The Dim-Post

May 11, 2015

Elections in the anglo-sphere

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:24 am
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There’s loads of analysis about on the outcome of the election in the UK; most of it is focused on Labour. What went wrong? Did they choose the wrong Miliband brother? Should they return to Blairism? And so on.

Seems to me that one of Labour’s biggest problems – both here and in the UK – is that they’re faced with an opponent that is (a) better resourced than them and (b) uses those resources to make themselves far, far better at politics than their left-wing opponents.

Just after his election victory David Cameron announced that the UK was ‘on the brink of something special’. Key has been promising New Zealand we’re on ‘The cusp of something special’. The messaging is consistently similar. The Conservative Party’s strategy in the UK election was pretty much the same as National’s strategy last year. It’s because they have the same strategic advisers of course – the infamous Crosby/Textor, who are also very active in Australian Federal and state elections.

Which gives their clients a huge advantage. Not only can they deliver data and market-research driven advice, they can trial-run lines and strategies across multiple separate-but-similar electorates, hone the techniques and sell successful ideas on to their other clients – who are all right-wing parties that want to see each other succeed.

Often when something goes wrong for John Key and the media goes ballistic, Key will often ‘talk past’ the media and deliver lines directly to the voters. And it always works. He gets to do that because of a huge wealth of empirical data about how voters react to different issues, gleaned from years of study across these multiple electorates.

Labour and the other opposition parties in these other electorates can’t do that. And it shows. They’re forced to experiment, releasing policies or taking positions on issues on a trial basis. Will the public like it? Do they respond? And if the media reaction is critical then they reverse position. They’re playing a complex game in which they know the desired outcome, but not the actual rules, against opponents who know the rulebook back-to-front as well as all the loopholes.

There are other structural factors at work, of course. But the triumph of empirically based political strategy and messaging is a very big deal that’s getting missed alongside all the chatter about Labour ‘moving to the left, or the center’ etc.

113 Comments »

  1. Partially true Danyl I think. True that the sharing goes on. Untrue that the left don’t also do this sharing. Julia Gillard’s senior team came from the UK and a number of them went back. In the last Australian election one of the big stories going around was that the left had imported important expertise from the Obama campaign in social media and motivating particular categories of voter. I’d expect much of that experience then carried through into people who turned up in the NZ or UK campaigns.

    I’d be more inclined to the view that the strategy that the winners took is credited with the win. If Labour had won the election we’d be talking about how Labour outplayed the Tories on the ground.

    My personal view is that most of these elections are explained by the middle, by the economic performance of the incumbent, and the likeability of their leader. Gillard wasn’t likeable (nor was Abbott), things were going south fast in Australia economically, and Gillard was moving left in her coalition with the Greens (no longer in the centre).

    Cameron has governed from the centre and the UK’s economic performance (as compared to the rest of Europe) has been pretty good. Miliband was unlikeable and pushing hard to the left. On average people in the UK thought that they didn’t want to be more like France, Spain or Greece, which is really what Miliband was selling.

    In NZ, Key has governed from the centre, and Labour promised a move leftwards, along with having a potential coalition with the Greens taking them further left. Notwithstanding the beliefs of many on the left, NZ is actually going reasonably well, and when a political party promises to change everything (but things are going reasonably well for most NZers) that scares them.

    I think the lesson here is that in a country that’s doing OK you win elections by saying “we’re mostly steady as she goes, other than these 5 specific things that we think those crazy baby eating capitalists have got wrong.” When you say “the whole country is screwed and we want to change everything” then those people (most people) who are doing OK get scared.

    Comment by PaulL — May 11, 2015 @ 11:33 am

  2. Danyl, your ability to constantly ignore both Occam’s and Hanlon’s razors is quite special.

    Comment by rsmsingers — May 11, 2015 @ 11:39 am

  3. Thank god the left won’t listen to you paul. It’s going to be the voters are stupid ,spin doctors lied,right wing etc

    Comment by Graham — May 11, 2015 @ 11:47 am

  4. Other elements;

    1. Complete domination of an essentially uncritical media
    2. Unlikable / ineffective political opposition
    3. Presidential style image creation of “The Leader as everyman”

    As you have alluded to the CT dual strategy of shaping the public consciousness in this direction and political ‘wedge’ manufacturing is critical to this approach.

    Saying that, the elephant in the room that galvanised the centre-right / right vote was the SNP threat.
    Similar to the AMP / GP ‘devil-beast’ line but far more potent because it was actually a real threat to the status quo.
    On one hand they’ve now been effectively neutralised due to an outright Tory majority but on the other, the Union is effectively over.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  5. Like the Conservatives, the National Party has millions of dollars to play with. You can do a lot with that much money.

    Comment by Fraud — May 11, 2015 @ 11:59 am

  6. Totally agree Danyl. As someone pointed out, in the UK CT and the Conservatives planted the idea that Miliband was “weird” – the same way they did here about Cunliffe. Very effective. Although neither did anything as weird as pulling repeatedly at a woman’s ponytail.

    Comment by Dita De Boni — May 11, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

  7. Notwithstanding the beliefs of many on the left, NZ is actually going reasonably well, and when a political party promises to change everything (but things are going reasonably well for most NZers) that scares them.

    That’s my impression from talking to people, they feel the economy is doing ok. That’s not a message they are getting from CT – it’s their day to day experience.

    I follow political discussion in France mostly rather than in NZ and there’s been quite a bit about the broader troubles of the centre Left. Here it’s just Key’s a liar, the media, neoliberals a etc which probably doesn’t help.

    Comment by NeilM — May 11, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

  8. Part of the National/Conservative advantage is that they treat their policy as propaganda. Statements by Key and Cameron (and the rest of their parties) are only intended to get an outcome (either “vote for us”, or “don’t vote for them”). They don’t care whether the voter believes the statement or not. They don’t care that the statement might not be true. They don’t care whether their statements play to the bad (or good) natures of the voter’s psyche. They don’t care whether the voter misinterprets the statement or not.

    It’s really difficult to fight against this sort of willing mastery of propaganda, without becoming the same party just with a different badge (which would alienate many voters who don’t like the National/Conservative approach).

    The UK election being FPP doesn’t help either.

    Comment by RJL — May 11, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

  9. While the NZ Labour party might be short off money, The British Labour party isn’t and it can afford polling and advice. Something else is to blame.

    Crosby-Textor succeed because they operate from a clearly defined, aggressive ideological base that means they can create a coherent agenda that allows a right wing narrative to seize the initiative. Once you have the initiaitve, your opponents are forced to dance to your tune. In this they are aided by a right wing media full of Caesar Flickermans and lots and lots of money. They do this by the simple expedient of creating an enemy within to wedge their opponents against – boat people, the Greens, the SNP, beneficiaries, anyone who isn’t “like us”.

    But as in war, you can only seize the political initiative if the enemy is to timid to enact a plan of it’s own. In this, they are ably abetted by the ideologically weak at the knee appeasers of the centre-left, who still behave as if they think the neo-liberal jihadists are reasonable people they can do a deal with instead of understanding they are fanatics who must be stopped.

    The Crosby strategy of painting a Labour-SNP coalition as an undemocratic outrage perfectly illustrates both sides of the coin. Sure, Crosby set the agenda – but Labour then spinelessly conformed by being evasive then ruling out a deal with the SNP, confirming in the mind of English voters the validity of the right wing narrative while at the same time allowing Milliband to be portrayed as a prevaricating weakling. It seems to me that a counter-attack (“The Scots are British to, and we will deal with our fellow British to form a government. Cameron wishes to divide us against ourselves to win power”) to try disrupt the Crosby-driven message would have done no worse for Labour than the actual outcome, and could have possibly won them the election. The trouble is, Labour (there and here) STILL refuse to refurbish their rhetoric, and rethink their socialism to make it fit for the 21st century.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 11, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

  10. Complete domination of an essentially uncritical media

    This doesn’t sit well with the “shy Tory” effect we’ve seen in the UK in 2015 and, to a lesser extent, in NZ in 2014.

    Despite what the activist-left say about the media, I find it very difficult to believe that voters, en-masse, would be unwilling to self-identify as right-wing to polling companies if their main engagement with politics (through the media) is also pro-right-wing. These two things, probably, can’t both be true at the same time.

    Comment by Phil — May 11, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

  11. The Scots are British to, and we will deal with our fellow British to form a government. Cameron wishes to divide us against ourselves to win power”)

    One other comment. For a left wing populist counter-attack to work, it is not enough for it to simply be popular. it must also resonate with left wing values. Thus, the latest piece of attempted nasty populist bullshit from the NZ Labour party (using benefits as a way to force people to enrol) fails. It fails because it seeks to punish the weak, and to divide the people into a petty bourgeois vision of a mass of the deserving and undeserving. It stand with the establishment, seeking to coerce behaviour by using the law as a weapon. These basic betrayals of fundamental left wing values should be screamingly obvious to anyone who has the conceit to describe themselves as an elected left (or even centre-left) politician, and the fact it clearly isn’t obvious to the NZ Labour party is a worrying commentary on the state of the internal intellectual debate within that party.

