The Dim-Post

July 18, 2014

The Thing With Feathers

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:18 am

Vernon Small writes:

Labour would get an immediate lift in the polls if it dumped leader David Cunliffe, a new poll suggests.

The stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll reveals that Cunliffe may have become Labour’s biggest liability, with a significant number of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for Labour if someone else were leader.

Click here for full poll results in graphics.

The effect is sizeable, making a 13.5 percentage point difference to Labour’s vote.

Although a similar effect is seen on National when asked the same question about John Key, it is much smaller.

Actual leaders always do badly against a hypothetical ‘someone else’, because voters can all project their own values onto an unspecified alternate leader. The question for Labour is: ‘Would replacing Cunliffe with Grant Robertson or David Shearer two months out from the election boost the vote?’

I have no idea. I’m one of the idiots who thought Cunliffe was really gonna turn things around for the Labour Party and lead a victorious left-wing coalition into government. But my guess is that no, a leadership change wouldn’t be a good idea. ‘Someone else’ would still be leading a party filled with people who all seem to hate each other and feel little-to-no loyalty to the Labour Party, yet paradoxically, want to become its leader or, alternately, remain a Labour MP in perpetuity. If they dump Cunliffe they also risk a backlash from the party activists who voted him in and see the poor poll results as a product of caucus disloyalty and National smear campaigns. It’s hard to run a grass roots, mobilisation-based election campaign without activists, and trying to turn out loads of voters is pretty much their only hope.

Speaking of hope, Kim Dotcom has given Chris TrotterBomber et al something far more valuable than $3,000,000. He’s given them a dream: that a couple of days before the election Kim Dotcom will produce . . . something that will turn the tide. Again, the big advantage of ‘something’ is that anyone can project their hopes and fears onto it. And maybe Dotcom will deliver. He’s offered a huge cash bounty for any information that could help his case, and his lawyers are still trying to discover stuff to prevent his extradition. But I doubt there’s a ‘gamechanger’ there. If WhaleOil’s taught us anything about politics it’s that people who promise ‘More to come’ never deliver. So I’m predicting a 50% chance that Dotcom will have nothing substantive, a 49.9% chance that he has something newsworthy – another opportunity for the Prime Minister to not remember something, maybe? – and an 0.1% chance that he has something that will cause significant numbers of voters to change their preferences at such a late stage of the election (nine days after advance voting opens).

I do know it won’t be helpful for Labour to have Dotcom dominating media coverage during the election campaign, reminding potential voters that Dotcom and Harawira would be power-brokers in any left-wing coalition government; yet another problem a leadership change won’t resolve.

29 Comments »

  1. Relevant music video for Labour’s ongoing leadership dilemmas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ES_T-4tBuA

    Comment by alex — July 18, 2014 @ 9:28 am

  2. Re: Dotcom. I’d maybe go the other way. I’d predict a 50% chance it’s nothing, a 40% chance that it’ll change a decent chunk of votes, and a 10% chance it was actually newsworthy.

    Comment by PaulL — July 18, 2014 @ 9:56 am

  3. Changing the leader now would only be attacking the symptom. The real problem is that the seat-warmers in the current caucus, especially those who served under Lange and Palmer, don’t know when to quit.

    Comment by DeepRed (@DeepRed6502) — July 18, 2014 @ 10:07 am

  4. To be fair to those of us thought Cunliffe would win, I don’t think anyone predicted just how shameless the media’s campaign against him would be.

    Comment by pete — July 18, 2014 @ 10:09 am

  5. “I do know it won’t be helpful for Labour to have Dotcom dominating media coverage during the election campaign”

    Think about poor Winston. He is going to have to out shrill Dotcom. Not going to be pretty and will probably do more damage to labour/ NZ/national than ze german.

    Time will come when National fall apart and then MMP will make NZ look like Italy. half way there now.

    Comment by Simon — July 18, 2014 @ 10:09 am

  6. “When we asked the same question about John Key National lost 5.3 per cent but gained 12.4 per cent from other parties and undecideds – a net gain of 7.1 per cent.”

    So according to the logic in that article, National would gain 7% if they dumped Key as leader. So where’s the article about Key being a liability to National?

