The Dim-Post

March 10, 2015

What is Labour’s optimum strategy in Northland?

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 3:17 pm

Labour Party supporter (?) Phil Quin has an op-ed in the Herald attacking Labour for strategic incoherence in the Northland by-election:

The goal of any Opposition is to inflict maximum damage on the Government and, in this case, that takes the shape of Peters defeating National in Northland. If Prime siphons enough votes from Peters to deliver victory to the Government, John Key won’t have dodged a bullet; Andrew Little will have stepped into the bullet’s path.

If Peters wins the by-election that will be bad for National and great for Winston Peters, but those don’t add up to a win for the Labour Party. Labour competes with Peters for votes. They lost about 100,000 to him in the last election and would, presumably like to get them back. So the optics of Peters single-handedly defeating National while Labour stands back, powerless aren’t very good for the Labour Party. The best outcome for them is that Peters wins but with Labour’s help, via Andrew Little’s sort-of endorsement. The risk is that Labour goes a bit too far in its overt support for him and all those National voters contemplating a vote for Peters switch back to National. The outcome here is really difficult to predict. National has chosen an unattractive candidate. But they have an amazing political machine. But Winston Peters is an incredible campaigner. But National are promising $70 million in pork. But Labour voters might vote strategically. But pro-National NZ First supporters might react to that. But they might not because of anger about Sabin. It’s very tricky stuff, but Labour’s approach so-far seems sensible to me.


  1. Two words: gambit pile-up.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — March 10, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

  2. Just at the moment anyone who can damage the “government” and seems to really want to gets my short-term thinking vote. Little has been handed a no-win scenario. But – Peters is not reliable, although he can pretend to be when it suits him…. I have to agree with some of what he says…you cant accept the opportunistic dog whistle racism, but I dont think he is, really, I’d say he’d drink with anyone and usually does. Amazingly, I have, and he’s personable. And there is the consideration that he MIGHT be a good MP for that particular electorate

    Comment by Rick Bryant — March 10, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

  3. Winston is the horse breaker of New Zealand politics, get him mounted in the saddle and soon enough a government has no spirit left.

    The optimum strategy for Labour is to engineer Winston Peters into the government benches. There he will engage in the petty, indulgent, misanthropic politics he is so perfect at. As soon as he is in place any sheen of competency attributed to the government will vanish and they will be trounced in the next election. Like Clark and Shipley before him, Key will be discarded.

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 10, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

  4. It’s a no-brainer that it’s optimal for Labour to support Peters. This is not a general election, they’re not out there losing party vote. It is nearly certain that they will gain or lose nothing, no matter what they do, and even the completely innumerate can see that. But by supporting Peters they could help deliver a heavy blow to National.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 10, 2015 @ 4:41 pm

  5. What Ben said. Plus it’s awesome watching Key and co. lose their shit.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 10, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

  6. >Plus it’s awesome watching Key and co. lose their shit.

    Totally. It’s one thing Peters seems to be good at, making butter turn to steam in Key’s mouth. They’re almost natural enemies.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 10, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

  7. There have been six by-elections since Key/National took power. In each case, Labour either held comfortably enough (four) or lost creditably enough (two). The net effect on the ensuing general election was zero. In each case, the paid prattlers in the media said something or other was significant (the New Citizens’ Party? Melissa Lee? Hekia Parata? Hone winning?) and absolutely none of it was. Not in the slightest.

    Northland might be different, it might not, but one thing is certain: adding a seventh creditable-but-irrelevant performance by a Labour candidate would be noticed by nobody, and achieve nothing.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — March 10, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

  8. And cue the distractions – terrorists in the milk powder…

    Comment by TomYum — March 10, 2015 @ 5:54 pm

  9. It’s very tricky stuff, but Labour’s approach so-far seems sensible to me.

    You thought Cunliffe was a sensible idea.

    I think Labour is yet again spending time second guessing voters and opting for clever strategies rather than just working out what sort of party they want to be and trusting they’ll get support.

    I’ve had some sympathy for them because they just happen to be stuck between Winston and The Greens so a degree of sleight of hand management is inevitable.

    But to me on number of important issues such foreign policy, trade and security Labour just can’t make up their minds what they stand for these days. They think they need to sound like the Greens but wind up siding with Winston.

    Comment by NeilM — March 10, 2015 @ 6:21 pm

  10. Italics supposed to end after first sentence.

    Comment by NeilM — March 10, 2015 @ 6:22 pm

  11. Phil Quinn is another of Josie Pagani ilk who pops up whenever the Labour Party seems to be doing ok to play the victim (the party won’t accept criticism, they must be a broad church and do what I say) and then say that anything Labour is doing is crap all from the former-Labour something or other banner.

    Comment by sheesh — March 10, 2015 @ 6:56 pm

  12. In answer to your question Danyl. Labour should accept the loss, and gain real political capital for Little from it. Andrew Little should get off his arse, endorse his candidàte, and tell the electorate that a vote for Labour is a vote for real change. When did throwing in the towel and going cap-in -hand to Winston Peters ever pass for astute strategy? Why not, instead of sending the message that Labour is the ‘Cinderella’ here, doesn’t he grow a pair, and get in behind his candidate as she fights a by-election? I grant that she’ll lose the by-election, but consider the impact of having a preening Peters claiming he holds ‘The Kingmaker’ role for the next few years! Consider how his presence will send waivering voters to National. A brave and committed show of leadership by Little may be the first step to winning the real election. At present, he just looks like he’s hiding behind a girl.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 10, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

  13. “In each case, Labour either held comfortably enough (four) or lost creditably enough (two). The net effect on the ensuing general election was zero.”

    I guess the counterargument would be that had Labour done worse in the by-elections, their general election result would have been even worse… not sure I find it persuasive, though.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — March 10, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

  14. “…Phil Quinn is another of Josie Pagani ilk…”

    Those peoples are just plain weird. They’ll deny they are Blairites, but if Blairism involves both having an unshakeable belief in your own correctness as well as not actually being left wing at all then they are Blairites with knobs on.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 11, 2015 @ 7:51 am

  15. I think before anyone gets too excited, you should consider how few “Labour voters” have turned up to vote in the last two general elections.

    Comment by rsmsingers — March 11, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  16. … and now ACT are threatening to get involved to ‘split’ NZ First’s vote.
    Those poor people.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 11, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

  17. Those poor people.

    I presume you’re referring to ACT supporters…

    Comment by Ross — March 12, 2015 @ 6:48 am

  18. No, Ross, I have some considerable reserves of empathy, but they stop at about just beforre NZ First. Sympathy for those who vote ACT may be (ahem) ‘a bridge too far’ …

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 12, 2015 @ 7:22 am

  19. Totally off topic but I read heading as “What is Labour’s opium strategy in Northland”. I will put that down to The Luminaries…

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — March 13, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

  20. When you say National has chosen an unattractive candidate, do you mean that in every sense of the word? Be honest.

    Comment by NN — March 13, 2015 @ 11:02 pm

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