Watkins on Labour’s pessimism

February 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

writes:

Scratch beneath the bravado  in these days and you will find a pessimist.

Blame it on the weather or a shortened barbecue season, but Labour MPs seem already to be doubting the prospect of a Labour win.

Some of them are now talking up a two election strategy. That they increase their vote enough in 2014 so they can win in 2017. So in fact their strategy is to lose less badly.

The latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll shows National is as popular as ever after six years in power. Labour will be hoping  a One News-Colmar Brunton poll due out this weekend shows a different trend. But the muted response to the Fairfax poll suggests it was not far off the mark from Labour’s own polling.

Even Left-wing blogs and the likes of columnist Chris Trotter, torch bearer for David Cunliffe’s leadership, have started writing off the prospects of a Labour win.

Some of that may be self serving. Many of the party’s activists believe the revolution, that began with the rule change giving the membership a deciding vote in the leadership, is only half done.

Their fulminating may be as much about fomenting a wider backlash against the likes of Phil Goff and Trevor Mallard, Labour’s so-called ‘‘old guard’’, who are resisting pressure to bow out despite leading the group of MPs who were outright antagonistic about the prospect of Cunliffe as leader.

But this a dangerous time for Labour. Once a belief takes root that an election is unwinnable it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It seems too soon yet for that to have happened within Labour.  But Cunliffe may be discovering the limits of running a caucus of which at least half was never more than  lukewarm about his leadership.

 A good poll would have united the caucus behind him. Conversely, one bad poll was all it was ever going to take for those who doubted Mr Cunliffe’s leadership to feel vindicated.  That was always the risk Labour’s activist base took in imposing a leader on the caucus.

The problem for Labour is that ‘‘I told you so’’ doesn’t win elections.  Nor does it help  heal a divided caucus.

The activists blame the old guard. The old guard blame what they claim is the “B” team who got promoted and have been invisible. The staff are jumping ship. It is not a happy place.

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35 Responses to “Watkins on Labour’s pessimism”

  1. Harriet (4,002 comments) says:

    “…..So in fact their strategy is to lose less badly….”

    So they have worse than Cunliffe ?

    Why didn’t you just get to the point Tracy? :cool:

    Mr Craig is looking good this year……as you can’t trust National with all the votes y’know Tracy! :cool:

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  2. Harriet (4,002 comments) says:

    Edit – I meant to put ‘DPF’ in – not ‘Tracy’.

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  3. jims_whare (389 comments) says:

    And the problem is?

    Reminds me of the story from the Bible in Egypt where there were 7 good years followed by 7 years of famine.
    It said that by the time the famine years were in full swing the good years were forgotten.

    It seems Labour is in the middle of their famine years (9 years duration?) and are starting to starve a political death…

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  4. radvad (620 comments) says:

    If you think the infighting in Labour is fun to watch, just imagine the entertainment a Labour Green NZ First Mana coalition would provide.

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  5. Chthoniid (1,966 comments) says:

    The fact that National has sustained its poll-support when for most governments looking at the end of their 2nd term, it should be ebbing, must sap some confidence. Allied to that is their support has basically flatlined for years.

    They have failed to present themselves as a alternative government in the waiting.

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  6. Colville (1,767 comments) says:

    Time is running out (now) for them to have any shot in 2017.
    They need to be putting new blood high in the list (now!) so that new MPs can go into oppostition for a term and have a real crack in 17.
    They do not have a viable leader or one waiting in the wings. They would need someone , young bright and good looking, probably a lawyer, who has drunk lots of the lefty coolaid and willing to give up life as a real human and go into politics. Ewwwww.

    With the old guard, Goof , the 2 Fish Guy and Duckie etc etc, in place they are fucked. :-)

    I know and you kow they wont do it. Too selfish and only concerned with keeping snout in the trough for as long as possible.

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  7. RF (1,124 comments) says:

    I have heard a whisper that the next poll due out has a 2 in front of the number. Cunliffe is dead man walking.

