GUEST BLOG: Kate Davis – The post election postmortem is giving me post party depression

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I feel the need to contribute to the discourse. This is a new experience for me. Not having an opinion, but expressing it on a popular forum in a public sphere. That’s why I have waited till now and put in a lot of thought into this before finally typing these words. I believe there is a simple reason Labour lost.

They didn’t get enough votes.

The reason they didn’t get enough votes from the point of view of this student of politics and pundit-ism is also simple.

People didn’t like them.

Over simplified and childish you might be thinking. Yes, simple, childish and true.

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People didn’t vote for Labour and of course the missing million didn’t vote at all. Maybe more of them would have voted for Labour if they liked the list of candidates better and of course that list is headed by the leader. They obviously didn’t like the policies much either. People really just didn’t like what Labour was selling.

Now there is the endless speculation and debate about whether they should sack the leader. There is also the endless discussion about whether Labour went too far left, or whether they should move further right, perhaps slightly just-off-centre-left of right; and all of this is being spoken by journalists as though the middle is an ideological destination instead of what it really is. A population. The middle isn’t a place to be claimed, it is a people.

Some of this population go to my gym. True, this evidence is not empirical. It’s definitely your qualitative not quantitive, but at my gym, the YMCA in Massey, sometimes we speak politics.

I live in Massey and my electorate MP was Phil Twyford and before that Chris Carter. Nice guys. Then they changed the boundary and now Massey is part of Upper Harbour. Paula Bennett is our new MP. The Labour candidate that ran against her was Herman. I don’t know Herman. Actually we were talking about it before last Thursday before yoga. No one had actually met him. I got a flyer in my letterbox. The Wednesday before the election some of us saw him on Triangle Road waving a sign. It had a picture of him on it. We thought he should have just waved. If he had come to my house I would have invited him in for coffee, possibly even plunger. Then I could have shown him around the neighbourhood, pointed out the bitey dogs and introduced to him to the people from my gym. Matt from spin class only voted for Paula because she knocked on his door. He said she looked just like she did on the telly.

The Y is a decile one gym, full of people that were brought up Labour and live in the largely blue collar suburbs surrounding; but they are either voting National or not voting. There are a couple of Labour supporters, hanging in, teachers and nurses, but they are almost the last of the employees. Everyone else is self employed or a sub-contractor and Labour wasn’t pitching anything that they wanted to purchase. The minimum wage and the ninety day trial period do not affect them. The very precariousness nature of their work means that unions have no influence or reach. The machine that is in power, the same machine that has been steadily eroding the definition of the proletariat since the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act is laughing all the way to the polling booths.

The ‘middle’ is not an ideological shift that requires Labour to give up left wing values, it is simply a population that requires consideration and inclusion. Perhaps Labour needs to plan for the rise of the precariate (Guy Standings term for the emerging mass class of contractors, facing a life of inequality and insecurity) and not procrastinate over the demise of the proletariat. Policy needs to benefit both.Wouldn’t that be a core Labour value? Not a shift to either polarity but embracing what I thought Labour as a party was supposed to stand for; putting people first.

But…no rush. There’s time to talk about that in strategy meetings after work and on the weekend. For the Labour MPs that did make it back, well there is a whole lot of opposing that needs to be getting on with. Now. Should Labour elect a new leader. Well that’s a given, but not now. Maybe that’s something that could happen over the Christmas holiday when parliaments not sitting. You know, when it’s closed.

There is no time to spare. Nationals announced welfare reduction targets the week before the election, followed by the announcement of targeting child poverty the week after the election. This would seem to be counterintuitive. A smoke screen. There’s some tricky shit about to go down. While Key is seen feeding some of the children of the ‘underclass’ while not, I repeat not, incentivising welfare, beneficiaries are going to take a beating.

Meanwhile, they are looking to push through changes to the RMA, more employment rights are being lost and more subbies and self employed are being disenfranchised from the Labour movement as National gallops on a favourable track. We need the opposition back, if not on form, at least not scratched by the media bookies. We don’t even really care who’s in the saddle.

Just get back on the horse and giddy the fuck up Labour. You may have been lapped but we need you still in the race.

 

Kate Davis is completing her B.A English & politics. Previously she has worked for the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective & currently volunteers as an advocate for Auckland Action Against Poverty.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. Totally right – ex Labour voters are trying to help them by saying what went wrong. It is not about the leader it is about the whole party actually engaging with their voters and NZ and making themselves relevant. They have not done this for 6 years.

