Politics and winning



Politics is about winning. Nothing else. MPs can philosophise, criticise, pontificate, and machinate as much as they want in opposition and it doesn’t count for a thing.

Great minds like Parker, Cunliffe, King, Jones and Robertson have pretty much wasted nearly six years in a political vacuum unable to do a thing about the way this government has reshaped the social and economic environment.

State assets have been sold, inequality has risen, child poverty has been swept under the carpet and pretty much ignored while Wanganui Collegiate has been bailed out, tax cuts for the wealthy paid for through an increase in GST for all, workers have been stripped of their fundamental rights, the education system has been turned on its head to the detriment of the majority – and there is nothing Labour can do about any of it. Without victory this year, Labour will remain impotent for another three years at least.

So how to win? First of all David Cunliffe has to be allowed to follow his well-tuned political instincts that in the space of 6 months took him from banished backbencher to delivering the Leader’s speech at Labour’s annual conference.

Make no mistake; David Cunliffe is a very intelligent and politically savvy man. He knows he has to deliver come election time, as this may well be the one chance he gets. He also knows the enrolled non-vote hasn’t dropped below 500,000 since 1999 – and this includes 2005 when then-Party President Mike Williams ran a concerted ENV turnout strategy, and Don Brash promised a right wing agenda of the like not seen in this country for a generation.

Engaging with the ENV must be a priority, but it won’t alone turn the 2011 defeat into a 2014 victory. So while this will be one part of the campaign strategy, there has to be more. Labour must prove it is capable of governing; that it can provide a viable alternative which can deliver in a way the Nats can’t.

Conventional wisdom says parties don’t win elections; governments lose them. I don’t buy this. A poor opposition will never beat an average government, but an inspired and inspiring opposition can beat an average performing governing coalition. However, in a rising economy, with an experienced Prime Minister who I believe is the only politician who truly understands the power of PR and uses it better than any MP or PM I can recall, this will be difficult; but not impossible.

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I expect a State of the Nation speech from Cunliffe which redefines the Labour message and brand; and one that offers solutions to the burning issues of inequality, child poverty, and jobs. A speech communicating a vision that can be built on over the coming months.

Note I have said Labour brand. I personally don’t give a damn about any other party’s message, policies or political posturing because I am not representing that party or their aspirations on the doorstep or the soapbox when I am campaigning. I know, you know, and the voters know that in an MMP world a major party cannot govern alone; that coalition partners are vital to forming a government. At this point in time that is not my concern. Of course, when appropriate, I will seek to differentiate Labour from this government, but I will also be working incredibly hard to get the Labour message out there, and I will be offering solutions and alternatives.

If asked, I will also inform people of the political realities of coalition agreements: the most important of which is the economic agenda of the majority party is the one that will be implemented. Ideas from coalition partners are, of course, considered, and if they fit into the wider philosophical framework of the majority party, they will be adopted, but if they don’t, then they won’t. David Parker (one of the brightest, well-read and politically astute politicians I have had the pleasure of working with) will be the Finance Minister if Labour forms a government.

Labour can lead the 2014 Government and David Cunliffe can be the Prime Minister, but we should be under no illusions at the enormity of the task. The first step along the journey to the 9th floor will be taken on Monday. Expect Cunliffe to stride out with confidence.


  1. If power is secured at all costs including the abandonment of Labour’s fundamental principles of both social and economic justice and equity, then all one is doing is swapping Peter to replace Paul.

    Policy principles and consummate skill in communications, which means a total caucus disciplined approach on the “brand” are not mutually exclusive, but God forbid we should replace the current lowest common denominator PM since World war Two in policy principles, for an equally consummate communicator where policy principles are secondary.

    NZ’ers may have been duped by Key’s bland smile and wave leadership, reinforced by the beer at the “barbie” banality, but they’re waking up to the con. Cunnliffe will have to show he not only talks “our” language but has core principles that define him and in contrast to Key who doesn’t.

  2. I’ll wait to hear his speech this week, but I fear Mr. Cunliffe may have already lost my vote by not taking a stand against deep sea mining.

