Poll Positions: Is Cunliffe’s Time Running Out?

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WE’LL ALL HAVE TO WAIT for Sunday’s One News bulletin to discover whether or not the results of the Fairfax Ipsos and Roy Morgan polls are confirmed by Colmar Brunton. If they are then David Cunliffe will have to act swiftly and decisively if he’s to preserve what little remains of Labour’s hopes for victory.

If he fails to act, then the narratives being constructed around his leadership will harden into perceived facts that he will find increasingly difficult to escape.

What are those narratives? There are many, but for the moment these are the two most damaging.

The first asserts that while Cunliffe undoubtedly won the support of his party in 2013, he singularly failed to win the support of his caucus. That failure is forcing him to tread with exaggerated caution around his parliamentary colleagues in an attempt to maintain a facade of party unity.

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The Leader of the Opposition’s and his advisers’ preoccupation with unity is now extending that caution into the realm of policy with the result that Cunliffe’s campaign promises to enshrine Labour’s core values at the heart of the party’s 2014 manifesto are beginning to ring hollow.

The second narrative is being constructed around Cunliffe himself. Essentially, it casts him as a high-functioning Walter Mitty character unsure whether his true identity is equal to the persona he was obliged to fabricate in order to win the affection and loyalty of Labour’s rank-and-file. That uncertainty is making Cunliffe’s political performances look increasingly forced and inauthentic.

This second narrative has been greatly strengthened by Cunliffe’s piecemeal redefinition of Labour’s flagship “Best Start” programme and his ham-fisted, pot-calling-the-kettle-black attack on the socially-insulating effects of the Prime Minister’s wealth.

Cunliffe’s defenders will of course argue that even the slightest perception of disunity is likely to prove fatal to Labour’s chances of winning the election, and that the radical political leader that the Leader of the Opposition longs to become can only be realised once he has been armed with the state power that flows from victory.

But if victory can only be won by caution, then Cunliffe’s government must perforce be a cautious one. New Zealand will not accept a Prime Minister who, as soon as all the votes have been safely cast and counted, cries: “Ha, ha! Fooled you!”

For the moment then, in both the Leader’s Office and the Labour Caucus, caution has the upper hand. On almost every front the policies Labour is advancing are responsible, mainstream and unlikely to frighten Capitalism’s horses. Last April’s momentary flirtation with radicalism – “New Zealand Power” – was quickly hustled out of the media spotlight and now shows every sign of being regarded as an embarrassing example of David Parker’s policy wonkiness.

Labour and Cunliffe are thus advancing into Election Year as a fragile and ill-tempered coalition of pale-pink neoliberalism, anxious social-democracy, thwarted ambition and slighted ego. But, as everyone knows, a coalition can only be as radical as its most conservative member; and remains united only for as long as the benefits of loyalty outweigh the costs of treachery.

So what is holding Cunliffe’s fragile coalition together?

Interestingly, it’s all about how to manipulate polling data.

A friend of mine has made a close study of the 2008 and 2012 American presidential elections – especially the Obama Campaign’s unparalleled ability to identify and get out the Democratic Vote. He informs me that Labour has expertise under contract that may soon be in a position to offer something similar in the New Zealand context. In a close contest, this sort of technological fix might just be enough to tip the balance in Labour’s favour.

My own reservations about this salvation-by-software approach is that its advocates all-too-often omit from their pitch the other secret of the Obama Campaign’s extraordinary success – an army of volunteers. Yes Obama had IT resources far superior to the Republicans, but the software’s uncanny ability to analyse and map the political geography of American states and cities would have been useless without the volunteers Obama’s strategists were able to pour, at a moment’s notice, into the neighbourhoods, streets, parts of streets, apartment buildings and even individual houses where they could do most good.

But, in order to assemble an army of skilled electoral volunteers it is first necessary to inspire them. Except that youth and idealism are seldom motivated by caution and responsibility – even when it is backed by state-of-the-art information technology.