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  8. tas (527 comments) says:

    Excellent news. My Labourite friends seem despondent. My the prophecy become self-fulfilling.

    We’re still about 6 months from the election and Labour is looking wobbly. Hopefully National will be returned with a stable* coalition and our economic future will be safe for the next 3 years.

    *stable=not depending on Winston or the Maori party. Preferrably National will have a choice of partners so that if one or two don’t agree with a policy, they can rely on their other partners.

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  9. chris (460 comments) says:

    Preferably National will have an outright majority of seats ;)

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  10. Colville (1,767 comments) says:

    If you think the infighting in Labour is fun to watch, just imagine the entertainment a Labour Green NZ First Mana coalition would provide.

    radvad. The problem is the vast income tax cost as the ticket price to such a floor show.

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  11. tas (527 comments) says:

    chris: I don’t think a one-party government is going to happen. Voters don’t like it and, if the polls show that it’s likely, the voters will shy away from National. It hasn’t happened in NZ under MMP or in Germany (where we copied MMP from).

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  12. Monty (944 comments) says:

    maybe that is the cause of the grumpiness of labour and green Taliban pollies in recent days. Does the poll have labour and the Taliban slipping (oh are the Taliban in single digits?) and have the Nats consolidated their base and can govern alone?

    Then the question begs, Is labour even capable of understanding what the drivers are that will excite middle New Zealand? I doubt it.

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  13. Harriet (4,002 comments) says:

    “….Preferably National will have an outright majority of seats…”

    They will still have coalition partners because they won’t want everyside of parliment attacking them for 3 whole years. It’ll look like they can’t work with anyone other than themselves – and face a huge reduction at the polls in 2017.

    The backbench have said so – they now look to Mr Craig as their pay provider for the next 6-9yrs! :cool:

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  14. Neil (525 comments) says:

    Yes Labor are in trouble but remember there’s still an election to win.
    National needs to govern well,quietly and keep providng the building blocks for the recovery. Let’s not get too excited about “rock star economies” but ensure that South Aucklanders,Southlanders,Coasters etc are all part of the growing self confident society.
    Labour aren’t on the scene at the moment-in a 400m race National is entering the winning strait while Labour are just getting off the blocks.
    Labours non freshening of MP’s is just one of the fatal pieces of their position. Realistically Labour should now be looking to regain power in 2020. It’s disgraceful that Mallard,Goff,King and Mahuta are still hanging on.
    Where has Andrew Little gone ? He was the new messiah in the last election.
    Remember,National supporters, don’t get too cocky. Things can and do go wrong.(Hopefully not !!!!)

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  15. tas (527 comments) says:

    Amen Neil. In 2011, National went from 53% in Roy-Morgan to 48% in the election in a month.

    The polls and Labour’s pessimism are good news, but the election result is still wide open.

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  16. greenjacket (346 comments) says:

    tas: “I don’t think a one-party government is going to happen. Voters don’t like it and, if the polls show that it’s likely, the voters will shy away from National. It hasn’t happened in NZ under MMP or in Germany (where we copied MMP from).”

    NZ is not Germany. NZ has a totally different political culture. In Germany it is common for the SDP and CDU to form Grand Coalitions. It would never ever happen in NZ that Labour and National form a coalition. In Germany, the SDP would rather form a coalition with the CDU than let the extremist Greens/communists into power. That isn’t happening NZ, where the Labour Party shows every willingness to let assorted Greens/communists into coalition with them.
    .
    The reality is that later this year voters will face a choice: a coalition of Greens/Labour/Winston Peters/Hone Harawira or National governing alone.
    Any support parties for National – Peter Dunne, Act, even Colin Craig – will only be there because National has chosen to help them, so they are hardly independent parties at all. These tiny parties will only bring 3-4 seats between them. So regardless of playing games and gifting electorates to the tiny parties, John Key knows that he still has to get to nearly 50% to be able to form a government.