    • Yeah Monday’s going to be interesting, but it’ll take more than a disappointment on oil drilling to convince me it isn’t worth giving National the boot. MMP gives us options with the party vote, and I’d still rather have my local Labour candidate than vote for a Green one and get a National one.

      • @graveyard jones
        I should have been more specific; Labour may have lost my party vote to the Greens while I may still support a local Labour candidate who has a chance of ousting a gNat.

      • CJ

        You’re lucky to have a local Labour candidate worth voting for. Down here in Dunedin we have two rancid piles of shit in; Clark and Curran. I’m hoping that Meteria Turei will be able to snatch the Dunedin North seat from DC, and will do my utmost to assist her campaign (mainly leafleting and doorknocking). I can’t really see it being much more rightwing even if the Nat (Woodhouse) does take the electorate seat – seeing as they’ll all be in on the list anyway.

  3. Hi Stuart

    “Politics is about winning. Nothing else. MPs can philosophise, criticise, pontificate, and machinate as much as they want in opposition and it doesn’t count for a thing. ”

    As a hypothetical, would you have also adopted this approach if you were a Labour candidate in the 1987 election?

  4. The politics of losing

    “They would rather keep control of the losing side, than lose control of the winning side” Chris Trotter

    David Parker (one of the brightest, well-read and politically astute politicians I have had the pleasure of working with) will be the Finance Minister if Labour forms a government.
    Stuart Nash

    Pardon me, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

    Is this the same David Parker, the David Parker of the most hard right of the Labour caucus, recent veteran of the ABC faction?

    No wonder David Cunliffe is pushing vote losing policies like raising the age of super entitlement, like keeping up the price of fresh fruit and vegetables, while saying the only the rich buy this stuff anyway, like reversing promised tax cuts on the poor, while boasting this will save $1.5 billion in (virtual) revenue. But saying nothing about how much real revenue he intends to raise by reversing actual tax cuts on the rich. Twice what he intends to suck out of the pockets of the poor? Three times as much? Half as much?
    We don’t know.

    Alongside the $1.5billion saved from eliminating tax cuts on the poor that he has already announced. On Monday will we hear David Cunliffe say that he intends to raise X amount from reversing actual tax cuts on the rich?

    I doubt it.

    Labour won’t want to risk alienating these rich voters, the same way that they just quite quite casually alienated hundreds of thousands of the less well off voters.

    Is this the same David Parker reported Here?

    “Labour says views on mining close to Govt’s”

    NZ Herald July 27, 2012

    Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker, says his party’s policies on oil, gas and mineral extraction are close to those of the Government.

    “I don’t think we are much different from National,” Parker said. “They’ve continued on with the programme that we started in respect to oil and gas,”


    Is this the same David Parker who after flying up from Dunedin actively campaigned for electorate votes in Epsom ensuring a victory for John Banks? (Banks winning margin was almost exactly the number of votes that went to Parker) For doing the same thing, the Green Party Candidate for Epsom, David Hay, was publicly reprimanded and demoted by his party. Yet David Parker has been promoted to deputy. Just alone for that piece of idiocy in Epsom, Parker should have been demoted to the back benches. But he seems to be able to do what he likes.


    While David Cunliffe has been by shackled by caucus by the ankle to this hard right neoliberal ball and chain as his deputy…..
    Labour will not reach the disengaged non-voters….
    Labour will not win the middle voters, the type that care about the planet…..
    Labour will keep the corporate donations flowing, and the comfortably well off on side. Unfortunately these people always vote National, (Why would they vote for an imitation when they can have the real thing?)
    And Labour ABCs like Parker will be able to keep polishing the opposition benches with their idle backsides for the foreseeable future.

    (A little bit of hair dye, and let it grow out, and I can see it)

    Deputy Wormtongue

    • Good post Jenny,

      Can’t help but think about the american Republican and Democrat Parties’..aptly described by the late ‘Gore Vidal’, as the ‘Two Headed Monster’… hmm Labour and the Nats…same deal.

    • Its an interesting point Joe and one I am glad I don’t have to answer, but it is also why I have immense respect for Jim Anderton. He had the courage to to say ‘enough is enough’ and put his principles on the line.

