John Armstrong on Labour

August 27th, 2011 at 5:15 pm by David Farrar

in NZ Herald writes:

For three years, Phil Goff has tirelessly pushed his boulder Sisyphus-like up the hill, only for it to roll back down each time. Now, however, the rock may have slid down the hill one too many times.

Over the past couple of weeks, cracks have appeared in ’s united front, giving National added reason to believe it can secure the electoral equivalent of El Dorado – winning enough seats in an MMP election to govern alone.

Labour’s legendary self-discipline seems to be crumbling under the relentless pressure of bad polls.

I wouldn’t get too fixated about whether National will win enough seats to govern alone. National’s aim is to get around 48% of the vote, not to govern alone. And the margin will close during the campaign.

But what John is correct to note is that for the first time there are significant splits showing in Labour. A number of Labour MPs are now of the view that a change is necessary – basically that any change is better than no change. They can be counted on one hand, but they are now there.

You also have Cunliffe and Jones especially starting to gather supporters for the post-election leadership vote, assuming Labour loses.

Witness the unfortunate outburst from Dunedin South backbencher Clare Curran, flaying the Greens for having the temerity to encroach on territory which apparently belongs to Labour as of right.

Of more serious note, some senior Labour MPs clearly think November’s election is a foregone conclusion, and are now focusing on what happens afterwards leadership-wise, positioning themselves accordingly.

The net effect of this is to leave Phil Goff marooned exactly where National wants him – in an ineffectual limbo with his leadership destabilised, but not so much that he must be removed before the election.

It is a skill to aim to wound, rather than kill. But generally the shots are self-inflicted – not a result of enemy fire.

Most damaging has been the leaking of suggestions that Goff offered to resign as leader during a recent meeting of Labour’s front-bench MPs.

What Goff apparently said was that he had put everything into the job for the past three years, and anyone who wasn’t happy with his performance should stick their hand up. No one did.

The only motive for the leak would be to undermine Goff before the election campaign to ensure he loses.

Or to undermine him, so he can be rolled before the election. Either way it means someone on the Labour front bench is undermining Goff.

Voters’ ratings of his attributes as a leader – as measured by the 3 News poll – have become more unfavourable since he took over from Clark in late 2008.

On the crucial questions of whether he is a capable leader, good in a crisis and having sound judgment, Goff’s initially positive ratings have slumped.

Over the last two year, Goff’s rating as a capable leader has dropped from 53% to 38%, good in a crisis from 51% to 40%, honesty from 45% to 34% and sound judgement from 57% to 42%.

While much is made of the 1951 election as the last time a party won more than 50 per cent of the vote, National has topped 47 per cent in seven of the 22 post-war elections.

It is also worth noting that Labour, in winning a second term in office in 1987, raised its vote from 43 to 48 per cent.

That’s a stat I hadn’t seen before. National got over 47% in 1946 (but still lost), 52% in 1949, 54% in 1951, 48% in 1960, 47% in 1963, 47% in 1966, 48% in 1975, and 48% in 1990.

When the positioning going on within Labour is taken into account, what is happening is that the early stages of the 2014 election campaign are being played out before this year’s one has started.

All rather bizarre, to say the least.

I suppose it allows Labour to say they are forward looking 🙂

16 Responses to “John Armstrong on Labour”

  1. jaba (2,182 comments) says:

    it IS still possible that Goff could become our PM .. that is sooooooooooo scary

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  2. peterwn (4,341 comments) says:

    The reason National governed with less than 50% of vote in pre MMP days was because there were large concentrations of left wing voters in some seats eg Sydenham (forerunner of Wigram) and the four Maori seats. National voters tended to be more dispersed across seats with the average ‘blue ribbon’ seat having a smaller majority than the average ‘red ribbon’ seat. So National could win say 45/80 seats with an overall count majority of less than 50%.

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  3. Fisiani (1,188 comments) says:

    If Labour voters believe that Labour cannot win in November they can
    1. Vote Labour out of habit (wasted vote)
    2. Vote Green or Mana (wasted vote)
    3. Vote National to make it a strong moderate goverment that does not rely on ACT.

    If Labour voters believe that labour cannot win then they must believe that National will win.
    Option 3 Vote National is clearly the best option for Labour leaning voters in 2011

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  4. jaba (2,182 comments) says:

    Redalert linked to the Heralds piece saying that National are light on their front bench (shit I hope they do one on Labours) but no mention of this yet .. timing issue maybe?

