NZ POLITICS DAILY: Can Labour still win?

David Cunliffe
Bryce Edwards
Paula Bennett

David Cunliffe and Labour are still in with a chance to form a government after 20 September. On the face of it, this might seem far-fetched. After all, recent opinion polls suggest that Labour is trailing far behind National. Also, according to iPredict, there's currently a 74% chance of National leading the government after the election leaving only a 26% chance of Labour leading the government after the election

Yet the election is far from over. For five key reasons Labour might still win, see Andrea Vance's Can Labour win it? Yes, they can. It all boils down to Labour's hope that the Greens will boost the left's numbers, New Zealand First will die away, a good portion of the million potential voters missing from the last election can be attracted by Labour, and David Cunliffe can prove to be 'more than a match for Key on the hustings'. However, Vance's list looks to be inspired by the rather less optimistic parody list published earlier by Scott Yorke - see: Chin up!

Labour's healthy leftwing bloc

Part of Labour's optimism relates to the fact that it has much healthier coalition options than National. Under MMP, you can't just forecast election results by looking at the polling support of the two main parties. The minors must be taken into account as well and, on this basis, Labour plus the Greens is indeed not far short of what National is polling.

However, TV3's Tim Watkin warns against taking this MMP-arithmetic too much for granted.


He argues that the psychology of one party (National) being so far ahead of the other major party (Labour) can have an important influence on the electoral competition: 'even under MMP 15 percent between the two major parties is a large gap. No party has had that kind of a lead under MMP and not formed the next government, so for the centre-left to be contenders - and for swing voters to feel turning out and voting for change is worthwhile - it has to be closer. And that goes for making the volunteers work hard and even the MPs to pull their fingers out. It's just psychology' - see: Does the Labour-National gap even matter under MMP? You bet. See also Watkin's Underlying perceptions and the Cunliffe crisis: Poll analysis

It's worth pointing out that Labour's support levels might also be underestimated by the current polls - see Gavin White's What do political polls tell us about the election?

Labour's new and interesting faces on the campaign trail

Labour is hoping that once voters start to look seriously at its candidates, and they start meeting leader David Cunliffe on the campaign trail, perceptions will turn around. Colin James endorses the view that Cunliffe could still win, based on such factors: 'At a first meeting Cunliffe has attractive charm: intelligent, personable and not bad with the gab. Many will meet him for the first time in the first leaders debate and elsewhere on the campaign trail. That could make up some percentage points. Add in 1 or 2 per cent from a campaign targeted at 2008 and 2011 non-voters. At his best, Cunliffe could get Labour-Greens there' - see: David Cunliffe's long, hard leadership challenge

Labour also has some interesting new candidates around the country. Tamati Coffey will make a real difference to Labour's perceived freshness. For another example of a vibrant new face, read about Labour's Whangarei candidate, Kelly Ellis, in Steve Kilgallon's Wannabe MP's gender change 'humbling'

In Ilam, it looks like leftwing blogger James Dann will be the candidate against Gerry Brownlee, although the selection process has been less than perfectly organised - see Glenn Conway's Labour's first shot backfires.

Labour's 'fair share' campaign

How can Labour turn around its fortunes in the competition against National? The party is hoping that its ongoing emphasis on inequality is going to pay dividends, especially if the economy starts to boom during election year. Although this may seem counterintuitive, John Armstrong outlines how Labour is attempting to tap into voters' fear or perception that they're not receiving their 'fair share' from the improving economy: 'Labour's strategy involves getting people to ignore the statistical evidence of National's success in moving beyond the politics of recession and instead question whether they are benefiting from the recovery - and if they ever will under National. It is trying to weave a "narrative" which prompts voters to ask themselves whether New Zealand can still claim to be an egalitarian society and whether they are worried if it is not. Labour is thus appealing to more base instincts by getting people to ask themselves another, more direct question: do you believe you are getting your fair share?' - see: Key fights glare of incoming brighter future.

