MSM under-mining of new Labour Leader already begun?

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It did not take long.

In fact, on the same day that Andrew Little won the Labour leadership*, the first media reporter was already asking if he would be stepping down  if Labour failed to lift in the all-important polls.

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On Radio NZ’s Checkpoint, the usually uber-sensible, Mary Wilson asked these gormless questions of Andrew Little,

@ 4.35

Wilson: “And in terms of your accountability though, if at the end of 2016, there is no movement [in the polls] there is no change, what happens then?”

@ 4.47

Wilson: “Is there any point during the next few years where you will say, ‘Ok, this hasn’t worked; I haven’t done what I set out to achieve; I’m leaving’.”

@ 5.00

Wilson: “And if you’re not there by the end of 2016, would you step aside?”

Now bear in mind that Radio NZ is not part of the ratings-driven, advertising-revenue-chasing corporate MSM of this country – but still those questions were put to Little.

How long before the corporate MSM – sensing sensational headlines and potential advertising revenue –  begin baying for blood and drafting stories which begin to portray Little in a negative light?

It was the relentless attacks on Cunliffe from all quarters of the MSM (including non-commercial Radio NZ) which contributed to under-mining his leadership in the eyes of the voting public.

The public’s perception of a political figure is determined largely by how he is portrayed by the media. Fairness and accuracy can play little part in reporting stories targetting a political figure. As the Donghua Liu Affair, in the NZ Herald showed with disturbing clarity, even a non-story can be spun in such a way as to totally destroy a man’s credibility and reputation.

Note: As an aside, in defending the Herald’s story on the 13 year old Donghua Liu-Cunliffe letter,  Editor  Tim Murphy stated in June this year (in an email to this blogger), that “We fully expect further details to come will show the Herald’s earlier reporting to have, as we have known throughout, been accurate and soundly based“. Nothing further has been produced by the Herald to back up it’s assertions since it was forced to make retractions on 25 June.

The Donghua Liu Affair was part of  an ongoing, targetted, smear campaign against David Cunliffe. The non-story, involving a 13 year old letter; a non-existent $100,000 bottle of wine; and an alleged, yet-to-be-discovered, $15,000 book, painted Cunliffe as untrustworthy, and the Labour Party as dodgy.

The new  Labour leader will have to keep his wits about him and use every media-related connection and employ the best possible media minders to counter an MSM that can no longer be trusted to report the basic truth. With the likes of Patrick Gower and Mike Hosking competing to be the “baddest bad asses” on the Media Block, accuracy and truth play third-fiddle behind egos (#1) and ratings (#2).

TV3’s Patrick Gower has already had a ‘go’ at Little’s victory, referring to the democratic selection process as “the great union ripoff”;

It’s a backdoor takeover by the unions. Simply, Andrew Little would not be Labour leader without the unions. He is the unions’ man; Little is a union man, and the unions have got their man into Labour’s top job.

Gower’s statement mentions “unions” five times in three short sentences. Which, when you think about it, is bizarre given that the Labour Party was born from the union movement in the first place**. Who did Gower think would lead Labour – someone from the Employers’ Federation? Business NZ? The Business Roundtable?
Silly little man pretending to be a political commentator.

The TV3 on-line article is bizarre in itself with TV3’s “Online Reporter”, Dan Satherley,  reporting  TV3’s Political Reporter, Patrick Gower’s, utterances. Journalists interviewing each other?

What next – siblings marrying each other under an ACT-led government?!
Predictably, Gower then launched into his own “Who’s-the-next-Leader” guessing game;

Gower says there remains the chance Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern – known informally as ‘Gracinda’ – might have another crack at the leadership – but this time with Ms Ardern leading the way.

I think there will be a switcheroo – Jacinda as the leader, Robertson as the deputy. He’s probably seen the writing on the wall that it has to be her if they have another go.

They just can’t help themselves. In an ‘Interstellar‘-quality vacuum of any meaningful news reporting, media-hacks like Gower will  blather on about any silliness that enters their heads. Far be it for him to actually interview Andrew Little and ask him questions like;

What’s on your agenda if you become Prime Minister?

What’s your point-of-difference to National?

What do you hope to achieve, legislation-wise, in the First 100 Days of a government you lead?

You know, real questions that real journalists used to ask, in real interviews, with real people.

At the same time, the same brickbat used to beat the MSM around it’s collective head should be generously applied to the Labour Party hierarchy’s backside.

When Labour president Moira Coatsworth made this statement in the NZ Herald, congratulating Andrew Little;

Labour president Moira Coatsworth, who announced Mr Little’s victory, said he would lead a reinvigorated party into the 2017 election campaign.

