McCarten on how Labour can win

Matt McCarten looks at how can win despite the polls:

The polls are disastrous for Labour, no matter how you try to spin it. National consistently wins more than 50 per cent in the polls while Labour sits in the low 30s. …

Clark’s claim that the polls aren’t accurate is dubious at best. She has some legitimacy when she points out that they tend to under-count young people and the less well off, who are more likely to be her supporters. Only people with landlines are polled, which excludes many young and poor people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that about one in three people on the electoral roll does not have a landline.

Many polling companes weigh their results to counter any under-representation of key demograpgic groups. And the numbers on the electoral roll with landlines is over 90% not 70%.

But even so, this would probably make a difference of less than 5 per cent. With polls showing up to 25 points between the two big parties, that won’t be much comfort to her parliamentary colleagues.

People may be surprised by how little weighted results often differ from raw results.

But Clark isn’t giving up and at her caucus retreat, read the riot act to her MPs: buck up and fight. As the cliché goes, a week is a long time in politics and Labour has four months to close the gap. If it can narrow the gap to 10 points or less it will win.

I said a long time back that a gap of less than 10% is a probable Labour Government. A 10% to 15% gap is pretty uncertain and over 15% is very probably National.

The election finance and anti-smacking legislation have been disasters for Labour. But I’m not sure they’re as important as people make out. The election restrictions are more of an obsession for political commentators and media owners.

They are, but a constant string of negative stories does have a background effect on the public, and it makes it difficult for the Government to get momentum.

Some of our media spin doctors have fixated on the difference between National and Labour, and ignored the other parties. Take it as read that for Labour to have any chance it will need the support of the Green, New Zealand First and the Maori parties.

There is little doubt in my mind these three parties will, between them, get more than 15 per cent of the vote. The remaining minnow parties are electorally irrelevant and can safely be ignored. But if National doesn’t maintain at least a 15-point gap over Labour, it will be in trouble.

Not necessairly in trouble per se, but I agree at less than 15% Labour starts to get options.

If you didn’t have to deal with the vanities and the complicated personal relationships between party leaders, Labour’s electoral strategy would be very simple. It would be a smart move to endorse the candidates in the seven Maori seats for the price of counter endorsement giving Labour the party vote and a pre-election coalition agreement. This would give the Maori Party a clean sweep of all the Maori seats without a fight and would increase Labour’s party vote by at least 2 per cent, giving it at least 10 additional seats in a Labour-led, post-election government.

This is true, but it would be a highly unproportional result and MMP would inevitably die as a result. Matt needs to be careful about winning battles but losing the war. Using overhang as a delebrate strategy to win an election would generate a massive backlash. As it happens I think we saw with Shane Jones and Derek Fox that the bad blood is so massive Labour endorsing Maori Party candidates is highly unlikely.

The Green Party is a guaranteed supporter, and Labour just has to give tacit support to its more left-leaning and liberal voters giving their party vote to the . This should help the Greens get over 10 per cent and adds another 13 Green MPs.

Votes from Labour to Greens don’t increase the chance of a left wing Government – they do make it more left than centre though. I agree with Matt that the Greens are guaranteed to go with Labour despite their protestations. They’re like the battered spouse always coming back for more!

New Zealand First, of course, is a little more complex, but personal support for Peters is still strong. National is running an aggressive campaign to prevent Peters from winning Tauranga. If Labour kneecapped its own candidate and openly endorsed Peters to win that seat back, Peters would no doubt bring his MPs into a Labour coalition.

Except Winston says he wants no deals to win. And at the moment is not the time to talk abour Labour endorsing Winston!

Of course, that kind of realpolitik strategy would have the political chattering classes in an uproar. But if Clark really wants a fourth term, the Maori Party wants a guarantee of all Maori seats, the Greens want to be in Cabinet, and New Zealand First wants to survive, this is the way do it.

In these desperate times, Labour had better start thinking outside the box – and fast.

One can’t rule it out. But of course the long term consequences might be New Zealand dumps MMP, the Maori seats are abolished and Winston loses Tauranga anyway even with Labour’s endorsement.

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