Bill English

Chris Trotter on why changing leaders won’t be enough for Labour

Chris Trotter is a wise man of the left, more’s the pity that they don’t listen to him more often.

WHY DOES LABOUR do this to itself? Yes, they have just suffered an unprecedented (post-1922) election defeat, but that’s only because the 2014 General Election was itself unprecedented (post-1951).

And, besides, I’m tempted to say ‘so what?’ In 2002 the National Party suffered an even more embarrassing result when Bill English led his party to its worst defeat ever. National’s Party Vote plunged from a bad 30.5 percent in 1999, to an even worse 20.9 percent in 2002. (A whopping percentage point slide of 9.6, compared to David Cunliffe’s 2.8.)

The interesting thing about that debacle, however, is not what the National Party did in response, but what it didn’t do.

For a start, it didn’t change its leader. National understood (as Labour apparently does not) that a debacle on the scale of 2002 has many more contributing factors than simply a poor performance by the party leader. Defeat on such a scale is clear evidence of systemic – as well as personal – failures. Which is why the first priority of National’s hard-headed businessmen and farmers was to give the party organisation a very solid kick in the bum – not to sack Bill English. (He would keep.)

In the months following its 2002 defeat National thoroughly renovated itself: achieving for the Right what Jim Anderton, between 1979 and 1984, had achieved for the Left. Namely, the transformation of an ageing party into a vehicle more appropriately aligned to the economic, social and political context in which it operated.

Crucial to the success of such operations is the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of those best equipped to wield it. Under MMP, one of the most important functions to streamline is the formation of the Party List. National has achieved this by means of an all-powerful board of directors; the Greens by giving the job to their party members. For Labour, however, the list formation process remains the Party’s Achilles’ heel.

Bluntly, party list formation in the Labour Party is a colossal rort; a travesty of democratic principle on the scale of the “rotten boroughs” that once allowed the British aristocracy to control the composition of the House of Commons. More horse-trading takes place during this dangerously opaque process than at an Irish county fair – with considerably worse outcomes.

It’s ironic really, because Labour once boasted the most ruthless and centralised mechanism for selecting candidates of all the political parties. Seventy years ago it was the selector representatives of the all-powerful Labour Party Executive who called the shots – and they seldom missed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then National, when renovating its structures, post-2002, paid Labour the most fulsome of compliments.

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National 2002 vs Labour 2014

A reader asks:

It would be helpful to hear an explanation as to why the Labour situation is so different from the National Bill English situation. Is it that National, even though getting such a low result in that election, still had numerous highly qualified up and coming talent? That the election was a burn off allowing greater growth rather than in this case which seems to be more of a spilling of weed killer which just keeps spreading? A compare and contrast exposition would be great (if it hasn’t already been done).

Regular readers will know that I was calling this election months ago as a redux of 2002.

What were the indicators that allowed me to make that prediction?

Well there were numerous, many of them anecdotal, but having experienced 2002 I was able to draw inference from those anecdotal items.

Dis-satisfaction with leadership, moribund poll ratings, no cut through on policy even when it was good, an abundance of policy papers, poor team work, then as the election campaign got going the slow slide in poll ratings leading to the sudden crash at the end.

It was almost identical.

BillEnglish’s Wikipedia page has a sanitised but honest appraisal of what went on between 2001 and 2003,

In October 2001, dissatisfaction with party leader Jenny Shipley had failed to abate, and English secured the backing of a majority of National Party MPs. English replaced Shipley as head of the National Party and thus as Leader of the Opposition.

However, English failed to improve the party’s performance. In the 2002 elections, National suffered its worst electoral defeat ever, gaining barely more than twenty percent of the vote. Both party insiders and the general public were split as to how much to blame English for this loss, but most of the party believed that English would be able to rebuild National’s support.

By late 2003, however, National’s performance in opinion polls remained poor. The party had briefly increased its popularity in the year following the election, but by October its support had fallen to levels only slightly better than what it achieved in the last ballot. English also appeared in a boxing match for a charity against entertainer Ted Clarke. This “stunt” did not boost his polling or that of the National party either, with suggestions that it devalued his image as a serious politician. Don Brash, former governor of the Reserve Bank and a relative newcomer to politics, began to build up support to replace English. On 28 October, Brash gained sufficient backing in Caucus to replace English as leader

Where this gets interesting though is the aftermath and that is what the commenter is asking about.   Read more »

A dignified exit? How about political seppuku?

lQTNW

David Cunliffe’s extreme narcissism is hindering his thought processes. Since the election he has resolutely and steadfastly refused to resign.

His caucus hates him, yet he stands there staring them down in the misguided belief that he is right and they are wrong and if he can just make it look like they are nasty bastards then he can appeal tot he members to continue to support his leadership.

The problem the membership and Cunliffe have is that they are disconnected from reality.

For months on end we have been told the polls would close up….they didn’t.

Then they claimed that people just didn’t get to know David…we did, and voted accordingly.

Now they are echoing both of those by insisting that Cunliffe remains as leader. That somehow the polls and voters were just wrong, and that eventually, if they wear us all down then we will really, really like David Cunliffe and Labour and they will return to their rightful position is government of this nation.

The problem with all of that is that is treat voters as though we are stupid.

We know a stupid, lying, double talking faker when we see one.

So how do you get rid of the fool?

