Optimism isn’t enough

datePosted on 22:50, July 9th, 2009 by Lew

I have, of late, been rather critical of Labour, and the reason for my critical tone is at least partially because the sort of Pollyanna bullshit exhibited by certain partisans on this thread (and elsewhere) is eerily similar to the rah-rah-it’s-all-good campaign of 2008, in which the True Believers grossly underestimated John Key and National, attacked him on his weaknesses and derided him as less than credible and not a proper threat, and got soundly and deservedly whipped at the polls for doing so. I don’t want to see that happen again, so I say: stop just assuming the electorate will come to their senses and vote Labour because they know it’s right, or because Labour’s policies will objectively benefit them. They won’t; that’s not enough. You have to convince them to do so; you have to make them want to support you; you have to lead them. So IrishBill’s advice is a good generic communication strategy; it’s also critical that it also be backed by a credible policy strategy (which, I hope, is brewing at present).

To all the True Believers: you don’t help your chosen party by being uncritical cheerleaders; you feed the echo-chamber. Stop it. Loyalists should be a party’s harshest critics and strongest agitators for change when things aren’t working – which, absent deep changes within Labour since the 2008 election, they aren’t. Good supporters ask hard questions, expect good answers, reward rigour, punish prevarication and do not live in awe of or aim to preserve the precious disposition of their representatives. They do not deride those who do so as traitors or try to hush them up for fear of giving the impression of disunity, killing any hope of dynamism in the process.

So far I see precious little of this on the left in NZ, and that does not fill me with hope for the future. The glimmers of hope I see are from the Green Party and the māori party, who have had the good sense to cut themselves loose from the drifting hulk of Labour, at least until its people start to set things to rights again.

L

33 Responses to “Optimism isn’t enough”

  1. Hugh on July 10th, 2009 at 00:51

    I don’t see Green party supporters asking their party leaders hard questions.

    And I’m not sure the Maori Party can be seen as part of the left. The party’s leaders certainly don’t think it is.

  2. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 08:27

    Hugh,

    Fair enough; however they are only glimmers of hope. Partly this is because both parties improved their lot in 2008. More than that, though, I have more confidence in the leadership of those two parties than I do in Labour’s – particularly the Greens, who have appointed a youthful and forward-looking co-leader. Both have demonstrated the ability and willingness to adapt themselves to the new realities of NZ electoral politics, while not (yet, hopefully) sacrificing their independence.

    The mãori party, while not ‘part of’ the left, remains its natural ally in policy alignment, and its present position outside that bloc is more to do with Labour’s conduct than anything else.

    L

  3. Tom Semmens on July 10th, 2009 at 09:42

    I don’t recall anyone in Labour asking you your opinion Lew.

  4. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 09:47

    Unfortunately, Tom, that’s just the quality of response I’ve come to expect.

    L

  5. Anita on July 10th, 2009 at 10:28

    Hugh writes,

    I don’t see Green party supporters asking their party leaders hard questions.

    Really?!

    I’ve given the Greens my list vote every time and I ask their leaders hard questions, and I’ve seen many other voters, supporters and members do the same. In fact IrishBill is another good example of someone who has supported the Greens while being entirely comfortable publicly challenging their decisions.

  6. Danyl Mclauchlan on July 10th, 2009 at 10:33

    loyalists should be a party’s harshest critics and strongest agitators for change when things aren’t working – which, absent deep changes within Labour since the 2008 election, they aren’t.

    You have my bow!

  7. ak on July 10th, 2009 at 10:35

    Fair points Lew. Guilty as charged. In mitigation, it could be a function of age – the baggage of the “long view” of politics blinding us tuskers to the reality of the present. The pre-Depression tales of our parents still ringing in our crusty old ears, the progress since 1935 seems incredible – and impossible to ignore. But as you rightly point out, ignored it was. And roundly.

    Last year was a watershed. You’re right. It’s now the age of the image; the medium has truly become the message, and it needs to beam with farm-fresh goodness all the time. Helen’s sturdy brown-paper wrapping was ignored in favour of the shiny tinsel bubble-pack. Content immaterial: copyright blatantly ignored by Lablite with electoral impunity.

    Sadly, that’s why the sound and perfectly-functioning Phil and Trev show now has to step back: too tainted by the Lange-Douglas association for the one side, and by the Helengrad years for the other. Tired, brown paper. Bring on those shiny young things – the earlier the better.