And this, in a nutshell, is Cunliffe’s dilemma. To win he needs to mobilise the young, the brown and the poor who stayed home in 2011. That will require a radical manifesto and a leader willing to sell it with maximum energy and minimum equivocation. But Labour’s caucus isn’t capable of agreeing on a radical manifesto – which means that the abstainers of 2011 will remain outside the electoral process. Without them Labour will have no choice but to make its pitch to “soft” National supporters. But Cunliffe was elected to do exactly the opposite. Any attempt to sell Labour as “National Lite” will profoundly disillusion his “Old Labour” supporters and not be believed by the ex-Labour voters his colleagues are determined to turn around.

It was precisely this fear: that all those Labour supporters energised by Cunliffe’s election, apprehending the possibility of imminent betrayal, will suddenly crash Labour’s poll results, that inspired my much criticised “Canaries In A Coalmine” posting on The Daily Blog.

If the news from Colmar-Brunton on Sunday is as bad as, or worse than, the news already received from Fairfax-Ipsos and Roy Morgan, Cunliffe has only one winning strategy. He must go over the heads of his caucus colleagues and appeal to that latent Labour constituency that has waited so long for political representation that offers some prospect of genuine economic and social progress. And if his caucus rebels, then he must demand that his party selects him a new one.

48 COMMENTS

  1. “This, in a nutshell, is Cunliffe’s dilemma. To win he needs to mobilise the young, the brown and the poor who stayed home in 2011.”

    Chris, you are misinformed about which New Zealanders moved from the VOTER to the NON VOTER column in 2011.

    This incorrect assumption is completely understandable, because *typical* or *habitual* non voters do indeed tend to be young, poor, and/or brown. Habitual non voters, however, are the most difficult group of the missing million to get into the booth, as they have no history of participating. They are not the best targets for any political party this year.

    The best information I have is that the *new* non voters, who did vote in 2005/2008 but did not vote in 2011, likely do not conform to these stereotypes. They come from a wide variety of economic backgrounds, and are just as likely to be European as to have other ethnic identities. New non voters are also much more likely than habitual non voters to cast a vote in 2014, because they have a strong history of participating in elections. Among the people who did not vote in 2011, these are the best targets for all political parties in 2014.

    Because of this (as I said, entirely understandable) misinterpretation about the profile of new non-voters, the rest of your prescription does not hold.

    -Rob

    • But to win Cunliffe does need to ‘mobilise the young, the brown and the poor who stayed home in 2011.”

      • Bomber: No, I do not agree with that. If you manage to mobilise the very hardest targets among the non-voters (the habitual non voters), then that would certainly be a great achievement, and the progressive parties would probably win by over 300k votes over the right.

        But you do not need to win by 300k votes in order to win. So no, Labour does not *need* the most hardened non voters in order to win.

        Another factoid may help here: There are studies about showing that people who do not vote for 3 elections in a row have a <20% chance of voting in the fourth election. That finding is pretty intuitive, and those are the habitual non voters I mentioned above. Targeting habitual non voters is a really inefficient way to grow the progressive vote, compared to courting the people who usually do vote, but just didn't last time round. Studies of this kind of voter are less certain, but a mid-range estimate in a place like NZ is that those people vote ~70% of the time.

        • I think your safe approach Rob is just that, safe. You claim a soft voice to woo back those voters who might vote blue is the easy means of engagement where as I think it is this very softly softly approach that has seen the Labour Party vote walk away in droves.

        • Rob, I respect your work and your analysis but your argument here on this issue speaks to a strategy derived through a beltway lens. And to win this election, Labour needs to get out of a Wellington mindset and smell the real New Zealand.

          Outside the beltway, it is clear, for Labour to win the 2014 General Election and form stable Government it needs:
          * south Aucklanders to turn out to vote in record numbers;
          * the Green Party onside and returning a party vote result above 12 percent;
          * swing voters to give it the nod in the provinces.

          In December I dug in on this premise and published this feature: https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/12/01/special-feature-nationals-electoral-boundary-strategy-designed-to-erode-labours-votes/

          But to paraphrase the feature, in my view, to draw voters unto itself, Labour needs to articulate a clear Government-in-waiting policy message based on this simple methodology:
          * Identify the big challenges facing multi-sector/socio groups in NZ;
          * Identify the causes of those challenges;
          * Frame the effects of those causes using real life examples;
          * Drive home solutions and how those solutions will be paid for.