For an example of this, last week on TV3's Firstline Cunliffe had this to say: 'I think inequality is going to be the biggest issue this year, and in terms of economic recovery, the question on so many people's minds is, 'Well, have I got mine?' Have you got your fair share of the so-called boom? Because most New Zealanders haven't"' - see the 4-minute interview and article, Cunliffe promises election cliffhanger, despite polls. See also, Vernon Small's Rallying Labour's lost loves

It's certainly the case that Labour cannot simply campaign negatively on 'doom and gloom'. This is addressed well by Grant Duncan in his blog post, Gotta feel sorry for Labour. Here's the key point: 'And then, last week, just to really piss the left off, an international social-indicators agency rated New Zealand as the world's 'most socially progressive nation,' beating even the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland, not to mention Australia. That's ironic news, coming while National is in office. Aren't the Nats supposed to be the scourge of all good socially-responsible and progressive policies?... Any talk of how our social well-being is going down the gurgler thanks to neo-liberal policies and the accompanying poverty and inequality is now going to sound hollow'.

Labour's missing million voters

Labour is also counting on winning back some of the so-called missing million voters who chose not to vote in 2011. Much will depend on the success of this strategy and you can see how strongly Labour is organising itself for this battle in Claire Trevett's article, Cunliffe hones tactics in war room

The problem for Labour, however, is that many of the missing million are also disatisfied with what Labour has to offer. This is starkly illustrated by Cunliffe's experience last week with an angry heckler who clearly felt that Labour is part of the problem not the solution. For such alienated voters, Labour appears to be too similar to National. Cunliffe's 'angry man' said Labour had played its role in helping produce the status quo of unemployment, arguably helped kill the unions, and may as well join National in coalition - watch the 45-second video: Cunliffe abused by drive-by heckler

As Tracy Watkins said in her column, Labour needs sense of urgency: 'It speaks volumes about David Cunliffe's bad week that on the day John Key delivered his pre-Budget speech, it was the Labour leader who copped it on the street over the Government's failure to make a big dent in unemployment'.

An interesting new blog, Fundamentally useless, elaborates on the problem of Cunliffe's angry disaffected voter: 'This man is a prime candidate for being one of the missing 800,000 voters that Labour wants to reach. I've always been sceptical of Cunliffe's/Labour's claim that they can turn out a significant chunk of non-voters, and this guy showed why. He was uninformed, a little incoherent, and really pissed off. He showed Cunliffe that a lot of people are deeply angry and disenfranchised by the political system, and that Labour does not have a strong claim to their votes - see: Labour and the 'coalition of f*ckwits'

Hamish Rutherford points to Labour's differentiation problem in his column about macroeconomic policy: 'Labour, for its part, appears to be buying into the same argument, promising to repay debt with similar haste to National, and hinting that while it will seek to gather more revenue by way of tax, it would be less than 1 per cent more. Since Key's speech, Labour finance spokesman David Parker has attempted to portray National as the tax-and-spend government, citing the surge in spending and debt since Key took office' - see: National's fiscal lockdown a risk

Pacific support for Labour under threat

Other parts of Labour's traditionally core support base are also under threat at the moment, with many Pacific Island clergy in South Auckland pushing their followers to shift from red to blue - see Michael Field's Clergy switch from Labour to Nationaland Tova O'Brien's 2-minute TV3 report: Labour may lose south Auckland stronghold and Politicians chase Pacific vote at church service

This is clearly a potentially serious problem for Labour's strategy of getting its numbers up in places like South Auckland. The best analysis of this comes from Dave Armstrong who argues today that Labour's Pacific MPs have become too conservative for picking up the most alienated young Pacific voters: 'Their Pacific MPs are hardly radical: conservative Su'a William Sio railed against marriage equality, and the amiable Kris Faafoi sits on the Right of the party. How many disenfranchised Pacific youths see Sio and Faafoi offering a radical policy alternative to that dished up by National minister Sam Lotu-Iiga and list MP Alfred Ngaro? Not many, if any. Christchurch East MP Poto Williams is currently Labour's only female Pacific MP and hasn't had much time to establish herself. But if Labour wants to motivate its heartland Pacific voters to mobilise this time around, they could do with more young, radical Pacific voices. After all, it's Pacific people who are suffering under many of this Government's policies, far more than chardonnay socialists in Herne Bay mansions' - see: Backing of Pacific voters not assured.