    • You make some interesting points Jen; and I can sympathise considering I stood in Epsom in 2005 and had to back my Prime Minister when she publicly came out and told Labour people to vote for Worth in order to get rid of Hide (and Act). Of course, I gladly acted on her advice, but if Labour hadn’t stood a candidate, Worth probably would have beaten Hide. The Parker case is not a rarity – if the Greens hadn’t stood a candidate in Akld Central, Jacinda would have won it, and if the Greens hadn’t stood a candidate in Chch Central, Brendon Burns would still be in parliament. It works both ways.

  5. You can take you ‘winning is everything’ and your branding and ‘great minds’ and stuff them.

    The validating principle of democracy lies in representing your people. If that doesn’t matter to you, you might as well go work for John Key. Oddly enough, when leaders genuinely represent their people they tend to get elected – and entire countries are happier and perform better.

    Let us hear no more about branding. And think, if winning is everything, why were you retained after your failure to help Shearer win?

    • Stuart, with all due respect, you don’t seem to understand that Labour’s philosophies, objectives and principles haven’t changed, but if the leadership fails to articulate these in a way that resonates with the voting public, then they mean nothing. This year voters will ask “what does Labour stand for?” and if its MPs and candidates can’t answer in a way that resonates, then they will forever stay in opposition. Politics is all about branding, positioning and communicating a message in a way that resonates. If you don’t understand that, then I am sorry, but if you don’t believe me, read a couple of books on political campaigning.

      As an aside, I left Shearer’s office once I felt he was in a position to take control. At the time I had a 3 month old son and was commuting between Napier and Wgtn. I wasn’t even in the building when Shearer left. And I disagreed with the strategy his team employed after I left.

      • Labour did not lose in 2008 because the public did not understand them, but because we understood you all too well.

        If you really want to win, you need to forget all your marketing piffle and go to the mattresses.

        Branding won’t do it- it has to be real – the bottom has fallen out of the market for Labour lite.

  6. Sorry Stuart but while the major issue of oil exploration remains unresolved between the Labour Party and the greens / mana this will be too much of a risk to unstable government which will turn the voters off.

    Will it bee the labour saying yeah – nah and flip flopping, or the greenies selling out on their principal.

    Voters will not accept that this is an issue that can be negotiated after the election. This is critical and unless resolved we on the right will point out that such a key issue will lead to unstable government. A risk the swinging voter will simply not want.

    • Come on Peter; there are a number of issues that the Nats and the Maori Party, United Future and even Act disagree on. Let’s not even start on the Nats and the Conservatives – do you really think Key is going to role back the the ‘anti-smacking’ legislation (which Craig says is a ‘bottom line’)? Of course he’s not. There is much more in common with the Greens and Labour than there is between the Nats and the Conservatives and the Nats and the Maori party.

  7. One thing is for certain Cunliffe, knows he is only going to get one shot at this outside his leadership increasing the Party vote, come the next election, should his leadership fail to gain the Treasury benches, and if that is the result he will still have to contend with those within the caucus who no matter how united they are at this time still harbor deep resentment.

    I like Cunliffe,yet my mind set, at the time of his election was one of has he got it,is he just another apologist for bourgeois chardony spin,yet no matter my mind Shearer, had to go, no matter his credentials as a world war traveled negotiator,where that came from who knows,for his performance as the Labour leader was dumb founding,and those squirrels who advise the caucus and party of whom they think should lead regarding Shearers,elevation as leader need a good kick up the arse and shown the door if still hanging around.

    Yet here we are in election year.The Nats coming out firing new rules on how they are going to tackle the poor education of our children tossing money at those chosen few teachers,who, how chosen is still to be thought out, will benefit from a political largesse known as pork barrel politics appealing to a cultured class base instinct greed,called in their known circles as”we all care about our future”.Yet the other side of the deal is for the Government,well lets hope they don!t catch on lesser capitol spent on teaching teachers as these incentives will allow our best and capable to pass on their experience,ignoring one of the most base indicators of poor education poverty,a word that this Government is refused to recognize as its corporate rule ravages the heart and soul of our land.