    Thus, if Milliband had of said “The Scots are British to, and we will deal with our fellow British to form a government. Cameron wishes to divide us against ourselves to win power” he would still have been attacked. But an appeal to British unity and empathy with the Scots would have been internally ideologically coherent with social-democratic values, something the electorate instinctively understands.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 11, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  12. Is there any way to find out exactly how much money the National party actually has versus the Labour party? I’ve only been able to find out how much they spent in the last election: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11406705.(Looks like the Greens outspent Labour, which is rather strange.)

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — May 11, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

  13. To be fair, “the latest piece of attempted nasty populist bullshit from the NZ Labour party” is not endorsed by the leader or caucus, it is Tim Barnett and the party HQ being idiots again. But of course National with its professional political management would never let Peter Goodfellow or Greg Hamilton make public statements like that.

    Comment by Mike — May 11, 2015 @ 12:59 pm

  14. The propaganda/CT line implies a stupid public.

    I’ve felt for a while that treating the public with a little more respect with more nuanced arguments than Key is a liar, the Nats are doing nothing about Auckland housing etc. might have wider appeal outside the activist base.

    From where I am in central Auckland I can see 4 new apartment buildings going up. Walk along ponsonby ridge and there’s more. And they’re all well build and designed.

    And then I look at Twitter and the blogs and it’s all Key doing nothing. Well it’s not my experience. I’m not sure what credit National deserve but in the past few years there’s been a huge growth in the number of apartment complexes being built.

    And I imagine I’m not the only person in Auckland to understand that 10 years ago there was a major slump in Auckland building and in the meantime a huge growth in people wanting to live in Auckland.

    Reducing this all to evil National not wanting a CGT might not get a lot of traction. It hasn’t for the past 6 years.

    Comment by NeilM — May 11, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

  15. @NeilM: The propaganda/CT line implies a stupid public.

    No. Propaganda is effective, despite the public being clever. That’s the point of it.

    Comment by RJL — May 11, 2015 @ 1:32 pm

  16. NeilM’s aspirational visions fuelled by gallic fantasies, no doubt. Meantime, something a little home-grown might provide something to think about:

    http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2015/05/11/gordon-campbell-on-lessons-for-labour-from-the-uk-election/

    Comment by paritutu — May 11, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

  17. @NeilM I can see 4 new apartment buildings going up…I’m not sure what credit National deserve but in the past few years there’s been a huge growth in the number of apartment complexes being built.

    See. Classic propaganda. “Here are some good sounding, and irrefutable facts, taken out of context, followed by an unfounded, improvable, unarguable, implication that these facts are a consequence of government policy/action”.

    Comment by RJL — May 11, 2015 @ 1:39 pm

  18. Hang on, why can conservative parties share info successfully but not Labour ones? Labour NZ was apparently aided by Australian labor and U.S. democratic
    party strategists at the last election.

    There’s also the huge assumption by you that issues, tactics and messaging seamlessly flow across national boundaries and parties. Do you really think key issues like Immigration and education and health are similarly aligned across the UK/Aus/NZ?

    I read uk labour got U.S. democratic party support particularly for its social media campaign, but a lot of attention for blame is focusing on the inexperience of the Labour strategy team chosen by Milliband. That indicates a failure of leadership not the result of magic conservative pixie dust spread by Crosby Textor across the world.

    Comment by insider — May 11, 2015 @ 1:43 pm

  19. “Is there any way to find out exactly how much money the National party actually has versus the Labour party?”

    It wasn’t that long ago that Labour fundraising was equal to or more than Labour’s.

    I am always struck by how Labour and the left wing in NZ borrow so much without thinking from the UK Labour Party. Often it seems like they haven’t even looked at the NZ experience and just adopted something because it has been endorsed by those they believe have higher powers. The Green’s call for quantitative easing when our interest rates were higher than most of the rest of the world was perhaps the most spectacular example. Even the embarassing jargon comes from the UK, witness Labour’s “smoked salmon offensive” when they were wooing the business sector after royally pissing them off in the first half of their first term. Talk about prisoners of Mother England, they don’t even have their own language.

    Honestly, Danyl, you should know by now. Labour don’t do empirical because it might tell them things they don’t want to know and contradict the inherent ability of Labour MPs to understand the voting public.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 11, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

  20. @ RJL

    That definition of propaganda sounds eerily similar to the various national crises Lab/Greens have been pushing in recent years. Manufacturing crisis anyone? According to you propaganda works on smart people, why not these crisis propaganda? Maybe because it’s the propaganda that’s dumb.

    Comment by insider — May 11, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

  21. My impression is that CT succeeded because they really know how to do negative campaigning. The key message was that whatever voters thought about the Conservatives, Labour (and especially Labour in cahoots with the savages from the SNP) represented an unacceptable risk. To be fair, they did have the advantage of a national press that was partisan even by British standards. The Sun was actually more negative on Miliband than it was on poor old Neil Kinnock in 1992 and the Telegraph’s behaviour was a disgrace – its editors literally let the Conservative campaign write a key front-page story. But, as was the case here last year, those things don’t take unless there’s some purchase there already. The other thing was smart targeting . Those disillusioned Lib Dem voters didn’t slide over to the Conservatives by accident – the electorates where the the Lib Dems were in trouble were identified and focused on. One thing that did amazing me was that the Conservatives were allowed to go into an election with a Budget predicated on a £12 billion reduction in welfare costs – which Osborne actually refused to explain. It’s still not remotely clear where the savings will come from, but the attempt to bridge the gap won’t be pretty.

    Comment by russell brown — May 11, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

  22. @insider According to you propaganda works on smart people…

    Oh, it works on dumb ones too.

    @insider …why not these crisis propaganda?

    Because successful propaganda is a long-term process. Crisis propaganda only works when the ground has been prepared by a low rumble of previous ongoing propaganda disseminated through multiple media.

    That’s the value of ponytailgate, etc. It is part of the message that National are a bunch of fuckwit man-children you shouldn’t trust to buy a cup of coffee unaccompanied, let alone run a country. Of course, needs to be dove-tailed with on-going positive messages about Labour (or whomever).

    The advantage that National has is that it seemingly considers its own public policies as just another propaganda tool for delivering messaging. Whereas, Labour is a bit confused about whether policies are messaging tools or a genuine manifesto of what the party believes / intends to do.

    Comment by RJL — May 11, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

  23. “Labour and the other opposition parties in these other electorates can’t do that.”

    Yes, because we still live in the age of the Telegraph, and a newspaper takes up to three years to report an earthquake in the remoter parts of the world. How are we to compete with top-hatted monocle-sporting fat-cats with their new-fangled ‘elastic-trickery’?

    If the so called brightest and the best of the political world, can’t look at information, analyse, evaluate and think creatively about how to better inform the voting public of how they intend to make the world a better place according their world-views, why would any swaying voter consider them? I’d suggest if the people running a political party can’t read and write properly, study media, and make decisions based on empirical data, about what ‘works’ in a political campaign, it raises the question; what would be the point of considering them capable of running a country?

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 11, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

  24. @Lee Clark “…it raises the question; what would be the point of considering them capable of running a country?”

    Whereas having the funding to take the opportunity to run an effective (albeit perhaps unethical) advertising campaign is exactly the skill-set needed for running the country.

    Comment by RJL — May 11, 2015 @ 3:06 pm

  25. @Lee #23 – the trouble is the “brightest and the best of the political world” don’t work for political parties or the public service.
    They work for CT.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

  26. I’ve posted on this before, but remember NZ Labour is an organisation the has no idea how to communicate effectively, which is a bit of an impediment when you consider that it’s in the business of politics.

    While I’m sure that the Labour comms team occasionally and temporarily counts talented communicators among its ranks, collectively the organisation is ignorant of the techniques and methodology of effective communication. To them Crosby Textor’s success is a complete mystery. I’m not sure that they even know what Crosby Textor does.

    Remember that Gary Larson Far Side cartoon about “What you say – what dogs hear”?

    I suspect that when you say to Labour, the organisation, “you need to do focused polling not on what people care about but how much they care about it, you need to use that information to develop key points that will influence people to vote for you in the places that you need votes the most, and then you need to work out what to say, when, and also about what things you need to say absolutely nothing, and you need to sit down with a calendar and work out when and where the best places to be seen saying things are”, what Labour actually hears is “ooga booga magic dust”. Otherwise there’s nothing that can explain the fish, and the ginger hairdo, and the man ban, and the “my house is a doer-upper”, and the “let’s penalise beneficiaries for not voting”.

