Edwards on why Labour did so poorly

Brian Edwards blogs on the Josie Pagani (and interestingly notes she used to be his producer) op ed on , and comes up with his own list of why did so poorly. I agree with some of what Brian has said, but not all so will go through them in turn.

The extreme improbability of any political party in New Zealand being voted out after just one term in office

That is a factor in why National got re-elected but less so about why Labour dropped 7%. I would also note that under MMP getting a second term is not so easy – at the end of the day we avoided a hung Parliament by just one seat.

The nation’s love affair with John Key, without doubt the greatest exponent of the photo opportunity and ‘skinetics’ in the history of New Zealand politics;

Yes John Key is popular, and this was definitely a factor. But the implication that it is all about photo opportunities falls into the trap so many on the left make of under-estimating Key, and thinking he is just “smile and wave”. I’m not saying Dr Edwards does as he has written in more detail on Key previously, but just in this post the reasons Key are so popular are not explored much – especially the fact he ran a very moderate and centrist first term programme (second term is less centrist), that he was hugely reassuring on the economy (ask anyone who has been to a business breakfast where he talks about the issues), that he has opened up the books on MPs and Ministers spending, that he will back down on some (but not all) issues etc etc.

The relative lack of voter enthusiasm for Phil Goff

This was one of the larger factors. And it generally wasn’t anything Goff could change. Putting up someone who entered Parliament 30 years ago as the face for the future was always going to be hugely difficult. Add to that his mishandling of the Richard Worth allegations, the Darren Hughes allegations and even the SIS briefing, and his ratings stayed massively low until the campaign period itself.

Earthquakes, mining and shipping disasters which, in media terms, disadvantage those not in power and unable to influence events;

Yes, but only with a caveat – so long as the Government in power responds competently to them. Hurricane Katrina didn’t exactly help the Bush Administration. And the hysteria around the Rena in the early days wasn’t great either.

The Rugby World Cup, a convenient distraction for National shortly before the election;

The more major impact is that it shortened the campaign period during which people started to tune into Labour. But having said that, Labour then dropped away during the same campaign period.

The general euphoria that winning the Cup produced;

Must thank Helen and Trevor for bidding to host it in an election year.

Widespread voter disengagement from politics, particularly on the Left.

But why? The Greens did well.

The self-fulfilling nature of three  years of polls branding Key and National  sure-fire winners and Goff and Labour sure-fire losers.

That definitely does have an impact.

Labour’s courage in advancing policies that made long-term economic sense, but were highly unattractive to voters in the short term: a capital gains tax and raising the age of eligibility for the pension.  

I’m not sure the CGT or superannuation policy (both which I supported to some degree) turned off many voters. Maybe the superannuation one delivered a few to Winston.

I think the pledging an extra $70 a week to beneficiaries with children and only $10 a week to working parents with children went down like cold sick.

I also think Goff fumbling the numbers, combined with policies requiring more borrowing in the next seven years (even by Labour’s numbers) were a significant factor.

Nor was Goff helped by the idiotic decision of Labour’s campaign team not to have a Party launch and not to feature the Party Leader on any of their election billboards. The only possible interpretation that could be placed on this hare-brained scheme was that Labour was embarrassed by Goff and wanted him kept in the background. And that is precisely the interpretation that the media, political commentators and, I suspect, voters placed on it.

Yep, a very stupid decision. And the question that hasn’t been answered is who made that decision? Is he now the Deputy Leader?

Finally, Phil was probably not helped by Helen’s dramatic departure from the scene or by her ordination of him as Labour’s new leader. Having served a parliamentary apprenticeship only three years short of hers, he might just have appreciated another three or six months to get his bearings and turn to her for advice.

I agree this was unhelpful. Not just for the advice, but the fact he gained no profile when he took over, as all the focus was on Key. Labour did it much smarter this time around.

There’s other factors also. The front-bench was all Clark era Ministers. The ongoing series of social media own goals. The smear brochures which people don’t like, the relative strength of the Greens, the u-turns on policy, the three years of attacking every single spending cut and then claiming they will adopt National’s fiscal parameters except in one or two areas. I could go on.

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