Free education versus tax cuts, or…

Today’s Herald editorial suggests Free tertiary study may trump tax cuts.

In past years, this Government has started with unexpected announcements – an asset sales programme, a school leadership initiative and a flag change exercise. This time, the most surprising item in John Key’s speech was an indication tax cuts are still on the horizon.

That was surprising because National’s prospective tax cuts provide the fiscal justification for Labour’s big new year proposition: free tertiary education.

If National wants to argue at next year’s election that an entitlement to three years’ free tertiary education is unaffordable, it cannot be offering tax cuts. If it thinks a tax cut will be more appealing to voters than relief from student fees and loans, it may be mistaken.

There may be more pressing social needs for any spare revenue, but few would be as popular.

But in eighteen months time there’s likely to be more policies in the campaign mix than free tertiary education and tax cuts, from both Labour and National.

Labour are promising much more, especially from their ‘Future of Work’ focus.

National have been light on policies, preferring to campaign on their fiscal competence, but they are likely to announce something significant probably at the start of next year.

And there have been hints of something else from Key – addressing poverty related issues especially related to children.

Last year Bill English announced the first benefit increases for decades, and these kick in this year.

I think there’s a good chance that this  year’s budget will provide something significant for children, possibly timed to kick in next year prior to the election.

Free tertiary education that will mostly benefit better off adult New Zealanders versus something significant for struggling kids?

Note that National have already increased early childhood education options. Those who have failed in education by the time they reach their teens are unlikely to go to university.

Labour seem to be trying to repeat their 2005’s successful university education bribe via interest free student loans. Public concerns have moved on from then.

The future of kids may be a strong election policy next year.

Trump, Sanders clean up New Hampshire

It’s still early days in the US presidential primaries but there were two new winners today, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Trump bettered polling and all his opponents easily. Fivethirtyeight polls showed:

RepublicanPolling

Results with 4/5 of the polls counted:

NewHampshireRepublican

Kasich easily beat the rest of the still large field with Cruz well down from his Iowa win, Bush still struggling to impress and Rubio should be very disappointed coming fifth.

It’s far from over yet. A big unknown is whether Trump can improve much above this, and who of the rest will pick up as others drop out of the race.

It’s clearly Trump versus someone else but it’s far from clear who will get to challenge Trump out of a lacklustre selection.

For the Democrats Bernie Sanders thrashed Hilary Clinton, well ahead of the polls – FiveThirtyEight:

DemocratPolling

Result with 4/5 counted:

NewHampshireDemocrat

Sanders was expected to win in a favourable state for him but that’s a thrashing for Clinton. She is obviously carrying political baggage.

Unlike the Republican race this is head to head, between an extension of the Clinton dynasty versus a significant socialist shift.

There’s fifty states to go but plenty of interest to see who gets to become the most powerful person in the world.

It’s a bit of a worry to see the quality of what Americans have to choose from.

New Hampshire is a small state of only 1.3 million people in north east USA,

NewHampshireMap

It’s still quite wintery there, currently about -8 degrees overnight with expected highs Wednesday barely over zero.

US dysfunctional democracy

In what is claimed (by Americans) to be a beacon of democracy the US presidential selection process is as heavy on money as it is light on talent, which should be a real worry for the country that at least claims to be the most powerful in the world.

Mark Triffit, a lecturer on public policy at Melbourne University, writes ( original article published at  The Conversation, republished at NZH as US democracy trumps all as a dysfunctional disgrace):

As the rest of the world looks upon America’s 2016 presidential race and what has become a disgrace of a democratic system, its bewilderment can be organised around a series of hows and whys.

How can a political and policy freak show like Donald Trump become a serious contender for the job America touts as “leader of the free world”?

Why has the democratic “competition of ideas” become so degraded that Trump’s thought bubble to ban more than 20 per cent of the world’s population (Muslims) from entering America has passed relatively unimpeded into mainstream policy debate?

More broadly, how can the race for America’s top job be so short on facts and logic that nearly every leading 2016 presidential candidate is uttering outright lies, mostly false statements or half-truths at least half the time they open their mouths?

Why will it take nearly US$2 billion in campaign funding to win this year’s presidential race and lead a country founded on the idea that “anyone can become president”?

Because that’s what it now takes to fund a circus that has more clowns than potential ringmasters.

