Patrick Leyland on Labour’s lack of message

July 19th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


NZ ’s woes are well documented. The latest round of polls – both with Labour sub 25, are frankly, disastrous. On these numbers Labour will be lucky to get deputy leader David Parker re-elected, and the prospect of any new list MPs just looks like a fantasy.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. From my distant perspective, it looks like Labour is running some excellent on the ground campaigns. Some of the MPs look like they’re making great visits (David Shearer and Chris Hipkins seem to have had a really sucessful visit through the regional North Island). Kelvin Davis is getting good media from his work helping flood victims in his electorate.  I’ve heard that some electorates are smashing their voter contact targets. The fact that they’ve even managed to agree to targets at all amazes me (I have previously sat in a Labour meeting where the idea of targets was quite literally dismissed as “boss talk”).

And as Phil Quin pointed out on the Q+A panel the other week, Labour do have some very good policy positions. Chris Hipkins really needs to be commended for the work he continues to do with education – their school donation and class size policies are really solid vote winners.

Unfortunately, Labour seems to have since dropped them like a lead balloon.

Using Facebook as a sample of Labour’s external comms*, let’s have a look at what they’ve done with the education announcements… 

10 July – A week after the key note speech a video of it is posted online. Without any mention of the policy. You have to watch the 36 minute video to discover that Labour wants to reduce class sizes.

10 July – Chris Hipkins launches Labour’s excellent education manifesto. It’s a beautiful document that really easily sets out some great policy. Does Cunliffe or the Labour Party mention it? Nope.

Number of mentions of Labour’s education policies after they’re announced: 0. Number of times David Cunliffe has mentioned that they are reducing class sizes on Facebook: 0.

Hell, it’s even depressing to look at a Facebook feed of all Labour candidates and party pages. The last time anyone from Labour talked about education was Grant Robertson three days ago.

I think this was a useful highlight of Comms 101. A party that thinks it will win by just releasing a policy, mentioning it once, and then moving onto the next policy, will not get its message across.

A party should have three to five core messages such as “Labour will reduce class sizes” and repeat it ad nauseum for weeks and months. That is how you get it into the consciousness.

The fact that no one in Labour seems able to do even basic comms must be alarming for supporters like Patrick.

In a week where Labour committed hundreds of millions of dollars to make worthwhile and significant changes to education, candidates should not be posting videos of ice water challenges. There are enough distractions from Labour’s core messages thanks to donations scandals, Kim Dotcom etc etc, Labour shouldn’t be using Facebook to create even more diversions.

And by totally going to ground and refusing to go out and sell Labour’s policy, David Cunliffe doesn’t even look like he wants Labour to win.

Rather amusingly within hours of Patrick blogging, Labour then did a flurry of educational posts and graphics to Facebook.

11 Responses to “Patrick Leyland on Labour’s lack of message”

  1. FeralScrote (798 comments) says:

    Labour has plenty of messages,the problem is that they are all kneejerk and contradictory.
    All leading one to the obvious conclusion that they are unfit to govern.

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  2. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    I agree, it’s shambolic.

    This election was Labours to lose if they’d did their job properly and stuck to a simple core message.

    Still might be close if their ground game is good.

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  3. Reid (21,413 comments) says:

    The fact that no one in Labour seems able to do even basic comms must be alarming for supporters like Patrick.

    Particularly when you consider that comms are a core lefty skillset because when you have policies like theirs you need a massive heap of lipstick and this applies worldwide. You look at any lefty govt and you see their comms practices always verges on wartime propaganda levels of OTT and all of them always do that merely as a matter of course. Look at how the Russian commies practiced it as a historical example but Hulun did it here too. Look at Alastair Campbell with Blair as a modern example and recall that Hulun was one of Blair’s main Third Way acolytes.

    But not here, not today, with NZ Liarbore.

    It makes me vewy, vewy sad….


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  4. Mark (1,611 comments) says:

    Alan Its not just shambolic and strangely it is not the troops causing the problems for Labour. Cunliffe is a train-wreck and most of Labour’s problems stem from his mistakes.

    Key on the other hand was a bit goofy for my liking when he started, almost cringe-worthy at times. Sort of worked for him but there was the danger of that wearing very thin. In the last couple of years he has really grown into the job and has got a much harder edge. While there have been cock-ups he has controlled the agenda on those very well, dealt with those within his caucus who have erred and left little scope for the opposition to gain any traction. Where Key has really succeeded is that he has managed to get that harder edge without losing the likability factor

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  5. Bob (466 comments) says:

    David Cunliffe seems to have little substance. He is like an advertising man trying to praise a product he has no faith in. Last Sunday on Q&A a segment of the contest between Muldoon and Lange was shown. What a difference between Lange and Cunliffe. Lange was full of passion knowing what the country needed. He was a great driver for Labour at the beginning. Cunliffe is nothing like a Kirk or Lange. Labour now has a poor leader who is no competition for John Key. It has to wait for the next outstanding leader to arise.

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  6. bc (1,753 comments) says:

    Patrick is quite right with his blog piece.
    Labour’s education policies could be a real vote winner. I’m surprised that they are not shouting it from the rooftops. Instead they get bogged down with minor issues which get reported on instead.

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  7. Paulus (3,565 comments) says:

    How is Labour’s Policy better than Green Taliban because in the next Election cycle they are going to have to better the Greens, and strain them, otherwise they will really be dog tucker – they are getting that way now.
    New Zealand needs a strong Labour opposition not a Greenpeace Marxist coalition who are out to destroy the country, because that is what is happening.
    I see bc above is a teacher and teacher unionist. Of course destroy and do it my way because I know what is best for the children of this country. Typical Socialist – my way because……

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  8. backster (2,508 comments) says:

    One of Labour’s Education Policies was not announced by Hipkins but by Nanaia Mahuta.. Compulsory Maori Language lessons for all students..

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  9. Scott (2,739 comments) says:

    No Labour list MP’s!! Oh that is bad. Imagine that – we only get MP’s who have actually been elected by actual voters.

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  10. bc (1,753 comments) says:

    Wow Paulus, who crapped in your cornflakes this morning!

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  11. Anthony (880 comments) says:

    Not sure why DPF wants to give Labour good advice.

    But Labour’s education policy of taking money from National’s plan to improve teaching and schools and spend it on just employing more teachers is not good policy at all!

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