    Not so sure about your confidence in the Greens or the MP however: sound products for sure, but $2-shop and Trade-aid packaging. The Greens need to focus on becoming a cheery Mega Garden Centre (and drop the sanitary products line), the MP doomed to niche status and currently in severe brand confusion.

    Keep up the good work Lew: if you can shift an old hulk like me on their moorings, you’ve certainly got a lot to offer. Just promise to be careful with all that horsepower: never underestimate the enormously destructive potential of scrapping amongst underdogs.

  8. marty mars on July 10th, 2009 at 11:41

    3 terms in government created a labour that believed it’s own hype and saw it’s continued success as a god-given right. They seemed completely blindsided by their opponents (for a while there i thought/hoped that they were rope-a-dopeing) and even after the loss they struggled to understand what had happened. I am not sure if the changes have sunk in yet. The pain of the loss and the inability for the nodding heads to accept it, have resulted in labour deciding that their likely partner in any future govt, are targets.

    How to get back into Govt 101 for labour.

    Stop abusing your likely partner. Have you heard of praise? If you praise (when you believe it) the maori party – they will think kindly on you when they next get to contribute to making up the Govt. If you cannot find praise – say nothing or attack someone else. If you mock and abuse them then they will not think kindly on you when they next get to contribute to making up the Govt.

    What do you want labour? If you want the benches back then you need to start acting in a way that is likely to give you them.

    The nats are your natural enemy labour, not maori. The maori party could be your best friends because without them you won’t get power. But maori have a long memory and don’t take kindly to abuse.

  9. r0b on July 10th, 2009 at 13:38

    So IrishBill’s advice is a good generic communication strategy

    To all the True Believers: you don’t help your chosen party by being uncritical cheerleaders; you feed the echo-chamber. Stop it.

    Spot the dilemma? On the one hand, choose a few simple messages, stick to them, repeat them, hammer them. On the other hand, stop being uncritical cheerleaders. For us joe/joanne average blog fodder (without the resources of a focus group) the one looks much like the other. So which is it to be?

    Not that I happen to disagree with either bit of advice, but they are in conflict.

    Loyalists should be a party’s harshest critics and strongest agitators for change when things aren’t working

    Indeed they should. But not necessarily in public.

  10. Maynard J on July 10th, 2009 at 15:16

    Hello, interesting piece Lew. It just feels a little…idealistic, I suppose is the closest word to what I feel in response.

    A lot of my comments and conversations IRL are countering those who will attack the left come what may. Agreeing with them half the time just does not work, at best it becomes a case of ‘pick your battles’. I do not consider that cheerleading.

    Can I ask – if everyone on the left said, before the election: “yes, we are arrogant, and out of touch”, what do you think would have happened? Remember Labour’s vote held up pretty well considering.

    (I should state here I do not buy into this “have not realised/got your head around/understood you have lost” meme. I rank it alongside people saying “you had nine years to get x done” in that it serves no purpose as a constructive criticism as it is entirely subjective, & undefinable.)

    Good supporters only do what you suggest when doing so will strengthen the object of their support. I think you read too much into this political cycle over all the other ones; easy to do but hard to identify when it is happening. In your defence I will mention that true watershed moments are rarely identified at the time either but I am still doubtful this is one of them.

    So I am gonna keep doing what I do, but remember that the left is not a unitary grouping, nor are Labour supporters. There will always be people to support one thing or another – do not mistake that for universal support.

  11. Maynard J on July 10th, 2009 at 15:20

    …in which the True Believers grossly underestimated John Key and National, attacked him on his weaknesses and derided him as less than credible and not a proper threat, and got soundly and deservedly whipped at the polls for doing so.

    Oh yes, this bit: Really? Smacks of political naivety, Lew. Can you think of another explanation for portraying Key as weak, that would mean the “True Believers” did not genuinely believe it to be true?

    People are not all so politically active and you seem to forget that.

  12. Keir on July 10th, 2009 at 19:47

    That’s one thing; three elections ago the National Party got the worst result since 19nn or some such; basically the same people are now running the country. A presidential election ago the Interminable Republican Majority was supposedly a serious threat; now they’re having trouble just surviving outside the South.

    These things come and go, and there’s no point making deep changes just for the sake of change.