    The really depressing bit about Labour is that it is totally 100% religiously convinced of the self-evident awesomeness of its platform. “We’re awesome, and our policies are awesome, and if people don’t vote for us that means that the people are stupid sheep who don’t deserve our awesome.”

    The thought that the people might need to be listened to and that the policies might need to be amended based on what the people care about is just crazy talk. Ask third parties for advice? Pffft. Hire third parties to help work out what people care about? Pffft. Get third parties to identify what policies will most likely make a difference to the way people vote? Pffft. Magic dust. Beneath us. Our awesome is self-evident.

    Hey, Labour and Labour and Labor, all of you have been buttfucked on national TV recently, and each time it’s been by an opponent who used the services of one particular campaign strategy firm. Did any of you think of maybe hiring a campaign strategy firm yourselves? Like, maybe even Crosby Textor? Or like maybe finding out if Crosby Textor has any strong competition and hiring that firm? Like maybe seeing if any of Crosby Textor’s key talent could be incentivised into jumping ship and setting up a competitor? No?

    Didn’t think so. That sort of nonsense is for political parties who aren’t awesome.

    Comment by @simongarlick — May 11, 2015 @ 3:43 pm

  27. “…I’ve posted on this before…”

    Yup, and 2009 called and asked for it back.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 11, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

  28. Prior to the UK elections Crosby Textor most recently ran strategy for the Liberal/National Party in Victoria 2014 and Queensland 2015. The results speak for themselves. CT aren’t that good.

    “There are other structural factors at work, of course.”

    Yeah, you might want to look at those things. CT are well over rated.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 11, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

  29. Having been lavishly catered for by UMR twice at Christcurch,s top hotel on behalf of the Labour research department I think funding is not the issue but perhaps the woeful policy mix and their line up is a little dated and uninspiring.

    Comment by David — May 11, 2015 @ 4:06 pm

  30. Prior to the UK elections Crosby Textor most recently ran strategy for the Liberal/National Party in Victoria 2014 and Queensland 2015. The results speak for themselves. CT aren’t that good.

    I think the point is that Crosby Textor will have learned valuable lessons from those two regional races and those lessons will be incorporated into Crosby Textor’s campaigns from here on.

    Comment by @simongarlick — May 11, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

  31. @ unaha-closp #28.

    Two words. Tony Abbott.
    Some things are just unfixable.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 4:14 pm

  32. “…I’ve posted on this before…”

    Yup, and 2009 called and asked for it back.

    2009 called back a few minutes later – said that Simon can put it back in the shed, right alongside the last original joke you made.

    Comment by Phil — May 11, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

  33. Apropos

    http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2014/09/reality-adjacent/

    I have been criticising Labour, in particular, since at least 2007 on their unwillingness or inability to bring modern data-driven campaign and media strategy to bear in their campaigns — effectively, to embrace The Game and play it to win, rather than regarding it as a regrettable impediment to some pure and glorious ideological victory. Mostly the responses I get from the faithful fall under one or more of the following:

    – National has inherent advantages because the evil old MSM is biased
    – the polls are biased because landlines or something
    – the inherent nature of modern neoliberal society is biased
    – people have a cognitive bias towards the right’s messaging because Maslow
    – it inevitably leads to populist pandering and the death of principle
    – The Game itself devours the immortal soul of anyone who plays ( which forms a handy way to demonise anyone who does play)

    But data is not a Ring of Power that puts its users in thrall to the Dark Lord. And, unlike the One Ring, it can’t be thrown into a volcano and the world saved from its pernicious influence. Evidence and strategy are here to stay. Use them, or you’re going to get used. The techniques available to David Farrar and the National party are not magic. They are available to anyone. Whether Labour has poor data or whether they use it poorly I do not know. It looks similar from the outside, and I have heard both from people who ought to know. But it doesn’t really matter. Data is only as good as what you do with it. Whatever they’re doing with it isn’t good enough.

    The best example from this campaign isn’t Labour, however — it’s Kim Dotcom. He said on election night that it was only in the past two weeks that he realised how tainted his brand was. He threw $4.5 million at the Internet MANA campaign and it polled less than the Māori Party, who had the same number of incumbent candidates and a tiny fraction of the money and expertise. Had he thought to spend $30,000 on market research* asking questions like those asked by Curia about what New Zealanders think of Kim Dotcom, he could have saved himself the rest of the money, and saved Hone Harawira his seat, Laila Harré her political credibility, and the wider left a severe beating.

    That is effective use of data: not asking questions to tell you what you want to hear, but to tell you what you need to know. This electoral bloodletting is an opportunity for the NZ political left to become reality-adjacent, and we can only hope they take it. Because if they don’t, reality is just going to keep winning.

    Comment by @simongarlick — May 11, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

  34. “they deliver data and market-research driven advice, they can trial-run lines and strategies across multiple separate-but-similar electorates”

    “Key will often ‘talk past’ the media and deliver lines directly to the voters” etc etc

    Sounds a little like direct democracy. CT have tripped over it by mistake. Direct dempcracy is the future. If NZ Labo can work more to referendum (get ahead of National) they will piss in.

    http://www.parliament.uk/e-Petitions-and-the-Backbench-Business-Committee

    Comment by Simon — May 11, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

  35. I think the point is that Crosby Textor will have learned valuable lessons from those two regional races and those lessons will be incorporated into Crosby Textor’s campaigns from here on.

    Nah, they’re just lucky.

    Sept 2014 – CT provide awesome advice to NZ National Party. Nov 2014 – CT provide horrible advice to Vic LNP. Jan 2015 – CT provide even worse utterly disastrous advice to Qld LNP. May 2015 – CT provide awesome advice to UK Tories.

    CT do have great sales PR in word of mouth moaning by left wingers saying how infamously effective CT are. Maybe Danyl is doing a bit of paid PR for them (just kidding).

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 11, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

  36. Fair points Danyl, but I think we can simplify it even more (while accepting that “simple” doesn’t make for great debate).

    Labourish (centre-left/NotRight) parties win from opposition when the public are saying “we’re sick of this lot in power”, rather than “we are now converted to the opposition’s principles and sensible policies”. It’s less ideology and strategy, more exasperation and exhaustion.

    The voters were sick of NZ Nats 1999, sick of Major’s mess in 1997, of Bushes 2008 and 1992, of Aus Howard 2008, etc. In each case, the opposition leader was electable – which matters – but they were also lucky with timing.

    I admit that waiting for longevity to take its toll is not an inspiring call to arms, but historically the Tories/Right don’t get dumped after one term.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 11, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

  37. CT provide awesome advice to NZ National Party. Nov 2014 – CT provide horrible advice to Vic LNP. Jan 2015 – CT provide even worse utterly disastrous advice to Qld LNP. May 2015 – CT provide awesome advice to UK Tories.

    Like GW said above, the two losses have Tony Abbott in common. Some handicaps are just too big.

    Comment by @simongarlick — May 11, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

  38. Like GW said above, the two losses have Tony Abbott in common. Some handicaps are just too big.

    GW meant it as a joke I presume.

    But if you’re serious you mean the elected PM of Australia is unelectable, forgive me but I think I can spot a slight flaw in the logic there.

    Plus recently Tony Abbott has been polling like David Cameron.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 11, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

  39. I think the elected PM of Australia is unelectable.

    At the last Federal election Australia voted to be rid of Kevin Rudd. It didn’t know or care who the other guy was, so long as he wasn’t Kevin Rudd. It just turned out to be Tony Abbott.

    Comment by @simongarlick — May 11, 2015 @ 5:17 pm

  40. I don’t think it’s a matter of moving left or right but stopping shouting and high moralising.

    I was surprised when Labour went with the holiday highway attsck line re the northern motorway extention.

    Yes it went down well with Labour supporters on the internet but did no one in labour think about how it might go down with people who live north of Auckland, who’s votes Labour might find handy?

    And also just gradually over time creating an air of economic responsibility. The circus of one minute removing GST will save the children and you hate the children if you don’t agree followed by a rapid airbrushing the policy out of their history doesn’t inspire confidence. I doubt many people know what Labour’s policy on a CGT is this week.

    Probably quite a few Auclanders would like the govt to increase infrastructure spend in Auckland. Who wouldn’t want the govt keepibg their rates down. But that might not go down well with the rest of the country.

    And I think people would respect that sort of – the problems are difficult, there’s no easy solution type of approach.

    Comment by NeilM — May 11, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

  41. @ Tinakori “I am always struck by how Labour and the left wing in NZ borrow so much without thinking from the UK Labour Party. …Talk about prisoners of Mother England, they don’t even have their own language.”