Questions such as these go on and on. Separately and collectively, they speak to the absence of the bare bones of a fair, free and moderate democratic system.

The US democratic system has been corrupted by too much money and too little talent.

The dwindling ranks of those who line up to defend America’s system are able to do so only if they view it through a prism of its lofty 18th-century ideals, rather than 21st-century realities. They typically counter critiques with one or more of the following three arguments.

First, there have always been demagogues, money politics and lies in politics. What is occurring in America today is just a variation of these age-old themes.

Yet everyone else, including many ordinary Americans, recognises America’s political system has crossed into a new era of extreme dysfunctionality and inequity. After all, has not a tipping point been reached when the US Congress becomes such a warzone of hyper-partisanship that its current legislators are themost unproductive on record?

Aren’t we seeing money politics played out on a cosmic scale when corporate interests spend US$2.6 billion per year to twist what little legislation is passed in Congress to their own ends?

A second argument is that the antics of a Donald Trump are needed to shake up a complacent political class and raise issues that better mirror public opinion.

But that begs another question. Has the American political system fallen so low that it requires a massive injection of anti-democratic behaviour to make it more “democratic”?

The third line of defence is the claim that beneath the mess that is presidential and congressional politics lies a vibrant sea of local and state-based democracy. More than 500,000 public positions are contested via grassroots elections.

The reality, however, is the fish is rotting from the head down.

With no sign of a remedy.

The proportion of US citizens who trust government is down to less than one in five.

American democracy’s legitimacy crisis is even worse among young Americans. They have been deeply disengaged from what they view as a highly combative, negative and self-serving system. They hardly ever discuss politics, let alone think of pursuing a political career in any shape or form.

This raises the real prospect that increasingly more of America’s democratically elected positions will become less contested.

Similar to here in New Zealand but on a much larger, more powerful and more worrying scale.

Alternatively, they will be captured by the same ideologues and extreme activists who now dominate and distort the national political and policy scene.

That doesn’t seem to be a risk here, at present at least. The extremists where soundly rejected in last year’s election.

The big irony in the massive decline in the quality of America’s democratic governance over the past two decades is this: it has coincided with a period in which the US has aggressively stepped up its efforts to promote and embed this same system around the world.

Th Us certainly isn’t a great advertisement for functional democracy.

Many liberal democracies across the Western world are suffering deep-seated ills as their institutions and practices fail to keep up with the 21st-century world. Yet the US has become the outlier of Western democratic dysfunction.

Any assertion it continues to be a beacon for democracy is surpassed only by Trump’s most fantastical claims.

New Zealand has advantages of being small enough and close enough to ordinary people, and of not being reliant on big money to get elected. And being relatively un-corrupt.

But our international power and influence is very small. We can do little but look on with concern at the increasingly dysfunctional US democracy.

Nats proxy to contest Auckland mayoralty?

The Auckland local body elections have moved a step closer to being merged with national politics with the formation of Auckland Future to help the centre right contest the elections next year. It is closely linked with the National Party.

They will support a mayoral candidate “if, and when, a winnable candidate emerges”.

It seems almost certain that Phil Goff will stand for the mayoralty, giving his bid a strong Labour connection.

Bernard Orsman reports in NZ Herald – Nats back new Auckland ticket.

 Party figures drive centre-right platform created out of dissatisfaction with state of Super City

National Party figures are behind a new ticket, Auckland Future, being set up to wrestle for control of the Super City at next year’s local body elections.

Sources have linked National Party president Peter Goodfellow, former presidents Sue Wood and Michelle Boag, and Auckland-based ministers Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith to the plan.

It is understood the National Party is prepared to contribute resources and fundraising skills to the ticket while keeping the National brand away from the Super City arena.

Prime Minister John Key was one of about 80 people at a fundraising event for the new ticket on October 14 at the Geyser Building in Parnell.

The ticket is the latest attempt by the centre-right to win control of the council after two poor campaigns and the failure of the Communities & Residents ticket, formerly Citizens & Ratepayers (C&R), to gain traction.

C&R president Karen Sherry, when asked if C&R could merge with Auckland Future, said “that’s a discussion that needs to be had” but added “sometimes competition can be healthy”.

Ms Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, said she wanted to ensure a strong voice around reducing rates and bureaucracy.

“There has to be change. It [the council] has been pretty fragmented and I’m very interested for a new entity to emerge.”