    Probably changes need to be made, but that doesn’t tell us what the change should be. And every change should be evaluated on merit, not just `change!’, because there’s lots of times that `we must do something’ resulted in worse than the status quo. (New Labour, anyone?)

    Changing nothing is better than almost all possible changes (CHANGEBAD). So you can’t expect people to endorse `change’ unless you say what that will be.

    But yeah, good changes ought to be supported, etc. And sure, the NZ Labour Party isn’t infallible, and Helen didn’t speak ex cathedra. And yes, the Labour Party ought be better at communications.

    And on that subject, who the hell designed Twyford’s new `not yours to sell’ logo? Angry Clumsy Tabloid Modernist Trots? It looks like something out of the pages of the Daily Worker.

  13. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 21:43

    r0b,

    Spot the dilemma? On the one hand, choose a few simple messages, stick to them, repeat them, hammer them. On the other hand, stop being uncritical cheerleaders. For us joe/joanne average blog fodder (without the resources of a focus group) the one looks much like the other. So which is it to be?

    Only a dilemma if these are supposed to happen simultaneously and be driven by the same people. This ties in with my remarks to IB on the linked post about it being too early for the adoption of such a communications strategy; first, the issues and messages at stake need to be thrashed out, then the strategy needs to be enacted. Getting this order wrong results in confused, incoherent campaigns (such as the mãori party’s campaign in 2008) and uncertainty among allies (such as the lack of coordination between the mãori party and Green in 2008). More haste, less speed.

    Indeed they should. But not necessarily in public.

    I certainly don’t think all the dirty laundry should be aired in public, or even most of it. But after such a failure as 2008, change needs not only to take place but to be evident. The party – from grassroots through rank-and-file through the organisational level to the representatives – needs to be seen to be actively and foprthrightly engaging with the reasons for their failure. Labour has done some of this, mostly at the parliamentary level and with the presidency. But the grunts in the trenches below still seem to be labouring under a delusion that nothing was ever wrong.

    MJ,

    Can I ask – if everyone on the left said, before the election: “yes, we are arrogant, and out of touch”, what do you think would have happened? Remember Labour’s vote held up pretty well considering.

    Come now, there’s no cause for reductio.

    (I should state here I do not buy into this “have not realised/got your head around/understood you have lost” meme. I rank it alongside people saying “you had nine years to get x done” in that it serves no purpose as a constructive criticism as it is entirely subjective, & undefinable.)

    Well, as long as otherwise-sensible people keep explaining away the 2008 loss with ‘the public was hoodwinked, they don’t know what’s good for them’ and arguments to the same effect, I’m going to keep saying it. Labour has nobody to blame for the loss but itself (and Winston, but that was also Labour’s fail).

    Part of me (a small part) fears that the Labour strategy is to do nothing, wait for it all to go to hell in a handbasket, and say ‘I told you so’. This would be a catastrophically bad strategy, in my view. However this is precisely the sort of thing I see from some partisans. It’s frightening.

    So I am gonna keep doing what I do, but remember that the left is not a unitary grouping, nor are Labour supporters. There will always be people to support one thing or another – do not mistake that for universal support.

    Quite true; also, every movement has its idiots, but the idiots don’t (usually) end up running the show.

    Oh yes, this bit: Really? Smacks of political naivety, Lew. Can you think of another explanation for portraying Key as weak, that would mean the “True Believers” did not genuinely believe it to be true?

    Well, I admit it’s contradictory to suggest that True Believers could do otherwise than they do, but beyond that – if the True Believers (or anyone in Labour, really) genuinely though John Key was not going to be a credible threat, they’re abject fools. Deride merchant banking as much as you like; one doesn’t rise so quickly to its peak by being anything other than ruthless, cunning, decisive, bold and cool-headed. If any idiot could do it, the industry really would be the millionaire factory Wall Street’s branding sells. He is all these things, and he had a strong and experienced and (most importantly) hungry political team behind him. Any idiot should have been able to point out the threat; many did.

    If they did think he was weak, their failure was perhaps just as great: knowing he was a threat, they pretended he wasn’t and didn’t prepare a credible defence in case just saying so didn’t work out. Not good enough. Being as he was a threat, the stronger strategy would have been to turn that threat value against him: this man can have his way with NZ if you let him, and that won’t be good – don’t let him.