          The strategy needs to be rolled out like a machine. It can’t wait until later. And it needs to display an accord on key policy with the Norman/Turei led Green Party. After all, there is common ground among the Green caucus even while the Green membership, especially in Auckland, is hostile to joining a coalition with Labour.

          If Labour cannot do it, then it hasn’t got a show in the General Election and the vacuum that currently exists in political science terms will be filled by another… albeit likely fragmented into meaninglessness.

  2. The festering divisions inside Labour are now so entrenched that they are a divided and ineffectual rabble.

    Cunliffe will continue to be undermined by his own shortcomings and a ludicrous electoral system that presented the Labour caucus with a leader they don’t, and never will, support.

    At this rate, they are electoral toast for 2014.

  3. Phil Goff: 11 November 2008 – 13 December 2011
    David Shearer: 13 December 2011 – 15 September 2013
    David Cunliffe: 15 September 2013 – ?????

  4. What labour need to beat john key is a leader who the party faithful and the country will love and follow. That last leader was probably David Lange for a time. Helen Clark was politically astute very smart, utterly ruthless and that was fine while the Nats had Bolger, Shipley, English and Brash. but with Key, as leader of the Nats still as popular today as he was six years ago! labour are defenceless? Nothing tried in the six years has worked.

    What labour needs to do but is incapable of doing is a hard examination of where and why they are failing. Cunliffe is a stop gap measure in a precession of leaders who have been seen off by key. Maybe labour have six more years in opposition?

      • “Beating the shit out of the Nats ” is the typical response of the left, for six years Labour have been trying to do that, and have failed miserably. It worked on Shipley, and Brash. It has never worked on Key. Nor will will it. The problem that labour refuse to recognise is that National policies are actually working. The unemployment is going down. The economy is buoyant.

        Labours problem is that they seem obsessed with offering more welfare. That appeals to existing labour and left core support. But it will not get the votes of the middle classes whom labour needs to win the next election. Labour need policies that capture the imagination of middle NZ. The cycle ways were an example, where people saw themselves biking around NZ, National Standards which sought to improve our children’s education, modest tax cuts that let us keep a bit more of our hard earned money, the roading network so we don’t have to spend hours in traffic jams, and Free trade agreements expanding markets for NZ products. Compare this against what Labour offer. More tax, more welfare,a Nd undoing education reforms. Where are the positive policies that underpin economic growth? Where are the policies that the Middle classes will support?, and get excited about? And that are not in one form or another more welfare?

        beating up the Nats??? Really ? Is that the best the left can do after six years in opposition? Great. You might as well light the BBQ and get the knives out for the next round of who will be our leader. Hasn’t the last six years taught labour anything?

        What is that saying about stupidity of repeating same failures over and over expecting a different result?

        • You must be white privilege bro – because your appealing to it again and again. You speak in the terms of neo-liberalism and your obviously a baby boomer who does’t do a thing to work with real people who are struggling.

          No it’s OK that white New Zealand is receiving welfare – or as you call it entitlements and tax breaks. It’s OK for national to sell us out to what ever corporation wants to get a welfare check from the government of the day. Yea, because as I’m ok jack, I’ll pull up the bloody ladder.

          But, yes labour is being defensive and holding a line. Someone has to, your Tory bastards are so use to that type of politics – it’s your favorite – you just spark up another lie and roll on. Go more extreme and lie about politics, lie about economics and lie, lie, lie. Fuck I’m sick of you and yours.

          I’m sick to death of right wing tossers offering solutions to the left. Why do they do it – because they are scared, why do you think so many of the right wing bastards are in labour? Why do you think the right in the country are getting the media to say the country is doing well, and why do you think TINA is back in force?

        • Peter…you’ve nailed it. All Labour are succeeding at doing at the moment is to cannibalise the left vote. They are gaining no traction in the centre where elections are won and lost. The polls show that a big majority of NZ’ers are content with the direction the country is going in, yet all Labour can do is run around like chicken little preaching that the world is ending.

