economy, and a legitimate social welfare system.
    The Green party however currently do not appear to have any principles, they just lurch from one wacky campaign to another, continually proposing ideas that would undermine the achievement of Labour goals. The sooner Cunliffe tells the green party to sod off the better.

    Comment by Grant — January 11, 2014 @ 9:30 am

  18. Wacky? At least invent your own talking points, Grant. Embarrassing.

    Comment by Sacha — January 11, 2014 @ 10:00 am

  19. @Sacha: Do you think a lot of Labour voters stayed home because they were disappointed that Labour wasn’t nicer to the Greens?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — January 11, 2014 @ 10:24 am

  20. “Core Labour voters do not like the greens”

    Cite? Clearly you’ve seen some polling on this. plz to be sharing with the class.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — January 11, 2014 @ 10:29 am

  21. Labour needs to win the minds of the soft Nats. A Lab Green coalition is likely and everyone who follows politics knows that, so instead of avoiding the issue Labour need to come out and embrace it. If it looks like there’s something to hide voters won’t trust them. The Greens aren’t any madder than Act and they’re a lot more organised and cohesive.

    Unlike the failed previous five years labour need to convince people they’re the best choice rather than deny the right wing accusations.

    Most voters are humanists and the country has swung to the left many times before. It’s the perfect response to right wing alarmists by thoroughly undermining their arguments and saying ‘yes this is us and we’ve got it right’.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — January 11, 2014 @ 10:35 am

  22. Maybe the talk of a Labour-Greens coalition is due to Labour. David Cunliffe has asserted his plan to move to the far left and what better why to illustrate this by mentioning the Green Party every time talk of what the next Labour-led Government would be like, is mentioned in the media?

    Comment by Daniel Lang — January 11, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

  23. There is reason to believe that the soft National voter is no longer concerned by the Greens. On a sunny Saturday in September she may even vote for them.

    Comment by George D — January 11, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

  24. Kalvansen – Labour and other voters stayed home because Labour was not able to project clearly the impression that it was at least competitive in forming the next government, if not well ahead (the causes have been discussed at length).

    Comment by George D — January 11, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  25. “his plan to move to the far left”

    Ooh, reds under the beds. Bury your gold, etc.

    Comment by Sacha — January 11, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  26. David Cunliffe has asserted his plan to move to the far left…

    He’s putting nationalisation of the means of production back into the party’s manifesto?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 12, 2014 @ 6:46 am

  27. David Cunliffe has asserted his plan to move to the far left…

    Fiscal conditions permitting, of course.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 12, 2014 @ 8:42 am

  28. @ Sacha: “Comments smarter than article”

    Very true….

    Comment by D'Esterre — January 12, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

  29. Fiscal conditions permitting, of course? No, mate, keep dreaming. If our political system was like that, we wouldn’t have the pendulum swinging from extremes, we would have a written NZ constitution in one document, and we would have more democracy in the form of binding referenda on all major social issues. Labour threw money at beneficiaries last time, kept them in the laziness they were accustomed to. This time around, in our current economic climate, with a Labour-Greens coalition, we may our government printing off massive amounts of money, even though the Greens say they are not so keen on that anymore, at the moment.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — January 14, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

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