    L

  14. r0b on July 10th, 2009 at 22:53

    Only a dilemma if these are supposed to happen simultaneously and be driven by the same people.

    So, different groups of people should have different parts of the mission then? OK – good. Someone has to stay on task with the repetitive catchy simple messages, someone has to learn the hard lessons and adapt accordingly. Division of labour, splendid.

    Labour has done some of this, mostly at the parliamentary level and with the presidency. But the grunts in the trenches below still seem to be labouring under a delusion that nothing was ever wrong.

    And you agree that the central team is doing its thing, we grunts in the trenches are doing our thing. Just as your two different bits of (apparently contradictory but you say not at all) advice suggested. But you’re still not happy?

    Seems to me you’re getting yourself a bit tangled up in your own good advice?

    Sorry, I’m being a bit mischievous here, but I really do think you’re in a bit of a muddle on this one.

  15. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 23:06

    r0b,

    No, you miss the most critical bit, which is that the soul-searching needs to be done (and be seen to be done) before the astroturfing gives the impression that nothing ever needed to change. And while Clark and Cullen and Williams stepping down was good and necessary, the ship’s still being steered by Goff and King and Mallard, and I don’t see that the necessary changes below that have come, or are coming.

    L

  16. Keir on July 10th, 2009 at 23:11

    What are the necessary changes?

  17. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 23:22

    Keir,

    Thanks for an insightful post.

    These things come and go, and there’s no point making deep changes just for the sake of change.

    That’s not what I’m advocating. I’m advocating change because things are obviously quite broken. The game has changed since 2002; the mãori party’s rise, Winston’s fall, and National’s (double) reinvention saw to that. I think a new strategy is required – one which doesn’t involve being National lite. Labour has an opportunity in all this, a chance for a much-needed reinvention, and I’d hate to see them squander it, play safe, and allow Key (and English, Joyce, and Hide) to dictate terms.

    Edit: Cross-posted, sorry. The necessary changes serve that goal of reinvention. An end to the (perceived or real) autocratic, top-down, parliament-led party model; a return to principle as policy, as differentiation from the Key government’s malleable pragmatism; an imperative to renew and strengthen alliances with the Greens and the mãori party, and be prepared to eat some humble pie for that purpose; Labour needs to stop thining of itself as the left and acting like others are stealing its bounty – it needs to see itself as a hub for progressive and liberal activism and policy, rather than a monolithic hulk, and it needs to embrace diversity rather than paying it lip-service. To do this, I think it needs new leadership at a minimum, and it might also need to be prepared to spend a few years in purgatory. But if it were done right, I’d consider that an acceptable tradeoff.

    L

  18. r0b on July 10th, 2009 at 23:27

    No, you miss the most critical bit, which is that the soul-searching needs to be done (and be seen to be done) before the astroturfing gives the impression that nothing ever needed to change.

    Ahh I see, I got confused about the timeline when you said:

    So IrishBill’s advice is a good generic communication strategy; it’s also critical that it also be backed by a credible policy strategy (which, I hope, is brewing at present).

    That seemed to imply that getting the good short simple repetitive messages out there now was a good idea, with policy in development in progress to be released in due course. Which is more or less what’s happening of course. But you’re still not happy?

    Sorry, I’ll stop teasing you, no further comment from me in this thread. Just seems to me that you’re trying to have a quid each way once too often here…

  19. Keir on July 10th, 2009 at 23:43

    Edit: Cross-posted, sorry. The necessary changes serve that goal of reinvention. An end to the (perceived or real) autocratic, top-down, parliament-led party model; a return to principle as policy, as differentiation from the Key government’s malleable pragmatism; an imperative to renew and strengthen alliances with the Greens and the mãori party, and be prepared to eat some humble pie for that purpose; Labour needs to stop thining of itself as the left and acting like others are stealing its bounty – it needs to see itself as a hub for progressive and liberal activism and policy, rather than a monolithic hulk, and it needs to embrace diversity rather than paying it lip-service. To do this, I think it needs new leadership at a minimum, and it might also need to be prepared to spend a few years in purgatory. But if it were done right, I’d consider that an acceptable tradeoff.

    I’d sign on for that. I just worry that when people say `the Labour Party must change’ they are looking at New Labour for inspiration, and I can think of very few worse things.