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  17. Harriet (4,002 comments) says:

    Labour is on the rocks and will now try to buy the election by offering ‘free stuff’ as tax revenue is now starting to rise due to an economy that is going forward, so spending can start, but by paying down debt is also what helps keep inflation down, and helps ‘income disparity’ from getting worse. Jobs will soon become more available allowing the worse off to become better off; the unemployed to get more money from having a job, and those already in the workforce an opportunity to climb the income ladder or get a second job.

    This election will be a year where national will stick to pointing out how better off the so-called ‘poor’ will be if they are invloved in an economy going forward without further ‘wealth disparity’ happening because of ‘Labour’s sparkling give-aways’ – something that the FIRS EUROPEANS IN NZ DID to the ‘dirt poor Maori’ – as the left voting public now believe that ‘wealth disparity’ is the biggest evil in NZ – due to Labour talking so much about it that is. Labour’s gone! :cool:

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  18. tas (527 comments) says:

    greenjacket: Of course Germany and NZ are different, but the point is that under MMP we have always had coalitions and the closest international examples are the same.

    There is no point arguing with me about whether or not a single-party government is a good idea. I’m just saying that voters (not myself) have an objection to it. I think there was a poll conducted on this at some point. i.e. Asking voters if they support a single-party government. In 2011 and 2002, the polls showed that a single-party government was likely, but in the leadup to the election voters decided otherwise.

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  19. Scott Chris (5,675 comments) says:

    Doesn’t help that Cunliffe has about as much charisma as a fished up bicycle.

    Labour needs to do what ACT has done – total clean out. Perhaps Jacinda Adern would make a better leader.

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  20. Colville (1,767 comments) says:

    In the lead up to ’14 election the “right” minors will (if they know what is good for them) pick a scrap with National to have a point of difference and show that they are not just lapdogs.

    Voters WILL NOT let National have 50%.

    Cons, ACT, UF and oh yes maybe WinstonFirst too all will have a part to play in keeping New Zealand on the RIGHT track. :-)

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  21. Colville (1,767 comments) says:

    Scott Chris. @ 11.31.

    I just read your comment re: MyLittlePony and leadership. Thanks. I needed a laugh :-)

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  22. lazza (296 comments) says:

    Look Out to Bridge.

    Iceberg close, off the starboard bow.

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  23. lazza (296 comments) says:

    Erratum … How about Len (Pants Down Sociopath) head up the Labour Party?

    That way, all! of the troughers, (Goff/Mallard/various Lab Wimmin) all go down the swanney as “a job lot”.

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  24. Nostalgia-NZ (4,677 comments) says:

    I think that Labour has lost its identity not only because of only few bright lights shining from within the party but because of a deeper problem relevant to the reluctance of the Unions to embrace the modern times. Unions have not ‘up dated,’ rightly or wrongly this seems to be the reason for car plants closing in Aussie and NZ struggling to produce raw product such as coal, steel reinforcing competitively. Employment has changed radically and it’s stupid in the extreme for unions to think their ‘relevance’ has not changed. If anything the Unions need a clean out of leadership but in reality the old guard have a strangle hold on beliefs and doctrines that are out dated. If the electorate is vulnerable in the middle for both the major parties as it is by all reports, then Labour need to either distance themselves from the Unions, even to the point of opposing them in order to show that they are relevant to workers in the modern times whereas Unions are struggling for relevance and credibility. If Labour don’t understand this, then they also don’t understand they are in a fight to the death, one more immediate than they prefer to realise. The writing is on the wall, any individual can challenge his or her working conditions, employment or dismissal, the utilities for that are what needs looking at and what part, if any, the unions can play in that. At the moment Labour is an old war horse style tank under several commanders going no where and losing by default. Cunliffe, unfortunately for the man, displays all the pre-occupations that plague the Labour Party – no clear identity, no clear, defined purpose and no clear understanding that it is the voters who matter and whom they should serve first and foremost.

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  25. RF (1,124 comments) says:

    A friend of mine living in Wellington and working very close to the halls of power read my post at 10.24am today. He has phoned to correct me and advised Cunliffe is in serious trouble now with his caucus . One piece of hot gossip is that Grant is apparently looking at a challenge in the near future. Its a matter of timing and numbers as they do not want to make their move too close to the election.