          If Labour want to even be in the hunt come the election, they need to move to the centre, embrace much of what National is doing, abandon the failed tax and spend ideology, and yet still stake out some ground of their own.

        • PETER –

          Quote:
          “The cycle ways were an example, where people saw themselves biking around NZ, National Standards which sought to improve our children’s education, modest tax cuts that let us keep a bit more of our hard earned money, the roading network so we don’t have to spend hours in traffic jams, and Free trade agreements expanding markets for NZ products. Compare this against what Labour offer.”

          Come on, what a twisted view of the realities that is! The cycleway delivered stuff all jobs, most NZers are still petrol headed motorists, and only a minority bother to cycle through the landscape. It was a ridiculed project that never delivered what was claimed, although parts of it (indeed some parts already existed before then, e.g. in Otago) have become popular with tourists and cycling Kiwis.

          National Standards has done stuff all to “improve” children’s education, as it is just about gathering information that teachers and parents already had in different forms. It is just more bureaucracy for already admin inundated teachers, spending less time in class rooms.

          The modest tax cuts favoured the better and high earners much more than the average or low income earners, and GST was actually increased by a whopping 20 or even 25 per cent, which is what poorer people pay more of, because of less discretionary spending, especially on housing, overseas holidays and the likes, for which a fair few better off used the extra cash.

          The roading projects are only needed and sensible in part, and some are so expensive, they make little sense, as the traffic jams shift from one area to new areas, if people do not get out of cars and use more public transport. With emissions increasing overall, and with fossil fuels gradually becoming more expensive and scarce, it is stupid to build more roads for modes of transport that will be less affordable and used in future years. It is indeed rather sinking billions into the ground, and acting inefficiently in an economic sense.

          FTAs have benefits on one side, but are often a double edged sword, where jobs in NZ get destroyed and shifted overseas, like manufacturing. Sadly the public get blinded with the data about widely interpreted “manufacturing”, which includes processing raw milk into milk powder and baby formula (low value added stuff) and cutting logs into more easily transportable pieces of logs. That and larger raw fish packaging and loading is the “manufacturing” growth we get, not smart technological and other products or services, which would lift our earning capacity and incomes.

          Actually Labour and Greens have smarter ideas, but I admit, they are still in the process of refining and developing them into proper, “sellable” policies. It is the disunity in caucus, a lack of decisive direction and action, where Cunliffe is failed by the ones that should support him and work with him, what is a major problem. So Labour comes across less convincing.

          You are a fan of a John Key, who is a superficial, cunning, smart salesman of more of the same, and who is keen to make deals that favour the traditional National voters and supporters, but which fail the bottom half of New Zealanders. I suspect you are doing OK, because your personal interests and preferences are as shallow, superficial and short sighted as that of sadly too many in this short memory suffering society. When people do not learn about preparing for a better future, and just get brainwashed with endless consumerist, commercial advertising, telling them, do your whatever boring job and spend, spend spend, they will not learn to understand what is needed.

          Have a good day though, get some sun and fresh air, it may stimulate the brain to do some thinking.

  5. I agree with much of what Chris says today.
    I have great hopes for David Cunliffe but am waiting to be convinced. Policy choice is critical. A case in point ( an Auckland issue ) was Brian Rudman’s Herald article today where he decried Phil Twyford’s half- hearted policy on Auckland transport: Labour would support the Mayor to bring forward the start of the City Rail Loop and retain the road building programme. First part okay, second part just hopeless. Where is the policy excitement that will attract the young, the disadvantaged, the struggling middle class. Where is the bold plan for safe cycle ways, for bus transport at very low cost, the disincentives to car travel, the statement of caution about PPP ?
    Where is the inspired policy ? If Labour can’t figure it for themselves talk with John Minto about free bus transport, get some inspiration from Auckland’s Campaign for Better Transport, talk about livable cities, pinch great ideas for Melbourne and Vancouver. For goodness sake come up with something that will excite. If they try hard enough there will be plenty of exciting, low-cost ideas they can come up with in many policy areas.

