Negativity is a valid and winning political strategy


Chris Hipkins thrashed Chris Luxon in last nights TV1 leaders debate and he did it by pointing out the flaws and inconsistencies in the things Mr Luxon has been saying and doing. This sort of negativity is a really important skill and tool for a leader as many listeners are not experienced in critical thinking and most lack the recall for background knowledge of events or things said.

The best example; Mr Luxon criticised Mr Hipkins for losing 5 cabinet ministers. Mr Hipkins gave the positive response of being able to set high standards and sticking to them. And he gave the negative example of Mr Luxon not setting a high standard over Mr Uffindale and the bullying allegations. 

Mr Hipkins gave a recall of events that many listeners would not have been able to do. It was completely relevant and directly related to the topic of ethics and leadership.  This was made in such a tight nutshell of time that it intensifies the ability for a listener to reflect on a comparison of effective and consistent leadership. 

However, the post debate panel focused on negativity as a bad. Paula Bennett gave full venom to her disgust at the low blow, but with her solid reputation for always choosing the low blow it came across as Paula being vindictive and petty. But mistakenly, in my opinion, both Maiki Sherman and Chris Cunnliffe reinforced the idea that negativity is bad. Mr Cunnliffe in particular said people vote for a vision, a positive. Though he does have a point; the current success of this National campaign is solidly based on being negative about Labour to the point of being deliberately misleading and wildly inaccurate. 

Nationals negativity is huge and everywhere. But they just try and separate it from the leader having to convey it; a winning strategy around the world. For example Bush (shrub) had surrogates attack the purple heart and military service of John Kerry. While he a cocaine snorting draft dodger talked positive visions of American security and moral uprightness.  There was no effective negativity campaign to attack Bush meaning many voters did not make the connections to contrasting moral characters. 

Because Labour doesn’t have the budget to run campaigns of negativity it can’t as easily have its leader avoid negative comments. But a good leader has to be tough and strong and say the hard things. Chris looked like this; making serious points about things he was serious about. Negativity can be a win on assertiveness and strength of thinking. 

An example of National negativity and others inadvertent surrogacy is articles about Labour and the extra $48B spent for covid. The current narrative now is how ruinous and wasteful to the economy this is and it indicates poor management and economic thinking by Labour. But this is a total lie. Labour was religiously following worldwide mainstream economic orthodoxy of the time. There were no cries at the time from business about government not saving the economy.  But the current negative narrative is driving a revisionist misinformed hysteria of Labour economic mismanagement. 

If you fear negativity then you will avoid the topic as you don’t want to be seen as defensive or weak. Covid and the bailout has barely been mentioned by Labour so the economic mismanagement assertions don’t get rebutted and covid is one of the great successes of Labour. They need to defend it as it’s a reminder of the good Labour did. 

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Mr Hipkins told no outright lies when being negative. His portrayal of National saving $2Billion from benefits by indexing them to inflation can be portrayed as a cut because it comes out of future budgets for welfare. Mr Hipkins negativity is information based not lie based. The commentators were not making any important moral ‘distinctions within the concept of negativity.  

Negativity is only one part of any equation. But it does link to critical thinking for voters and it provides contrast to the positive vision presented by the other side. It is a tool there to be used. Mr Hipkins did a great job last night. Keep it up. 


  1. Using negativity in elections is a sure sign you know you lack enough positive to campaign on. The same applies in marketing and it is known to turn people off.

    • Labour have little positive to campaign on, if they were going to do it, it would have been done in the last 3 years with their unprecedented majority. They merely delivered words & failure, so they are gone.

      • O.M.G…that tired old lacking in any substance line again….

        Go back and read the article again..

        It is very succinct …an article where every word of every sentence demonstrates a clarity of thinking and a deep understanding of how to analyse facts and the down stream ramifications of those facts.

        It was right on the money!

      • It was John Keys standard approach even if was outsourced to a blogger that was/is the spitting image of Jabba the Hutt…only larger

      • What’s interesting is that I’M better off by 12 grand a year under Labour and National agree. They promote pay equity!!!!

    • Wrong. Hipkins was a puppet to alistair campbell who runs labour.

      They are just a bunch of rabid dogs who showed their true colours

  2. Luxon talked well in the debate, but didn’t say much that was new. If he was allowed to say what he really thought, then he may have said that he has come up with a new set of commandments as follows:
    Neo liberal unbelievers to be thrown to the lions.
    Blessed are the young for they shall inherit their parents govt debt.
    501 deportees will be redeported further south, to our territory on the south pole.
    Lust and fornication to now come under our new three strikes regime.
    Gluttony will be discouraged, by not taking gst off fruit and vege.
    Free school lunches to include a soup made from shredded bottomfeeders.
    The lame and destitute and pensioners, shall feel my almighty wrath, dealt to by my msd machete.
    I’ll generously reduce my own taxes, while forcing the ill to pay for their apothecary.
    My band of angelic landlords will enforce no fault evictions upon hapless tenants.
    343 real estate moguls getting $1 million in tax deductibility, will get a free investment adviser.
    Those reaching the greatest heights of avarice, shall receive my highest honours.
    Free vip passes issued to one percenters, to access the kingdom of heaven, via the secret side entrance.
    Demon pariah Judas Winston, will be invited into my tent after judgment day, and if he accepts me as the almighty alpha and omega, then I will rule this land with him by my side. And if you don’t like it, then cry if you want to, we don’t care, we are the party with the cultural mandate and the courage to cut out your disease and bury you permanently.