Campaign and fundraising experience should give this a major boost and the people involved and endorsing it give this an unmistakable National tinge. It looks like the Auckland mayoralty in particular will look closely related to national politics.

Joe Davis, a Browns Bay business consultant and National Party volunteer chairing Auckland Future, said the organisation was incorporated in September.

He said there had been a lot of conversation across the centre-right, including the National Party, about wanting to see Auckland run well, and with a vision.

“There is real widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of Auckland,” Mr Davis said.

“The city is too big and too important to have councillors voting in an ad hoc manner on key issues.”

Mr Davis said Auckland Future would field a ticket of councillors with a strong policy platform so voters would know what they were voting for.

He said the ticket did not have any candidates lined up and would embrace a mayoral candidate “if, and when, a winnable candidate emerges”.

So they aren’t saying specifically that they will support a mayoral candidate but one could presume that’s a major aim.

The Auckland mayor is seen as one of the most important elected officials in the country. The Prime Minister isn’t even elected as such, their party is elected with it’s leader becoming Prime Minister.

There may be good arguments both for and against national politics mixing more with local politics.

One benefit could be that the centre right in Auckland come up with a serious contender for the mayoralty. Last election Len Brown didn’t have much credible competition.

Phil Goff may stick with his proposal to remain an MP until/unless elected mayor. Campaigning for local body elections while a sitting MP is a major merge of national/local politics on it’s own, with the taxpayer funding his campaign time.

Trotter: TPP will win the 2017 election for ‘the Left’

Chris Trotter seems to be going all out campaigning for the 2017 election, seeing the Trans Pacific Partnership as a way of unifying ‘the left’ – Labour, Greens and NZ First – to defeat National, businesses, journalists and academics who he says will run a campaign against them.

Trotter goes full throttle in a column at The Press and online at Stuff.

Chris Trotter: Labour’s TPP choice could swing election

OPINION: Labour’s stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could end up determining the outcome of the 2017 General Election.

If Andrew Little aligns his party with the other parliamentary opponents of the TPP – the Greens and NZ First – then the legislation giving effect to the agreement will barely scrape through the House of Representatives. Such open and substantial parliamentary opposition will clear the way for Andrew Little to lead an anti-TPP coalition into electoral battle in 2017.

If, however, Labour ends up supporting the TPP, then it will be a fractured and fractious Opposition that takes the field against John Key in two years’ time.

Trotter doesn’t consider that hard out Labour opposition to the TPPA could easily result in a fractured and fractious Labour Caucus. Some of that Caucus have a history of not just supporting trade agreements but initiating them. Phil Goff played a significant role in getting the TPP going in Helen Clark’s government.

With Labour firmly opposed, the National-led Government’s best outcome would see the TPP’s enabling legislation passed by a margin of three votes. But if, as seems likely, the Maori Party acknowledges the rising anti-TPP sentiment within Maoridom, by either abstaining or voting against the bill, then the nearest thing to a TPP ratification process that New Zealanders are going to get will be carried by just one vote – Peter Dunne’s.

Nobody in the pro-TPP camp wants that to happen. A Parliament split down the middle (61:60) presents the public with a powerful symbol of discord, disagreement and dissent. A one-vote (or even a three vote) majority says: “This isn’t over. This matter will be decided at the ballot box.”

Sounds like a repeat of the grand hope for a united Left riding to victory in 2014 using asset sales as the stick to beat National with. Labour had their worst result in nearly a century and Mana crashed with the Internet Party.

What the Right fears the most is two years of rising political temperatures and sharpened social antagonisms, during which the controversial content of the TPP supplies the Government’s opponents with all the ammunition they need to bring down the National-led coalition of right-wing political parties.

I think Trotter and other hard left activists actually talk themselves into believing that ‘the Right’ fears their cunning strategies.

So who is the fearful ‘the Right’?

Over the next few weeks the New Zealand people should, therefore, be on the alert for two full-on political campaigns. The first will be a government-funded PR campaign designed to sell the alleged benefits of the TPP to as many Kiwis as possible. The second will involve dozens (if not scores) of journalists, businesspeople and academics doing their level best to persuade Labour to return to the bipartisan fold.

The Government (National), businesspeople, journalists and academics – dozens if not scores of them – are all up against Trotter’s socialist revolutionary zeal.