    Yeah, that is annoying. But not as much as the wholesale adoption of American anti-welfare rhetoric from the likes of Lawrence Mead and Charles Murray. The term “welfare” was rarely used in a pejorative sense in New Zealand until the National Party used it to pass draconian legislation such as Ruth Richardson’s Mother of All Budgets.

    Comment by Kay — May 11, 2015 @ 5:44 pm

  42. The Australian Rugby league team has dominated for many years but appears somewhat in the doldrums, that’s what happens over time. Experienced players who were once an asset have become a liability. Or, in the words of a famous song, into each life a little rain must fall.

    Just ask the defunct National candidate for Northland…

    Comment by Ross — May 11, 2015 @ 5:52 pm

  43. Nonsense. In the end the English didn’t want to be told what to do by the SNP and voted accordingly. When will the left accept that the average Joe can think for themselves and aren’t the sleepy hobbits of Bradbury’s vaudeville blog.

    Comment by artcroft — May 11, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

  44. @Tinkaori #10

    I’m not sure what you mean by noting that the “shy tory” effect cancels out the very real any anti-left bias in the UK media (the Indy excepted), but most obviously in the Murdoch shit-rags.

    Voters may well not be self-identifying with the right. They may well not be making up their mind until the last few days when the scaremongering really ratchets up, or indeed until they’re in the booth. And as plenty of sociologists and pol sci people will tell you, under stress or confused, people revert to type. In the polling booth, that would tend to favour natural conservatism (small c, though in this sense instance in coincides with the Conservatives as the status quo) over perceived radicalism.

    While they may well have had more leftish sympathies, I think there were a bunch of factors that swayed the voters all in the last week or so.

    1. The SNP boogeyman brought the traditional Tory vote out
    2. The Lib Dems got punished for their shitty performance over the last 5 years and their vote swung to the Tories
    3. The broadshsheets both crucified Milliband and pitched Cameron, as did the BBC (not sure what their dog in the race was frankly)
    4. The gutter press split the working class left vote by pitching UKIP, without airing their nasty rascist laundry

    The end result was that Milliband was portrayed as a fucking hopeless, uncomfortable, awful, nerdy trainwreck vs Cameron’s sleek, plump, faux working-man demeanour – also, Russell Brand ffs?! Who advised Milliband on that one?!

    All of the above – minus the Brand bit which was a splendid own goal – were part of a tightly managed media strategy and Murdoch picking his horse long ago.

    In fact, we’ve seen exactly the same pitch here. Unsurprisingly.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 7:52 pm

  45. “… the English didn’t want to be told what to do by the SNP and voted accordingly…”

    An opinion they formed after months of being told that by the Crosby-Textor led Tory press.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 11, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

  46. “…very real any anti-left bias in the UK media (the Indy excepted)…”

    The Independent is now owned by a Russian oligarch, and it’s editorial line is changing accordingly.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 11, 2015 @ 8:22 pm

  47. Reblogged this on Talking Auckland and commented:
    So do the Left get their act together and fight fire with fire and trying and muster resources to try and rope in their own Crosby/Textor…

    Comment by Ben Ross - Talking Auckland — May 11, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

  48. @Sanc – that may be but the Indy certainly didn’t excoriate Milliband on a daily basis.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 8:31 pm

  49. Miliband hired David Axelrod, Obama’s chief campaign advisor, to help with the Labour campaign.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 11, 2015 @ 8:36 pm

  50. @karlvarnsen – with respect, that means two-fifths of fuck all.
    Obama and Milliband were different clay to mould, for pretty obvious reasons.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

  51. Are there exit polls or other data available that give an indication of why people voted the way they did? I’m thinking of the UK election but equally applicable to NZ. Journalists and others might claim middle England were scared off Labour because of negative campaigning by the Tories/CT, but do they have evidence to support that? Correlation does not equal causation etc…

    Comment by Seb Rattansen — May 11, 2015 @ 9:37 pm

  52. Is there a bit of a reality vacuum here? Can anyone really not see that putting up a deep red union man who was very uninspiring (aka Milliband), and then have him tack vigorously left notwithstanding that things were mostly going OK in the UK and going quite poorly in the closest European countries that had tacked left…..well, that it wasn’t a great campaign strategy? You can Crosby Textor all you like, I reckon they were just there to take the credit for Labour screwing the pooch all on their own.

    Comment by PaulL — May 11, 2015 @ 9:40 pm

  53. @PaulL – you’re mixing up cause and affect there, chap.

    In the main, Europe swung left post GFC and have been royally screwed over by The Money for not staying the austerity course.

    Also, if you look at the numbers dispassionately, a huge chunk of the British electorate did swing left of Labour – they haemorrhaged votes to the SNP and the Greens – but is was not reflected in the FPP system.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 11, 2015 @ 9:58 pm

  54. @Gregor W: arguably the electorate swung right – from the LibDems to the Tories. They’ve always had an FPP system, the right have more seats now than they did before. Hard to argue that more voters went left I would have thought. To some extent there was a loss from the centre to both left and right.

    Comment by PaulL — May 11, 2015 @ 10:09 pm

  55. Oh, and “have been royally screwed over by The Money”. So you mean that people with money to invest aren’t keen to put it into countries that appear to have no prospect nor intention of paying it back? Is that your definition of screwing over? I’m not entirely sure why the average German taxpayer would want to give their tax dollars to countries that appear to be making no effort to becoming self sufficient. I sure as hell wouldn’t want my tax dollars going there? Are you personally buying Greek bonds because you don’t mind getting back less money than you put in?

    Comment by PaulL — May 11, 2015 @ 10:11 pm

  56. I find the comments that some people are making about money. Yes, the Nats apparently have a good war chest right now, and Labour don’t. To a large extent, that is because they neglected it for so long, after Helen left, because it seemed beneath them, I suppose. But the point I want to make is that EVERY serious analysis shows that the amount of money spent does not carry over to votes. If it did, Mana and the Internet Party would have seats, and so would the NZ Conservative party. They don’t, because their ideas and methods were repulsive to enough New Zealanders that they did not get the votes they wanted.

    I think that Sanctuary made the point very early on: “The trouble is, Labour (there and here) STILL refuse to refurbish their rhetoric, and rethink their socialism to make it fit for the 21st century.” Labour has moved away from its constituency, and refuses to listen to those of us who used to vote for them, but don’t anymore. It doesn’t have to do with money, although it helps; it has to do with both the message and how its conveyed. You can look for some evil backroom manipulator all you want, but really it boils down to competency and convincing people that (1) you are capable of doing the job and (2) won’t f**k it up in a major way. Labour recently has simply not convinced enough people of either of those points.

    Comment by David from Christchurch — May 11, 2015 @ 11:03 pm

  57. @Gregor: My point was simply that drawing on international expertise is not the exclusive province of the right.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 12, 2015 @ 6:38 am

  58. Being in UK it’s quite simple to understand why Labour lost here and I wonder if it applies in NZ. Most households earning 40k here (ave HH earnings) are not well off at all yet the way Labour portrayed these people was as if they were rolling in riches and ripe to tap for bundles more tax. 40k doesn’t buy families much beyond eating, school and sheltering and the further south you get the more costly it is. In London it’s pretty hard for a family to shelter themselves at all on 40k that given either the 18k it would cost in rent a 3 bedroom or a combined 10k to commute if you want to liv further out it’s insanely expensive. Everyones wages have been frozen for 5 years so it is getting worse. Labour door canvassers were telling us we need to do more when most of us are just trying to get ahead or get a mortgage. Milliband and Labour scared everyone off plain and simple. The conservatives aren’t exactly “in touch” with everyone’s struggle, they’re just the least “out-of-touch” with it. For the middle class it was the least worst case. Labour bombed it. It’s not like we all love Cameron.

    Comment by JG — May 12, 2015 @ 7:04 am

  59. “…why the average German taxpayer would want to give their tax dollars to countries that appear to be making no effort to becoming self sufficient…”

    The “German taxpayer” lent billions to countries like Greece so the Greeks could spend the money on things like German cars and German construction firms and now they are demanding the loan back as well. So, the Germans lent money to people they should have known could never afford to pay it back to buy stuff they didn’t need off German firms and then the Germans demanded the loan money back as well. Why people can’t grasp that this makes the German banks/taxpayer guilty of first loan sharking and now racketeering is beyond me.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 12, 2015 @ 9:15 am

  60. Perhaps Sanctuary, it’s because you’re wrong? The Germans mostly didn’t loan them money, other people loaned the Greeks money so they could waste it. Those people (largely banks of one sort or another) assumed that Europe would bail out the Greeks, or more accurately just didn’t care. When the crash came it turned out that the Greeks had little chance of repaying. The lenders took a significant haircut, but more importantly, Europe Inc essentially brought all those loans (after the haircut/discount), as a way of bailing out Greece. So Greece already got a decent discount on the loans, but then they still needed more money. Funnily enough the private sector weren’t so keen to loan again, so those loans came from the IMF and ECB. Poverty-struck countries in Africa have to pay back IMF loans, why the hell should first world countries not have to pay them back?