  20. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 23:44

    r0b,

    That seemed to imply that getting the good short simple repetitive messages out there now was a good idea, with policy in development in progress to be released in due course.

    I can see how you got the impression from my wording which was a bit vague (probably made more sense as part of a comment on the original post, which is where it started off).

    Not at all concerned about the teasing, or mischievousness as you call it; a fair line of argument and inquiry.

    L

  21. Lew on July 10th, 2009 at 23:56

    Keir,

    I just worry that when people say `the Labour Party must change’ they are looking at New Labour for inspiration, and I can think of very few worse things.

    I don’t think everything about New Labour was bad. The strategy is very strong; the problem was that they got lazy and greedy, and used the strategy’s advantages (strong communications, inspirational leader, forward-looking perspective) to shield them from the full consequences of pushing bad policy, and sticking by it when everyone sane had abandoned it.

    Governments which are insulated from the consequences of their bad decisions begin to rot.

    L

  22. QoT on July 11th, 2009 at 00:43

    I don’t recall anyone in Labour asking you your opinion Lew.

    Gee, Tom, if I tell you Lew didn’t ask for your opinion either will you shut up and go away?

    Didn’t think so.

    On topic, unquestioning-cheerleader syndrome is exactly why I despaired of the “youth” wings of various parties as a uni student. Protip, people: you’re meant to be the crazy, radical wing of the party, not automaton MPs-in-waiting.

  23. ak on July 11th, 2009 at 01:07

    Sorry, I’ll stop teasing you…. have a quid each way……

    Don’t apologise r0b, respectful teasers and quids each way are just what is needed. Here’s a few random late-nite tuppeny toss-ins to the soul-search:

    Mayhap the Labour brand up to 2004 was just fine. Certainly the incredible progress since ’35 didn’t come from the tories. That brand’s still there, largely accepted by NACT, so what went wrong for Hels?

    Lets see…..what were the biggies…ah

    Orewa One doubled the tory vote almost overnight. Unprecedented.

    Labour backed down for votes. Also unprecedented.

    Downhill for Labour from there.

    Key repudiates Orewa One as first public utterance as party leader and rises relentlessly in polls.

    Bizarre? You bet.

    Or just maybe, we doth protest too much. Do kiwis need a firm and consistent nanny state to correct our naughty instincts? And if she stumbles are we lost and afraid? And will rush to the bosom of the first kind knight on the road?

    Lab-Alliance 99-02 was radical and indisputably Left: and was landslid back in for its efforts. 84-90 was pure treachery and punished for a decade.

    Maybe Consistency should be the first of those buzzwords. Solid to the Brand. Labour to the Core. No Battler Left Behind.

    Someone try and coax Sue Bradford away from the tuxedoed morris dancers.

  24. Tom Semmens on July 11th, 2009 at 10:35

    So Lew’s suggestion is Labour have a complete policy over-haul, and come out with an agenda of radical reform that would differentiate them in the political market place. Brilliant! Labour will then start polling at the same sort of levels as Lew’s other parties de jour, the Greens and Maori Party.

    You are a political genius Lew.

    The reality of politics is it contains a large cyclical element, and in MMP the battle is won and lost in a 10-15% block of middle class swing voters.

    The trick in opposition isn’t to make yourself unelectable in an orgy of purist self flagellation. The trick is to reduce the cycle to the shortest possible time and adopt policies that appeal not just to your own base but reach out across the vital middle ground. Hence, no Labour party which makes it to the treasury benches will ever satisfy your policy prescriptions, since the parties that do struggle to command the votes of eight out of one hundred voters.

  25. Lew on July 11th, 2009 at 12:54

    ak,

    Mayhap the Labour brand up to 2004 was just fine.

    I think that’s right. But I disagree that the brand hasn’t changed, and I disagree that it’s still well-regarded. I also think the landscaped has changed, and that old monolithic approaches won’t work any more.

    Tom,

    Hence, no Labour party which makes it to the treasury benches will ever satisfy your policy prescriptions, since the parties that do struggle to command the votes of eight out of one hundred voters.

    Not sure where you get this from, since I haven’t specified any policy prescriptions; I’ve specified a strategic approach to reinvention. You’ve also completely misread my pronouncements about the mãori party and Greens – their policy platforms are not why I think they’re valuable. Sure, their policy has some value, but mostly their value is in their independent and diverse perspectives which act as modifying influences on other parties, and on NZ’s wider political discourse. I’m a moderate; both those parties are radical in important ways. So, with respect, you don’t know what you’re talking about here.

