Labour’s campaign launch

An unidentified columnist at Stuff writes:

Has miscalculated?

Its campaign launch tomorrow will have all the glamour of any event held at Auckland’s waterfront on the viaduct. That decision was no doubt deliberate.

If ever there was an occasion when Labour needed to put on its game face it’s the campaign launch, when it needs to convince the punters it is still in the game.

A party atmosphere can hardly hurt.

But National has stolen a march on Labour by launching its own campaign in two weeks from Manukau in the heart of South Auckland, traditional Labour territory.

Given that this is where Labour has placed much of its focus on turning out several hundred thousand voters who went awol in 2011, the challenge thrown down by National is clear.

Don’t just assume those voters will all go your way, is the inference that can be drawn from National’s deliberate march into Labour’s heartland.

It is a very ballsy move by National.

Since his earliest days as prime minister, Key has harboured a dream of extending National’s support into heartland Labour areas like South Auckland, particularly among the more conservative Pacific Island communities turned off Helen Clark’s government by its anti-smacking stance.

That is part of National’s wider strategy of being a party with appeal to a broad spectrum of voters by reaching out to non-traditional constituencies.

The May budget, with its extension to paid parental leave and free doctors’ visits showed National is not squeamish about cribbing policy from opponents to further this goal.

Labour has been slow to wake up to National’s game plan.

Even Key’s comments about targeting future tax cuts at low to middle income earners show the extent to which National remains focused on the strategy.

I want tax cuts, and I am very happy if they are targeted at low to middle income earners. a reduction in the bottom tax rate means all taxpayers get a tax cut.

For years, Labour successfully papered over the divisions between its left and right factions, thanks largely to the iron-clad control of Helen Clark.

But the last few years have seen it re-erupt to the extent that both sides seem hell-bent on giving the impression they might even relish the prospect of a loss on September 20 so they can blame the other for engineering it.

The party’s left faction are already talking up a caucus purge and de-selection after the election.

Excellent. Purges are always a great idea.

This is also a fight over whether David Cunliffe should stay on and lead the party in the event of defeat.

Those who believe he must stay are ranged against those in the caucus who they see as wanting to use defeat as an opportunity to roll Cunliffe.

Cunliffe’s office doesn’t even bother to hide the divisions between the caucus and the wider grassroots. One senior adviser called recently to take issue with a statement that the grassroots had grown increasingly distant from the party. Their complaint was not that it was untrue, but that it was the other way round – the caucus had grown distant from the grassroots.

Think about that statement. A senior staff member in the Labour Leader’s office called a journalist, to slag off the caucus. And if they win, these guys will be running the country.

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