  3. Thanks Steven, I could not agree more with what you say here and also noted that the commentary by the panel after the debate completely missed that crucial point that Hipkins was not making a low blow but pointing out the truth. The person who made the low blow was actually Luxon, by bringing the matter up and trying to slight Chippy. I think that the reason for this is that the panel perspective came across as emoting purely middle class values. In saying that, MS was by far the most articulate and on the mark compared to the other two.

  4. John, Hipkins is dog tucker, anyone who bases their whole presentation on
    “I might be bad, but they are worse” is admitting they have no answers.
    No vision no proposals, just ” vote for me and get more non delivery, but if they get in it will be even worse”
    He’s dog tucker

  5. What has Cluxon got to be positive about? He may end up leading an unleadable rabble of spoilt, failed, incompetent and dishonest brats. He has no great leadership skills, having surrounded himself with yes-men and women always.
    He’s a like an inflexible plastic doll, no engaging personality and with a superior, sneering attitude.
    If he thinks the wage subsidy was a waste of money why wasn’t he encouraging his wealthy business-leader friends not to take it. Stand firm and refuse to be like other lowly beneficiaries.
    Why would anyone vote for someone who obviously loathes them.
    He’s spent a lot of time during the campaign colouring in at childcare centres. Are the under-5s the only people who will listen?
    This ‘calm down’ rubbish and constant use of ‘actually’ speaks of someone who seeks to undermine and trivialize the other person.
    I don’t think being PM will be all he imagines. It’s a bit more complicated than a very small airline.
    Never mind, having Paula Bennett there reminded some of us of how horrible the last Nat govt. was, so she had some use. I won’t comment on her appearance. That would be vile.

    • At first I was disgusted that Paula Bennett was invited as a Panel Guest, but then realised that she was perfect for the job, reminded us all just how evil and nasty she was as an MP – totally suitable to promote National.

  6. Yes John
    Chippie covered himself in glory and increased his vote by 20% at least. Watch him romp home. Not. Truth is, he has fuck all to show after 6 years. FUCK ALL!!!!! That in itself is astonishing. The left will get smashed tomorrow.

    • Paula Bennet just gave Labour 10 % The right will be disappointed, only Winston is their saviour. The right are FUCKING useless as judged by you being a supporter of theirs.

      • Bert aka Squeaky
        You gonna call everyone else here who gets the Mintos mixed up an idiot? And there’s plenty. Good….that’ll help you win the election you righteous dick.

  7. What is so negative about demanding the truth.
    The simple fact is National failed to deliver in 9 years and yet people still believe Nationals rhetoric that they are better a government than Labour.
    Their number one policy, tax, has been shown to be a sham with only 3000 people getting the full 250 a fortnight relief. Their whole campaign is merely words and failure.

    • And for those 3000 Families to get the $250, National has to sell $50 billion dollars worth of NZ Property a year to Foreigners? Only then do you understand how ludicrous & unachievable their Tax Cut scam is, it’s Voodoo Economics & ENRON mark to market accounting lunacy?

  8. I missed it but comments on the radio this morning from people phoning in consistently said Luxon looked reasonably presidential while Hipkins looked childish in his insults.

        • If National win, their first act should be to privatise ZB Talkback Radio, why are they receiving Taxpayers funding, let the bastards stand on their own 2 feet & let the Private sector pay for Mike Hosking & his Wife Kate Hawkesbys huge, exorbitant Salaries, let the Free Market decide as the Neoliberals love to say? Mike would be outta a job in a week & ZB out of Business within a Week!

        • If National win, their first act should be to privatise ZB Talkback Radio, why are they receiving Taxpayers funding, let the bastards stand on their own 2 feet & let the Private sector pay for Mike Hosking & his Wife Kate Hawkesbys huge, exorbitant Salaries, let the Free Market decide as the Neoliberals love to say? Mike would be outta a job in a week & ZB out of Business within a Week!

    • Any one can look presidential ,he’s obviously had a make over . It is one thing looking presidential and a totally different thing being presidential.

    • I agree with that feed back Hipkins was an angry loser .It must be hard to have been handed such a poison chalice by St Jacinda who could not be bothered to give him any back up .

  9. Great article John, I wouldn’t even call it negativity, Hipkins was CALLING OUT NATIONAL Party & Luxon’s LIES, Politics is a Blood sport without bullets & Hipkins was just calling out Luxon’s rubbish Policies & Tax cut scams? I’m so disappointed by the inept NZ Media & so called Journalists, like the idiotic Woman in this Debate & others, they aren’t true Journalists, they are so lazy, don’t do their Homework & don’t do any research, they just do Soundbite, Tic Tok stunts, nothing that would inform the Viewers, so pathetic but I’m glad you give us the essential information that these lazy incompetent bastards could never provide?

  10. To suggest Luxon is responsible for Uffindales misdeeds when he was barely an adult is laughable.
    Hipkins is woke as fuck and this is cancel culture at its worst.
    Good riddance.

  11. Hipkins and his predecessor had an unprecedented MMP majority. The only self-set goal that (s)he managed to meet was reducing the prison population. The results show that did not go well. Sadly the government that promised to be transformative was all talk.

  12. The people have spoken.

    Negativity is a valid and winning political strategy – Not!

    It is hard to run a positive campaign when you have got nothing positive to offer.

    A wealth tax to fund our covid recovery, to fund our Cyclone Gabriel recovery, to fund our failing health system recovery.

    Now that is the sort of positivity that is a winning political strategy.

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