For more from Dave Armstrong on Labour's problems, listen to his latest 7-minute satirical episode of Radio New Zealand's weekly Down the List

Labour's problems - from the superficial to the substantial

Labour's digital campaigning still has much room for improvement according to social media-researcher Matthew Beveridge - see his critiques: Labour's problems run deeperDavid Cunliffe "talking jobs", and Labour, McDonalds and Intellectual Property

For a more ideological view on why Labour is currently struggling, see the blog posts at Fundamentally Useless, which argue that the party has not resolved whether it stands more for liberal 'Identity Politics' or leftwing working class concerns - see: Labour's progressives co-opt kiwi workersBehind Labour's hollow claims to represent workers, and Workers vs. Progressives: the elephant hidden in Labour's room

On the right, Matthew Hooton takes issue with Labour's new forestry and wood-processing policy, which he says amounts to the type of 'crony capitalism' that Cunliffe accuses National of: 'Labour can't explain how its forestry initiative is any different from National's in the movie industry. It wasn't just Sir Peter and Warner Bros who benefited from those changes, but everyone making movies. With just one so-called industry strategy, Labour has abandoned the moral high ground on crony capitalism and corporate welfare' - see: Labour abandons higher ground on corporate welfare (paywalled)

Finally, for some humour and insight, see my blog post Recent images of Labour and Cunliffe.

Today’s links


Andrea Vance (Stuff): Can Labour win it? Yes, they can

Ross Henderson (Stuff): Shrouded by the fog of election war

John Sargeant (Stuff): Labour desperate for a new Norm

Steve Kilgallon (Stuff): Wannabe MP's gender change 'humbling'

Grant Duncan (Policy matters): Gotta feel sorry for Labour

Pete George (Your NZ): Jones – Labour needs to pull finger

Pete George (Your NZ): Labour’s fraudulent claim

Fundamentally useless: Labour’s progressives co-opt kiwi workers

Mike Treen (Daily Blog): Vote for change in government!

Gavin White (NBR): What do political polls tell us about the election?

Steven Cowan (Against the current): Running on empty



Herald: The Mad Butcher widens supermarket stoush

3 News/RadioLIVE: Progressive accused of bullying competition

3 News/Newswire: MP accuses Countdown of legal threats

Sophie Lowery (TV3): Shane Jones takes on Countdown lotto policy

Stuff: Foreign firms are 'ripping off Kiwis'

Fiona Rotherham (Stuff): Countdown goes on PR offensive

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Has it turned to just mindless bashing of Countdown?

Tim Watkin (Pundit): Open letter to David Farrar on his erroneous Kiwiblog post re Countdown

Grumpollie: Initial thoughts on buying lotto tickets at checkouts


Macroeconomic policy

Greg Thompson (NBR): BUDGET 2014: Time to tackle tax on multinationals

TV3: Election spending: Scrooge or spendthrift?

Bryan Gould (Herald): Reserve Bank fiddling as exchange rate burns exporters

Bernard Hickey (Herald): Key's election strategy plays on voters' mortgage fears

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): National's fiscal lockdown a risk

John Armstrong (Herald): Key fights glare of incoming brighter future

Josie Pagani (Pundit): National’s muddled message on economy could help Labour


Welfare reform

Taranaki Daily News: Editorial: Bennett not telling the full story

Newswire: Bennett denies beneficiary bashing

Michael Fox (Stuff): Crackdown on travelling beneficiaries

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Paula Bennett’s racist beneficiary flying hatefest

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Overseas travel on the benefit

Latifa Daud (Daily Blog): Beneficiary Bashing On The Rise

Pete George (Your NZ): Labour’s fraudulent claim


Inequality and poverty

Laura Walters (Stuff): Poverty group parties in protest

Radio NZ: Protest outside Young Nats ball

David Kennedy (Local Bodies): How Do Our Children See Poverty?