  6. Cunliffe must be saving himself for the home run into the Election, he needs to have his ducks lined up otherwise Key and the rabid dog Tory media will try and tear him to bits. Some of the Tory media are like pitbulls when they smell blood, when it comes to the opposition parties Labour/Greens/NZF/Mana.

  7. I’m having trouble believing the story that Cunliffe wants to move away from neoliberalism, but it’s others want to hold onto it. I think Cunliffe talked like there would be change, but now he has offered nothing. It was Cunliffe who chose Parker as finance minister and his deputy right? And the policies that have flowed following that have been technocratic and solidly ‘third way’.

    People will say Cunliffe was providing an olive branch…but why did he need to? Cunliffe claimed that we needed change, but you don’t create change by extending an olive branch. You create change with a guillotine.

    Cunliffe told his base that neoliberalism has failed, but now he is trying to seduce the electorate with third way policies. It’s as if Cunliffe didn’t realise that his base would care about policy, or that the electorate didn’t hear his speeches to the Labour members. Both groups have seen the contradictions and are now losing interest. The rhetoric and the action don’t align with each other, and when that started to become clear, Labour’s polling dropped.

    I don’t think we should blame the differing views within the Labour party. We shouldn’t think for a second that Goff has conviction in his personal political views – he could be a communist one week and a libertarian the next, so long as he thought the people wanted it. Cunliffe is only under pressure from his MPs because he asked for it. Cunliffe had the party base in behind him, and this now gives him more power than anything held by the career politicians such as Mallard and Goff. Why pander to his MPs who have wrecked the Labour party? Cunliffe should be pandering to his base so that he changes the political discourse. Chasing the political discourse is not what he is there for, Shearer was better at that.

  8. Rather than try to converse with you in an off-the-top-of-my-head fashion here, I’d like to take a more considered approach and post on these issues (especially Selwyn’s series) on Polity in the next week. If you like we can continue chatting then. Hope that is OK.

  9. Hi Chris, I have just discovered your excellent blog at bowalley rd and intend to return there to read more. You obviously have much insight which is valuable and instructive. I can’t help feeling, though, and need to say that your comments here on daily blog re: Cunliffe and Labour, come across as slightly downbeat; for the average punter (such as myself) who has the blog cached in their browser for a quick and easy news/ Countryboy fix, the overall impression is a bit on the doomy side and because your writing is good I can see unscrupulous politicians from over yonder side of house using it (or bits of) for their speeches (they don’t seem to have a great deal of imagination)
    Wednesday (or maybe Tuesday) saw John Key say election next month in a throwaway remark, who knows, Ides of March & all that..

  10. I had a play with the NZ Election Study data. Their sample includes a small number of non-voters.

    Just for fun, I worked out what the 2008 and 2011 election results would have been if all non-voters with a preference had got out to vote.

    If we assume for a moment that the NES data are representative, then getting all non-voters (with a preference) to vote would not have made much difference to the 2011 election result. It would have made a bigger difference in 2008.

    http://grumpollie.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/if-everyone-got-out-to-vote-in-2011-what-difference-would-it-have-made/

    Big assumptions about representativeness though.

  11. Trotter you are hyperventilating already and there are still many months until the election. All those young, brown and poor people you speak of are at summer bbqs, the beach and parties right now. If they’re talking about anything political right now it will be the supermarket corruption – points for Labour.

    Colin Craig is already making an ass of himself. I don’t see why Cunliffe need announce any radical new policy when nobody is really listening that matters at the moment.

    Wait until winter when these young, brown and poor people are miserable and depressed about their power bills, lack of insulation, expensive food, wet shoes, expensive petrol etc etc. This is when they’re going to start think about elections and changing governments.

  12. Then impression I get of the Labour Party is of some tired old committee doing what they’ve always done: flailing about and hanging out their dirty linen in public.

    And Chris’s solution – “He must go over the heads of his caucus colleagues and appeal to that latent Labour constituency that has waited so long for political representation that offers some prospect of genuine economic and social progress” – is probably the right one.

