The Labour Party election review has been leaked. Comments are flying around Twitter about it.
Patrick Gower at 3 News: Where Labour went wrong – election review leaked
The 2014 election was a total disaster for Labour and 3 News has obtained its internal review that shows its “campaign preparation was inadequate”.
This review says that if Labour does not improve its fundraising “then it will continue experience electoral failure and place the status of the party as a political institution of influence at risk”.
It says it was “undoubtedly hindered by a lack of financial resources” and takes a swipe at the unions saying: “While there is a myth the Labour Party is funded by union affiliates, the reality is overall they contribute comparatively little financially.”
In other bizarre recommendations it says “Labour must commit to a vision of a united New Zealand, founded on the Treaty of Waitangi”.
But most bizarre, it thinks Labour’s problems will be solved by forming new committees, “an executive”, made up of “the President, two senior vice Presidents, General Secretary and three party members” and “a Campaign Committee”.
The Labour Party has released findings of its review into what went so wrong at last year’s election.
That’s ironic, a copyright notice.
NZLP REVIEW 2014/5
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTIONS as at 21.05.15
PART 1 – General Election 2014
Conclusion and recommendation
1A Campaign organisation
The late start under a changed leadership team left too little time to allow Labour to prepare and implement an effective campaign. In general, Labour’s campaign preparation was inadequate.
The new leadership team should make an immediate start on developing and implementing a coordinated strategic plan for contesting the 2017 election. A small and properly constituted Campaign Committee should be established at least a year out from the election and should be charged with preparing and implementing a campaign strategy which achieves buy-in from everyone, from the leader down.
1B Candidate selection
Candidate selection on the whole worked well and produced some excellent candidates. Late candidate selection hampered some 2014 electorate campaigns.
There should be a strategy developed for early selections and electorates with limited potential to generate a significant candidate pool. Attention should be paid to the transparency and fairness of the process for drawing up the list and to the structure of the list.
1C Leadership training
The Party made considerable efforts to provide training for candidates, campaign managers and volunteers, but those efforts were hindered by the lack of both human and financial resources.
The expertise to deliver training for candidates, campaign managers and volunteers is available and needs to be deployed over the three-year time scale, with sufficient resources so as to make a real difference for the 2017 campaign.
The campaign was undoubtedly hindered by a shortage of financial resources. The finance available was less than in earlier campaigns, though only a little less by comparison with 2011. Labour must do better in this respect in 2017.
Labour must build greater confidence in its ability to win and to form a successful government, and – in addition to building its database of online donors – it must use high-level business and other contacts, supported by a strengthened group of professional fundraisers on the staff team, in approaching the corporate sector and other potential sources of funding for donations.
Perceptions of tension around the leadership and disunity within caucus seriously undermined Labour’s credibility with voters and frustrated any attempt to present a Party that was ready for government.
It is imperative that Labour acts – and is seen to act – as a disciplined and coherent team that is ready for government if it is to win the trust of voters in 2017. As a key element of this process, the senior leadership team within Caucus should be given greater prominence and responsibility throughout the three years.
1F Policy and messaging
Labour did not present a coherent and convincing image of itself or its policies. There was a general lack of message discipline, and the policies put forward at the election were often complex, difficult to understand and easily misrepresented by our opponents.
Great care should be taken in deciding when and which policies should be put before the public, and the language that should be used to explain them. Complex policies should be launched early so that a sustained effort is made to explain them properly and to rebut criticism. Policies launched during the campaign should be easily understood and guaranteed to make an immediate appeal to significant groups of voters. Within a three-year strategy covering the whole organisation, timelines and processes for policy development and announcement should be clearly set and adhered to.
A coherent and consistent communications plan with clear accountabilities should form part of the three-year strategy; it should be adhered to and applied by all parts of the Party. The Leader should merge the Parliamentary Media and Communications units and ensure the Media & Communications Director is given the authority to lead and manage the execution of this strategy. The Party, Caucus and all its spokespeople need to work harder on maintaining message discipline and in developing mutually beneficial relationships with media outlets and individual journalists at all levels.
1H Government formation
Labour was undoubtedly harmed by the prospect that a Labour-led government would depend on the support of a range of other parties. The voters lacked confidence as to what that might mean, which eroded trust in a potential Labour-led Government.
Labour must make a concerted effort to establish a constructive – but clear-eyed and honest – relationship with aligned parties in the new parliament. The issue should not, however, preclude Labour from contesting for every vote and being clear that maximising the Labour vote is the primary objective.
1I Targetting and Direct Voter Contact
The huge effort made by activists and volunteers in so many electorates means that it is more important than ever that those efforts should be properly directed for maximum return.
Modern communications, including social media, should be properly resourced, analysis must be undertaken of the implications of the increase in advance voting (including for methods of campaigning and targeting), and Labour should continue to develop its
growing expertise in the modern techniques of targeting.
