David Cunliffe and “Vote Positive” slated as major reasons for Labour’s failure

Not sure why I had any hope that Labour’s internal review as to why they had the worst election results for around 80 years was going to produce something beyond the obvious.  Claire Trevett reports

Labour’s review panel has reported its findings back about the party’s election campaign and the reasons for the low 25 per cent result, identifying problems ranging from a failure to unite behind former leader David Cunliffe to resourcing and confusion over its “Vote Positive” slogan.

The panel of four reported back to Labour’s Council at the weekend on the first part of its three-part review – a look into the election campaign.

The party will not release review findings until all three parts are completed, expected in February.

One of the review team, Bryan Gould, said the panel’s terms of reference had included the leadership of Mr Cunliffe and while there were mixed views on some issues, the main problem was a failure to unite behind the leader.

“It is very important to unite behind your leader. Probably that’s one of the key messages. We didn’t shy away from any issue. I don’t think we went overboard, but we told it as it seemed to us.”

Astounding.   Failure to unite behind a leader.

Let me tell you something.  If people don’t want to follow you, then you’re not a leader.  Typical Labour.  They think they can legislate things away, just like they think they can order people to follow a leader.

After all this “research”, they are still completely lost.  This is what they should say:

We picked the wrong leader.  Our process for picking party leaders is flawed when it allows a leader to be selected that does not have the backing of the wider party.

As for the Vote Positive slogan.  It really didn’t make sense.  Everyone thought it was a head scratcher.  That was, of course, until the Dirty Politics book came out.   Then it all slotted in as part of a strategy.

Not that it worked.  The electorate saw it for what it was:  an organised Labour Party hit using the usual channels.  Nicky Hager may be celebrated in the murky black ops areas of the left, but he is deeply distrusted by middle New Zealand.

Let’s not forget that National nearly managed an outright majority for the first time in the MMP era.

If that isn’t a message that the left is totally lost, I don’t know what is.


– NZ Herald


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  • RobT

    Not one of their team had what it takes to lead…a natural born leader.
    Hence they were and still are lost.
    Need to identify and get onboard a “star” if they want to have any hope of survival..let alone win in future elections.

  • Kevin

    Personally, I think the Left lost it way back in 2001 when they become apologists for Islamist terrorism. But the fact that Labour blames folks for not supporting Cunliffe, rather than Cunliffe being a useless leader, is pretty astounding.

    • Another Middleagedwhiteguy

      In a normal world, yes it would be astounding.
      But then Labour is not by any means of any imagination, “normal world”.
      They talk about how they care for the workers, yet are not workers themselves (or should we say, they are shirkers) and in fact they will support any and all non-workers at the expense of those who do work.
      So, for Labour to blame us folks for not supporting the “leader” even they could not stomach, is pretty much par for the course.

      As for your analysis regarding 2001, yes, definitely. And I’m sure that was just another of the subconscious factors that have led to a general distrust of the left – and the emergence of IS prior to the elections just put another nail in their coffin. Very hard to get them to understand such things though, let alone admit to them, so . . . .

  • Justsayn

    So who does the report say came up with “Vote Positive” and what was the thinking behind it? Dotcom?

  • Michael

    How about the fact that their senior caucus members aren’t fit to be put in charge of a booze up in a brewery, let alone the $92 Billon a year enterprise that is our Government?

  • Pluto

    In some respects I agree with these findings.
    While it’s easy to say they had the wrong leader, when the caucus didn’t want him in the first place then he goes out and makes a fool of himself every other day, the other question is, well who was the right leader ?
    As they had so little to choose from he was going to be as bad as any, they had no choice but to get behind him. Self-preservation seemed to be more of a priority though.

  • Justsayn

    I think Labour’s biggest single problem is that they are beholden to the unions.

    The rabid style of unionism is history. By clinging to it they are drifting further and further from centre voter thinking, and hence from being electable. If they are happy with 20-something-percent election results then they may have identified a niche, but I think they should want to be high 30s or even low 40s.

    How do they respond to the problem? They give the unions even more power, letting them appoint their man, Cunliffe. What happens? A spanking. Their response? Let the unions appoint another of their men, Little.

