Labour: Dumb and deranged

Rob Hosking at NBR writes:

“Appealing to the base” can be a seductive thing, particularly when you are that base. Historically, it is not often a good way of winning elections, and, when it has, it has never been a good way of actually governing.

That was one of the biggest lessons of Election 2014 in New Zealand: The Labour Party believed it had to market to its base and, if it did so, it would get the so-called “missing million” (in fact, roughly 800,000) of voters to turn out and tick Labour on Election Day.

The signs are increasing the Labour Party didn’t learn from that drubbing.

Maybe they will hack another journalist’s emails this year, it worked so well last election.

In particular, since Steven Joyce’s first budget, the Labour message has been one of a near-panicky lashing-out in all directions.

Some of it is involved simply making stuff up: The nonsense about “cuts” to health is one, covered in depth by this column last week.

So, too, in the same place, is the issue of less being spent on Working for Families since 2010– true but that is because the government stopped allowing well-off property investors with children to offset their property losses against income and claim credits.

That’s a particularly odd position for Labour to take: not only defending the rights of some very well of people to get a tax credit but also at odds with the recent policy announcement by Labour calling for the ring-fencing of negative gearing and other property losses.

Finance spokesman Grant Robertson also went on television and proclaimed the budget was “silent” on research and development, when in fact there was a sizable lift in government spending in that area: for example, a doubling of the Marsden Fund next year and a more-than-quadrupling of current spending from that fund by 2019/20; and, overall, a more than doubling of the entire “Innovative New Zealand” spending from $107.3 million this year to $261.2 million by 2019/20.

It’s all stuff designed to rark up Labour’s “base.”

But it’s also likely to alienate those who are less tribally Labour but who might be inclined to vote that way.

There are large amounts of voters, who with the departure of John Key, feel they can move their vote around. They used to vote Labour, they are mostly employed, or self employed, and all they see is a Labour party that looks after bludgers, criminals, poofs and Maori. They are looking for a home for their party vote.

The latest example is a case of sheer, silly nastiness: the response to former Prime Minister John Key getting a knighthood.

The party has circulated a photo, headlined “How John Key got his knighthood” and attributing it to – yes, again – those bogus health “cuts”; along with child poverty and lack of action on housing.

Now, one might be tempted to concede a point on at least one of those: The inaction on housing for too long will, in years to come, be seen as a major demerit point for Sir John Key’s premiership.

But former prime ministers and senior members of governments usually get a gong: Mr Key slung Helen Clark New Zealand’s Order of Merit – the country’s top award then – and her finance minister got a knighthood.

Purblind Labour activists will love the nasty attack on Mr Key: The less partisan but still potential Labour voters will be alienated by it.

Now, when I first saw this, I was suspicious: I wondered if it was a false flag operation, run by one of Labour’s opponents, to make it look bad.

But no: it’s legitimate:  authorised by the party’s general secretary Andrew Kirton.

And that, setting aside the rights and wrongs of the issue, is the main problem here.

It is not only nasty: It’s just plain dumb.

Dumb and deranged.

Nasty, dumb and deranged. But the base is pleased.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.