1J Party Vote
The Labour campaign suffered from the failure to persuade Labour voters of the importance of the Party Vote.
The Party must ensure that at every level its organising focus and public messaging for the 2017 campaign is directed at lifting the Party Vote.
1K Māori seats
The Māori seats provided one of the few bright spots for Labour in the 2014 election. It is incumbent on the Party to learn the lessons of that relative success and apply them, in respect of both the Māori and general electorates, to the 2017 campaign and to recognise the responsibility that it now bears as the primary voice of Māori in New Zealand politics.
The response should be a higher profile for Māori members and activists in the Party as a whole and a more attentive ear to both Māori interests and advice. Labour should also consider measures to persuade a higher proportion of eligible Māori voters to register and to vote.
1L Voter enrolment/turnout
The “missing million” – not enrolled or enrolled and not voting – are an affront to our democracy, and a missed opportunity for Labour. A campaign to enrol voters (irrespective of their voting intentions) would be good for our democracy and positive for
Labour, and could provide a useful focus for Party members and volunteers in the years before election campaigning itself gets under way.
Action should arise from a review of the voter targeting and other work undertaken during the election to engage the “missing million”. Integrated with this, high quality research must be undertaken on patterns of non-voting and the best way to target those people. Labour’s input to the Parliamentary select committee review of the General Election and Labour’s Justice spokesperson should focus on why 1 million people didn’t vote, and what could be done to address that.
PART 2 – Policy and Positioning
(Note: Part 2 does not provide explicit recommendations. What follows is an abstract of the key directions of the Review’s argument. Consideration of these directions suggests that, first, they might be passed on to Policy Council, to be included in policy development, and, second, be provided to the Media and Communications Unit, for inclusion in branding and messaging developments.
2A Labour must take on board and respond to a rapidly changing and complex environment, involving the rise of free market policies, a consequent rise in inequality and poverty, changing demographics, change in the labour market and in social challenges
2B Labour has still to define positively and confidently convincing, alternative macro-economic policies, which also respond to wider social and environmental issues, despite emerging international challenges to neo-liberal orthodoxy
2C Labour needs to develop micro-economic policies in line with a renewed macro-economic focus, including a fair taxation policy
2D Labour should promote the important role to be played by government in a modern economy
2E Labour should be seen as pro-business, particularly in relation to the small business sector, as opposed to big business
2F Labour must emphasise its values (fairness, social cohesion, freedom of choice and action (Comment [TB1]: Maybe “with an enhanced focus on small ad medium business enterprises”) as it differentiates its values from those of its opponents, as values earn trust from voters
2G Labour must commit to a vision of a united New Zealand, founded on the Treaty of Waitangi
2H Labour’s future campaigns must pose against its opponents a fresh and coherent vision for New Zealand, which requires the re-shaping of traditional concerns and values
PART 3 – Party Governance and Organisation
Conclusion and recommendation
3A Party legal status
There is an urgent need to clarify the Party’s legal status, required not only for ethical reasons of increasing transparency, but also to enable the Party to more effectively use resources available to it, in particular funding. It could also clarify the responsibilities and accountabilities of entities and individuals within the organisation. Labour needs to be proactive and agree a legal model that is realistic about the competitive nature of politics but also increases the effectiveness of the Party organisation.
3B Clarified organisational structure at a national level
The Party’s organisational structure should reflect the dual role of the Party – the maintenance of a viable disciplined political organisation and the need to develop a sustainable effective campaigning capacity to win elections. It requires clarity as to where the authority lies for what function.
An Executive should be established with, first, the role and function of developing and overseeing the implementation of the campaign strategy to win the next election and, secondly, providing for a platform for the joint exercise of the functions of the Parliamentary Leader, the President, the Caucus and the Party.
The Executive should also develop the Strategic Selection Criteria to ensure candidates are selected on merit consistent with the Party’s commitment to ensuring diversity in its Parliamentary representatives. The Executive would report to the NZ Council, which would retain the overall governance role. The membership of the Executive should comprise the President, two senior Vice Presidents, General Secretary, and three Party members elected directly by the membership immediately after the election, for a 3 year term. These members must have between them skills at campaigning, funding and organisation. The Executive should also include, ex-officio, the Parliamentary Leader and Deputy Leader to attend in person. Members of the Executive should also be members of the NZ Council. The Executive should meet monthly or more frequently if required. The Executive is a committee of the NZ Council.
The NZ Council should remain the governing body between annual conferences. It should meet four times a year. Its membership should remain substantially the same, with the inclusion of Executive members not already on the NZ Council. As this is the central governing body it is important that it is fully representative as is the intention at the moment. Consideration may be given to the inclusion of an ethnic representative as the other significant sector groups are represented.