    The real expression of stupidity is to do the same thing over and over, but expect a different result.

  • Chiefsfan73

    Correct Cam. If nobody is following, then you are not leading. The best way to discover is to look behind you, not unfortunately as Cunliffe was given to doing, beneath you.

  • Jas

    I wonder if any of the answers will be the Green Party.
    As to try and counter the growth of the Green Party, Labour has decided to go with the ‘PC anti everything but what we believe’ brigade to the detriment of the middle to top of the party.

    • Chiefsfan73


  • rua kenana

    In 2008 Helen Clark opened her election campaign by saying “this election is all about trust”, knowing that at the time Mike Williams was down in Melbourne trying to dig up dirt on John Key, she thought successfully.
    When Williams failed, Clark’s election strategy failed and the electorate quickly decided who they trusted and who they didn’t. Labour have been floundering ever since. Their “vote positive” slogan was on similar lines. Voters convincingly showed who they thought was positive and who wasn’t.
    Makes one think of the old story about a chimp punching at random on a typewriter would eventually type out all of Shakespeare’s plays. Maybe that’s some guide to Labour for a better election slogan.

    • jethro

      And Peters on tax payer funded trips to China to dig up sh*t on Judith Collins..

    • Kiwibabe

      They are still trying to find that dirt on Key, lack of it is getting under their craw, so they make up trivia like “he said she said” stuff which annoys the hell out of Key at times, and I don’t blame him.

  • Timboh

    I got the impression that the caucus was united behind Cunliffe, like the roman senators were united behind Caesar when they stabbed him

  • JustanObserver

    … “Our chosen Messiah for the 2014 election had some complexities relating to the less-intelligent and the body-public did not support him because they could not understand him. While we WERE right in what we were announcing to NZ, the body-public clearly couldn’t follow our plan and it is simply a case that they will need more education next time round.
    All Hail Helen” …

  • We picked the wrong leader. Our process for picking party leaders
    is flawed when it allows a leader to be selected that does not have the
    backing of the wider party.

    Wrong; Cunliffe had the backing of the wider party, and of key unions. What he lacked was the backing of Labour’s caucus, especially those backing the ABC campaign.

    Little however has even less support in caucus than Cunliffe had. He got just four votes out of 32, whereas Cunliffe recorded seven out of 34. Cunliffe had better than 20% support, but on first preferences, Little has just 12.5%. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

    Labour’s system of voting is daft. It is the MP’s in caucus who should choose the leader who will either keep them in power, or lead them to the dole queue.

    • To make a cohesive team able to win elections, the wider party and “affiliates” are completely irrelevant, its the caucus that maters. If the board of a company isn’t behind the managing director, then the opinions of the workers is of no importance, why should politics be different?

  • Bart67

    The real elephant in the room here is the effect that MMP has had on our parliamentary system. Under FPP, everyone was accountable to the electorate. If they were not a person suitable to be a representative in Parliament, the electorate would vota accordingly. Now we have the party list, where a person rejected by the electorate is able to skulk back in on the basis of a party listing.
    The biggest failing in MMP is that it has removed, in part, the ability of the governed to have a full say in who will govern them. What the Labour party have done is take this to it’s illogical conclusion. It is not about the quality of the person any more, it’s about the managment of the voting process to generate the result for a minority!
    What needs to be researched is the mechanism by which the union vote is allocated.

    • Platinum Fox

      It’s not very difficult to work out how the union vote works.
      The six affiliated unions share the 20% vote allocated to unions in proportion to their paid up membership at a set date. In five of the six unions (DWU, EPMU, MWU, RMU and MUNZ) the members are apparently deemed unworthy of exercising a vote and the union delegates vote. The SFWU members do get to exercise a personal vote and apparently a number of Liebore MPs are members of that union so vote in all three sections of the ballot.
      Because there are only six affiliated unions, the EPMU’s share of the unions’ 20% is about 7% of the total vote. Angry Little Andy Spittle therefore had the benefit of a substantial block of support from his EPMU mates in the first round of voting and picked up enough of the votes from other unions as preferences were calculated to win the two candidate vote within the affiliates 76% to 24% and overcome head to head losses of 44% to 56% in the caucus and 45% to 55% in the wider party.
      One can only presume that the other 140 or so unions in New Zealand don’t see enough value in the Liebore Party to convince them to affiliate with the party and provide it committed funding, which leaves those unions that are affiliated with disproportionate power in selecting the leader of the parliamentary party.