    Spot on about

    The ‘middle’ is not an ideological shift that requires Labour to give up left wing values, it is simply a population that requires consideration and inclusion. Perhaps Labour needs to plan for the rise of the precariate (Guy Standings term for the emerging mass class of contractors, facing a life of inequality and insecurity) and not procrastinate over the demise of the proletariat. Policy needs to benefit both.Wouldn’t that be a core Labour value? Not a shift to either polarity but embracing what I thought Labour as a party was supposed to stand for; putting people first.

    Also a good point about the unions. Yes they represent workers still but only in certain industries and most Rogernomics offspring have never been in one. The core values of unions need to be undated and modernized for self employed people and people that are not part of a union but want worker protection.

    Also back to messaging –

    What do you think of when you think of Labour? Answer – Workers.

    What does Labour mean? Answer Work.

    What did National have as their slogan? Working for New Zealand.

    Yep bad policies but good strategy there and it is working.

    National is not just Canabalising it’s partners (ACT, Maori etc) – but they are also doing the same to Labour by MIMICKING their identity and values.

    Labour lost because of themselves mostly, and also the superior ability of National to swallow their allies and mimic their rivals.

    • You’re so right save nz. Straight out of the Crosby Textor playbook. Mimic the opposition with a slogan rob their core values and ideas and turn them into a catch phrase then…..do nothing. When you do act you act in the opposite way to the meaning of the slogan, catch-phrase or cliche. we live in an Orwellian world. Have done for 30 years or more.

  2. This is without doubt the most relevant comment post-election, and more of us should be reading and discussing this, because it is right. Especially the points here:

    “Everyone else is self employed or a sub-contractor and Labour wasn’t pitching anything that they wanted to purchase. The minimum wage and the ninety day trial period do not affect them. The very precariousness nature of their work means that unions have no influence or reach. The machine that is in power, the same machine that has been steadily eroding the definition of the proletariat since the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act is laughing all the way to the polling booths.”

    And here:

    “The ‘middle’ is not an ideological shift that requires Labour to give up left wing values, it is simply a population that requires consideration and inclusion. Perhaps Labour needs to plan for the rise of the precariate (Guy Standings term for the emerging mass class of contractors, facing a life of inequality and insecurity) and not procrastinate over the demise of the proletariat. Policy needs to benefit both. Wouldn’t that be a core Labour value? Not a shift to either polarity but embracing what I thought Labour as a party was supposed to stand for; putting people first.”

  3. On your first point you are right – people dont like them.

    But the arguement about the middle misses a major point. The current labour group of MPs and their supporters dont want the middle. They want special interest groups.
    This is shown by labours proposed man ban and the leader apologising for being a man. This sort of action pushes most men away from them – and a lot of women (My wife thinks they are just plain stupid – and shes a school teacher!)

    Similarly the bunch of female labour MPs are a bunch of mostly nasty women, many of them lesbian or ardent feminists – and most women is society are neither of these.

    Labour need a total clean out and that will take another two election cycles at least. A new leader will do nothing but delay the agony.

    • Female Labour MPs are mostly nasty women?

      Just because a woman is a lesbian or feminist this does not make them any more nasty than a heterosexual male.

      I have many concerns about the current Labour Party but if the only way back to government is to pander to opinions such as yours I am not sure it is worth the effort.

  4. My understanding is that Labour’s problem is one of disunity, perception and PR strategy, more than policy. That is, their core policies poll well, but the party as a whole has not projected an image that the NZ public has warmed to. We know what the media stuck the boot in over. The man-ban and the man-pology. Were these moves polled before being introduced? If they were, they would have never seen the light of day, and now they have led to Labour being further tarnished with the perception that it is a party that panders to minority groups (in this case feminists), and doesn’t like men.

    Add to that, the inexplicable fighting with the Greens in the weeks before the election and you have the beginnings of slaughterhouse 2014.

    Some would say you can add to that a compliant corporate media, that is happy to repeat National’s PR lines verbatim and uncritically, but that’s a cop-out. Labour cannot change the media. It can only play the PR game better, or get out and organise in the community, by-passing the media.

    • I totally agree! I thought about starting on the PR problems but was worried I wouldn’t be able to stop writing. I stuck to what I saw as the basics in this post because I believe they need to be sure of what their selling before they look at how to market it.