The 2017 election, if Labour, the Greens and NZ First box clever, can thus become a contest between competing visions. The TPP’s vision of an economy that’s managed for powerful business interests; and the progressive Opposition’s vision of an economy that works for people.

That sounds very much like Andrew Little’s latest lines, claiming he is working in the interests of ‘the people’ against big business and the USA.

Probably not coincidentally:

Anat Shenker-Osorio on the creation of left metaphors

Communications Anat Shenker-Osorio has some simple messages for Labour in its quest for Government.  The left’s strongest advantage is its care for people rather than the economy and the message that will resonate is a positive one emphasising the care of people and the environment.

But there’s some potential problems with this Corbynisation of Labour, tying to control dissent within the Labour Caucus being one.

What if the TPPA doesn’t end civilisation as we know it?

What if in two years time there are signs that trade with the eleven other countries in the TPP is improving for New Zealand exporters.

Those exporters would be large, medium and small businesses that employ people.

What if these people don’t buy into the doom and gloom of trade as per Jane Kelsey or Chris Trotter or Andrew Little?

I’ve just heard Andrew Little on Breakfast saying there’s likely to be benefits from the TPPA for some exporters.

His main line was that “for the people’ a Labour government would ‘test the boundaries’ of the agreement by deliberately breaching it over foreign buyers of New Zealand property and wait and see if any of the Partnership countries take legal action against us.

They may not take legal action, they may just take Labour’s lead and breach the agreement too, to New Zealand’s detriment. Has Little and Trotter thought of that possibility?

Other countries with trade agreements may then think that the spirit of the agreements doesn’t matter to Labour and push their own boundaries.

But the glorious revolution promoted by Trotter will happen regardless of reality. Or not.

Peters vows to contest next election, unless….

This weekend NZ First are having their  22nd annual convention. For a support sized party they have done very well, recovering from a hiccup in 2008, recovering to get back into parliament in 2011 and building support in 2014.

Stuff reports: He’s 70, but Winston Peters has no plans to retire

Forty years after he first entered New Zealand politics, the NZ First leader is planning his next election campaign and heading into his party’s 22nd annual convention. Isn’t he tired of politics?

“Why would you ask that?” he chuckles.

“I’m 70 years old, that’s a fact. But the point is I’m in a job I can do and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

“I could give it up and my next big wish would be to spend time doing up boats and what have you. But the reality is, would I be interested after three months doing that? How many days can you go fishing?”

Bolstered by the Northland by-election win, he says he’ll stand again in 2017.

That will disappoint a few opponents but please most of his party, except perhaps for one or two with their own ambitions.

And Peters is pushing to build the party even more.

“This convention is all about two things: membership and money,” he says.

Head office will waive levies on electorates if they reach new membership targets. Peters is also a Facebook devotee. “We are the second highest on Facebook to John Key, we are past 40,000.”

That depends on who ‘we’ is.

The New Zealand First Political Party has 7,806 likes on Facebook.

It’s Winston Peters Politician who has 40,354 likes.

And other party Facebook likes:

  • Labour Party 40,322
  • Green Party 73,484

There is a lot riding on his personal appeal. Winston’s drive for more membership has been quoted as a condition of his carrying on.

Winston Peters has vowed to resign as NZ First leader if his party membership does not grow by at least 10,000 over the next two years.

In two years time we will be heading towards the next election. Will Peters stand by that? Maybe his new energy and charm will attract 10,000 new members so he doesn’t have to face that decision.

But if he steps down the forty thousand likes may step down with him.

UPDATE ALREADY (This is Winston): Winston Peters goes all-in on ‘tens of thousands’ NZ First membership increase

NZ First leader Winston Peters will resign if he fails to increase party membership by  “tens of thousands” in the next two years.

Peters made the pledge to become a “mass membership party” to reporters at his party’s annual convention in Rotorua on Saturday morning.

But…

…in a baffling exchange, he immediately backed down.

“We are targeting tens and tens of thousands of party members…we think that is possible,” he said.

Asked if he would resign if he didn’t meet that target, Peters replied: “Yeah. precisely. Because there would be no sense going on … two years flat … do we have a target of more than ten thousand? Yes we do.”

Then asked to re-affirm if he would stand down, Peters changed his mind.