    I don’t argue Labour should try to ape the mãori party and the Greens – in fact, I think that’s part of the problem; that it has tried to be all things to all people which has resulted in Labour cannibalising its allies’ support and becoming conflated with those allies in the process. I think Labour does need to appeal to the middle ground, but the problem is that it has recently tried to stretch itself too thin rather than sticking to its knitting. Key has this idea right; National stands on its own ground, and lets ACT and the mãori party stand on their own ground. The challenge will be in differentiating National and ACT.

    L

  26. ak on July 11th, 2009 at 14:29

    Tom:

    …. the battle is won and lost in a 10-15% block of middle class swing voters.

    I’m no statisticle Tom, but I reckon it’s more like 5-8% (y’know, 5% flip, creates 10% difference). Yep, the one-in-twenty voters who couldn’t give a fat rat’s razoo about politics (wouldn’t say just middle-class either, they seem to be everywhere) and just “go with the flow”.

    and (at the risk of being nauseatingly repetitive), that “flow” is the Holy Grail: overwhelmingly determined by the 6 o’clock news and a handful of “opinion leaders” in the papers and radio. These motivated by profit; profit determined by attracting audiences; audiences attracted by simplicity and appeals to the base emotions.

    Hence the call for “marketing”, i.e. Bill’s and Lew’s buzzwords. Not aimed so much at the public,rather the lazy, venal MSM.
    I agree it’s a sad pessimistic view of our fellows, but alas there you go, the evidence from last year is stark.

    Agree on no need for a major policy review: just a get-back-to-basics determination and an intense, constant scan and hunt for the next resonant phrase. Focus groups only identify what’s already out there: leaders need to create. Three words did it for NACT: corrupt, arrogant and nanny state. “Not yours to sell” is a good start from Labour: Culls is the master, get him onto it.

  27. Maynard J on July 11th, 2009 at 20:04

    Come now, there’s no cause for reductio.

    It was not, it was a genuine question – I was wondering what you think would have happened. It actually says quite a bit, Lew, when someone asking what you think would have happened if what you suggested did occur and you think it is absurd… If not saying that (i.e. the criticisms and what the public generally thought), what exactly did Labour need to ‘own up’ to?

    Your strategy vs Key is pretty useless I think. Point out that he is a threat? How? VRWC? That is about it because he has no damn politics and what he has is crosby-textored to banality. It just has no practical application – either you will build him up, or you will will look like a conspiracy theorist.

    Quite true; also, every movement has its idiots, but the idiots don’t (usually) end up running the show.

    Are you saying that is the case now?

    Out of interest, which grunts are you talking about when you say they steadfastly deny anything was done wrong? Is this talking to people in real life, or (as I suspect) basing it on a few people on one certain blog? It is always a bit too easy to get stuck in this little world.

  28. Lew on July 11th, 2009 at 20:59

    MJ,

    It was not, it was a genuine question – I was wondering what you think would have happened.

    I apologise. I thought the question so absurdly obvious as to be a trap. Coming out and saying “yes, we are arrogant, and out of touch” would have been manifestly catastrophic. So much worse than confirming National’s line (that the left was), it would have illustrated that the left knew it was, which I don’t believe people really did. Coming out after the election, with a change of leader and a change of direction, and stepping back from or de-emphasising those aspects of policy or conduct which gave that impression is another thing entirely. I’ve never suggested the former; I am suggesting the latter.

    Your strategy vs Key is pretty useless I think. Point out that he is a threat? How? VRWC? That is about it because he has no damn politics and what he has is crosby-textored to banality. It just has no practical application – either you will build him up, or you will will look like a conspiracy theorist.

    Well, it’s useless now. As it was, things were different. But that’s all counterfactual now, in any case. The principle holds: Attacking people on their weaknesses is easy, cheap, and usually ineffective. If it succeeds, great, but for it to succeed the weaknesses have to be fairly profound, and any idiot ought to have been able to see that Key’s (and National’s) weren’t; and if it doesn’t work, you lose to a supposed half-pint, and you not only grant him underdog-done-good status but come off looking like the venal bully. This is precisely what happened to Clark, Cullen and Williams. If you attack people on their strengths, at least if you lose it doesn’t make it look like you lost to a weakling. The conspiracy theory aspect is a fair criticism, but quite manageable and in my view, by far the lesser of two evils.