Tracy Watkins examines this.

David Cunliffe’s resignation from the Labour leadership is certain. It is only the matter of his going that is yet to be decided.

In the old days he would have been gone already.    Read more »

Things are pretty bad for Cunliffe & Labour when Brian Rudman attacks

Brian Rudman usually saves his columns in the Herald to call for subsidies for the arts or the building and/or restoration of his favourite theatre.

A dyed int he wool cloth cap socialist spending his last days in print typing away interviewing his keyboard he sometimes comes up with a ripper.

Yesterday he excoriated David Cunliffe and Labour:

Late Saturday night, while Labour Party workers were still cleaning up the blood from the worst electoral thrashing the party had received since 1922, leader David Cunliffe was busy on his computer trying to save his skin. In a mass mailing to members and supporters he said, “Let’s congratulate ourselves” on “a campaign well-fought” and declared his intention to stay on as leader.

Just how he can declare himself “immensely proud” of a campaign that resulted in Labour receiving 22,353 fewer election night votes than in 2011 against a two-term National Government is a mystery. Only measured against the 2011 election night calamity when Labour lost 165,000 votes on its 2008 result, does Saturday’s result start to look less than a total disaster.

After the 2008 debacle, leader Phil Goff immediately fell on his sword, to be replaced first by David Shearer, and then when he was judged to be under-performing, by Cunliffe. Now it’s Cunliffe’s turn. His departure seems inevitable.

It was a disaster. Nowhere int eh world, generally, does a government win a third term on an increased vote, and certainly not ever before under the mMP system, let alone majority. The scale of the disaster for the left has yet to be realised.

It took National two election to recover from Bill English’s disastrous 2002 election campaign. I suspect it will take Labour much longer. Especially as their fool leader won’t quit.

Whether kicking and screaming or gracefully is over to him. The problem for Labour is, who next? The retread, David Shearer; the steady back room policy wonk, David Parker; or the new generation team of Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern?

Labour’s challenge is not just solving its leadership problems. It also has to decide whether it wants, in two years’ time, to celebrate its 100th birthday celebrations as the generally accepted, centre-left “broad church” alternative to the National Party. Under MMP, this is no longer a given. Since the election, both Green co-leader Russel Norman and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters have made claims to the leadership of the Opposition. A try-on for sure, but with Labour stuck in its present doldrums, is it any wonder the mice are playing?

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Labour’s vote winning strategy – voter immobilisation

Jerome Mika, the Labour candidate about to take a pasting from Judith Collins in Papakura has revealed why Labour is going to get wasted on Saturday.

They want to immobilise voters.

mika Read more »

Labour’s election campaign is slip, slidin’ away

The election is slip, slidin’ away from Labour.

They are approaching the territory of Bill English, expect a sudden collapse of their vote in this final week as people wake up to the fact that they can’t win.

Voters don’t vote for losers.For the same reason people leave early from a rugby match when their team is getting pasted the voters will abandon Labour.

National is urging its supporters not to split their vote as our latest poll confirms the minor parties are on the rise – and Labour continues to slump.

The stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll signals a horror start to the final week of the campaign for Labour as its support slides to 22.4 per cent, putting it on track for an unprecedented trouncing.

It appears to have bled some support to the Greens, who are on 13 per cent. But most attention is around the seeming unstoppable rise of Winston Peters and NZ First.

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How to put positive spin on dreadful numbers

The NZ Herald has some new numbers from their polling that looks at some key demographics.

But watch how they spin the numbers.

A breakdown of the latest Herald Digipoll results according to gender, location and age shows where the parties are strongest and where they are gaining and losing ground.

Labour’s popularity with male voters has increased, with 21.2 per cent of men supporting it for the party vote, compared to 18.4 per cent last week.

The party’s support among women hasn’t changed much, with 27.8 per cent this week, compared to 28.9 per cent last week.

Those numbers are simply dreadful for Labour. As I said earlier in the week Labour’s internal polling was showing them with a one in front of it and it looks like Digipoll has found the same.

Sure it has increased to barely over 20% and in the territory of Bill English’s dreadful 2002 result. Even thenumbers for women are bad and lower than when David Shearer led Labour. The Herald spins this as positive…Labour’s popularity amongst men is rising…when it is around 20% it can only but rise!   Read more »

What dead rats will Labour have to swallow?

deadrat

Labour’s continued poll ratings means they are going to lose their third election in a row, and fifth from eight under MMP.

There important lessons for Labour are similar to the ones National learned after Bill English totally wrecked the party and won 20.93% of the vote in 2002.  Read more »

Sledge of the day

No need to say anything for this one except for turn it up a bit, just don’t watch with your  mouth full.

The Predictable Failure of David Cunliffe (Ctd)

Today’s polls are more bad news for Labour.

They rolled David Shearer when he had 34% of the vote.

The new messiah, David Cunliffe, has managed to lose them 10% of the vote since then.

This was very, very predictable. I have been predicting it for ages.

David Cunliffe is dead set useless, and Labour should have run some polls to see what the population thought of him before they selected him as leader. His negatives were seriously high to being with, so he was always going to tank Labour’s vote.

Having high negatives is not career ending. Helen Clark demonstrated this, when she managed to take Labour down to 14% in the polls, with a 2% preferred Prime Minister rating.     Read more »