He answered:  “No. I said if we don’t increase our membership. Go through it very slowly … maybe I didn’t hear it properly. But I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t wrong to the factor of three times that.”

So now it’s just “if we don’t increase our membership”.

There will be no way to hold Peters to account on his goal – he won’t release membership figures.

So Winston’s rhetoric wins again, whatever he meant to say.

How the Conservatives ‘elect’ their Leader and Board

With the re-selection of the Conservative Party leader a possibility after Colin Craig stepped down on Friday it would be interesting to see how they elect their leader.

In short the Board elects a leader, and The Board decides who can stand for election as Leader and who can stand for election to The Board.

The Conservatives have promoted democratic processes as one of their core policies, binding referenda.

At the heart of the democratic system is the principle of the citizens initiated referendum. It’s when a single issue is thought to be so important, all voters are asked to make their opinion heard.
Pure democracy.

However their democratic processes don’t seem as pure in their own internal selections of leaders and of board members.

From their INTERIM CONSTITUTION AND RULES OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF NEW ZEALAND (I’m not certain if this is still valid):

“Leader” means the leader of the Party appointed by a vote of the majority of the Caucus or of the Board as the case may require.

The Leader is elected by the Board.

Nominees for positions on the Board are put forward by a Board appointed Appointment Committee ‘it is prepared to endorse’

The positions on the Board are elected by members (I think) but a Board appointed Committee vets and endorses who can stand for election to the Board and the Board “shall then determine the candidates for the election”. And there is no right and errors may not invalidate any election.

Details:

6.0 PROCEDURES FOR THE ELECTION OF OFFICERS AND LEADER

The procedure to be followed for the appointment of Officers of the Board, Leader and/or Co-Leaders and Deputy Leader of the Party and where, pursuant to the Constitution, an election is required to be held, or where the Board or a committee thereof wishes to make any other appointment and is unable to do so by consensus is:

6.1 When there are six or more Caucus members the positions of Leader, Deputy Leader, Party Whip, Caucus Secretary and any other Caucus offices or positions that the Caucus may wish to be filled shall be decided by the members of the Caucus by majority vote. In the event that there is more than one candidate for a position and voting is tied, then in the case of the Party Leader, the Party President shall cast a vote on behalf of the Board expressing their preference, and in any other case the Party Leader shall have the casting vote.

Conservatives don’t have a Caucus so this doesn’t apply.

6.2 Candidates for the position shall be nominated by a member of the relevant Board, Caucus, or Committee and seconded by another such member.

Candidates for Leader appear to need to be nominated and seconded by members of the Board.

6.3 The Board, Caucus, or Committee shall then appoint two scrutineers to count the votes.

No specification for scrutineers who are independent of the Board.

6.4 Each member of the Board, Caucus, or Committee present and desiring to vote shall by secret ballot vote for one of the candidates, and the candidate securing the most votes shall be deemed to be appointed.

A vote for leader by Board members only without any input from party members.

6.5 Except in the case of the vote for Party Leader and President, the President or Chair shall have a casting vote.

So leadership contenders need to be nominated by the Board and are voted on by the Board.

How are the board members elected? In short:

  • The Board appoints an Appointment Committee which shall be chaired by the President plus at least four other people who may also be Board members.
  • The Appointment Committee asks the Members for nominations.
  • The Appointment Committee checks and then submits nominees ‘it is prepared to endorse’ to the Board.
  • The Board ” shall then determine the candidates for the election to the Board and shall then ask the Party Secretary to conduct the election”.
  • Elections are held by postal ballot presumably involving party Members (but this is not defined).
  • The Party Secretary plus two Board members appointed by the Board as scrutineers shall count the voting papers.

So the Board has almost full control over who gets to stand for election to the Board. And there’s no way of challenging what they do according to these two ‘rules’:

  • There shall be no right of appeal against any decision of the Appointments Committee or the Board.
  • No error in the appointment procedure shall invalidate the process of election and/or any decision at the Appointments Committee and/or the Board unless the Board considers (taking into account all the circumstances known to it including the time that has passed since the error occurred) that the error was sufficiently serious to warrant the decision being invalidated.

So the Board can do what they like and no one else can do anything about it.

