Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The epitome of reason

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  • Matthew Hooton,

    Yep, "Waitakere Man" has got a bit richer since Chris invented him six years ago, thanks to economic growth and house price inflation, and he's probably a bit more liberal on social issues. But he's still roughly the same person.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 194 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    In both countries, that perception was fostered with carefully-constructed negative campaigns, from the same strategists, aimed at making a change of government look risky, and emphasising what there was to be lost.

    And which Labour did pretty effectively in 2002 and 2005 -- there were plenty of people, at least in my circle, who were looking at Labour's message of "you may not like everything we've done, but look at those clowns over there. LOOK HARD and ask if you really want to run away to join that circus" and agreed. (And they took a lot of leaves out of the British Labour playbook, and I've long said the Tories were Tony Blair's most reliable allies.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Hooton, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I agree in 2002, Labour's message was "look at those clowns". But in 2005, it was more "look at that threat". They tried that again in 2008 against Smile and Wave and it fell flat.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 194 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Hooton,

    I agree in 2002, Labour's message was "look at those clowns". But in 2005, it was more "look at that threat". They tried that again in 2008 against Smile and Wave and it fell flat.

    It's still a version of "don't risk it", though. Also: Don Brash trying to get into a stock car.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    It sometimes seems that Labour’s foul destiny is to eternally operate as a blank sheet for everyone else to project onto. They should move to the centre! They should return to their left-wing roots! Be inclusive! Renounce identity politics! Dump the leader! Keep the leader! Be more cynical! Be more principled! Panic! Not panic!

    I guess this is because so many people see Labour as the most likely vehicle, or obstacle, around getting rid of the government, for whichever reason they want to get rid of the government, even if they're not even members.

    What does the Labour Party want for itself? Is it aiming to get rid of a National government? Is it aiming to represent a specific group of people? Is it aiming to see certain policy implemented? Does it just want power? Would Labour be willing to sacrifice popularity in exchange for its principles yet possibly still form part of a future government? Does Labour even know what it wants, or is it too infested with opportunists driving it?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s still a version of “don’t risk it”, though.

    Sure - and if you want to frame it as "negative campaigning" then that fair enough too, but it also strikes me as a perfectly legitimate campaign to run even if you don't like the people putting it forward. Of course, the antidote to "don't put it all at risk" is "well, how is 'it' working for you, really? Consider this instead." Least we forget, Labour won in 1999 in no small part because a tired and unpopular Government tried running a scare campaign in uncertain times about Labour's tax-and-spend secret agenda. The problem was there was nothing even slightly mysterious about the policies Labour had been presenting consistently for the best part of a year from Clark and Cullen all the way down.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Sure – and if you want to frame it as “negative campaigning” then that fair enough too, but it also strikes me as a perfectly legitimate campaign to run even if you don’t like the people putting it forward.

    That’s actually how Lynton Crosby framed it.

    The problem was there was nothing even slightly mysterious about the policies Labour had been presenting consistently for the best part of a year from Clark and Cullen all the way down.

    Absolutely. I like your italics.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I think Matthew is fundamentally right. Most New Zealanders are happy with their lives. If they; are white, older, own their dwelling, or earn $70 or more, then they are even more likely to be satisfied with their lives. Most people live good lives – even if a large minority do not.

    All politics is essentially the perception that things could be ‘better’, and that it is possible to make it so.

    It has been interesting to watch child poverty rise to the top of the political agenda. It was initially a fringe issue, with people like Sue Bradford and Hone Harawira the loudest voices. In the last two years organisations such as CPAG and UNICEF have gained considerable traction, as Campbell Live put the issue in the living rooms of hundreds of thousands of other New Zealanders, and the Greens were able to mainstream the issue through posing it as central to the legitimacy of the government. It was starting to pose a problem to the Government, but had not gained sufficient coherence as a ‘political’ issue to move votes. Pre-budget Labour was still on 25%, the Greens on 10%.