    • The problem you discribe here are mechanism issues that could be easily fixed. A simple solution would be to mandate the ministers, including the PM, must be electorate MPs. They could then be removed at the next election or thrown back into the back benches where they could do no harm. If actioned like this it would put Labour in a very difficult position at the next election.

      • Justsayn

        That might not be too good for the Greens either.

      • Another Middleagedwhiteguy

        Either that or have the list order decided by the voter –
        1) All candidates must stand in an electorate
        2) Unsuccessful candidates to be ranked in order of the votes they got, and the party list decided by the Electoral Commission, not the party bosses.

        That way candidates judged to be useless by the electorate will not be admitted to parliament, and those found worthy of some confidence will be.

        • Exactly, as I said, its a mechanism issue, not a flaw in the system. Those that harp on about FPP being better are glorifing a past of them vs us politics, well the worlds not like that, its an Us vs Them, Them, Them & Them world.

    • Kiwibabe

      Agree, huge risk the hugely dangerous left could be our next coalition govt. Major, major screw up were that to occur.

  • CheesyEarWax

    Vote Positive did work, for National. Positive economy, positive job prospects, positive Leader, positive at keeping the Greens from governing. One thing Labour need to learn from Marketing 101, slogans doesn’t mean much if your party doesn’t live it, i.e. eat your own dog food analogy.

  • Yeahright

    How about another easy one that they missed. Their policies suck!. “Oh no they were just mis-represented”??!! They will never get out of 20-30% when they cant learn. Nevermind all the better for us.

    • The2Game

      Agreed, Yeahright.

      Take my own electorate – Rimutaka – as an illustration. Nowt against our Member of Parliament (Chris Hipkins, Chief Whip and Spokesman on Education) but he is quoted in this week’s local giveaway ragsheet along the lines that ‘everyone knows Education in New Zealand is stuffed.’

      ‘Everyone’ in Mr Hipkins’ count presumably excludes the damn-near-50% of the country that voted for a continuation of current policies, Education included.

      Not a HINT in his public utterances that maybe, just maybe, Labour’s education ‘answers’ aren’t what the public wants…

      • Yeahright

        I really like our Education system at the moment, I know exactly where my kids sit on the NZ wide scale, if I need to focus on a area they need help in, I can, and also push the areas they show talent in! Whats wrong with that!
        Don’t worry I have A. King here in Rongotai, maybe its us that are stuffed!

        • The2Game

          Wow, I am in an agreeable mood today, ha.

          Exactly why Mr Hipkins thinks a state-controlled Education system is such a wonderful idea, I shudder to think.

          If you and I need live in a performance-paid system then why the hell shouldn’t something similar apply to the teaching mob?

          Ha, re Annette. Please keep her!

          Only times I go to Rongotai involve trips on the tin budgies.

          Though I must admit that I do keep an eye open for naked young men fleeing Annette’s houseguests and for Annette herself fleeing, in the other direction, with an ‘I see nuzzing!’ Sergeant Schultz expression…

  • caochladh

    Reminds me of the “Mission Statements” that started appearing in corporate head quarters around the nineties. Every man and his dog started outdoing each other in outlandish claims to stick on their walls, claims that could never be met and ultimately ended up meaningless.

  • jude

    Voters are not idiots in general. To launch a campaign with a pithy little slogan like “vote positive” was doomed to fail when Labour had been so negative for months prior to the election!
    The lack of policy detail around retirement and CGT also was a further nail in the coffin for Labour.
    Those two policies alone would have had a huge financial impact on all New Zealanders, whether or not they were the “rich pricks” Labour love to hate.
    Fortunately, voters could see through the bluff and bluster.
    They can still see through it now IMO:)

    • Huia

      Its ironic really, the vote positive was the most negative campaign we have ever seen. The “rich prick” thing got on most thinking peoples nerves as the irony was that rich union pricks and other rich pricks funded their bleating. Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees.
      People did vote positive, they voted in National who were far more positive than Labour was with a few more brain cells too.
      The general populace also has the internet at their fingertips and are far better informed than you gave everyone credit for. People need positive in their lives, not the steady outpouring still going on by the few and the media of “negative”, the labour party are missing the point by a country mile that folk can see through the bull dust.