The Standard: Bugger the polls!

Brennan McDonald: Non-voters, inequality, cognitive dissonance

Keith Rankin (Daily Blog):Universal Basic Income?

No Right Turn: Why are we still working?

Will de Cleene (gonzo): Gated Reverb and Other Sounds of the '80s


Internet Party

James Griffin (Herald): Awesome Internet Party

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): It's the digital election race

Stuff: Internet Party, Mana explore relationship

Newswire: Dotcom meets with Mana Party leader

Paul Thomas (Herald): Anti-politician image lets Dotcom duck real criticism over Nazi buy

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Kim Dotcom to attend and speak at MANA AGM

Matthew Beveridge: Internet Party Installing…..

Ellipsister: Too much of a Nazi thing?

Audrey Young (Herald): Dotcom to speak at Mana AGM


Royal visit

NBR Staff (NBR): Inevitable NZ will become a republic – McKinnon

Newswire: Future of royals in NZ debated

Toby Manhire (Herald): Cheery McWavy - A Kiwi story for baby George

Stuff: Governor-General's online popularity surge

Patrice Dougan (Herald): NZ ditching monarchy is 'inevitable' – McKinnon

TVNZ: New Zealand inching toward a republic, Don McKinnon says

Chris Ford (Voxy): Will, Kate and George gives us opportunity to discuss the monarchy's relevance


Rachel Smalley on "heifers" and "lardos"

Nelson Mail: Sorry doesn't seem to be the hardest word

Janet Wilson (Herald): Lumpy? Goddammit yes!

Steve Braunias (Stuff): The secret diaries of . . . Newstalk ZB

Sparrowhawk: Rachel Smalley and the dangerous waters of female opinion


John Banks

Ian Steward (Stuff): Court can't find against John Banks, lawyer argues

James Fyfe (TV3): Banks continues bid to get case dropped

Jimmy Ellingham (Herald): Banks applying to have prosecution thrown out

Radio NZ: Decision reserved in Banks case


National Party

NZ Messiah: Bridges to attend Speech Therapy

Pete George (Your NZ): Jami-Lee Ross, David Cunliffe and rudeness

Matthew Beveridge: MPs on Twitter: Nikki Kaye

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Barbara Kuriger Nat candidate for TKC

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Choosing those to be chosen from


New Zealand First

Patrice Dougan (Herald): NZ First doing 'far better' than polls suggest – Peters

TVNZ: Winston Peters says foreign ownership policy unchanged

NBR Staff (NBR): Ban on foreign ownership of farms, homes a bottom line – Peters

Pete George (Your NZ): NZ First firmly against foreign ownership


Act Party

Adam Bennett (Herald): Act receives a further $100k election year boost from donors

Fundamentally Useless: We need to talk about Epsom



Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Conservatives unveil candidates

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Former Nat in Conservative Party



Holly Walker (Forgblog): Mum in the House: an inevitable decision?

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Is Kennedy Graham the Green’s secret weapon and are they getting rid of him too soon?


Election commentary

Jade D’Hack (Salient): Let’s Agree to Disagree

Dave Armstrong (Stuff): Backing of Pacific voters not assured

Tova O’Brien (TV3): Politicians chase Pacific vote at church service

Matthew Beveridge: Digital media and the 2014 general election

Oliver Hartwich (NBR): MMP means much more puzzlement

Gavin White (NBR): What do political polls tell us about the election?