    That’s the challenge: how to put large and serious issues in which the government is failing or underperforming – on any objective measure – to the public in such a way that they are presented not as petty politicking but as issues of general concern. And then bring that attention back to the political parties that presented the issue in the first place.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'll also put this out there; it's been on David Farrar's puddle and Rob Salmond's blog, and deserves another showing. Worth the hour of your life, if you do any kind of political campaigning, or want to understand those people who do. It's basically a documentary.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    There are a few factors at work across the anglosphere and locally . . .

    1. Organisations that traditionally support left-wing political parties - notably trade unions - are at an historic low point in terms of power and resource, while organised capital, which funds their opponents, is very strong.

    2. The death of 'neoliberalism' in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis gives right-wing parties considerable room to maneuver in ideological terms. They're essentially populist parties. Winning votes is really all that matters.

    3. Whereas left-wing parties are still engaged in the endless wing civil-war over ideological purism. MPs get safe seats - or list positions - based on fealty to factions within the party or affiliates, like the unions, instead of their ability to win electorates or get voters to vote for their parties.

    4. National (somehow) introduced sweeping institutional reforms after its defeat in 2002. Labour doesn't seem capable of this (we'll see after Gould finishes his review). But it seems to be like the Baltimore institutions in 'The Wire'. You can't reform it unless you get to the top, and once you're there you owe your position to people who benefit from the dysfunction, so you still can't change anything. The last major reform of Labour happened in the 1970s, carried out by Anderton and Clark. It is still, essentially, a First Past the Post political party.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Agree with most of what Danyl has said, but not this:

    Whereas left-wing parties are still engaged in the endless wing civil-war over ideological purism. MPs get safe seats – or list positions – based on fealty to factions within the party or affiliates, like the unions, instead of their ability to win electorates or get voters to vote for their parties.

    Ideological coherence typically has little to do with those who emerge from the unions or within Parliament (staffers, insiders) and who are selected as candidates.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to George Darroch,

    I’m sure this doesn’t add anything to Lynton Crosby’s (highly profitable) political mystique, but you know what the Tories absolutely did right – a brutally effective focus on the marginals that still matter a lot under FPP. (This is why everyone should be very careful with drawing too many conclusion from the UK – electorally, we not comparing apples with oranges, but cricket balls with hand grenades.) As far as I can tell, the Tories put a lot of thought and effort into a textbook ground game the media didn’t really notice, because they were obsessed with gaming polls instead of policy analysis.

    Unfortunately for Labour (and the LibDems), the SNP was also following a game plan that succeeded beyond all expectations – and it was also based on a handful of clearly and consistently articulated messages that read the mood of the Scottish electorate. I'm still not sure what the hell the British Labour Party stood for beyond "the Tories suck" and "Ed is shag-able".

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    That’s the challenge: how to put large and serious issues in which the government is failing or underperforming – on any objective measure – to the public in such a way that they are presented not as petty politicking but as issues of general concern. And then bring that attention back to the political parties that presented the issue in the first place.

    And also finding ways to critique it – pointing out the clawbacks and abatements in the alleged $25 a week benefit increase – without looking negative and petty.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    your #3 does not apply to the Greens, right?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    without looking negative and petty

    some do seem to be struggling with that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    The other difference in the UK is UKIP grabbing a substantial share of votes from working-class people who were traditional Labour voters. I'm almost grateful for FPP reducing the number of potential UKIP MPs in Parliament.

    While I can see Winnie continuing to milk his anti-immigration line, the UKIP level of underlying racism wouldn't fly in NZ.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Sacha,

    your #3 does not apply to the Greens, right?

    It should.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    The last major reform of Labour happened in the 1970s, carried out by Anderton and Clark.

