Not Quite But Getting There

It seems that Labour might have finally gotten the memo about getting it’s A into G but perhaps not quite digested the content. Still it’s a start. The last month has seen a steady stream of both Labour and Little in the media, highlighting issues in the electorate and proposing solutions (Panama papers, housing, hotel deals, house prices, fishing quotas etc)

National continues to say that is nothing but “slogans” which is rich coming from them but let’s put the bitterness aside for the moment and have a bit more of a look at the situation.

On my first post about Labour I referred to them needing to come up with something new and that trying the same old policy routine was not going to win them the election from an entrenched National. A few weeks ago I noted that Andrew Little needed to be on the attack if he and the party was actually going make traction in the media and with the electorate.

The rationale behind these two points is simple and my “scouring” of both the mainstream media in NZ and the blogsphere has turned up similar sentiments, the key points of which are that Labour needs to get back to its real roots to atone for the heinous betrayal of 1984 and that a dug in National wont be giving up points easy so Labour needs to take the initiative and hone its policy and pre-election stance through trial by fire rather than more party retreats.

In effect its fat camp, a makeover and a whole new wardrobe for Labour and the effects may have already started to show but I have heard and read several people slag the whole thing off as pointless and a waste of time.

There is some truth to the assertion that it’s too early yet to really see a change in Labour, so far its policy platforms/ideas are still just not hitting the nerve with the electorate but the party seems to be putting out more press releases about the state of affairs in NZ and linking the government to it and that’s a start.

The idea is less about scoring points against National, although a few would be nice, but rather get the party name back in the media and start positioning itself again as the true party of the opposition.

But here is where I would be earning my money if I was a party spin doctor. So far the prescriptions are standard and predictable (ie get the name out more, provide alternatives etc) but the real reason for getting out and about in the media is that it starves National of air and either forces it to burrow deeper into its bunker or come out and fight on core issues or risk having Labour take over the narrative.

And it’s here where a well-planned and prepared policy and media ambushes would work wonders. The current state of New Zealand is full of low hanging fruit just begging for a solution to the problem of the day. National has had eight years in power and it’s clear that nothing is getting better. It’s also clear that Labour has started to think like that and started to gear its message along those lines. But it’s not enough.

The race to November 2017 is not a short sprint and National has banked on the long haul, saving its shots for a John Key led media blitz in the actual campaigning phase. This makes sound sense if Labour wallows in apathy and can’t get out of its own funk as National just has to play it safe and compare itself to Labour to win the prize.

This won’t work if Little and Labour go and stay on the offensive from here until December 2017 but to make this work requires more than just a slew of media releases and trotting out the same old arguments (and MPs) as before.

The key factor in this is Labour shedding all its 1984 to 2016 baggage and emerging anew from the cocoon of policy it has woven itself into and to do this means that the party has to re-cross the Rubicon of sorts and return to ideological roots, albeit with a 21st century spin.

And to return to my original point it looks like Labour has started a charm offensive by running a range of media attacks on National but without the bigger ideological transformation National can continue to say that it’s just slogans because that’s all it will be.

Little does look to be getting some stones with his standing by his comments about hotel deals in Niue (although if you read through his statements you can see the lawyer in him inserting the escape clause at the end) and various senior MPs appearing in the media attacking this and that of govt policy.

It’s an encouraging start but it’s just a start and this race to November next year will require something special to keep the momentum going and to begin wresting back those wayward Labour voters and that is the monumental policy/ideology shift required to sustain the party for the long haul. In short a swift step away from the center and back to the Left.

It’s easy to see why the party has balked at this suggestion in the past but the 1984 to 2016 period has been poison to the party and ammunition for National every time Labour opens its mouth to point out how bad things are under the current government.

The vital point in this whole plan is to differentiate itself from National in every way shape and form, no more squabbling over the scraps of the middle voter demographic, which is now beginning to wither and die anyway under National Policy, but instead a return to easily identifiable core values which come pre-packed with a message and a meaning that is in opposition to everything National stands for.

And the messages have, for most part, avoided Key and gone for Nationals weakness, its bloody awful polices and record across the board with its stewardship of NZ which is key (no pun intended) to defeating National.

This is clever as if they dont fight Key head on, but make National wheel out its golden boy to defend on all and any issues it will take the shine off his royal behind between now and polling day and prep the ground for the whole new message that Labour should be unveiling in the next few months as there have been indications here and there and Labours new general secretary, Andrew Kirton, dropped some tantalising words in the Listener a while back which sounded like there were bigger plans afoot.

This strategy has some other benefits as its will not only starve National of air but it will also do the same to both the Greens and NZ First. If there is any chance of Labour/Winston coalition Labour will have to be the biggest dog in the yard come polling day, not after, and that only comes from being the big dog, picking fights and scrapping it out in public, the the media and not just the benches with all and any challengers.