Drug law reform

Michael Sergel (Newstalk ZB): Labour promises tougher rules on legal highs

Harrison Christian and Sam Hurley (Hawke’s Bay Today): Government 'wimpish' over legal highs - Napier Mayor

Benn Bathgate (Stuff): Synthetic cannabis just 'another addiction'

Radio NZ: More 'resources' needed to enforce Act

Pete George (Your NZ): Cannabis law reform alive overseas, dead as a cold turkey here

Pete George (Your NZ): Dunne on psychotic substances and cannabis


Maori politics

Herald: Editorial: Pride of colonial fighters worthy of at least a sigh

Jonathan Milne (Herald): Minister in pre-election 'race' attack

HOS: Herald on Sunday editorial: Election reshuffle risks te reo

Pete George (Your NZ):Mana accuse Māori Party on te reo Māori ‘rumours’

Tahu Potiki (Stuff): Presence of Maori growing in dairy industry


Climate change

Paul Little (Herald): Reality - humans are to blame

Matthew Hooton (NBR): Common sense on climate change

Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): Radical Adaptation: How to live in the world global warming is changing.

David Kennedy (Local Bodies):  The Great Oil Gamble and Wasted Opportunities



Russell Blackstock (Herald): Crime and punishment

Catriona MacLennan (Herald): Cameras keep courts an open book

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Views on private prisons

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Ummmm, is there something missing from Jacinda Ardern’s press release on crime?

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Why criminal histories should be shared


Pike River

Brook Sabin (TV3): Dozens of near misses in NZ mines

Laura Mills (Herald): Pike River: Witnesses' names withheld



Jared Savage (Herald): Lobby wants relaxed rich migrant rules

Mark Buchanan (Herald): Capitalism is a mess - let's keep it that way

Greg Presland (The Standard): Auckland’s city rail link may be accelerated


Marriage equality

TVNZ: Mormons reiterate opposition to gay marriage

Caleb Morgan (Cut Your Hair): Fairfax lives down to expectations



James Ihaka (Herald): Govt plan to foster smart energy use

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): PM remains coy on current campaign



Stuff: Today in politics: Monday, April 7

Tom Hunt (Stuff): Academic wants ban on smoking in public

Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behviour): Pay gaps, computers, and the public sector

Steve Kilgallon (Stuff): Wannabe MP's gender change 'humbling'

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A massive change in RMA consenting on time

NZ Messiah: New Zealand's Most Reprehensible Millionaire renewed for new season

Mike O’Connell (Stuff): Stopping the harms without muzzling free speech

Neil Reid (Stuff): Personal grievances at TVNZ double

Rodney Hide (Herald): Len's gym a fitness test for council

Deborah Morris-Travers (Herald): Giving kids chance to be heard

Mike Butler (Breaking Views): Bureaucrats bungle earthquake policy

Chris Hutching (NBR): Parade of movers and shakers bear witness at South Canterbury trial

Stacey Davies (NBR): BUDGET 2014: The case for more parental leave

Grant Duncan (Policy Matters): Setting the record straight

Pete George (Your NZ): The Titford case

Simon Collins (Herald): Conflicts on gambling fund panel disclosed

Blair Ensor (Stuff): Henderson gets apology for email bungle

NZ Parliament: Parliamentary interns to work with members of Parliament

No Right Turn: Outlawing consumer choice

No Right Turn: A cost of doing business

Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB): No winners in Lynne Snowden's case

The Standard: Go Annette!

Colin Espiner (Stuff): Espiner: We're killing tourism

Dianne Kahn (Daily Blog): Well colour me outed

Rodney Hide (NBR): Opinion: Hendo’s battle against officialdom – the sequel

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Providing a legal and sought after service

Nevil Gibson (NBR): Q&A: Why New Zealand is world's most socially progressive country

Matthew Beveridge: Rosy Fenwicke, Social Media and Media Questions

Herald: Editorial: Selwyn's turnaround inspiring lesson for all

Aotearoa Project: An Ambitious Agenda for Aotearoa in 2014

Karl du Fresne: Professor Misery-Guts

Mike Treen (The Standard): Vote for change in government!

James Ihaka (Herald): New chief at 'the Wa' eyes big shakeup

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