    And what does Labours leader say like some unions,its not a bad policy,labour we would do it differentley the Union ham strung by its philosophy of a better deal for its workers.Yet Labour if they are to face the challenge of winning this election are going to have to pat the elephant in the room and dress it up and garner it with its tradition of egalitarian fairness,rather than running around chasing the donkey and its hehaw.

  8. “Great minds like Parker, Cunliffe, King, Jones and Robertson have pretty much wasted nearly six years in a political vacuum unable to do a thing about the way this government has reshaped the social and economic environment”

    Immediately upon reading this paragraph, I was reminded of the last Labour Government’s 3rd term -one in which Helen & Co appeared to have lost interest, passing up opportunities to continue to reverse the damage done by the previous neo-lib-3rd way/ideologically-driven/Ruthenasia era bullshit. I’m not sure all of them are yet over it.

    Roger and cohorts’ damage beginning 1984 was always going to take a generation to undo. In the 3rd term, the careerists in Labour chose to have a lay down (taking voters’ commitments/support/ et al for granted). They chose to do nothing – instead they pursued their own best interests AT the expense of their traditional supporters.
    FOR THAT – supporters are at least owed an apology in Cunliffe’s up & coming …. OR at the very least some sort of acknowledgement that things have, and are changing, AND that their ‘hijacking’, misuse and abuse of the label “Labour Party” beginning in the 1980’s is acknowledged by ALL current MP’s offering themselves up at the next election.
    …… else: Fuk ’em! There Are Alternatives ….. there are and always have been!

    After that 3rd term – I decided they no longer deserved support and that they would NOT get anything further from me until they showed signs of returning to their roots. (funnily enough – about 23 or so of my extended family eligible to vote feel likewise). It’s gradually happening but not enough to allow my giving them a Party vote until they prove themselves.
    They’re showing signs (they might get an electorate vote ….. MIGHT!!!).
    They’ll NEVER get a party vote until they unambiguously ditch any form of neo-liberal ideology – including all its associated verbal mantra; rid themselves of its adherents (Goffs, Mallards and others); and begin to espouse policies that show they’ve grown ‘balls’, work towards a more egalitarian and compassionate society; acknowledge centre-left diversity (to the extent that Greens and others are not an enemy); and one or two other things.
    I’ll read the post further down soon, but really ….. it’s only now (since Cunliffe) that they appear to be seeing the bleeding obvious. Shame the ‘old guard’ can’t bring themselves to get past their egos, fear, self-interest, sense of entitlement, (in some cases – lack of ANY sort of critical thought or intellect); etc., to do likewise.


    I’ll get back to the rest of the post after I get over the massive, destructive waste of time certain MPs in Labour have caused by their self-interest in the last 3rd term. I think I, and a lot of other Labour voters have tried to rationalise things in order to justify their troughing and inaction…..(such as – perhaps a Goff midlife crisis, or an over-active King maternal instinct, a Mallard mid-life crisis in which fear of losing testosterone was worrying him, or maybe simply a HUGE Jones ego and excessive love of corporate fishing – but whatever – it can only last so long).

  9. But if winning reinforces neoliberalism, we still lose.
    Labour hasn’t just lost the last two elections, they’ve lost the last three decades.

  10. “State assets have been sold, inequality has risen, child poverty has been swept under the carpet and pretty much ignored while Wanganui Collegiate has been bailed out, tax cuts for the wealthy paid for through an increase in GST for all, workers have been stripped of their fundamental rights, the education system has been turned on its head to the detriment of the majority – and there is nothing Labour can do about any of it. Without victory this year, Labour will remain impotent for another three years at least.

    So how to win?”

    Stuart Nash, there is something missing, that is: Beneficiaries have been SHAT on, and now even mentally ill and persons suffering other medical conditions, have been turned into a commodity, as they are sent to outsourced service providers, making a living and earning high fees to usher them into jobs on the OPEN market (e.g. at The Warehouse, McDonalds or what else there is as employers).