      National seem to understand the worth of employing, or more accurately contracting, out the work that needs to get done busy specialists. This us reflected in their slick PR. A few commentators have said you can’t win elections with money, and pointing to KDC, but let’s be honest, funding when used wisely sure helps. Is the poor PR a funding issue?

      I think the oft repeated comment about Cunliffe seeming inauthentic came through on the ad’s. The use of social media was misunderstood and misguided. Cunliffe’s Facebook page was cringeworthy. It almost made me laugh as often as the spectacular effort by the two women running the National Billboard page. Alas, I don’t believe this was Cunliffe’s intention.
      If there is one photo that sums up what was wrong with the media,the message and the use of social media it is the photo of Cunliffe in front of the Ports of Auckland. Talking logs. Legs splayed….good grief!

    • I feel really sorry for the post 1984 Labour supporters who try to understand the lack of support for their party. I was a foot soldier for Labour for a long time before the right wingers in the Labour Party threw workers in New Zealand on the scrapheap from 1984 on. They destroyed hundreds of thousands of peoples lives, mostly on the left. A lot of those arseholes are still involved at the highest levels of the Labour Party and you want me to vote for them. A large chunk of the missing million are people like me who hate the Labour Party with a passion.The 2014 Labour Party is the National Party in drag. A lot of my fellow activists from the 70s 80s and 90s will never vote left again as all it would do is put Labour in a position of power. So change whatever you like but its pointless. To a lot of people on the left Labour left us in 1984 and has never come back and never will.

      • I do not disagree. A photo of Cunliffe in front of the Ports of Auckland and talking about logs and not contracts was in equal measure moronic and ironic.

        My point is that whether workers are contractors or employees Labour need to speak to their issues. Labour has definitely offered little in the way of protection or improvements to employment law in some time. There is little differentiating.

        No other party has attempted to fill that space. I really struggled this year to find a reason to vote or a party to vote for.

        • Kate, it is not the policies or the leader to a lot of us ex activists, its the havoc that a lot of the 1984/ABC faction caused to people they were meant to be representing. People died as a result of what they did to us. I can never forgive them let alone vote for them. I am a caring person at heart but I hate these people with passion and they are still to be found at every level of the Labour Party. I spent a lot of my adult life to get those arseholes elected and they shafted us without a second thought. I believe in “karma” and as I look at the aftermath of this years election I just think that the Labour Party is reaping what it sowed. And long may it continue.

        • “No other party has attempted to fill that space. I really struggled this year to find a reason to vote or a party to vote for.”

          Really, are you being glib? Did you miss IMP? What about the greens? Hell even NZ first talked about labour law.

          There is always non-voting – join the rest of the shat on and disowned.

      • i don’t blame you Mark. This is the first time I have voted Labour since 1984. I joined 3 years ago because I knew about the changes to the process for electing a leader. Cunliffe needs the support of old Labour supporters. If there is to be ANY chance of ousting the neo liberals. I made the effort to meet him and talk to him,I researched his achievements under Clark. The fact that I am sending this via broadband from a remote rural location is down to Cunliffe forcing Telecom to unbundle. We need to get back in there and fight . My own family is into it’s second generation of FIFO employment with more and more of us basing ourselves in Aussie or the USA with each passing year. The kiwi diaspora has never been researched the horrendous effects of being a FIFO worker have never been fully researched let alone the impacts on families. When I discussed this with Cunliffe at the leadership contest last year at least he knew what the fuck I was talking about.

        • No offence, but it is polite to use full form, then an acronym. I’m assuming you mean Fly in Fly out employment . But it could equally mean fucking incomplete, and fucking outta luck employment.

          Just saying.

      • So why not at least vote for the Green Party which must be closer to your beliefs? Not to vote at all is tantamount to endorsing National in perpetuity.

  5. Totally agree Mark. I’ve been a union delegate for nearly 40 years and wouldn’t trust the Labour Party as far as I could kick them.
    They left the labour movement long ago. My union gives them money but more in despair than hope.

  6. A reasoned and thoughtful piece. You have captured many of what us have been struggling to voice this week as we shake our heads in dismay.
    Rosemary McLeod says ‘I voted Labour – out of nostalgia, though I knew it would fare badly.

    It’s not the Labour Party it used to be, it probably will never be again, but, as with a stray kitten wailing at your door on a cold day, I felt sorry for it.’