    Eh? While Clark was sufficiently prodigious to have become a junior lecturer at the relatively tender age of 22, she was 29 with no parliamentary experience when the 70s ended, and had been a member of the Party's executive for barely 18 months.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Lott,

    I think a great deal of both Elections was about personality politics.

    Without John Key, National have a rather unappealing and probably unelectable front bench. Labour I think have yet to find Key's match, and National may struggle with a leader who elicits less public affection, as baffling as that affection may be to some of us.

    In the UK, Milliband and Balls were a comedy act. All Cameron really had to do was keep his nerve and not drop the ball, and in that sense it was 1992 redux. How Cameron will emerge from the corner into which he has now painted himself remains to be seen...

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 109 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    your #3 does not apply to the Greens, right?

    You're saying Steffan Browning made his list ranking on merit?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Here’s an example. A range of changes are proposed to New Zealand’s workplaces, which are intended to make our lives healthier and less accident prone. I am not an expert in this area but assume that it will go some way towards this objective.

    This will improve lives and decrease the cost to New Zealand. It will also impose some cost on employers. That cost has been lobbied against vigorously, and MPs including Judith Collins are now publicly asking for the bill to be weakened.

    I am quite confident that this weakening will occur. I am also confident that it will come at no political cost to the Government. Opposition parties will deliver speeches in Parliament, unions will make press releases and statements, and none of this will create more than ripples. More New Zealanders will be injured and experience worse health, and some employers will have more money than they would otherwise.

    What would you do differently? How would Waitakere Man / Waikanae Woman be convinced that this is an issue worthy of their emotional energy, and then that this emotional energy should be directed against the Government and for a particular opposition party?

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    A large amount of National's popularity is predicated on the Auckland property Ponzi scheme. (NZD80bln of house price inflation over the last year - 30% of GDP).

    Of course, just like Chinese industrial growth, this is completely sustainable and will continue forever. On that basis, National will retain power forever - Ponzi schemes can't change operators.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Barnaby Nicholls,

    Miliband was hardly unelectable, but he was dealing with a constant barrage of negative press. Not even negative press on policy or actual problems, but focus on how a man eats a bacon sandwich - it was relentless. I have little doubt that the SNP would probably have won multiple seats across Northern England, if they'd made the call to run candidates there (I admit this would be an incredibly bizarre move). But their popularity came from running a consistent anti-austerity message.

    Miliband was damaged by much out of his control (it's hard to imagine broadsheet front pages the day after a major Tory speech focussing on Cameron being a weird eater rather than an announced policy), but one thing that was firmly in his grasp was messaging. Austerity is far from popular but Labour conceded that it was necessary - giving in to the key Conservative narrative that Labour had stuffed everything up. People had a choice between Blue and Lite Blue, and they voted for the vivid colour.

    Labour's problems in NZ are quite different, so far as I can tell. It's nothing to do with "sheeple", and everything to do with imagination. Labour needs to figure out policies which inspire, and build a coherent story about what they stand for. It's not just the policy, it's the ambition to frame it as meaning something bigger. The Greens appear to have this coherence - given any policy area, it's generally pretty easy to predict where the Greens will stand, because the conviction underpinning their politics is clear. But, for some reason, the Greens still get given short shrift by a bevy of commentators who think that the 'niche' concern of trying to stop the world from burning to a cinder makes one a socks-and-sandals hippie.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2013 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    your #3 does not apply to the Greens, right?

    You’re saying Steffan Browning made his list ranking on merit?

    So the Greens send out a party list to their membership, who then vote on it, and the final list is determined by those votes. I can think of two people on the list I was paying particular attention to, who ended up placed significantly higher after the membership voted. So the most the party hierarchy can do is put a candidate up there to start with, and hope the membership accepts that.

    I think one of the most significant differences between Labour and the Greens is that the Greens are currently having a leadership battle, and the media is completely ignoring it. Labour should be so lucky.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I'm saying they don't have the same factional control over selection processes, and nor do they stand candidates in electorate seats.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

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