    Comment by wtl — July 18, 2014 @ 11:00 am

  7. Nice to see you are doing your bit by keeping a relentless focus on the opposition, Danyl.

    “…To be fair to those of us thought Cunliffe would win, I don’t think anyone predicted just how shameless the media’s campaign against him would be…”

    Yeah – he has been the subject of a highly effective character assassination since day one, and the media has been complicit as the National partiy’s gang bangers.

    The modern political/media landscape of presidential infotainment means that if the right leader were to come along Labour would be transformed. I used to joking suggest that the best path to government for the Greens would have been to make Lucy Lawless a co-leader. As cynical as it sounds, Labour needs to desperately search outside the party for a new leader to be parachuted into parliament to at least get them back in the game.

    None the less, a party leader no matter how charismatic will fail if he or she does not have an instinctive grasp of what matters to their nominal core constituency; Jesus Christ would be no good if he was leader of ACT and trying to pretend he liked that party’s largely loathsome supporters. Like other socialist parties in the west that sold their souls to the dead end of supporting neo-liberal economics and third way politics it is facing a post GFC existential ideological crisis. It’s middle class parliamentarians support a narrow managerialist view of government where stae power can only serve the prevailing neo-liberal ideology instead presenting a coherent alternative radical agenda. At the same time as it faces this crisis, it’s natural support base is increasingly trapped by the web of repression of what Vaclav Havel termed the post-totalitarian state, and its politicians are increasingly drawn from a narrow class of palace politicians, gender based intellectuals and technocrats. Ideologically, it is crippled by the anti-intellectualism despite the fact Labour was born of intensely intellectual and ideological ideas.

    Like I said, this not a problem confined to the NZ social democratic left. Across the west there is an urgent need for socialism to develop a coherent, intellectual response to the crisis of capitalism (which to my mind includes the crisis of the environment as well as the GFC) and the neo-liberal post totalitarian state. Labour is unfortunately still in denial about this, and seeks refuge in incoherent managerialist opposition, stale 1990s identity politics and palace politics. As it stands, Labour is in danger of having a stagnant, mediocre and intellectually bankrupt parliamentary elite intellectually and institutionally incapable of renewing and reforming itself dwindling away like the Liberals in 1920s-30s.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 18, 2014 @ 11:08 am

  8. I had a closer look at the report from Small. It’s pretty uninformative, but from what I can tell the effect is basically National voters saying they’d be “more likely” (rather than actually likely) to vote Labour without Cunliffe. And given that more people in the sample are voting National than Labour, of course the numbers are higher than for the Key question.

    Comment by pete — July 18, 2014 @ 12:25 pm

  9. These polls are notoriously unreliable. Comparing a real person against a hypothetical always makes the real person look bad. A similar reason that people have affairs – the person they see for 2 hours a week seems much nicer than the real person they live with. If/when they divorce and try living with their affair-ee they often find it’s not all tea and rose.

    Similar polls were done that showed Rudd (almost a real person, since he’d been prime minister before) would do better than Gillard. It wasn’t true.

    Comment by PaulL — July 18, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

  10. If WhaleOil’s taught us anything…

    You’re comparing Dotcom with Cameron Slater? That’s like comparing champagne with prune juice.

    Comment by Ross — July 18, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

  11. Nice Dickinson reference🙂

    Comment by Plum — July 18, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

  12. that will cause significant numbers of voters to change their preferences at such a late stage of the election (nine days after advance voting opens).

    Why don’t you say how advance voting affected the last election? I think the Greens gained an extra seat after special votes, hardly an earth-shattering change.

    Comment by Ross — July 18, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

  13. He’s given them a dream: that a couple of days before the election Kim Dotcom will produce . . . something that will turn the tide.