    I think the basic problems in your argument are therefore:
    – “things like German xyz” is not the same as “actually German xyz”. I doubt much of that money got spent in Germany
    – even if it did get spent in Germany, that’s kind of irrelevant.
    – yes, the original lenders should have known Greece couldn’t pay it back. Banks are supposed to have risk rating processes. But they took a big haircut as a result of that, and Greece agreed to that haircut. They’re now seeking to pay back less than they agreed
    – the Germans (and the rest of Europe) actually don’t have to give Greece any more money. If Greece wants to borrow more money then they need to meet the terms of the lenders. I don’t get to go to my bank to borrow money, and when they say “9% interest for an unsecured loan” I throw a fit and demand they lend to me at 1%. It’s not actually how the world works – the Greeks cannot just vote for the Germans to give them free money. Only the Germans can vote to do that, and they don’t appear inclined to do so.

    Comment by PaulL — May 12, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  61. Why people can’t grasp that this makes the German banks/taxpayer guilty of first loan sharking and now racketeering is beyond me.

    People (unlike you) can work out Germans mostly aren’t bankers.

    German bankers (millionaires and billionaires the lot) lent money to Greek banks and the Greek government. German bankers are taxpayers in only the very loosest sense, they occasionally pay sales tax on a beer, but avoid paying anything else. When the Greeks fell behind in their payments and the German bankers (& all other bankers) stopped lending the Greeks more money. A Greek default would mean the German banks going bust and not being able to finance the working German economy. The German government couldn’t allow that to happen, so they got the German taxpayer (not the tax avoiding German banker types) to loan money to the Greeks, who take a slice to fund their ongoing deficits and then make payments to the German bankers. The average German taxpayer is paying ever more money to keep her bankers in caviar and AMGs.

    So of course the German taxpayers want the Greeks to stop having deficits. Or leave.

    There are other structural factors at work, of course.

    Every “leftist” the planet is shouting that the German taxpayer must spend even more on bailing out fat bankers and the lazy Greeks. Every “leftist” is screaming Germans must to make do with less hospitals, schools, public transport and social housing to prevent a Grexit. This “leftist” chorus occurring in every EU country not bordering on the insolvent.

    This is one of them structural issues.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 12, 2015 @ 11:06 am

  62. So you mean that people with money to invest aren’t keen to put it into countries that appear to have no prospect nor intention of paying it back?

    @PaulL – by “the Money” I mean private banks of Spain, Holland, the UK and Germany who voluntarily took risks by loaning to Greece and the ECB, not the German taxpayer.
    And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that European taxpayers should not foot the bill. It’s a rort and the private investors should have to solely bear the risk.

    But to my original point, the leftward swing in Europe is (broadly) a response to ECB promoted austerity measures that let private capital off the hook for their risky bets, while simultaneously asking the taxpayers to tighten their belts.

    Hard to argue that more voters went left I would have thought. To some extent there was a loss from the centre to both left and right.

    This is probably more accurate, yes.
    Both Tory and Labour increased their popular vote by about the same amount (~600k), but proportionally, more swung to Labour as they has a lower baseline. As you state though, the big swings were on the fingers to UKIP at one end and SNP/Green on the other, all on a slightly increased turnout.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 12, 2015 @ 11:28 am

  63. Every “leftist” the planet is shouting that the German taxpayer must spend even more on bailing out fat bankers and the lazy Greeks. Every “leftist” is screaming Germans must to make do with less hospitals, schools, public transport and social housing to prevent a Grexit. This “leftist” chorus occurring in every EU country not bordering on the insolvent.

    @unaha-closp – this isn’t at all accurate, but I’m sure you’ve got citations to demonstrate you are correct.
    To my knowledge, most of the centre-left / Soc. Dem. brigade is pitching a debt relief / forgiveness package, rather than seeking austerity in the rest of the Eurozone to bail out banks.
    It’s pretty much only the extreme left and right that are promoting a Greek exit from the Euro.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 12, 2015 @ 11:40 am

  64. @Gregor W: yes, but the private banks took a haircut for their stupidity. Personally I would have let them go bankrupt rather than bailing them out, but their governments decided not to (many of those govts were left wing, but the stupidity and general lack of testicular fortitude was on both sides of the aisle). There were two possible responses – either those countries that decided (or whose elected representatives decided) to inject this stimulus and/or execute bailouts could then just go merrily on their way assuming they could run deficits forever (the left wing prescription), or they could decide to tighten their belts on the logic that continuing to rack up debt would become a problem sooner or later.

    The UK voters had a chance to see both options. The UK is generally coming out of the recession, has the highest employment rates they’ve ever had, and both growth and pay growth are slowly coming back. Much of Europe has huge unemployment (as they attempt to protect the pay of existing workers at the expense of the unemployed), massive deficits, and don’t appear to have found the bottom as yet. Given the choice between continuation of what they were doing (which seemed to be working), or changing to a more European solution (which appears to not be working), they seem to have chosen the former.

    My point isn’t that this is what happened – I think it’s reasonably clear that is what happened. My point is that it was predictable that this might happen, and that it was bad politics on the part of Milliband to align his policies with core Europe instead of trying to be more centrist – he could have said “we generally agree with paying off our debts, but we think we want to take a bit longer” or “we want to protect the most vulnerable a bit more” or some other tweak. He chose to create a large gap between himself and the Tories when he didn’t have to, he needed to be only slightly to the left of them.

    Of course, I’m not upset about this outcome. I’m quite happy for the left to continue to believe that they’re the centre, and to continue to push policies that they think are mainstream that the voters don’t think are mainstream. It’s just hard to maintain the fiction that the result of doing that is unexpected, because plenty of people did expect it.

    Comment by PaulL — May 12, 2015 @ 11:47 am

  65. Thinking about a different way to express this, assume a very simplified political model. There are two parties, call them left and right. There is a political spectrum that runs from left to right, with the middle being 50%. The right party positions themselves at 55% along that spectrum.

    Assume that all voters who are to the left of the left party must vote for the left. Assume that all voters who are to the right of the right party must vote for the right. Assume that all voters who fall between the left and the right party vote for the party that is “closest” to them. What position optimises the left vote? The answer would be about 54% along the spectrum. Certainly not 35% along the spectrum.

    Of course you need to adjust for multi-parties (but so long as those parties have said they’ll never partner with the conservatives they’re effectively part of your vote), you need to adjust for knock-on impacts of being seen to partner with crazies (aka the SNP or the Greens), you need to adjust for the potential to depress voter turnout if you are too much in the centre and some of your more left wing voters can’t be bothered getting out of bed (but wouldn’t they vote for the SNP or Greens or another ally?), and for the vagaries of FPP. But I think the basic mechanics of the model are sound, and that if you’re taking a position at the 35% position you’d want to be pretty clear about why you expect that to work given that a simplified model says it won’t. I’m not aware that Miliband had an articulation of why he thought it’d work, other than that it made everyone in the Labour party happy (remembering activists tend to be more extreme than the average voter).

    Comment by PaulL — May 12, 2015 @ 12:09 pm

  66. “To my knowledge, most of the centre-left / Soc. Dem. brigade is pitching a debt relief / forgiveness package, rather than seeking austerity in the rest of the Eurozone to bail out banks.”

    Yeah.

    Q: Where is that great generous dollop of relief coming from?

    A: The Germans and lots of future German social spending.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 12, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

  67. A: The Germans and lots of future German social spending.

    Really? Because that’s not what the Troika or the EFSF are saying but again, I’m sure you’ve got a citation for your statement.

    In fact a cursory examination of the EFSF commitments shows that Germany is on the hook for 27% of the fund in terms of a hypothetical guarantee in line with their revised contribution (about 211m Euros), lagging behind Austria, Luxembourg Finland, The Netherlands and Ireland (yes, Ireland!) in terms of their per capita commitment.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 12, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

  68. Ah well, I’m sure the Germans will be satisfied that of the many billions being poured down a hole, they’re only contributing 27%. That feeling of european solidarity will make it all OK.

