If Labour are going to unseat National at the next election they are going to need the Media party onside.
They are already ideologically disposed to support Labour, but with the outbreak of hostilities from Phil Twyford, Labour’s campaign chair, it would seem that there won’t be any free rides for Labour any more.
Richard Harman outlines the basis of the war against media:
Hostilities appear to have broken out between the Labour Party and some television journalists.
The first shots were fired over the weekend at the Labour Party conference when one of Andrew Little’s staff took exception to a Newshub report on the conference by reporter Lloyd Burr, and there were reports of an angry exchange between the two.
Burr had claimed that Labour’s proposal to impose a levy on employers who did not train workers was really an attempt to crack down on immigration.
That was drawing a very long bow.
A long bow it may be drawing, but if that is one impression taken from their dopey policy it is probably the least offensive.
Then yesterday Labour MP Phil Twyford started a tweet war with TVOne’s Andrea Vance.
It began:”Appalled by your biased story on @1NewsNZ last night. You were fully briefed on numbers, but you chose to run Nat attack line.”
Vance had said Labour had got its cost estimates wrong because Labour has costed its work for the unemployed programme on the basis that each beneficiary taking up its employment scheme would work for only four months, not the six promised.
NZME’s Claire Trevett then joined the scrap with a reply to Twyford.
“We weren’t told $60m was based on avg 4 months & nowhere did it say ‘up to’ 6 months. U fudged it” she tweeted.
Twyford maintained the full costings were explained to Vance
“Public deserves better than bias and hatchet jobs as we enter election year. Sound assumptions on costs were explained to you.”
But Trevett responded, “and we did ask in the standup, and nobody said it was based on 4 months.”
The media statement that was given to journalists at the conference said “A Labour Government will provide hope to the 74,000 young people not in employment, education or training by offering them meaningful work for six months.”
“With an estimated 10,000 taking part each year, the “Ready for Work” scheme will cost $60 million a year.”
Everyone picked up on it. Labour hadn’t properly disclosed their thinking, such as it was. Journalists correctly did their own maths and came up with a different answer. It was all predictable and it shows that Labour failed to war game their announcement.
It took David Farrar less than a few minutes to run his own numbers. At that point the policy became a liability because now Labour was explaining, and explaining is losing.
Labour in many ways is its own worst enemy.
It surely didn’t matter all that much whether the scheme cost $90 million or $60 million so why it chose to present the lower figure seems a bit odd. And why it thought it could get away with it is even odder.
And journalists — particularly those with instant deadlines — who misunderstood the Commission on the Future of Work report could also be excused because it was a complex document.
It was a point Michael Cullen picked up on in a workshop saying that the challenge with it would be to translate it into bumper stickers.
It did, the bumper stickers say Vote National.
Maybe the reason for that is that there has been a large gap in the party’s communication team.
It has been without a Chief Press Secretary since April and its new appointment, Mike Jaspers has only been on the job for a week.
Jaspers is a highly experienced journalist who has most recently been part of the communications team at the Rugby Union.
He surely needs to get Labour’s loose media ball under control.
Keeping Phil Twyford under control during the election will be a bridge too far for even Mike Jaspers.