Chris Trotter analyses Labour’s problems and discusses a possible solution to their woes.
THE LATEST ROY MORGAN POLL has cast a deep pall of gloom over all three Opposition parties. Among Labour supporters, however, a growing sense of utter futility is palpable. Support for the party has crashed back to the abysmal figures of Election Night. Barely a quarter of the adult population is willing to identify Labour as their first electoral choice.
The corollary to Opposition gloom is, of course, Government elation. And, with the Roy Morgan poll showing National on 54 percent, who can blame its MPs and supporters for breaking out the bubbly? Remember, this latest poll was conducted when Amanda Bailey’s ponytail was dominating the headlines. Did it damage the Prime Minister’s reputation? (As so many of John Key’s enemies were hoping.) Not appreciably. “Teflon John” continues to shine.
The problems are well known, we just saw them repeated in the UK. Doing more of the same is no longer an option.
At around the same time as Roy Morgan’s callers were working the phones, Sir Michael Cullen and the NZ Fabian Society were attempting to rally Labour’s dejected troops with a presentation entitled, rather hopefully, “Destination: Next Progressive Majority.” Arriving at that destination, says Sir Michael, will depend on whether Labour is able to re-present itself as the party of Choice, Aspiration, Responsibility and National Pride.
For that re-presentation to work, Sir Michael stresses, Labour must re-connect emotionally with the electorate. “Policies can be a means to this”, says the former Labour Finance Minister, “but rarely the most important means.” In saying this, Sir Michael is echoing the advice of Lynton Crosby – the man who, earlier this month, won the UK General Election for the Conservative Party. Policy matters, says Crosby, only inasmuch as it expresses the less tangible and more visceral reasons for supporting one political party over another.
“This is Key’s huge strength”, Sir Michael observes, “he has enormous emotional connection with voters. The sloppy language we like to make fun of is the language most people speak, not like University lecturers like Helen, Steve and I. The casualness to turn things aside, not important, at the end of the day.”