    Many of us did too. We were more aligned with Greens but ticked red to sop up the almost inevitable loss. We are socially engaged people who do work in communities and use our academic backgrounds (yes, university researchers) to research things that matter. Yet attempts to engage Labour were nil. Who they were chasing for support I have no idea but if you lose your core it’s over.

    And so it was…

  7. Should Labour elect a new leader. Well that’s a given, but not now. Maybe that’s something that could happen over the Christmas holiday when parliaments not sitting.

    Only a “given” in that it has to happen sometime in the future, next election cycle, in five years, in ten years.

    That it should happen before the next election is in no way a ‘given’.

    • Would you be prepared to place money on that?

      Now is not the time. I think rushing to select a new leader is counter productive. Especially when the ink isn’t dry ….oh wait up…the ink isn’t dry & the reveiw hasn’t even been written yet. Perhaps more analyis is necessary? Not just a week and a knee jerk later.
      Too soon.

      Many a metaphor I’ve tweeted today. I think selecting a new leader when your aim is to rebuild a party is like designing a house by choosing the letterbox.

      Or planning an outfit around a handbag. Handbags are an accessory, the finishing touch. Not the main feature.
      UNLESS…you stumble apon an absolute first class, classic model. They are rare.

  8. A very good article, my thoughts exactly.Why labour didnt win is a very important question but the answer to that is not going to be worked out a couple of weeks from the election .Those that have been voted in are not being paid to be spending this time sulking and scrapping , They are being paid to be doing a job of opposing , there are some very important questions for them to be asking now in parliment.For all intents and purposes David cunliff is for now the leader of the labour party .come on David get on with it .Get stuck in mate ..get on with the job at hand .

  9. Well I’m not sure a new leader would make much difference without some serious surgery on the MSM. But Labour are a spent force from my perspective, apart from Cunliffe all that remains seems to be carrion feeders. In defiance of the UN declaration of rights the f**kers have glommed my right to vote for moving offshore to work – I reckon it’s about time we formed a government in exile.

    Key must hang, and I wouldn’t weep if Goff hanged beside him.

    • Once again it is the MSM to blame. The MSM are what they are and unless you are suggesting state controlled media (and if you think that is a vote winner try it and see)you just have to work with what you’ve got. To start with you plan your campaign so that you do not present them with opportunities. Whatever the rights and wrongs of DC’s man apology, it should have been blindingly obvious that it would be seized on with glee by one’s opponents. It should have been blindingly obvious that the statement would irritate a large section of the population.

      It’s like a rugby game; you can’t change the thinking of the referee so you do not do silly things that earn a penalty. That was the difference between National and Labour; National did not give away silly penalties in front of goal.

      As for statements like “Key must hang” how do you suppose that is going to encourage people to vote Labour?

      • Rugby game huh?

        Speaking of which; http://www.3news.co.nz/politics/key-nestles-in-with-the-all-blacks-2014072416

        “Whatever the rights and wrongs of DC’s man apology, it should have been blindingly obvious that it would be seized on with glee by one’s opponents. It should have been blindingly obvious that the statement would irritate a large section of the population. ”

        Unfortunately, that appears to be a truism. Unfortunate, because no political leader or aspirant can voice his/her deepest beliefs for fear of having it twisted; mis-represented; and used against them by a pack-hunting press gallery. “Gaff Journalism” will result in bland personalities and boldness of vision consigned to history.

        Thank you, Fourth Estate.

  10. I agree with your point about the “middle” – it isn’t automatically some sort of apolitical swamp of conservative middle class people. Exactly where Overton’s Window lies can be shaped by those injecting solutions into the national discussion. Left wing ideas can go from being “radical” and “unrealistic” to becoming “sensible”, “common sense” policy, much like neoliberal economics did between the 1970s and today. The challenge is getting ordinary people to connect with progressive ideas.

    Part of the problem is that people assume the proletariat no longer exists, replaced by nebulous notions of the “middle class”. The middle strata of workers could be thrown down into the ranks of the “precariat” at any moment, whether they realise it or not. When the latest bubble of bonds/property/derivatives bursts, full employment and union-protected wages will look even more attractive.

    We’ve much to do: Reunite a divided working class, expose the lie of capitalist “aspirationism” (i.e. “the American Dream”), and prove that socialist ideas aren’t just viable, but the only solution to an exploitative, warmongering imperialist system.

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