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  5. Inventory2 (12,580 comments) says:

    National light on the front bench? But they’ve got Big Gerry!

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  6. Nigel Kearney (2,045 comments) says:

    Labour’s increase in popularity from 1984 to 1987 should be well known. People liked Rogernomics a lot, despite the subsequent successful rewriting of history by the media and academics.

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  7. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    The main thing to see with Labour in this election is whether they hold support at about the current poll levels or if as people decide they are a no show the support deserts them even more.

    A real possibility of late shifts.

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  8. Monique Watson (1,324 comments) says:

    @Fisiani 6.57pm. You forgot the most likely option: Vote UnitedFuture.
    (Hon Peter Dunne has always been a strong performer in government; the PM attested to this last weekend and both the previous PM and Finance Minister put their confidence in Peter numerous times. Not a wasted vote because whatever role Hon Peter Dunne plays in the next government, it will be a constructive role.) Check out for a list of achievements over the last 9 years. Go on, do it. You may stay to play.
    The Centre IS a point on the political spectrum and most rational voters respect compromise after well reasoned debate. The haters from bit sides stick the boot in ‘tween elections. However there is a trend towards the Centre at election time in other countries.
    Given the UK Lib Dems ( okay some differences there, but you get my drift), garnered approx 9% of the seats (23% of the vote take) in 2010, there is room for a significant pendulum swing towards the centre of the political spectrum from both sides.
    If you were to conclude reasonably that UnitedFuture commands more respect and a proven track record then, say:
    Poot poot: (sound of one hand clapping, little boy in the front row farting), : New Zealand First, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that UnitedFuture will take at least as many votes as NZ First did in 2008. That is 4% or 4-6 seats.
    Another way of skinning the possum: Assume a distribution of approx 20% of the votes across the minor parties. The greens hover around 5-7% of dedicated motivated voters. Maori Party 2.5%. Act 4% Wasted (invisible party or waster votes 1.5%) No need to account for Mana as Greens, Mana and Labour will cross cannibalize. The thinking persons swing vote is approx 5% with UnitedFuture the only target for it.

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  9. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    I don’t think the electorate will want National to have an outright win. National hasn’t been that good. And there’s a natural tendency to choose power but limit power.

    There’s only one reliable option to provide centre balance to National and that’s United Future, it’s quite obvious when you look at what’s there to choose from. John Key openly recognises that. People within United Future know that they’re onto a good bet, and a safe bet. It’s the only sensible alternative to giving National the keys to the country to do as they please.

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  10. pq (728 comments) says:

    Bangkok newspapers carried an article the other day saying that it was expected the Key government would be re elected
    with a substantial mandate.
    It also stated that unlike Thailand there was a lack of corruption in New Zealand Government

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  11. Red Dragon (123 comments) says:

    I’m not confident that there will necessarily be a leadership change after the election for Labour. I think it’s more that Key is likable, rather than that Goff is dislikeable, that is the cause of Labour’s low ratings. It would be risky for whoever is next in line (whether it be Cunliffe or Parker or anyone else) to meet the same fate as Goff for the next three years – just as Goff as struggled since Helen.

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  12. Positan (460 comments) says:

    @pq: “unlike Thailand there was a lack of corruption in New Zealand Government.”

    Seemingly, a phenomenon when Labour is not in office.

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  13. tvb (5,542 comments) says:

    The Labour Party is in long term decline. Despite the political success of Helen Clark the Labour vote never went over 40%. In Australia it is even more marked. That may be shoved along by Trade Union thuggery which is a huge turn off for the young. There is no point to the Labour Party. Instead their point seems to be to defend its sacred cows and do something for the poor. Except doing something for the poor means to others more and more welfare with no questions asked. In short Labour is a conservative party that pitches its-self to the feckless.

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  14. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    Interesting point tvb.

    Look at Roy Morgan results for Labour, 2002 41.3%, 2005 41.1%, 2008 33.99%
    Since then they have ranged from 28-36.5, mostly in the low thirties.

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  15. Jackie Douglas (1 comment) says:

    With the Labour Party in philosophical meltdown, touting a capital gains tax of all things, this election will at the very least be interesting in regard to their fortunes. Or lack of.

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  16. Monique Watson (1,324 comments) says:

    Hello Possum. It’ll be interesting to see where the Labour vote migrates to.

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