    Comment by PaulL — May 12, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

  69. Bearing in mind it is 27% of a 750Bn Euro facility guarantee – the fund is primarily made up of issues Eurozone bonds or debt instruments to be procured on a needs basis, rather than direct member state spending – of which Greece is tapping at total of ~160Bn IIRC, then I think the Germans taxpayer should be pretty pleased with the a maximum potential risk exposure of about $310 Euros per person spread over 4 years to prevent Greece’s exit in the event of a default.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 12, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

  70. Meanwhile,back in the Anglosphere debate – which is a lot more interesting here than in the smugland that is, http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2015/05/the_global_failures_of_the_left_this_decade.html – there still seems to be this problem of left-wing parties not being able to take global advantage of the GFC and all its consequences.

    There are other structural factors at work, of course.

    The foregoing is about as structural as it gets, as well as this from the Campbell link:

    Market economics has killed the low skills jobs vital to the wellbeing of communities here and in Britain, and the same inexorable process (fed by digital technology) is now chewing its way through the white collar jobs that used to sustain the careers, incomes and aspirations of the middle class. Getting ahead is becoming a lottery where fewer and fewer people can hope to hold the winning tickets, for themselves or their children.

    So why have the Western left not being able to make hay from any of this? There is Obama’s 2008 triumph, but that was at least as much driven by a reaction to foreign policy as the GFC meltdown, and of course the US Democrats have been a slow-motion electoral train wreck at all other levels of US government since then. After all, between 80 and 120 years ago the Left dealt with similar, even larger and more painful problems emerging out of the Industrial Revolution by coming up with ideas around things like mass unionisation, employment exchanges, unemployment insurance, public pensions, public education, and so forth. Where are the ideas that are similarly revolutionary now?

    Perhaps it’s because we’re still – despite computers arriving mid-20th century – sitting in the early stages of this digital revolution? The equivalent of 1850, when there were occasional riots and general misery during economic downturns, rather than 1890 when the left finally seemed to produce answers that “resonated” (to use Campbell’s term) with the folks getting screwed, who promptly voted rather than rioted, and got systems that worked directly, immediately and were sustainable.

    The fact that you’re making so little headway with the 21st Century equivalent of such people certainly suggests that the ideas you have – which appear to be little different from those you had in the 19th century – no longer appeal, at a minimum, and may not even work at all any longer? Ideas that were revolutionary then are useless now. But I’ve not seen any truly new policy suggestions from Western left-wing parties, or in this thread, nor in Campbell’s article, just vague hand-waving about “inspiring” non-voters to vote.

    Fix that and the resulting gut-level appeal to people would overwhelm all the Tory rags and Crosby Textor’s in the world, whatever scare tactics they dream up.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 12, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

  71. Sigh – fucking blockquote!!!!! Here’s the quote from Gordon Campbell again:

    Market economics has killed the low skills jobs vital to the wellbeing of communities here and in Britain, and the same inexorable process (fed by digital technology) is now chewing its way through the white collar jobs that used to sustain the careers, incomes and aspirations of the middle class. Getting ahead is becoming a lottery where fewer and fewer people can hope to hold the winning tickets, for themselves or their children.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 12, 2015 @ 7:16 pm

  72. The C/T techniques work best on low infomration voters who don’t know much, if any, detail about the issues touched upon in C/T campaigns. I have recently run into several people who are in low paid jobs with few prospects who cite “bludgers having babies I pay for with my hard earned money” as their main reason for voting contrary to their own interests in every OTHER respect.

    Comment by SteveW (no space) — May 12, 2015 @ 7:44 pm

  73. @65 / 67: The EFSF was great idea, pity those bonds stopped selling. Also that 160billion euro the Greeks took off for, has been spent and then some and now they want more.

    The EFSF is old news, active only under the terms of the existing austerity agreement and due to cease all loan operations mid-2015, because it has been downgraded and really can’t get anymore money. The EFSF was downgraded (in 2012) because the Germans are only down for that 27%, but France, Italy, Spain, Greece (yes really), Portugal & Ireland combined were down for 57%. Anyway the EFSF is no longer relevant.

    The only people worth talking about are the IMF and the ECB.

    The IMF will do alright for the time being, because the Greeks will always pay them first and are in no position to threaten them.

    The ECB has loaned Greece a lot euro so far and if the Greeks cooperate will lend more. They are the lender that the Greeks think can be threatened by threatening the euro. The ECB is a partnership which draws upon the credit of all the separate central banks of Europe. If you can find a citation as to how much each central bank is contributing you will be the first person on planet earth find one, because the ECB doesn’t tell anyone. However the Germans (since they aren’t stupid) have had a look round Europe and tried to figure out who could be contributing, they reckon the Bundesbank has stepped up with well north of 50% (probably in the 60-70% range).

    Now the ECB is due 6.5billion euro from Greece by the end of August, meaning the Germans are down for 3.25billion euro in the next 3 months alone. Or about 5,000 euro each by September in the event of a default.

    How German schools, hospitals, social houses will have to be sold?

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 12, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

  74. The fact that you’re making so little headway with the 21st Century equivalent of such people certainly suggests that the ideas you have – which appear to be little different from those you had in the 19th century – no longer appea

    That’s my impression.

    If one considers the progression since WWII of left wing concern and influence it’s broadly – union/welfare state to independence movements to identity politics to anti-apartheid/anti-nuclear to save the planet.

    Today it’s a more complicated and fragmented political environment with a more interconnected world. I think the centre left has yet to find a reason for being in this situation.

    The green movement hasn’t united the left it’s divided it. Indepence – even with the SNP – has a reactionary element these days and the beneficiaries of the identity politics struggle owe no loyalty to those that faught the good fight.

    What we have is a rather angry grouping that doesn’t tolerate well differing opinion.

    Comment by NeilM — May 13, 2015 @ 12:19 am

  75. I think what is described above was detected by Alvin Toffler some time ago. He predicted in The Third Wave and Future Shock that organisations and political systems would devolve or become more locally responsive as the centralised concerns of older style industrial systems and the kinds of communities they created, became increasingly fragmented.
    However, I think he did not consider how the global market would impact. and create perhaps bigger, more unaccountable monsters which have the ability to directly impact lives, how political systems deal with them, and how the international nature of capitalism has managed to subvert any movement towards increased national, local or domestic representation.

    But one could argue the above about imperialism and it’s resulting conflicts of 1914 – 1918, the immediate results of which consolidated centralised power..

    Post WW2, I think one of the major differences to ‘the left’ is the fragmentation of traditional economic power bases which has resulted in less intimacy and mutual interest in communities and therefore the break-up of the kinds of organisations and loyalties to them which facilitated the rise of ‘the left’. Plus, universal education, health and welfare, and the right to unionise – these battles were perceived to have been ‘won’, by many. So ‘the left’ became increasingly a specialised pursuit.

    So there are two kinds of ‘left’ one is the grass-roots version that found expression in spontaneaous expressions of popular outrage, or in the formation of mutual societies and unions, (Going back to Owen and the Tolpuddle Matyrs). The other is the more rarified ‘intellectual’ aspect which historically has maintained an ongoing debate about whether revolution of representation is the best way forward. (this was a constant debate in the formation of internationally ‘left’ movements in in the late 19th century, and many of our ‘left’ political movements were the response)

    Just as traditional industries fragmented, so did ‘left’ opinions. The intellectual ‘utopian’ tradition of ‘the left’ has found expression in a number of ‘isms’. So the modern ‘left’ could be seen as an aspect of post-modernist angst.

    In response to this ‘angst’ movements of ‘the left’ mimicked ‘centralised’ organisations that once served them so well, and became small clusters of intensely loyal but essentionally hermetic and ‘closed’ to anything they saw as ‘dissent’. The result has been a self-perpetuated discourses which deliberately fail to encourage ‘outside’ opinion for fear of ‘subversion’. Plus, often the money’s just better for MPs and higher-end Trade Unionists and public servants. In short the ‘left’ became ‘the establishment’.

    Empirically or epistemologicalily ‘the left’ is informed by a once (and still) respected intellectual tradition, (which may have reached it peak with Marx) but which contributes to a sense of confusion about why ‘others’ can’t see the logic of its ideas.

    The sum total of these factors is that many who adhere to ‘the left’ have become increasingly insular, rarified and specialised in their concerns, ad aggressively indisposed to ‘dissent’. Those who once found inspiration from it (the grassroots left) now find themselves locked out of the debates, unable to comprehend the discourse, or just uninterested in the kinds of esoteric reform the ‘intellectual’ left propose.

    I’d argue that this discussion is an excellent example of that.

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 13, 2015 @ 5:43 am

  76. Good one Lee, especially the penultimate para.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 13, 2015 @ 11:04 am

  77. Well said, LC. Nicely phrased.

    Comment by David from Christchurch — May 13, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

  78. Love it! So Greece’s problems are the fault of the evil bankers. So was that the same for the Irish? And, increasing, the Spanish and the Portuguese? So the straight-jacket of an effectively fixed exchange rate, plus billions in bubble-inducing “regional development” funding, poured direct from Brussels without reference to elected local or national govts, has/had nothing to do with it?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 13, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

  79. Like the Conservatives, the National Party has millions of dollars to play with. You can do a lot with that much money.
    Comment by Fraud — May 11, 2015 @ 11:59 am

    No, not in a general election, not effectively. How did the high spending Internet/Mana and CCCP go?

