Quin on Labour

June 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

writes in the NZ Herald:

Some Party cheerleaders have convinced themselves they can capture the Treasury benches without winning an election. They’re wrong.

They also seem to think Labour can afford to play nice with the Greens, play wordless footsies with Internet Mana, and avoid direct combat with National over the centre ground. Wrong, and wrong again.

This theory of September’s election relies on the fantastical notion that a million-strong army of erstwhile non-voters (and, presumably, opinion poll non-responders) are set to storm the nation’s polling booths once Labour has lurched exactly far enough left.

Such self-serving delusions are reminiscent of the American right’s insistence prior to the 2012 elections that polls pointing to Obama’s re-election were “skewed” against Republicans and Mitt Romney was heading for a landslide win.

In almost every policy area, Labour are proposing policies to the left of what Helen Clark and Michael Cullen implemented.

In the First Past the Post era, the “middle” took the easily recognisable form of places like Gisborne, Horowhenua and Hamiltons East and West.

Labour had to compete in provincial and suburban marginal seats because forming a government wasn’t possible in urban strongholds alone.

Some in the party took MMP as a cue to abandon marginal seat campaigning in favour of the party vote, diminishing Labour’s geographic as well as demographic reach.

Inevitably, the party’s standing took a hit in former battlegrounds: Labour, which topped the party vote in Hamilton West in 2005, won just 29 per cent last time.

Ironically for a party preoccupied with meeting diversity quotas, Labour’s highly centralised approach has failed to produce a caucus notable for its dynamism or breadth of experience.

Would the recent proposal to ban trucks from fast lanes, for example, pass muster in a caucus with an assertive regional voice? It’s highly doubtful.

And only in the fast lanes of three lane roads which is stuff all.

Cunliffe, Shearer, Parker or otherwise, no David can match Key’s Goliath without competing across the spectrum: stemming the flow of millennial voters to the Greens; peeling swing voters off National in the regions and outer suburbs; and maximising so-called base voters in Labour’s heartland.

The fear that such approaches are mutually exclusive – that appealing to the centre will invariably alienate the left and vice versa – reflects a deficiency of policy imagination and political confidence in roughly equal measure.

Labour is losing, and losing badly. And it’s doing so for deep, structural reasons.

The party is too small, too monotonous, too narrowly focused.

Quin is a former staffer for both NZ and Australian Labour.

8 Responses to “Quin on Labour”

  1. Harriet (7,541 comments) says:

    “….The party is too small, too monotonous, too narrowly focused…..”

    Yep….the minority views come to the fore. Cunliffe will adopt an orphaned gay Pigmy next week. 😎

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  2. Ross Miller (1,762 comments) says:

    …. and this from one of ‘them’. Bet that hurts.

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  3. rouppe (1,236 comments) says:

    The problem I forsee is that Labour will revert to type. Just like Winston Peters bangs the immigration drum every election year, Labour only knows to throw more money at it.

    They do that because they know it works. There will be enough people who think they deserve more of “a fair share” togive them the votes they need.

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  4. mikenmild (23,638 comments) says:

    Of course they have to propose policies to the left of the previous Labour government: the present National government has taken over all of Labour’s old policies.

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  5. kiwi in america (2,687 comments) says:

    Perfect summary of Labour’s problems made all the more damning because of who wrote it.

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  6. OneTrack (4,602 comments) says:

    mike – so you now agree that Labour 2014 are hard-left nutjobs with nothing to offer the average New Zealander?

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  7. mikenmild (23,638 comments) says:

    I wouldn’t go that far.

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  8. waikatosinger (611 comments) says:

    I am really disappointed in Labour. I’m a floating voter. I believe the most important power that we have in a democracy is the power to kick the buggers out and put the other lot in. My natural tendency is to vote against the government. But I’m not doing that this election because Labour and the Greens look like absolute disasters waiting to happen.

    Labour please get your act together so that people like me can stomache the thought of voting for you again. It isn’t healthy for the country when one party is so dominant. It turns us into a de facto one party state.

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