    “A leader willing to sell it with maximum energy and minimum equivocation.” And let others keep their eye on the little cocky jockey that is Key. That’s NOT the leader’s task. If you keep looking at ‘how well we’re doing in the polls’ you aren’t looking at ‘how well are we doing with the groundswell and the volunteers and the sneezers who are putting out the simple messages.’

    For as long as Labour gets sucked into Key’s game they’ll lose.

    Cunliffe has to show his miserable doubting hacks in caucus that his way is the best way for now; the constituents believe it and show it, so their wannabe representatives had better stop squirming, sheathe the stilettos, and get on the bus if they want a political job next year.

    If that’s the way the wind is blowing, they’ll track round.

    • Before Cunliffe can sell “with maximum energy” he needs something worth selling.

      So far Middle NZ hasn’t seen a single policy statement that makes sense to them. The world has moved on since the 60’s and discredited Left Wing policies won’t wash with voters who today are mostly NOT union members and if they’re truly ‘working class’ are more likely to be owning and operating their own small business. What has Labour got to offer this new ‘working class’, other than more regulation and taxation?

      It’s Labour who is out of touch!

  13. Labour should consult on strategy with the Greens. They’re lovely people who also happen to have the best parliamentary operation around at the moment. They like to win, and they don’t need Crosby Textor to do it.

    I’d expect rolling out three constructive policy initiatives a week will be enough to crush rightwing pretensions of competence. Labour should do two, and the Greens one, to split the work load. More, the parties should critique them in camera to anticipate and mousetrap objections: A job that can make Labour’s neoliberals an actual asset.

    Do job creation and housing early, and make them BIG. Key has done nothing constructive in government – it’s what he does best – The Green Labour government has six years of catchup to do on top of its own work.

    • The Greens are indeed extremely good at politicking – good enough in fact to garner 10% of the vote, mostly from the immature and economically deluded amongst us. But that’s about it with their current approach.

      I think Labour would be wise to keep their distance because they need to be able to sell themselves as being capable of governing the country.

      We’re a good way from the election so the gloves aren’t off yet but later in the year all the Nats have to say is “If you vote Labour, you’ll get those crazy Green folk running the country.

      Labour – choose your friends carefully!

      • ANDREW – Hah, just a bit above you rubbish Labour like hell, and here you try to present yourself to them as the “wise advisor”, dishonestly implying you really would love to wish them well.

        That is a David Farrar kind of approach, are you visiting from Kiwiblog, have they sent you over here?

      • Marc: I’m not rubbishing Labour per se, but I am rubbishing the current leadership and their recent policy statements. It is appealing to an ever dwindling population group.

        If Labour wants to win an election on its own account it needs some policies that make sense to Middle NZ rather than a tiny faction of unionists (who today are mostly teachers and public servants rather than ‘working’ class) and beneficiaries.

        If it wins with Green support, well, that might just suit JK in the longer term. The result would be such a lunatic fiasco it would put the voters off them for another decade!

        • Andrew –

          “If Labour wants to win an election on its own account it needs some policies that make sense to Middle NZ rather than a tiny faction of unionists (who today are mostly teachers and public servants rather than ‘working’ class) and beneficiaries.”

          What has Labour over recent years done for beneficiaries (even in their last term), and what is it promising beneficiaries in its program, please?

          That is one of my major issues with Labour, they are dead silent on social security, and they are letting down people dependent on benefits.

          The main “beneficiaries” of Labour are actually many middle class people with kids, who get WFF and perhaps Best Start, perhaps also some help to buy their first home.

          The real beneficiaries on welfare payouts get stuff all, and little help to defend themselves against a ruthless, draconian and actually even natural justice breaking government, ruling more by coercion, harsh sanctions and punishments, rather than offering real, constructive solutions for the poorest of the poor.

          It is all much talk, but little true and fair action. They now want to send mentally ill into jobs, but cut mental health spending, as I know first hand.