    More evidence of the weakness of money for buying elections at http://freakonomics.com/2012/01/12/does-money-really-buy-elections-a-new-marketplace-podcast/

    Comment by rickrowling — May 13, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

  80. @ Lee – all great points, though I don’t see your last sentence as applicable really (a result of me being to insular and rarefied perhaps!)

    However, I don’t think that the notion of issue specialisation, ideological insularity and aggressive dismissal of dissent as an exclusively left wing phenomenon.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 13, 2015 @ 4:19 pm

  81. Kia ora Tinakori What you say is true, Gregor, but I think that the ‘right’ is not so hampered by a fear of going ‘low-brow’ or populist. I’m trying to recapture my thought patterns from 1/4 to 6 this morning, I think I was referring to how Danyl’s post, and some of the consequent discussion appeared to buy into the contemporary mythology that ‘the left’s’ failure to get votes is not the ‘left’s’ fault for refusing to engage with and include ‘ordinary folk’ – rather it is the fault of a devious international ploy by the ‘right’ which has hypnotised the masses into compliance.

    I also agree about ideological insularity etc, but in a qualified way – for a litmus test of the attitude to dissent – compare left and right wing blogs (not this one, of course, it’s too nice). If we look at say The Standard and Kiwiblog – which one has the most tendency to censor, ban and act in a punitive manner towards people with whom it disagrees? then it deserves to be asked, if there is a significant difference – why is that so?

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 13, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

  82. Well, this thread has been nothing if not a seemingly endless parade of clueless right wingers favouring us with their astonishingly pompous and long winded diagnoses of problems of leftism. They may have even Googled Gramsci, but I’d doubt it.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 13, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

  83. …but then, Gregor, I saw this on KB today, kind of supporting your point.: We’ll call it ‘Exhibit A’:

    “Hmmm. I used to go to whale oil as well as KB and observe that if posters on KB denigrate Farrar, his supporters generally downtick and life goes on. By contrast, the moderators on WO are as sensitive as a butterfly in a hailstorm and the poster is summarily blocked. It’s Cam’s blog- he can do as he likes of course, but too much more of this paranoia could affect his advertisers eventually. I say “Cameron, learn from David.””

    Meanwhile, Sanc. has arrived.in my defence:

    We’ll call that – ‘Exhibit B’.

    Thanks Sanc you are a prince amongst men (and women).

    Comment by Lee Clark — May 13, 2015 @ 8:27 pm

  84. Next time someone in the media or on Kiwiblog trots out “Labour needs to stop playing personality politics and stick to the issues” just think about now much National will have spent over the last few weeks on strategists and focus groups to roll out “Angry Andrew”.

    Comment by Michael — May 13, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

  85. @Lee #77 – i think the difference you have detected between KB and The Standard is simply one of editorial quality, content and tone rather than a left / right thing necessarily.

    Farrar’s blog is what you might call “an organ of the State” in that it mostly runs a line of (semi) official statements, denials, dog whistles and interference whereas Prentice’s blog is more of a personal, ranty, amateur affair.

    Basically, one is well managed and structured political advertising and one isn’t.

    Re your point around buying into the myth of the ‘omnipotent right’ I think broadly speaking, readers and commenters here accept that what makes the contemporary centre-right successful in comparison to the left is has a far more banal and ultimately less threatening explanation; treating politics as advertising rather an ideology in order to interest people, keeping your messages simple, and not being afraid to buy in the expertise to shape your brand to the (ever fickle) public taste.

    Triumph of the Shill, so to speak.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 13, 2015 @ 11:30 pm

  86. I also agree about ideological insularity etc, but in a qualified way – for a litmus test of the attitude to dissent – compare left and right wing blogs (not this one, of course, it’s too nice). If we look at say The Standard and Kiwiblog – which one has the most tendency to censor, ban and act in a punitive manner towards people with whom it disagrees? then it deserves to be asked, if there is a significant difference – why is that so?

    If we must compare the standard to kiwiblog, let’s also compare this place to whaleoil. Then we’d be comparing a centrist with a ideologue in both directions.

    Not a lot of difference.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 13, 2015 @ 11:59 pm

  87. @Sanc: I wouldn’t have thought you’d been a fan of Gramsci.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 14, 2015 @ 1:25 am

  88. Sanc is in favour of the European state maintaining capitalist control by reaching a set of ever extensible compromises with its citizens. That indicates a certain understanding of Gramsci.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 14, 2015 @ 9:41 am

  89. Labour have opted for a strategy of cosying up to Peters and calling anyone who disagrees with them a liar.

    Not having any policy they now want to make economic forecasts a matter of deliberate truth or falsehood. However it’s possible that most people might continuer to treat forecasts for what they are – forecasts. It also makes every single statement Labour makes re their economic predictions a potential lie.

    It’s an unpleasant debasement of political discourse.

    Comment by NeilM — May 14, 2015 @ 10:55 am

  90. I wonder how many potential non-voting left-wingers – or lets just say people who would like their lives to be improved with better jobs, better pay, and so forth – care about debates about Gramsci? Or Crosby Textor?

    And if increasing inequality (and poverty) is decreasing democratic participation now (as argued by Campbell), why did it not in earlier times when not just neo-liberalism but robber barron capitalism was rampant, and poverty and income inequality were far worse than today? They were inspired to vote Labour (or some equivalent) then.

    Have the low-income groups simply been successfully bought off, as was feared by the Marxist opponents of Social Democratic efforts from the 1930’s on?

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 14, 2015 @ 10:56 am

  91. And if increasing inequality (and poverty) is decreasing democratic participation now (as argued by Campbell), why did it not in earlier times when not just neo-liberalism but robber barron capitalism was rampant, and poverty and income inequality were far worse than today? They were inspired to vote Labour (or some equivalent) then.

    Mostly because democratic participation in that era was both rife with open corruption and gerrymander (e.g. Tammany Hall) and huge sections of the population (e.g. women, black people) were excluded from the process either by law or illegal interference.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 14, 2015 @ 11:44 am

  92. Is there more to that explanation, because it seems contradictory? Open corruption and gerrymandering, as well as the outright exclusion of certain groups from even voting, happened at the same time as people were successfully voting for big, left-wing ideas that would help them?

    Where today we have decreasing democratic participation in a world where there is much less open corruption and gerrymandering and virtually zero legal exclusion of voters.

    Both cannot be true, so there must be other factors at work – factors that it seems the Left are not able to combat.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 14, 2015 @ 11:58 am

  93. Open corruption and gerrymandering, as well as the outright exclusion of certain groups from even voting, happened at the same time as people were successfully voting for big, left-wing ideas that would help them?

    Tom – the timeline wasn’t that linear.

    If we take the US as an example, the suffrage movement started in the mid 19th century but took until 1920 to be federally enacted as the 19th amendment and only a result of considerable publicity and agitation over many decades. Even then because of societal expectation, women didn’t immediately turn out in droves to vote. That took about another 50 years.

    The same goes for non-white in the US, in that the while the 15th amendment allowing non whites and ex slaves to vote from 1860, Jim Crow laws and practices prevented blacks from exercising their vote until the 1960s (as do their successor laws in place to day to a certain extent, particularly those forbidding the vote to federal felons). This also applies to the poor in the Dixie states (irrespective of colour) who were excluded under poll tax laws until the 1960s.

    In effect, the people who were successfully voting for social democratic initiatives in the 1920-30s were by and large, the white male subset of the population.
    Given that there was considerable social agitation predicated on working conditions and wealth equality during that period period and that those in power knew that revolution was in the offing if concessions weren’t made to the working poor, white males, progressive social democratic policies were presented to the electorate in the form of the New Deal.

    But the New Deal didn’t spring from nothing. It wasn’t something that was really “voted in” as such in an either/or ideological contest.
    It was more a managed political response to popular demands that were underpinned by the threat of revolutionary violence.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 14, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

  94. Both cannot be true, so there must be other factors at work – factors that it seems the Left are not able to combat.

    Centre left parties require a broad coalition from both the working and middle classes. In today’s changing economic environment – globalisation, technology etc – that’s proving harder to do.

    There’s an element of centre left parties being run by and for the middle class and also social media has reinforced a peculiarly sort of political discourse amongst liberals who have the time to spend fixated on Twitter.

    There’s bound to be quite a few contributing factors.