Andrew has the leadership skills and the vision to win the trust of New Zealanders and take Labour to victory in 2017. I have no doubt he will go on to become a great Labour Prime Minister who builds a stronger, fairer and more sustainable New Zealand.

– it was the same gushing enthusiasm she voiced for David Cunliffe last year;

The Labour Party congratulates David Cunliffe on his win. David has been elected by a robust and democratic process and has won on the first round with a clear majority. This gives him a strong mandate as leader and he has the full support of the Labour Party.

[…]

David Cunliffe has the leadership skills and the vision to win the trust of New Zealanders and take Labour to victory in 2014. I have no doubt he will go on to become a great Labour Prime Minister who builds a stronger, fairer and more sustainable New Zealand.”

– and before that, David Shearer, in 2011;

I congratulate both David and Grant and look forward to working closely with them as we build towards a Labour victory in 2014.

David and Grant bring a fresh approach; a breadth of skills and a strong commitment to rebuild for a Labour win in 2014.”

The repetitive nature of Labour’s revolving-door leadership leaves the voting public scratching it’s collective head, wondering WTF?! As I blogged on 2 October;

If the Labour caucus don’t support their own leader – especially when times are tough – why should they expect the voting public to take their  leadership choices seriously? After all, with four leaders gone in six years, it would appear to be a temporary position at best.

And earlier, on 25 September, I wrote to the NZ Herald;

If Labour keeps changing it’s Leader after every defeat, then I put the following questions to them;

1. How will a Labour Leader gain experience, if they’re dumped every couple of years?

2. How can the public be expected to get to know a Labour Leader, and develop trust in that person, if their presence is fleeting and disappear before we get to know him/her?

3. How will a Labour Leader learn to handle victory, when s/he first won’t be allowed to understand defeat? Humility is learned in failure, not success.

I also pointed out in the same letter-to-the-editor;

The Greens have leaderships that are stable and long-term, irrespective of electoral success or failure. That is because the Party has faith and confidence in their leadership choices.

Even pro-National columnist for the NZ Herald, John Armstrong stated the obvious on 18 November;

 “The public should warm to him. But that will take some time.

Meanwhile, on the day that Andrew Little won the leadership contest, John Key made this astute observation;

What this process has shown is that there are deep divisions within the party, they’re a long way away from agreeing with each other or even liking each other.

Andrew Little has the task of unifying a group of individuals who historically have shown they have very low levels of discipline.

He has a point.  Labour’s lack of internal discipline is in stark contrast to National’s public facade of unity. Both parties have their own factions – but National is the one that has succeeded in keeping in-fighting private and behind closed doors.

There is a weird  irony to this. Labour is supposedly the party that espouses an ideology of collective action whilst National is the party of unfettered individualism.

Yet it is the Nats who work collectively and collegially for their number one goal: power. Any factional agitation and cat-spats for dominance is kept well away from the public and media gaze.

By contrast, Labour appears to be a party of rugged individualists that would make ACT look like an Ohu commune from the 1970s.

Labour could do well do learn from their rivals.

The alternative is more dissent and dis-unity within Labour; more leadership changes; and a National government stretching into the 2020s, with Max Key taking the reigns of Prime Ministership from his father, and assuming the dynastic role of “Little Leader”.

Personally, I prefer a “Little Leader” to emerge from a Labour-led government, and not a future National regime.

Andrew Little’s success will be our success as well.

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* Disclaimer: This blogger is not a Labour Party member, nor has any preference who should be Leader of that party.
** Acknowledgement to Curwen Rolinson for his perception and pointing this out on his Facebook page.

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References

Radio NZ: Little man for the job of Labour’s big rebuild

Radio NZ Checkpoint: Little says narrowness of his win not a problem (audio)

NZ Herald: Donghua Liu’s new statement on Labour donations

TV3 News: Gower – Little’s victory ‘the great union ripoff’

NZ Herald: ‘He has the vision to win the trust of New Zealanders’ – Andrew Little elected Labour leader

Interest.co.nz: David Cunliffe wins Labour leadership contest, defeating Grant Robertson and Shane Jones

Scoop Media: Labour Party President congratulates new leadership team

NZ Herald: John Armstrong – Andrew Little’s first job – drown out Winston Peters

MSN News: Labour is still divided – Key

Te Ara Encyclopedia: Communes and communities

Facebook: Curwen Rolinson

Previous related blogposts

A Study in Party Stability

No More. The Left Falls.