It’s a risk, I admit, but the issues that bedevil Labour will remain, if not get worse, if they lose this election and by the time the 2020 election comes round could be way too late to salvage the party. It’s the same dilemma National face once John Key decouples from the party

So if Labour has its eyes set on getting the gold in November next year it’s going to have to take things to the next level. My concern is that just as it’s getting its mojo back the party will hold there and try and run a half-baked policy platform through the election and get beaten with predictable results.


11 thoughts on “Not Quite But Getting There

  1. See Guys, I can write something without having it dripping bile, its just not as much fun. :(

  2. Be assured E.A. if you sent a copy of this post to every single Labour Party member, a big majority would agree with you. For many of us it has seemed like we were banging our heads against a brick wall these past 7 years. I am hopeful Labour have finally got their A into G and are able to keep up the momentum through to election day. The country so desperately needs a change of governance.

  3. It’s not the absence of bile (you are not particularly bilious} but the ever so slight hint of very restrained approval (conditional) of Labour behaviour that I find different.

    You obviously enjoy analysing the fray.

    Methinks the Nats are fraying. This morning I heard one of the best PR spinners (M Hooton) in the country trying to deflect/rebut A Little’s pre budget speech (reliant on established statistical data) by relying on a recent one off opinion poll.

    There is a logical disconnect

    Logical disconnect is the modus operandi of the National Party.

  4. Yes, pretty much spot-on.

    I’ve been saying for 25 years now that I will not vote Labour again, at least until every Labour MP, elected to parliament up to and including the 1990 election, has passed through that institution. Once they’ve all gone, the party must then convince me it has returned to its overall 1916-1974 philosophy. Anything less won’t cut it for me, I’m afraid.

    That said, in actual fact, I think we’re in the process of witnessing the slow demise of the party – the 1980s betrayal, not corrected / reversed or apologised for since, cannot now be forgiven.

    Just one additional response, E.A. Would you please get someone to thoroughly proof-read your articles before you post them. The lack of punctuation, no hyphens indicating combination words, and frequent typos, make your contributions very frustrating going.

  5. Anne: If thats the case then maybe the rumblings I am hearing here and there mean that there is something genuinely afoot in Labour. If so then we may have an actual election on our hands in 15 months time.

    Peter: I love analyzing the fray and covet gossip and connections shamelessly in WTGN and NZ which can help me figure things out. I do have a very restrained, and very conditional approval of Labour, but as Steve notes, 1984 is a tough stain to wash out.

    Steve: Something I am planning to write on more in the coming months is how the NZ political landscape is due for some major upheavals. My plan has been to set the scene first with my party analyses and such before getting down to brass tacks. Personally I think there is change coming worldwide but that might just be me.

    Also I will work on my punctuation, unfortunately I work best in stream of consciousness mode so things can get a bit frantic at times.

  6. Unlike Steve I did keep voting Labour post 1984 ( could not bear the others).
    Not voting in general elections stops me from criticising.
    Post 1987 I never renewed party membership.
    The labour caucus abused its powers over party members for years.
    Recent constitutional changes has helped the masses to tame the praetorian guard.
    Hopefully there will no longer be “abc factions” and “fish and chip brigades”.

    There is still faint, restrained, conditional hope for labour

  7. Thank you for your reply, E.A. I very much look forward to your upcoming / future articles.

    In your response to Peter, you say “but as Steve notes, 1984 is a tough stain to wash out.” Although that is certainly true, it prompts me to make it clear that my mention of the year 1974 was deliberate. (It was not a typo that you were too kind to pick me up on.)

    In my view, the Labour Party died along with Norman Kirk. Had he lived at least another 10 years, Roger Douglas, et al, would never have been in a position to “do their worst” when they did.

    And, with the onset of Reaganomics / Thatcherism, both Labour and National would have had to campaign on their respective Rogernomics / Ruthanasia policies, if that is what both parties truly considered was necessary, rather than deceive the electorate, as Labour unconscionably did.

  8. Peter: Your post prompts another clarification. I have voted in every election since 1972. Admittedly, from 1975 to 1990 they were basically protest votes, but it’s been all good since 1993.

  9. Pingback: Andrew Little’s “dangerous” speech – a cunning plan for the Middle and the Left « The Daily Blog

  10. Peter: What always baked my noodle was that at least the
    reforms in the US and UK were enacted by rightwingers such as Thatcher and Regan.

    Not so in NZ where you either have to assume that Roger Douglas was ana agent for he right or try and perform some very paradoxical mental gymnastics to qualify his position or worse assume total paradox and run screaming from the room.

    No matter what it was a pivotal moment and shapes our present even today.

  11. E.A what cooked your noodle did nothing to relieve my angst. What really burnt mine to a crisp was a quote from one D Lange along the lines that Labour has always been a party of reform and was continuing that tradition.

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