    Its survival of the party as when they miss out later this year they want to avoid a landslide loss.

    Its going to be interesting…

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  26. flipper (3,266 comments) says:

    That Watkins piece is only half her story today. I

    It is the first part of her rumination that is of concern to me. Philip Burdon always was as dickhead – a mushroom who feeds upon the bullshit that he feeds to his mushrooms. The silver spoon has done nothing for Burdon, apart from increasing his perdonal and family wealth. He was probably the main financial backer of the Anderton-Burdon challenge to the Anglican Church, so he is not a neutral observer on ChCh developments.

    There is talk (unconfirmed at this point), however, that Burdon and his business interests have run a-foul of CERA, and the real. story is that Burdon has been unable to exercise his customary influence in the face of Cera and Brownlee?

    The anti Brownlee left wing media seems to really enjoy applying the size=bully tag to Brownlee. That could also be applied to dumpling Watkins, so she should be careful about throwing stones.

    Frankly, right or wrong, I enjoy a Minister who speaks his or her mind (Adams is anther. A south Islands “disease”, perhaps? ) and avoids weasel words (words with the meaning sucked out)

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  27. Than (368 comments) says:

    I’m just saying that voters (not myself) have an objection to it.

    tas, what evidence do you have that voters object to single party government? Because I don’t believe it’s true.

    Under FPP we always had single party government, so it’s not like it’s anything new or scary. The reason we haven’t had a single party government under MMP isn’t because voters don’t like it. It’s simply because there were more parties in parliament splitting the vote between them. But now with National as the sole remaining right-leaning party it is quite plausible they could get enough seats to government alone.

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  28. RF (1,124 comments) says:

    flipper. 12.13pm.

    Brownlee and Burdon used to be close friends. Something happened several years ago and now there is a chill in the air between them.

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  29. flipper (3,266 comments) says:

    RF (1,038 comments) says:

    February 22nd, 2014 at
    ****

    Ohhh…explains quite a lot.
    Tks

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  30. Manolo (12,612 comments) says:

    We should invite the “delicate” Lynn Prentice, rainbow Torquemada at The sub-Standard, to comment on Labour’s precarious position.

    He will confer with Charlie Chauvel, Ginga Hughes, and Chrissy Carter before giving us his virile opinion.

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  31. OneTrack (1,953 comments) says:

    It seems clear Cunliffe is not what the hard-left hoped he was. They must have believed the New Lynn speech to the bros.

    IF I was a Labour voter, I imagine I would now be thinking voting National anyway. Give the Labour Party hierarchy such a hell of a shock, they would have to do something serious. Because what they are doing now is…, actually I dont know what they think they are doing. They seem to be still in the mode that, next election the voters will see how wonderful they are and vote them in a landslide because they will save the people from that evil John Key.

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  32. Colville (1,767 comments) says:

    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/02/dear-david-cunliffe/#disqus_thread

    Will cuntliffe read the WOBH thread?

    :-)

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  33. RF (1,124 comments) says:

    flipper .. I had a close friend who was mates with them and we used to hang out at National Party functions when I was in ChCh. I was more of a hanger on. Not sure what happened but there is no love loss now. I think it was Burdon who felt he was the injured party.

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  34. chris (460 comments) says:

    I don’t think National will get a majority of seats, just that it would be preferable to do that than having to go into coalition to a bunch a small parties. Correct me if I’m wrong, but National usually poll higher than they end up with votes on election day.

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  35. flipper (3,266 comments) says:

    RF (1,039 comments) says:

    February 22nd, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    *****

    Jonathan Elworthy (since dec’d) was a close friend. He once told me that Burdon had trouble maintain long friendships, and did so only with those beholden to him. According to JE, Burdon also fell out with David Carter, whose wealth exceeds Burdon’s by quite a bit.

    He sounds bitter and twisted. But I suspect he vented his spleen now because it is the third ‘quake anniversary.

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