Letter to the editor: the culling of Cunliffe

The Donghua Liu Affair – The Players Revealed


 

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Well I hope that this may work for Labour and NZs sake as for the next 3 years we need strong opposition, if not so much in number, then truly in voice.
    Sadly, the method of “choosing” the Labour leader does not lend itself well to this happening.
    Labour must go back and re-visit how it chooses its leaders, you can’t have a few people casting proxy votes for a whole lot of others, one person one vote, so I really that the union part of this selection has to go.
    I am all for unions being stronger but they need to modernize

  2. Having been laid up in recovery mode I’ve been doing rather a lot of youtubing and have noticed how the same media bullying of leftwing politicians seems to be happening in the UK and US – almost with exactly the same wording even! National (Party) Radio has been a lost cause since Paul Buchanan took over the reigns – they seem to have forgotten all pretence of public service.

    Andrew Little DOES need to stand up to these guys – I don’t believe there is any other way or that Grant Robinson would have a easier time with them.

    • Thats because the National Party employ the same “campaign strategists” company (Crosby Textor) as the American Republican party & the Tory party in the U.K…
      They also have close links with Rupert Murdoch…(Crosby Textor)
      So you can understand the negative attack / smear campaign style of all three right wing parties.

      • Is it my imagination, or does it go even further with manipulation as Key, Cameron and Abott have a similar facial profile? sort of bland looking.

      • More than likely its not so much that they are driven by pathetic organisations like Crosby-Textor but rather that they are driven by secretive and even more pathetic organisations like the Bilderberg Group – with its agenda of shoving Neoliberalism, and all that it stands for, down the throats of the entire Western world.

        And after that, of course, they’ll have a go at China, if its still making money that they haven’t yet succeeded in getting their hands on.

    • None of the Labour leaders so far has stood up to National.
      David
      Cunliffe was affected by every critisim from John Key. where John Key ignored all critisim and laughed at the Dirty Politics book and threw it back at Labour as smear tactics, typical Crosby Textor tricks. the MSM are obviously in the hands of National backers, so Labours message is always twisted or ignored.
      Lets hope Little is more of a street fighter,no room for gentlemen in politics.
      How anyone can take the Pekinese smile on the face of Patrick Gower seriously ,he utters such rubbish so does Mike” look at me” Hoskins.
      Not once did we see David Cunliffe mention Dirty Politics against Key,
      where if it was a book about Labour in a similar vein Key would never have let up,Cunliffe was too nervous of being accused of being behind it,but Key used Whale Oil and denied it , as he denied anything he didn’t want to own up to.
      Key is so used to using dirty tricks and lies ,it will take a real game player and a new news media,politics in usa use Fox news and any thing to paint the picture they want it to be viewed.
      Its pretty disappointing that NZ media are using American tactics and probably money to put down Labour, some people are easily bought.

  3. Frank: It was the relentless attacks on Cunliffe from all quarters of the MSM (including non-commercial Radio NZ) which contributed to under-mining his leadership in the eyes of the voting public.

    Nope, you’re wrong. Cunliffe did it to himself. Examples:

    1/ By embellishing his own CV.

    2/ By attacking Key for living in a flash suburb when he himself lived in Herne Bay with a Corporate lawyer wife.

    3/ His failure to present a plan for Labour’s CGT with respect to trusts

    4/ His apology for being a man

    5/ The hilarious ‘transport policy’

    6/ His dodgy trust and its secret donors

    7/ Lying about the medals his grandfather wasn’t awarded

    These are all ‘own goals’

    The thing Labour has to understand and learn from is that it deserved to lose the election. If it cannot embrace that fact, it cannot move forward.

    • Andrew, to take but two points you’ve raised;

      4/ His apology for being a man

      If you’re going to quote, do it accurately. His full statement at the time was,

      “I don’t often say it, [but] I’m sorry for being a man because family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men.”

      The entirety of that statement puts it into a more accurate context. But of course, the MSM, Right Wing, and various commentators weren’t interested in context – they simply took the middle six words and blasted it throughout sensationalised headlined stories.

      The full statement was thought-provoking and worthy of debate.

      The middle six words gave a distorted, and emotionally charged, version of what he said.

      Guess which sold more copy and raised more advertising revenue?

      Clue, the TV3 headline on 4 July: Cunliffe apologises ‘for being a man’

      On the other hand,

      6/ His dodgy trust and its secret donors

      That is a valid criticism, and if that lesson taught every politician and every aspiring politician one lesson: don’t do it. NZ is a small village/country. You will be found out, as Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, Judith Collins, et al, learned to their discomfort.