    Comment by NeilM — May 14, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

  95. To your other points:

    Where today we have decreasing democratic participation in a world where there is much less open corruption and gerrymandering and virtually zero legal exclusion of voters.
    Both cannot be true, so there must be other factors at work – factors that it seems the Left are not able to combat.

    It depends what country you are in but by and large, I agree that formal legal exclusions are rare.
    In terms of participation there are a bunch of complex factors.

    An OECD report of 2009 states that while “voter turn outdoes not differ much between men and women across countries” that “younger voters are less likely to cast their vote than the electorate in general; voter turnout among 18-25 year old is, on average, 13 percentage points lower than for adults ages 25 – 50 inclusive”.

    Some recent research from the US that I caught a glimpse of recently concluded that income is also a significant determinant with (IIRC) ~80% of people earning over 150k voting, but a significant participation drop off for lower income bands.

    It’s also probably a fair assumption to conclude that race, age and income also broadly intersect and given – using an incredibly broad brush – the political Right’s natural constituency doesn’t tend to be made up of poor, brown or young people then certainly they have far less to worry about than the Left.

    How to combat it short of punitive measures to compel voting I’m not sure, as even presenting policies that ostensibly are in the target voter’s self interest still does not garner a positive reaction. It’s something that the Left will just have to work with, I suspect unless they want to go for some form of dynamic, populist approach (a la Obama) which galvanises non-voters.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 14, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

  96. In effect, the people who were successfully voting for social democratic initiatives in the 1920-30s were by and large, the white male subset of the population

    Yes, I figured that’s what you were getting at. Similarly with even earlier efforts, such as those of the Liberal governments here in the 1890’s, and in Germany, with influence beyond Germany in the same period.

    It still circles back to the problem of why the Left cannot make any electoral headway now. I look at your point about the 1930’s – a managed political response to popular demands that were underpinned by the threat of revolutionary violence – and return to my earlier point; that the masses, including low-income people, have been successfully bought off?

    The factors the modern Left cannot combat are the very successes they’ve had in implementing their agenda into society’s fabric?

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 14, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  97. The factors the modern Left cannot combat are the very successes they’ve had in implementing their agenda into society’s fabric?

    Quite possibly. Though rather than categorising is as a “buying off” of the proles, I prefer to think of it as progressive measures to better society as a whole, including the wealthy.
    Maybe it will take a resetting of the socio-political baseline of citizenship to something higher in order to build demand and participation – a new New Deal.
    As usual, the trouble seems to be in creating this baseline while avoiding abstract political concepts. This is why concepts like “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” still have resonance – it’s simple and pretty hard to rationally argue against.

    Furthering this, I think it’s why Right wing governments generally have more success in messaging that the Left in that the Right tends towards simple, objective, generally conservative messages (stability, responsibility, law and order) where the Left tends to propose more abstract, subjective and radical concepts (justice, equality, liberty) that are more difficult to buy into.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 14, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

  98. Furthering this, I think it’s why Right wing governments generally have more success in messaging that the Left in that the Right tends towards simple, objective, generally conservative messages (stability, responsibility, law and order) where the Left tends to propose more abstract, subjective and radical concepts (justice, equality, liberty) that are more difficult to buy into.

    I don’t think those concepts are particularly ether radical or conservative, all six of them seem positively mainstream.

    There is a tendency amongst some of the left to prefix each with social- which can be slightly off putting, since it seems to position the process to be used in obtaining the concept as more important than the concept itself. Likewise the right when it starts using the prefix”individual-, it scares the centre that reform for the sake of reform is being put forward.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 14, 2015 @ 3:17 pm

  99. Good point re the prefixes, though what I was trying to get at is that things like responsibility, law & order etc. are more measurable / tangible concepts so to speak, and thus easier to grasp than nuanced things like liberty which means lots of different things to different people.

    And yes, all the concepts are mainstream, but only inasmuch as what was once radical has become mainstream as conservatism has responded to it under threat of revolution.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 14, 2015 @ 3:25 pm

  100. …. which means lots of different things to different people.

    Ay, there’s the rub. There are any number of people who think that their justice, equality, and liberty is being screwed over by ever more regulations, rules, speech codes, and government control (local and central) in general.

    But outside of sex, drugs and metadata collection the Left have little or nothing to offer in relieving those burdens and in fact are always proposing more of them in other areas of life because that’s how justice, equality, and liberty will be furthered. Well, that and more wealth redistribution of course.

    So obviously the first group (neoliberal jihadists like moi) won’t vote for the Left on that basis, but clearly, large numbers of potential left voters see nothing there either and don’t vote at all. As you say, it’s all too intangible and left-wing parties have no idea in this modern economy of how to insure that a vote for them will actually translate into tangible stuff for their voters like A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, or anything else practical beyond some godforsaken welfare benefit.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — May 14, 2015 @ 6:12 pm

  101. “they now want to make economic forecasts a matter of deliberate truth or falsehood”

    Neil, you seem to be confusing ‘forecasts’ with election policy commitments. My sympathies.

    Comment by Sacha — May 14, 2015 @ 11:00 pm

  102. And yes, all the concepts are mainstream, but only inasmuch as what was once radical has become mainstream as conservatism has responded to it under threat of revolution.

    I agree, but also suggest that along with internal revolution the state also fears external threats and accommodates new ideas to prevent this.

    Also the predisposition to favour existing criteria exists on both sides of the political spectrum, in pretty much equal measure.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 15, 2015 @ 10:45 am

  103. If you think the ‘spin’ is really *that* effective, (I don’t) shut up shop.

    Go home.

    You’re already psychologically beaten.

    Comment by robhosking — May 16, 2015 @ 8:56 am

  104. Heard the NatRad interview with Littie and he came across as the sort of person I had thought he was. Reasonable and intelligent.

    He should ditch his media minders pushing him and Robertson into the Hard Men Key is a liar role.

    What Edwards had was an ability to change Clark but keep her true to herself.

    I think Labours best approach is not to continue the hate Key line that goes down well with the PAS and the Standard but to go – Key was the right guy for that time, GFC – moderate spending vs borrowing etc, but now things have changed and it’s time for a different approach.

    That way they can acknowledge having vied for Key as a good strategic decision for the time rather than saying to voters they’re all Crosby textor media manipulated idiots.

    Comment by NeilM — May 16, 2015 @ 7:26 pm

  105. The ‘Key is a liar’ line has failed the left for years – partly because there is no equivalent of the #dirtypolitics setup to keep left politicians’ hands clean.

    I detest people treating voters as idiots.

    Certainly agree we all need to see a viable, coherent alternative vision and a coalition government in waiting.

    Comment by Sacha — May 17, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  106. Well, with today’s news, if not “Key is a liar”, how about … “Key says he won’t, and then he will.”

    No, it’s not as snappy. “Liar” works for me.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 17, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

  107. No, it’s not as snappy. “Liar” works for me.

    But are you the kind of voter Labour are trying to attract? Most of the populace are not interested in people who call others names. Has Key ever called anyone in Labour a bad name? I certainly hear him dissing actions or policies. Maybe that’s what the stupid, know-nothing, voters want to hear? Just a thought.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 18, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

  108. “Has Key ever called anyone in Labour a bad name?”

    Monkey, muppet, knucklehead, a whole lot more. You really, really need to watch Parliament more.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 18, 2015 @ 3:36 pm

  109. Oh he’s certainly a pathological liar, but that doesn’t work politically without an equivalent of Slater and Farrar and Ede to fling the poo.

    Going the ‘casual, sloppy, fickle’ line might work, but only accompanied by strong positives (‘trustworthy, reliable’, etc) that offer an alternative. Those need to be woven through every speech, every media release. This is not rocket surgery.

    Comment by Sacha — May 18, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

  110. Like GW said above, the two losses have Tony Abbott in common. Some handicaps are just too big.

    Comment by @simongarlick — May 11, 2015 @ 4:51 pm

    I don’t follow Aussie politics too much, but this Bill Shorten must be a complete waste of space.

    Comment by unaha-closp — May 19, 2015 @ 10:39 am

  111. @unaha
    My impression is that Abbott’s coalition was elected on the basis on “we’re not a left wing party”. Then, after being elected, voters discovered “not left wing” actually meant “really quite far to the right wing”.
    In polling results, on a two-party-preferred basis, the coalition have recovered somewhat in recent weeks, to near parity. My very early estimate for the 2017 campaign is that there will be much smearing and shouting that resonates with both parties core-constituencies, and the coalition just do enough to hold on to marginal seats and are returned to power.

    Comment by Phil — May 19, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

  112. ” You really, really need to watch Parliament more.”

    Good point, I meant “in public”. Was it made illegal to use footage from PTV without permission?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 19, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

  113. And right on cue, John Key accuses Winston Peters of lying – in Parliament today.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 19, 2015 @ 3:01 pm


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