          Where is the f*cking “help” they offer sick and disabled to get jobs they can do, and where they will not get exploited, or used as a “commodity” to make money with, by outsourced new service providers, promised fees per head for uncertain outcomes???

          http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15463-designated-doctors-%e2%80%93-used-by-work-and-income-some-also-used-by-acc/

          Search also: nzsocialjusticeblog2013

  14. “If the news from Colmar-Brunton on Sunday is as bad as, or worse than, the news already received from Fairfax-Ipsos and Roy Morgan, Cunliffe has only one winning strategy. He must go over the heads of his caucus colleagues and appeal to that latent Labour constituency that has waited so long for political representation that offers some prospect of genuine economic and social progress. And if his caucus rebels, then he must demand that his party selects him a new one.”

    Good grief, how is that supposed to work out, if that scenario evolves?

    A revolution from below, months before a general election? That would be close to desperado actions, and I doubt that there is time for this.

    I am rather starting to think the Greens should jump at this opportunity, intensify their efforts, hammer out smart policies and go for drawing up to equal percentages with Labour, forcing Labour to negotiate with them on truly EQUAL terms to form a new government. That may be a better solution, and it may also send the final message to the overstaying MPs in Labour’s caucus, that should ideally be replaced with some younger, fresher blood with smarter ideas.

  15. The South Auckland pitch for Labour is not helped by the example of South Auckland representative Louisa Wall, MP for Manurewa, who on the face of it has gone into politics for self serving reasons, i.e. to legalise gay marriage. She was a powerful champion of an issue that was obviously near and dear to her heart but appears to have forgotten she represents some of the poorest people in NZ and voters most disenfranchised by National and their wealthy donor policies. The kind of people for whom gay marriage features miles down on their list of priorities. Thats the public perception anyway.

    Labour need to turn this perception around and start taking care of basics rather than social engineering stuff that turns many voters off or in the very least fails to engage them to Labour.

    • Five years in Parliament for Louisa Wall and she is a ghost. Yes good on her for the gay marriage legislation, but that at best, that was nothing more than a couple of months work. Were the rest of the work? Were is the results for Maori? Pacifica? Hell, I’d even go with her asking some tough questions at this point. But no – she will carry on doing her impersonation of a white ghost.

      • Yes, I had expected her to at least throw the occasional question or supplementary question at Paula Bennett in the House, as she is now the Associate Spokesperson for social security. But the proper Spokesperson Sue Moroney AND Louisa Wall mostly just sit there, and let Nat MPs ask Bennett silly questions, so she can bang on about how many young people she was able to deny benefits and get off the dole queues.

        But my suspicion is, that they both get kept on a leash by more senior ones in the Labour caucus, who do not want welfare or social security be turned into a priority. It is more just about nice political slogans about inequality, poverty, but we get no policy, not even questions to Bennett (apart from the very, very rare one).

        Despite of scandalously draconian welfare reforms, Labour has only paid very little lip service, and does now not even discuss much in that area, apart from child poverty.

        It seems almost, they are not unhappy for National to have tightened entitlements and so, as it will also “save” a Labour led government in spending further down the line. What a disgrace, really, I am NOT impressed with Labour on this.

      • Adam – trivialising Ms Wall’s success in marriage equality is wholly unfair. It was a struggle getting that legislation passed, and until it was, a significant minority were effectively second class citizens.

        I think most members of Parliament would be proud to make such a long-lasting achievement in our society. Equality for all is nothing to be dismissive about.

    • The other point to add Chris. The “Rock Star” comment has resonated with media/voters and despite our “Rock Star” economy being driven by a $40 billion earthquake, the comment itself has probably been worth a few %%% points to National in the latest set of polls. Labour’s bad result may not be all about what is happening in Labour.

  16. Chris. I am at a loss as to understand exactly what you want from David Cunliffe.You talk in generalities but offer no concrete solutions.You talk of Labour and Cunliffe not firing in the polls but when you get your chance on tv and radio,instead of supporting the left you invariably nit pick about labour and compliment the vacuous John Key.What for?When will you see you are part of the problem.Cotton wool Key has virtually the whole media pack on his side and you wonder why Labour is struggling in the polls.You talk about the caucus needing to get in behind but I think you need to look in the mirror.Otherwise just come out announce you are part of the Gower,Henry,Hosking,Hooten,Smith,Laws,G.Espiner,Garner,Plunket,Armstrong crowd to name a few. Then we will all know where we stand.