      • Whitey

        The fact that their definition of “rich prick” encompasses most of middle New Zealand didn’t help either.

        • Kiwibabe

          Rich pricks pay in aggregate nearly everyone else’s fair share of taxes, so are good! We are all trying to be good, darn.

          • Whitey

            Yes, considering it’s the “rich pricks” who pay for everything I’d expect at least a little bit of gratitude.

    • Kiwibabe

      I tend to agree although many fell in love with Madam Clark big time. She left Labour in great shape didn’t she?
      It has been said that the mark of a great leader is one who builds a great team to carry on their legacy. On that score alone Clark was a dismal failure.

  • R&BAvenger

    ‘Vote Positive’ and it’s so, so obvious tie-in with ‘Dirty Politics’ plus being tainted by association with the obese German fraudster/IMP meant that the sensible voting public saw right through Labour and their fake/flake leader.

    • Whitey

      So true. I don’t know who they thought they were fooling.

      • Another Middleagedwhiteguy

        They thought they were fooling us.
        But were truly only (and truly) fooling themselves

  • Nige.

    Labour has only ever been a front for the unions, as we all know. And we know that unions were born out of Soviet communism. Well…WE do. I think that by this worldwide push the have the unions get through the leader THEY want is the start of the push for socialism in the west. (Well duh). Trouble of course is that we don’t just blindly follow leaders like they expect us to.

  • I got the feeling at the time that the Vote Positive message was aimed internally. It was so vague as to be almost useless as a campaign slogan unless you were in on the internals behind the campaign Labour were however overtaken by events and their own internal style of politicking and couldn’t help themselves dragging the election into the dirtist, most negative campaign i have seen.

    As for the assertion about DC, enough of that has been said on here and was said months before the election that no further comments are even needed.

  • rangitoto

    Labour said to vote positive and the sensible voters (about 50% of them) took their advice.

  • kloyd0306

    It would not surprise at all to learn that Labour/Greens (they’re inseparable) were the instigators and the money behind Hagar’s book.

    I just hope the police do their job and uncover the truth about who hacked who.

  • kiwibattler

    June 26th Bradbury posts ‘tick tick tick’ – a post where he obviously has just heard about the forthcoming Hager book, Labour announce their ‘vote positive’ campaign slogan on the 6th July. Now it seems obvious to me that if Bradbury knew of the coming Hager book then no doubt his old mate Matt McCarten/ Labour were also in the know and within a week or so of Bradbury’s post the ‘vote positive’ slogan was born. No doubt there is more to come on this issue…..

  • Wine Man

    The review is a failure in my opinion because it only looked internally, it never polled or asked people on the street or non labour voting people. If you only ask members and employees of any organisation what is wrong they will sweeten their answers and you will only get a biased result. Ask the people that didn’t vote and they might actually have something of value. But then the cynic in me thinks that’s what they they wanted as most lefties struggle to ever understand another persons point of view so why ask!

  • Well it seems no matter what Labour did it was bound to fail. Trying to pick a failing inside the party is a road to nowhere. Listen up, Labourites- Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them. The National Government, despite some initially unpopular policies such as asset sales, was still accepted by sufficient voters as progressive and responsible managers of our economy through the GFC and into our present eceonomic condition. That’s why they won.

  • Kiwibabe

    And of course Key’s teams is doing a way better job of managing the country than the present opposition who would be a disaster and drag the economy back to Cullen and Clarks days of at least ten years of deficits forecast due to doubling of core govt spending. That was before the GFC, so National’s debt at 26% of GDP is world class. Sweden’s is about 40%, their unemployment 7%, Eurozone averages are govt debt 87%, unemployment knocking 12%.
    Real tragedy if we lose the present National party.