      • Another one of his own goals was not knowing his own tax policy when asked by KEY in that debate.

        And what makes it worse is people coming out in defense of him “oh yes he got these 6 things wrong, but not this 1. The media is picking on him”

        For goodness sake!

        • “oh yes he got these 6 things wrong, but not this 1. The media is picking on him”

          Your words. Not mine. So whilst you can own your own spin, I’ll leave others to consider the meaning and intent of your words.

    • First point that I have time to reply to, is Cunliffe didn’t attack Key for living in a flash suburb. Cunliffe was raising the Salvation Army report on poverty in parliament, which Key was denying. Cunliffe said perhaps Mr Key needs to get out of the leafy suburbs of St Stephen’s avenue and see whats going on. Key then accused Cunliffe of trying to hide from voters he lived in a mansion, and the msm ran that story, not the story on Key denies the Salvation Army report on poverty. Tova O’Brien ran it as the battle of the mansions. She should be ashamed of herself. If you are reading this Tova you need to ask yourself why you spun it that way rather than telling the truth that our PM tries to lie and deny poverty. I hope to have time to respond to your other comments as I think they are biased and need unpicking. I have a busy life and schedule and may not get back to you. Cheers,

      • Anker, my understanding is that a number of journos take a regular interest in this blogsite. They may not let on, but it’s one of the first things they check on in the morning…

        • that’s interesting to hear Frank.

          So Tova, if you are reading this blog (or anyone who knows Tova), let me say this. You were obviously blessed with good looks and ability enough to get yourself trained as a journalist and get a good job. I challenge you to go and visit the Salvation Army and find out about how many, many people are far less fortunate than you. Really, I mean this sincerely and with the best of intent. Then do an article on poverty. Please I would really appreciate that.

        • @ Frank – re your final comment. But only after msm has checked out what dirt one particular grubby blogger has sent them overnight to work on!

          The same blogger no doubt has been commissioned by dear leader and his sycophantic msm to begin a nasty smear campaign on Andrew Little. The brief being “if you can’t find anything, invent something!”

    • Are we talking about holding politicians to account? Cunliffe was put under a microscope, then the full glare of the spotlight. Now lets look at treatment of Key.
      Key has made unbelievable “blunders” (too long a list to detail) and lied, go right back to the start..”I will not raise GST” and could hardly wait to give tax relief to his buddies, costing the country dearly…yet, he gets off with a chuckle.
      The latest “blunder”, his “joke” about Smith’s escape to South America……WHAT? he had one job, to acknowledge the pain and fear the victim’s family were suffering (due to slack performance of corrections, under his government) yet, he amplified and invalidated the families felings, now likely they will sue, and why not, maybe then the government will listen, if ONLY money counts with Key.
      Shame Key can’t pay out of his fortune, rather than the tax payers, after all, we cared very much, as opposed to Key, who clearly couldn’t give a f$$$

    • i like how in your attempts to pin it on cunliffe you use the emdia reporting to do so – spot the irony?

      was labour a mess? – yes
      were the MSM behaving like an unprofessional, biased circle jerk? – yes

    • Although it may have been slightly overstated, I think Andrew’s basic tenet is right. We may disagree on which errors were the more egregious or which were just ammunition for a gleeful National /media machine keen to find more grist for the knocking mill, but there is no doubt that a series of gaffs were committed which made it easy for them.

      I personally disagree about the secret trust issue. This was a system which should have been set up for each of the candidates so that inter-personal relations would not be compromised in the post-selection period. But rather than defending his choices – the “sorry for being a man”, the “secret” trust account, the pre-election holiday – he apologized. Now whatever their political orientation, the one thing you can take to the bank about journalists is this: if you run, they will chase. David Cunliffe ran, they chased.

      What it does tell us is that media-handling smarts is an absolute sine-qua-non of success in this enterprise. For this reason, I listened in dismay to Andrew Little’s first post-selection interview with Rachel Smalley. It was partly what he said. (I don’t doubt his heart is in the right place but let us have two or three key phrases to remind the listeners of what Labour is all about, please. This is particularly important from a new leader, trying to establish his credentials. The big picture can sometimes get forgotten in the tidal wave of incidental events.) But far more than that it was his entire delivery.

      He spoke too quickly and without the slightest hint of gravitas. He could learn from a Thatcher, a Clark or a Netenyahu. Know what message you want to leave in the mind of you interviewer and the public; what message you would like to impart about yourself, about your party and about your values. Speak more slowly. Weigh your words. Make absolutely certain that you core, simple messages comes through.

