David Cunliffe badly needs a new stump speech. On Thursday in Whanganui I heard him depress a large and sympathetic audience for ten minutes with tales of national woe, then promise a positive campaign but give no details. It is good to know that a positive campaign is proposed. Labour has promised an economic upgrade; it also needs a communications upgrade, and besides being positive it must be relevant.
Preaching woe and doom when 65% of New Zealanders think NZ is heading in the right direction is not the smartest strategy,
I hate to give free advice, but look at what John Key did in 2008. He was relentlessly positive about NZ, but said we could be doing even better. Telling people their country sucks only appeals to people who, well think the country sucks.
Too much of Labour’s communication has been relentlessly negative, coming from what appears to be a pervasive view that “the purpose of opposition is opposition.” That’s fine if your purpose is to stay in opposition; my view is that the purpose of opposition is to get into government as soon as possible. To do that people have to know what is on offer, have a sense of hope and purpose, and that can’t be done with a negative approach.
I have two simple tests for people. Can anyone name:
- A significant education policy from Labour, apart from repealing national standards and charter schools?
- A significant health policy from Labour
Even groups in those sectors complain that they have no idea what Labour stands for, or will do. It’s 103 days until the election, and their likely policies should have been spelt out a year or so ago.
Finally if Labour is going to run a positive campaign, the its media unit needs to get with the programme. We’ve been getting their feed for several years, and endless series of negative or critical straplines is very off-putting. They also all follow a similar pattern; gripe followed (sometimes) by alternative. I suspect many of them by now don’t even get opened.
It’s easy to oppose in opposition. It is harder to create a narrative that people want to listen to.