    Kind of funny – the German leader is instilling hope in his troops via a claimed Sonderwaffe that will turn the tide at the last minute and ensure the endgultige Sieg. Maybe Dotcom really has spent too much time reading about Hitler…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — July 18, 2014 @ 1:07 pm

  14. Sonderwaffe? I really hope you meant to type wonderwaffe, otherwise that is a really, really stinky comparison given that “special” in the sense of sonder has genocidal connotations in this context.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 18, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

  15. @Sanctuary: When Vaclav Havel talked about the “post-totalitarian state” he was talking about Warsaw Pact states, not modern liberal democracies.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — July 18, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

  16. Why don’t you say how advance voting affected the last election? I think the Greens gained an extra seat after special votes, hardly an earth-shattering change.

    Advance votes are not the same thing as special votes. Advance “ordinary” votes (ie cast by someone on the electoral roll in the electoral district they are enrolled in) are counted the same as “ordinary” votes on election day itself. “Special” votes can be cast before the election day or on election day itself, and are only counted afterwards. Point being – you couldn’t use changes after special votes are counted to measure the effect that any event in the two weeks before the election had on voting patterns.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 18, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

  17. ‘Sonderwaffe’ = special weapon, eg V1, V2, various jet or rocket-powered aircraft. Only has genocidal connotations to the extent that any military’s weapons do.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — July 18, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

  18. Erm in as much as those weapons were of course the product of genocidal manufacturing, it’s a pretty awkward phrase to use here.

    Comment by Keir — July 18, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

  19. Then let me assure readers of the Dim Post of my complete and absolute conviction that Kim Dotcom will work no slave labourers to death in the process of delivering his election surprise, furthermore they should have confidence that my mention of this similarity was for satirical purposes only and is in no way intended to imply that actual weapons or killings carried out therewith might be involved.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — July 18, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

  20. Point being – you couldn’t use changes after special votes are counted to measure the effect that any event in the two weeks before the election had on voting patterns.

    The point I was making, Andrew, is that there will be relatively few advance votes (special or otherwise), the numbers being most unlikely to have an affect on the election unless the election is tight. At the last election there were more than 200,000 specials – they did not alter the outcome of the election to any great extent.

    Comment by Ross — July 18, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

  21. *effect*

    Comment by Ross — July 18, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

  22. “Kim Dotcom will work no slave labourers to death in the process of delivering his election surprise”

    But he owns a copy of Mein Kampf!!!!!!!!

    Comment by kalvarnsen — July 18, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  23. Not really, Keir.

    Sonder or besonders just means special or particular. It holds no more connotation of nastiness that “special” does for “Special Air Services”.
    If you were to go down that path then German military types better stop using “einsatz” every time they want to say “mission” (which would get mighty confusing for them I suspect).

    Comment by Gregor W — July 18, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

  24. @Psycho Milt – I know what “sonderwaffe” means. The actual term used for the V weapons and the like was “wunderwaffe”.

    In a WWII context (which you clearly intend it to be read), “sonder” was usually used as a euphemism by the Germans for their genocide – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonderkommando

    It pays to be careful with this sort of thing.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 18, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

  25. “…and is in no way intended to imply that actual weapons or killings carried out therewith might be involved…” Ah! I read this now.🙂

    I’d quite like it if Kim Dotcom retired to a secret HQ under White Island where, just five days before the election, he launches a V2 missile at a National party gathering. John Key would crawl from under the rubble all bloody and blackened, wave a finger and gasp before expiring “Hail Hydra”!

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 18, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

  26. I tend to agree with this headline:
    http://thestandard.org.nz/vernon-small-jumps-the-shark/

    Comment by Sacha — July 18, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

  27. The point I was making, Andrew, is that there will be relatively few advance votes (special or otherwise), the numbers being most unlikely to have an affect on the election unless the election is tight. At the last election there were more than 200,000 specials – they did not alter the outcome of the election to any great extent.

    Not quite. There were 287,000-odd “advance” votes. There were then some 225,000 “special” votes cast, some of which were on Election Day, others before it.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 18, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

  28. Doubt anything will come out but he’s a great showman.

    Comment by john — July 19, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

  29. I’m reckon a large number of people believe that John Key knew about Dotcom a long time before the raid, but they don’t care. They still like Key a whole lot more than Dotcom.

    Even if Dotcom does produce ‘hard evidence’ that the PM knew about him, I doubt it will do that much damage to National.

    Comment by Andrew — July 20, 2014 @ 8:30 am


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