Aug 30, 2012

Getting it right: Why Labour's failed to fire

Labour has a great message, great people, great vision for New Zealand, but who would know?

The problem I believe is quite straight forward.

Labour has failed to stir peoples' emotions. They are too quiet, too cautious, too invisible. From the top down. They haven't sparked emotional reactions in anyone, about anything.

They haven't stimulated, aggravated, agitated, provoked, annoyed or amused. They are just there.

It's like they're more comfortable being ignored than criticised.

So they are being ignored.

Except Louisa Wall. She's promoted the Marriage Equality Bill that has inspired some, elated some, made some uncomfortable and some are just plain pissed off. People are emotional about Louisa's Bill one way or the other.

She's been interviewed on TV, radio, newspapers. She's been seen, heard, read about, talked about, praised, condemned and just plain criticised.

Good on her. She has been noticed.

And in every interview I've seen or heard, she is calm, eloquent and on message. Her critics come across as irrational rabid nutcases.

Now her colleagues need to do the same. They need to skirt with controversy, to wear their hearts on their sleeves, go out on a limb. They need to be positively controversial. Cause right-wing outrage. Make people talk, make people think, make people argue, get people emotional, piss people off - at home, at work, at the pub, at school, on talkback, where ever two people meet - provoke a reaction.

Just throw some outrageous lefty ideas out there and sit back and watch the reaction, gauge the feedback, stir the pot and revel in the attention.

They won't win over staunch conservatives, but so what? Those conservatives will moan and bitch about them out in their communities. Free publicity.

They'll win back some of the swing voters and lefties looking for Labour to show some mongrel.

Labour has a great message, but they're pretty damn dull in promoting it. It's too much to expect Joe Public to tune in to that message when its not in their faces.

They could do worse than look at Louisa Wall's example of how to do things.

Kelvin Davis


  1. "It's like they're more comfortable being ignored than criticised."

    Coincidentally my (Labour) electorate MP has recently blocked me from following him on Twitter. He has claimed being in opposition means holding government to account, but wants to avoid being held to account himself. He wants to preach the party message unhindered.

    "And in every interview I've seen or heard, she is calm, eloquent and on message. Her critics come across as irrational rabid nutcases."

    I agree with all the accolades Louisa gets, she's been a model MP.

    In contrast to other Labour MPs who often come across as irrational rabid nutcases.

  2. Kelvin, a sentence like your first one just makes people point and laugh.

    1. This!

      Or maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge; Labour simply hasn't conveyed ANY message to me as a voter.

      With any respect due to the many hardworking party faithful, it seems Labour is party that lacks any clear ideology or collective mental fortitude.

      They flip-flop, or they adopt policy.

      e.g. they criticise the government's cock-up of Water Rights, but they do not take a position themselves as to whether or not they support the NZMC's claim (the political risk of siding with the maoris is probably too large as Shearer chases the centre-vote).

      I think Kelvin makes a fair point; Labour's caution is also their undoing.

      But also substantial; Labour is cautious because it has no idea as to what the party itself wants.

      Further, they have failed to communicate their intended direction for economic policy to rebuild our economy. It's been lack-lustre thusfar, and if their MPs continue to ostracize the one man who seems to have any understanding of economics (Cunliffe) what hope is there.

      Even for someone like myself who, in all likelihood will never vote Labour, it's a major cause of concern for the health of our democracy when the major opposition party is so fragmented and suffering from paralysis. But that has always been the nature of a party which simply tries to absorb the entire centre/left without promoting solid principles.

  3. I'd never noticed Louisa Wall before this but was impressed that she won over Paul Hutchison at the last minute. He obviously felt she was approachable and they obviously had a satisfactory conversation. She's done well.

  4. Nice summation. If this part of the electoral cycle is not the time to throw out some edgy ideas and gauge how far people are prepared to go, then when is? The question is, are there actually any "outrageous lefty ideas" remaining among the Labour leadership?

  5. Kelvin, I think you've hit the nail on the head. Nandor is right: This is the perfect time for some edginess. But whether it's a problem of reality or one of perception, those of us on the outside don't know if there are any folks in the Labour caucus committed to lefty ideas, outrageous or otherwise. How can we?

  6. Spot on Kelvin, Labour strategy up to this point is hope that National stuff things up and then mop up the swing, but unless they show some STRONG leadership people will just remain with National. I think the strategy that labour need to look at is called DIFFERENTIATION!

  7. I'm a left winger and have left Labour and joined the Greens partly because I perceive them as closer to traditional Labour values since Cur Roger derailed the party and of course because Labour doesn't see the writing on the wall very clearly concerning Global Warming etc.

  8. As a conservative I find your approach quiute distirbing, for two reasons:
    1) It is basically saying that it doesn't matter if policy ideas are good or bad, just "outrageous lefty" ones. Labour is better of spending the time now 2 years from the election developing a series of good policy ideas (it already has a few including raising the pension age and a capital gains tax) and then persuading New Zealanders to support them, not develop ideas to inspire people, regardless of how good or bad they are so long as they are outrageously lefty.
    2) It is basically a huge f*** you to all those who don't disagree with them. It appears that alienating a whole group of New Zealanders is not only going to result from your policy, it is the whole point of the policy. This seems to be a very dangerous precedent.

    Leaving that aside there are also issues of wether it will work, lets suppose the "outrageous left" ideas frighten swing and moderate voters causing them to flock into the arms of National. Even if it is good politics, it may not be good policy, and quite possibly a move into a Don Brash style campaign of us vs them

    1. You needn't worry. Kelvin lost his seat, so I wouldn't pay too much attention to his views. Advice is free, hard work pays off.

  9. Labour need to have policies that will roll back some of the damage done by the Gnats, and seriously engage with the miserable economic prospects facing more and more New Zealanders.

    By all means let us see some mongrel, but at present I would say Labour has no message, mediocre people and no vision. Don't be too celebratory of Louisa Wall's bill - this was no great step, and it required no funding. When you find the Gnats cheerfully endorsing your policies you either did not represent New Zealand very well, or your activity is epiphenomenal. Take a critical look and say "This was the most important issue facing NZ at this time." Do you really believe so? I suspect not.

    1. It's not often I see the word epiphenomenal, excellent work.

      Salient point too.

  10. I checked out the Labour Party webpage. Some observations: regional focus - which the page features - excludes Canterbury; Maori portfolio was last updated July 12 with death of Timi Te Heuheu (and June 21 befoe that; there were only four postings for the whole of 2011). And the webpages are just too damn busy!

    The history page mentions "Many of those first involved just wanted the basics - adequate food, clothing and shelter; a job with reasonable conditions and regular wages; support in illness or old age; and a hope for an even brighter future for their children." For me this disappeared for too many NZers with the neoliberal reforms implemented by Labour although only having the most negative eefects now under National (confession: I voted for them at my first 3 elections - 1980s and the first of the 1990s).

    Labour have no moral compass (okay, ditto for National). They've dumped on all their core supporters over the years - from the working class, to Maori and Pasifika. As for leadership, politics is no longer seen the natural home to those who aspire to lead. Indeed, too many seem to be using it as a CV filler. (I first saw this with the youngest Minsterial appoinment, Deborah Morris of NZ First. She lasted 3 years and went into PR. Nobody said it be easy!)



1. Anonymous comments will be rejected. Please use your real name or a pseudonym/moniker/etc...
2. No personal abuse. Defamatory comments will be rejected.
3. I'll reject any comment that isn't in good taste.