A Campaign Committee should also be appointed by the NZ Council. The membership of this Committee should reflect the professional skills required to conduct a campaign. It should also include the Party and Parliamentary Party leadership or their representatives. The Campaign Committee must establish a liaison with the Hubs that have the primary responsibility for the Party Vote campaign.
Sector groups need to be reviewed in terms of the current role and function. It is understood that this review is underway. While the sectors were originally a means to ensure the Party was inclusive of the interests in the wider community and thus attractive to voters from those sectors, it is open to question whether the sector groups in their current form still fulfil this function. Obviously the Party needs to be representative to appeal to the community at large but the Party needs to be assured it has the most effective structure to achieve this. Te Kaunihera Māori, the Māori section of the Party, should also undertake a review initiated by Māori members and Party representatives to ensure that the most effective organisational structure is in place.
The First Review Report acknowledges the Māori electorates as the only real campaign success of the 2014 election. Much can be learnt from this experience, in particular how to conduct a campaign that related to the real life experience of Māori constituents.
3C Clarified organisational structure at a regional and local level
The primary membership entity should be the LEC, being a body of 12-15 members of the LEC elected directly by the members or any other Party election.
The role of the LEC is primarily to organise the Party’s activities at electorate level, with those activities primarily directed at implementing an election campaign strategy. LECs often have greater understanding of the campaigning needs of the local electorates and this should be recognised within a campaign strategy but – as the Party Vote is the only vote that counts in the end – the electorate strategy must be consistent with a Party Vote strategy as developed by the Executive and delivered through the Hub.
Branches should continue to exist where members support them but without a vote on the LEC. They should have no direct representation on the LEC, or but may support individual branch members for election to the LEC.
Regional Councils should be abolished and replaced by Hubs with the primary responsibility of implementing the Party Vote campaign and strategy, organised on the basis of ‘natural groups’ and not necessarily following geographical boundaries. The Hub structure should include an organising committee with representatives from the LECs and Māori electorates in the Hub area. There needs to be link between the regional hub and the Executive. This link could be either or both Member of Parliament or Regional Representative. Regional representatives on NZ Council should be elected by the LECs within the region so the regions remain but the focus is on the campaign strategy. The LEC is in effect the primary organisational entity within the Party at local level. Regional conferences should remain for that purpose with the focus on policy discussion and campaigning.
The affiliates have an historic role within the Labour Party which has to be respected and preserved. Union organisations have also, however, been undergoing considerable organisational change. The SFWU decision to enable union members who were not members of other political parties to vote directly in the leadership election would seem to lead the way to greater involvement by individual members of affiliates to participate within the Party. It is recommended that individual affiliate members should be invited and encouraged to vote for the LEC representatives at LEC AGMs. This would be consistent with a move to membership based local electorate organisations.
Affiliates should retain representation on the NZ Council. There should, however, be a working group set up to examine the most effective way for affiliates to be integrated into a campaign strategy. Attempts to use affiliate members for campaigning have had mixed success. Also while there is a myth the Labour Party is funded by union affiliates, the reality is that overall they contribute comparatively little financially to the Labour Party.
The real question appears to be how the Party identifies candidates and then prepares and supports its candidates before, during and after the election. There needs to be greater central coordination of candidates. They are the advocates and the public face of the Party so much of the success of the election campaign depends on them. One of the tasks of the Executive should be to address this issue.
One of the most criticised aspects of the last election was the process for selection of list candidates. The existing arrangements cannot be justified in terms of democratic practice or effective outcomes.
First, any Party members who get the support of 10 financial members of the Party should be able to nominate for consideration for a list position.
Second, nomination should be initially vetted by a central Vetting Committee appointed by the NZ Council. The Vetting Committee should consist of three experienced Party members who are not current members of the NZ Council or a Member of Parliament. The role of the Vetting Committee is to verify that the nominee qualifies under the rules, and to select 60 nominees for referral to the Moderating Committee that will allocate the place on the list to the nominees. All electorate candidates should also nominate for the list to ensure that candidates campaign for both the electorate and the Party. It was apparent in the last election that some electorate candidates did not campaign for the Party vote. The Vetting Committee should be aware of and give consideration to the Constitutional obligation for the Party list to reflect the diversity in the community, in particular gender, race and the regions.
Third, the Moderating Committee should comprise the NZ Council plus 4 Members of the Caucus. Its task is to allocate the places on the list after consideration to the requirement for diversity and regional representation. The over-riding criteria, however, must be the merit of the individual and their capacity to run a successful campaign as expressed in the Strategic Selection Criteria developed by the Executive.
The Party also needs to develop a capital fund to put in place a professional sustainable organisational structure that will provide the infrastructure for the campaign.
If the Party cannot unlock the significant resources held by local entities of the Party to use for a capital fund and/or the campaign, then it will continue to experience electoral failure and place the status of the Party as a political institution of influence at risk.