    The problem with Labour’s campaign was that it was half-baked – it wasn’t sure whether to go completely negative or stay positive. In the end it got all the bad press for going negative, but wasn’t strongly negative enough to drive the point home properly, and what positive aspects there were got drowned out by the negativity, and frankly how desperate it all was.

    Are you saying that is the case now?

    No, this was a reflection on the fact that judging a movement by its loudest members rarely yields a true assessment. I recognise I have painted with too broad a brush here.

    Out of interest, which grunts are you talking about when you say they steadfastly deny anything was done wrong? Is this talking to people in real life, or (as I suspect) basing it on a few people on one certain blog? It is always a bit too easy to get stuck in this little world.

    It’s both, and there’s little/no overlap between the two.

    L

  29. SPC on July 11th, 2009 at 21:54

    As in 1999, Labour in 2011 will have to respond to the discontent with the government and provide an alternative (policy).

    The problem, at the moment, is that National has yet to engender the level of discontent required for this to work (thus Labour has to explain the better option available to those happy with what they already have – the immovable object here is brand loyalty. The only way to do this is to also point out the foreseeable problems coming with a second government term in office, weaken the brand loyalty).

    One area where they could move and have yet to, is to go beyond mere defence of savings into the Fund and ask why the government is borrowing to place $1000pa into Kiwi Saver accounts – private property subsidy. Why is the government borrowing to enrich individuals while not protecting the future of tax paid super, adequately funding the tertiary sector or sustaining funding for government programmes which train workers or education for young people and adults in the community. Why is it talking of freezing pay to doctors and nurses when adequate staffing is vital to the health sector and we have a lomming GP shortage as well?

  30. SPC on July 11th, 2009 at 22:19

    PS

    Chris Trotter wrote another helpful/unhelpful column this week.

    The whole point about real egalitarianism is that it does not detract from either meritocracy or the equal inclusion of all citizens. It’s all about everyone having a fair go. This means that ending discrimination is fully a part of “post working class solidarity” and not just some pointless pandering to minorities by some liberal urban “middle class” elite

    (Here Trotter is confirming the right wing/conservative portrayal of Labour as the truth. This piece a companion to one earlier “admitting” a now victorious National is the party of the new egalitarianism – an aspirational middle class).

    In our more evolved (post working class) economic society, the working class concept of “union and class” solidarity necessarily has had to develop broader concepts of equal citizenship. This included accepting the liberal middle class agenda. Labour has been true to its egalitarianism roots. That some of the early working class leaders were social conservatives (as bigoted against some minorities as the establishment was of their day) is irrelevent to this point.

  31. Lew on July 11th, 2009 at 22:41

    SPC,

    The whole point about real egalitarianism is that it does not detract from either meritocracy or the equal inclusion of all citizens. It’s all about everyone having a fair go. This means that ending discrimination is fully a part of “post working class solidarity” and not just some pointless pandering to minorities by some liberal urban “middle class” elite

    In our more evolved (post working class) economic society, the working class concept of “union and class” solidarity necessarily has had to develop broader concepts of equal citizenship. This included accepting the liberal middle class agenda. Labour has been true to its egalitarianism roots. That some of the early working class leaders were social conservatives (as bigoted against some minorities as the establishment was of their day) is irrelevent to this point.

    You’ve said here in very few words what I think I’ve failed to say in several thousand recently. Thank you.

    L

  32. Keir on July 11th, 2009 at 23:59

    Chris Trotter wrote another helpful/unhelpful column this week.

    God yea. Like all the nasty bits out of Orwell. I do wish Trotter would grow up a bit; pure but impotent isn’t much fun, but what’s the point of turning into a basically racist party just for a few years power?

    (Apart from anything else, Winston’s faithful will mostly be dead in 10 years time anyway, so…)

    The trick in opposition isn’t to make yourself unelectable in an orgy of purist self flagellation.

    Nobody suggested that & given that Labour just lost an election, they aren’t exactly the most electable party in the country at the moment, are they? Especially given that people tend to be turned off by bullshit `electability’. Compare Clinton/Obama.

  33. Hugh on July 13th, 2009 at 13:33

    So we’re post working class now, are we?

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