      With this in mind I strongly suggest that the lines of communication be opened up with Brian Edwards. He’s a triple threat. He can provide professional advise from a true expert on the subject of media-handling, he would be a great sounding board sympathetic to the Left, and a he is also a widely respected media commentator. Someone good to get on-side, I would have thought.

      There is still time for Andrew Little to learn, but it is a pretty small window. There is no time to lose.

  4. I thought the Daily Blog has done a fine job of beating the MSM out of the blocks for undermining Andrew Little. His union was not a real union and Labour will now be “Nationalite”?

    But self loathing and putting the boot into each other with no focus on the big picture, in public, is what the left do so well.

    • Exactly, and thanks for drawing attention to this Frank. Even at the announcement, Gower could hardly hold himself back, laying into Andrew with the only “issue” he could scrape up. If this is all Gower has, then Andrew is doing pretty well so far, and unbelievable when left wing blogs/comments join in with the narrative generated by the usual right wing tactics/MSM.
      I voted for Andrew as he seems to be above this style of engagement, and will not dignify this tripe with answers, he will get on with the job in hand, and only address the REAL ISSUES.
      I even wondered if some prefer to stand on the sidelines booing than to actually get into government
      No-one is perfect, but I have faith in Andrew’s judgment and commitment to New Zealand, and it’s people. We are very lucky someone is prepared to put themselves in the firing line of …..
      “a more niggardly nasty National Government than the one we’ve got now”.
      Well said, Andrew, and Frank’s post highlights how true this comment is.

  5. It is clear that the profit-motive has corrupted the vast majority of media outlets in this nation. They seek increasingly puerile sensationalist headlines to pander to the lowest common denominator of reader. Kicking somebody famous always gets readers, chuck in some slander about their sex lives and how they’re dirty, dirty liars and cheats and you’ll have the great unwashed masses beating a path to your website to read whatever tripe you’re prepared to publish.

    Obviously this all has to be completely politically biased, because if you don’t serve the interests of the dominant party of the day then you’re not pandering to the biases of the people who voted for them.

    Put these two things together and you have muck-raking tabloidism that serves the interest of the National Party. Let’s call it for what it is folks, propaganda!

  6. Yep MSM will be totally into undermining AL. However part of it is also a lack of journos who actually can do journalism. Most of them being churned out of institutions are white middle class good looking citizens who wouldn’t know social hardship from a trim Latte. There is a lazy bullying media culture in NZ. Obviously a few good ones are still around but they are sooo predictable that it should be easy for AL to get some stock answers to rebut it and then change the discourse onto what he wants it to be. i.e. after a quick rebut on why he got in on the unions he should move quickly past that onto why Labour wants to get higher wages, digital economy and how as Prime Minister will make things better in NZ etc JK is an expert on the sound byte and he says things in plain english. AL needs to personalize an experience so the public gets to know him. i.e. a time in the unions he did some good and helped get a good result. People want personal experience and a feel good one at that. (i.e. I grew up in a state house, made millions and are now PM). Don’t know what Little’s personal experiences are that have led him to be leader of opposition but he needs to get that out there to get in with the public of NZ before he is destroyed as some faceless union lackey trying to take down the NZ employer (the MSM discourse).

  7. Navel-gazing articles like yours ultimately undermine Labour as much as those of the MSM. Little won the leadership – now put aside the “what ifs” and endless introspection and let him get on with the job.

  8. If you want to examine the media response to Andrew Little’s appointment as Labour why blame the faceless MSM when this very blog ran Bradbury’s anti-Little article as it’s headline article?

    • Now that raises an interesting point, TRM. Can the Daily Blog be given the same weight as, say, the Dominion Post? TV3 News? Radio NZ?

      Perhaps the theme for a future blogpost, methinks… (In which case I will try to remember to ‘hat-tip’ you as the idea for the story.)

  9. Well I did have high hope for Andrew Little. It was seriously dented after his performance on Nine to Noon the day after his election, when he stated the re reason why he won’t bring back the capital gain tax policy on the table for further discussion – it would create too much noise and detract from the Labour message. WTF?! The man ain’t got no cojones.

    • I listened to him on Radio Live and was quite impressed how he answered all the questions put to him, seemed to have a good understanding of the issues people raised, and really presented better that Cunliffe or Parker in my view (Frank will disagree with me as usual I suspect)

  10. I hope Little gets the first shot in on Tuesdee before Keys mirage filters disseminate the media coverage to a non event which is Keys first line of attack against the opposition and then continue to divide and rule over the opposition parties

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