  17. Smell a Rat in the media these days are all these guys on the NACT payroll???

    Not much balanced media reporting these days all National good Labour bad stuff, most commentators do not have the skill set to actually understand policy or economics and are totally out of touch of what has gone on in NZ society over the past 30-40 years.

    Alot of scumbag economic and social policies which has driven NZ down the OECD rankings!!!

  18. I think Cunliffe is a sharp guy, but he needs to refine his persona. I have listened with interest to some of his interviews. He is often correct and informed, and in my opinion often presents very sensible arguments. Here it is.. but… he spoils the audiences impression of him with an attitude like ” if you have to ask that question you have no hope of comprehending the answer” , it is not important to brow beat the reporter, for his political future it is important he relates to the electorate in a positive manner. All the
    “great” pms in all countries have been able to win over the electorate, policy and argument are important but if joe average thinks hes a dick head, he will never survive. The election can still go either way, I wouldn’t write of the left just yet. But Key is a real talent, from a state house to 50 mill before 40yrs, if you haven’t realized the guys smart by now you are blind. Kiwi’s believe in meritocracy, and respond to incentivisation, it is my opinion the politicians who provide those conditions will prevail no matter what colour they are.

  19. Cunliffe is smart he just needs to sell himself to the NZ Public, he needs to be a greaser like Key thats what the NZ Public like, they want the PM to be one of the boys.

    • JACK – I fear there is an element of truth in what you write there, sadly! Too many are rather sitting in their lounges or converted garages, drinking beer, watching the rugby or league, talk about their recent escapades, and how to make somehow make ends meet, or where possible, work yet more hours, to earn more bucks, to invest in the speculative property market.

      Not even a slightly sensible thought and view of long term planning for the better of the country, I hear and see this in too many places.

  20. Dear Labour members,

    Please start taking a stronger stand on important issues like the TPPA. We are relying on you to form a new Labour/Green government this year. If you appear willing to support plutocracy by stealth, in this case the TPPA, then not enough of the disenfranchised voters will be willing to support you.

    Greens are already opposed to the TPPA. No doubt you will need to whip your old rogernomics gang into submission first. Their Nat-lite approach isn’t inspiring anyone. Interestingly it was Phil Goff who launched the TPPA proposal when he was Trade Minister. Phil still argues that there will be no impact on NZ because we already have the most open market in the world. This is plain wrong given that as we know from leaks 20 chapters aren’t even about trade. Our laws for copyrights, internet, medicine, GMO’s, environment, etc are all at risk.

    Please join others telling the truth about the TPPA. Tell the public that unlike the Nats you believe we have the right to determine our own laws and not be sold out under false pretenses. It’s bad for business, bad for society, bad for everyone except the top 1%. If Labour and Greens can promote policies like this in unison we should finally get rid of the smiling puppet brigade.

  21. Spending too much time hanging out with RWNJs Chris? This post reads just like the stuff they write – Cunliffe is tricky and Labour is a mess. Perhaps you are on the wrong side. Many people don’t pay too much attention until the leaders debates and Cunliffe ought to wipe the floor with Key.

  22. If the Labour Party can’t handle the jandal, Labour voters like myself have other options – give our votes to Mana. Cunliffe is the leader until the elections. And Pm or former leader afterwards.

  23. Cunliffe is currently preoccupied in fighting off the rightist MSM’s destablising campaign against him. It is a campaign fed and planned by the National strategists (‘tricky Cunliffe’) and I suspect, aided by leaks within his own parliamentary party. It is a battle he cannot win.
    Cunliffe needs to do what Obama did in 2008 and reach out over the heads of the chattering beltway and pull in those who are looking for some kind of hope. Obama faced a huge smear campaign in 2008, responding where he felt it necessary but refusing to be caught up in it. Instead he stuck to mobilising his natural constituency.
    The fickle ‘middle’ who read the Herald and take Paddy Gower seriously are not the future for Labour. The future is, as Chris says, with the poor, the brown and the excluded.

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