    WINZ are applying a “work will set you free” policy, relying on flawed “science”, that was designed and developed by a professor Mansel Aylward from a department at Cardiff Uni that was financed by a convicted, corrupt major US insurance company, UNUM. They have a Dr David Bratt as leading Principal Health Advisor, who pushes and leads the agenda to get sick and disabled into work, all simply to save costs, and by raising work capability expectations. Soon they will use outsourced, supposedly “independent” assessors to assess whether beneficiaries on health related benefits are “capable” to work, and to establish their medical conditions. That is although these persons have already been assessed by their own doctors, by specialists and in many cases WINZ’s own “designated doctors”.

    You make no mention of beneficiaries, I again take note of. It seems that Labour has no interest in getting votes from beneficiaries, who number over 310,000, if I am right.

    Many are downtrodden, and at the bottom end of society. They deserve a voice and respect, but there is not even much of a mention of people on benefits, and Labour’s spokesperson is rather silent on much.

    Tell us, what is Labour’s position on Bratt’s ideology, his likening of benefit dependence to “drug dependence”, and about outsourcing services that WINZ now do? What is Labour doing or intending to do to win over confidence and votes from beneficiaries?

    Or is it all rather going to be about carrots for those that can work, and the middle class, that we can expect? I accept Labour is concerned and wants to solve the issue of child poverty, but the rest of the poor are not much mentioned.

    It is all about winning, but to win you must gain confidence and trust, and votes, and over 310,000, many of whom I suspect to be non voting, that is a number that deserves to be taken seriously.

    Thanks for your time!

    And if you can be bothered, and have some time, perhaps do have a look at this:







    • Hi Marc, I most certainly do care about beneficiaries.! I must admit, though, that the social welfare portfolio is not an area of competency. I have, however, had enough conversations with Dr Russell Wills and read enough by John Minto to understand that if we don’t work to engage and empower those who currently have very little, then we will never come close to even addressing poverty; let alone addressing it.

      • Thanks for your comment, Stuart.

        You write:
        “Hi Marc, I most certainly do care about beneficiaries.! I must admit, though, that the social welfare portfolio is not an area of competency.”

        You strike me as a mentally competent person, capable of reading and comprehension. I have repeatedly supplied links and quotes to essential information, that will deliver you sufficient knowledge, and with that “competence”, to make reasonable judgments as a senior member of Labour.

        Surely, also within your party and contacts with others, you must know at least a fair bit about what goes on in the welfare area.

        If not, I suggest you “enlighten” yourself, as this stuff that many sick and disabled beneficiaries are getting confronted with now, can in at least some cases prove to be a matter of life and death, at least between mental stability and the opposite to that. It is rather “serious”, what I am concerned about, so when you have the time (as you clearly have time to come back and check responses here anyway), do some reading.

        By the way, Cunliffe’s SON speech was a reasonably good start, but we are waiting for more specifics on the welfare of others, not just parents and kids, which though is a high priority area.

        Best wishes, Marc

    • All “claro” to me, what to think of Stuart Nash and “Labour” now.

      He comments to one or two others above today, but has NO comment on Bratt and welfare!

      F*** Labour, I’d say, unless Cunliffe brings about a game changer in his speech to the nation tomorrow.

      My vote will go elsewhere!!!

    • Thanks for posting the links Marc they make for extremely interesting reading and are an eye opener in light of what is posted on the main media sites especially regarding welfare beneficiaries who, according to the MSD in their huge font announce them to be around 10percentile population.
      This is not incredible. This is a managed outcome, as the minister would say, but not a happy one. While there are people out of work because of retrenchment or an extremely poor outcome of the ‘education’ system, the standardised victimisation of beneficiaries via the guilt/shame/belittlement procedures as demonstrated by the relevant minister (was it zip it sweetie now sip it sweetie her own personal vintage oh please) is a formula delivered by courier to every country in the five eyes by this doctor I have no nice words for. Poverty in this land of plenty is a revolting aberration which should not be tolerated so if steering the runaway semi which this country begins to look like, with the driver drunk on his own success, back onto the hardtop, I would say yes it is about winning and David Cunliffe is saying, “show me the jobs?” in reply to John Key’s “show me the money!” so that’s good enough for me. Kudos for your comments btw

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