And the criticism still mounts…

The Nation was brutal this morning.

This is what Jim Anderton had to say about Labour’s party vote campaign strategy.

Lisa Owen: We saw Mana, Mt Albert, Christchurch there, where the party vote was seriously eroded. What do you think went wrong there on the ground? What was wrong?

Jim Anderton: Well, there’s two serious points you haven’t mentioned — one is that 13 of the Labour electorates got less than 15% of the party vote, and in the strong Labour electorates, mostly the Labour vote went down in the party vote. In truth, we had more people not on the roll or not voting than the entire vote that the National party vote got or the entire vote of all the parties opposing National. Now, that’s a very worrying trend for the first time. And the worrying thing for Labour is that this isn’t the worst result that’s ever been had. I mean, the National party had a worse result in 2002; they got 22% of the vote, but in the three years following that, they caught up and nearly beat the Labour party in 2005, and in the three years since 2011, when the result was not good for Labour, they’ve done even worse. So this is really a very major problem to face.

Lisa Owen: It took them two terms to come back, and we’ll talk more about that later, but I’m interested in what your thoughts are and why these people didn’t come out and vote. Why couldn’t they be bothered?

Jim Anderton: Well, I think the Labour party are very wise to have put a stamp on having a very careful root-and-branch review of what actually happened, and I’ll give you one example — 10 months ago, a young Cook Island girl, if she wouldn’t mind me calling her a girl, probably woman, from Auckland came to Christchurch and thrashed the National party in Christchurch East, thrashed. They got a hiding to nothing. And over 60% of the vote; she actually polled more votes than a very well-respected long-time member, Lianne Dalziel. Now, how come 10 months later, in the whole of Christchurch, the vote in Christchurch was lower than the national average? Now, that’s a very serious question to answer. I have one idea about it, and that’s organisation. I was a campaign manager for that by-election, and I said to Labour, ‘The reason that we’re doing well here is that we’re highly organised. We’ve focused on the policy.’ And I agree with Helen about reflecting to people what they really need and what their aspirations are and working out specific policies that meet those needs. Now, that’s exactly what we did in Christchurch East, and I don’t think that was done in this election.

Lisa Owen: I just want to do a round robin here.

Jim Anderton: And one of the reasons for that is that Labour no longer has the mass membership of a party that can accomplish that. It can do it in one by-election, but you can’t do it across the country, and that’s the lesson from this election.

When Jim Anderton was president Labour had 100,000 members. Now they have less than 5000. Under Fijian electoral law they’d be de-registered.

Selwyn Pellett thinks Labour’s brand was tarnished, and for several reasons, but the largest was a rather large, very fat German interloper.

Lisa Owen: So why did you do so well in the electorates but not— Why were they trusting MPs to look after the neighbourhood but not be the government?

Selwyn Pellet: I think there were a lot of things in this, and we’ve been discussing, obviously, during the last week. But I don’t think you can underestimate the impact that Kim Dotcom had on positioning the entire left as the ‘loony left’, and that shadow… He’s relatively a small player but cast a big negative shadow. And so people were confident and positive about their MPs but they weren’t positive and confident about a left-wing coalition. And they had reasons to have some concerns.


Lisa Owen: I just want to do a round robin here, Jim, and bring the others in. So, do you agree that policy wasn’t the issue? The policies themselves weren’t the issue; it was communicating that. Do you agree on that?

Selwyn Pellett: So, my opinion is that our brand was very tarnished going into the election, and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but we were tarnished, and we were easily displaced. But policies were great.


Lisa Owen: So, when you talk about the tarnished brand, and you put that down in part to Kim Dotcom, but what other things tarnished the Labour brand?

Selwyn Pellett: Clearly, three leaders in six years, infighting, public infighting as well, has not done us any favours, so our relationship with the Greens could’ve been better. There could’ve been clearer segmentation about why a Greens voter would vote Greens and not Labour and vice versa, but I think when you’re voting for a party and you’re imagining them in government, you actually have to imagine the collective, not the individual party, and that’s something the left has to get through its head well and truly, is people are voting for a potential government, and they need to understand the segmentation between the parties.

And then the talk inevitably turns to leadership:

Lisa Owen: In the time that we’ve got left, I want to talk about the leadership. So Jim Anderton, it seems to be widely acknowledged that David Cunliffe is, you know, going to resign. There’s a lot of talk about his lack of authenticity. Why doesn’t he connect with voters?

Jim Anderton: I don’t know the answer to that. I think what part of the review may well focus on some of those issues; I’m not one who believes that the leader is the only problem, as I said. Labour won’t recover from this, unless they have a presence on the ground everywhere and a contact with the majority of New Zealanders is real, and at the moment the party organisation is not up to deliver that.

Lisa Owen: Jim what is your personal view in relation to David Cunliffe as to why he’s not connecting with voters?

Jim Anderton: Well, the leader has to take responsibility for what happened on this chin — that’s true — And I think David in not doing that on election night probably didn’t help much, but in truth, Labour’s problems are not just changing the leader, if they were— God, we’ve had so many leaders, there’s hardly anyone who hasn’t been a leader. Now I think you have to settle this properly, and that means the whole of the party has to stare hard in the mirror and look at itself and have a real presence in real New Zealand for the rest of the next three years and build the base. We had 100,000 members when I was president. At the moment I’d be generous to say that they’ve probably got less than 10.

Ouch, Jim Anderton is really being brutal there.

Lisa Owen: Selwyn, who’s the alternative? Is it Grant Robertson? His name is thrown around a lot, but he’s very Wellington — people don’t know him, and he would be the first openly gay leader of a major political party.

Selwyn Pellet: He’s certainly the popular choice at the moment, but I agree with Jim. We need to steady the ship. We need to actually slow this process down and review exactly what we’ve got wrong and understand what we need to do right before there’s any talk of changing the leadership.

Lisa Owen: But do you think it’s inevitable that the Labour Party will have a new leader?

Selwyn Pellet: I think it’s possible and probably, but that will be— it will be a run-off in my opinion.

Lisa Owen: Would David Cunliffe get your support?

Selwyn Pellet: I would have to see the results of the review that we’re going to do, because, to be honest, structure follows strategy. We need to understand what our strategy is before we start electing leaders.

So no support for Cunliffe from Selwyn Pellett either.

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