In detail:

5.0 PROCEDURES FOR CONDUCTING ELECTIONS FOR THE BOARD

5.1 The procedure to be followed for the election of members of the Board where, pursuant to the Constitution, the Board is required to hold elections is:

5.2 The Board shall appoint an Appointments Committee which shall be chaired by the President, or in his or her absence another member appointed by the Board and shall comprise at least four other persons who need not be members of the Board.

5.3 The Appointments Committee shall formally notify all Party Members of the number of vacancies or new positions to be filled by election to the Board and shall invite them to forward written nominations to the Appointments Committee. The closing date for the receipt of written nominations shall be specified in the notice and sufficient time shall be allowed for nominations to be considered, obtained, and forwarded.

5.4 Nominations shall be accompanied by:

5.4.1 A letter of confirmation from the prospective nominee confirming their willingness to be elected to the Board; and

5.4.2 A statement providing details of the nominee’s personal background and experience.

5.5 The Appointments Committee shall, either directly or by delegation, carry out an assessment of each nominee including, in particular, interviewing each nominee at such place/s and time/s as the Committee may determine.

5.6 The Appointments Committee shall then prepare a list of persons for whom assessments have been completed and whose nominations it is prepared to endorse for the purposes of the remaining stages of the election process.

5.7 The Appointments Committee shall then submit the final list of names to the Board with a full resume of each candidate’s background and the results of the assessment, interviews responses, and other investigations.

5.8 The Board shall then determine the candidates for the election to the Board and shall then ask the Party Secretary to conduct the election in accordance with these Rules.

5.9 There shall be no right of appeal against any decision of the Appointments Committee or the Board.

5.10 No error in the appointment procedure shall invalidate the process of election and/or any decision at the Appointments Committee and/or the Board unless the Board considers (taking into account all the circumstances known to it including the time that has passed since the error occurred) that the error was sufficiently serious to warrant the decision being invalidated. In that event the Board shall take such action as it considers necessary or desirable to remedy the error.

5.11 Elections for positions available will take place by postal voting prior to the Annual General Meeting of the Party. 5.12 Voting papers accompanied by photographs and information concerning each candidate for election shall be sent to all Party Members no less than 4 weeks prior to the date of the Annual General Meeting.

5.13 All eligible voting papers must be received by post no later than the day prior to the day set for the Annual General Meeting, or in the alternative, may be presented personally by Members attending the Annual General Meeting. All other voting papers shall be deemed invalid.

5.14 The Party Secretary plus two Board members appointed by the Board as scrutineers shall count the voting papers and the Party Secretary shall announce the results at the Annual General Meeting at the time set by the Party President.

5.15 From the date of registration of the Party until the first Appointments Committee is appointed in accordance with these Rules the members of the Board of the Party shall be appointed by the Interim Leader.

For a party that promotes direct democracy via binding referenda their own democratic processes seem very undemocratic, dominated by a Board that controls who can stand for election to the Board.

All this didn’t matter much when Colin Craig was the undisputed leader of the party. It may matter a lot more now the Board is divided.

Labour review reaction –

Patrick Gower has been scathing of Labour’s leaked election review, even by his standards, in Where Labour went wrong – election review leaked.

And it actually contains a dire warning for the Labour Party, it’s says that Labour is broke, so broke that it needs money, it needs money right now, or else it could face political oblivion.

Reporter:

The 2014 election was a total disaster for Labour.

This review was into what went wrong and reveals Labour is totally broke.

The review also warns that if Labour does not find some cash quickly “it will continue experience electoral failure and place the status of the party as a political institution of influence at risk”.

Gower to Andrew Little:

Labour is so broke it’s headed to political oblivion.

Little:

That’s what the report says, um that’s not what’s going to happen.

Gower:

The review found plenty of other problems but stated the obvious.

“Labour’s campaign preparation was inadequate”.

“Tension around the leadership and disunity within caucus seriously undermined Labour’s credibility”.

“There was a general lack of message discipline”.

Little:

There’s nothing in there that I think would take anyone by surprise.

Now someone has leaked this report, suggesting that disunity, credibility and message discipline are still serious problems.

Except that there is some message discipline. Te Reo Putake at The Standard, in NZLP Review of Election 2014; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,

 There isn’t much in the review that will surprise anyone.

Is that the official Labour response?

I guess the take home message is that the party is in good shape and despite the grumbling of a few less relevant MP’s the caucus is as united as it has been since the Clark years. And that’s clearly due to the management and leadership of Andrew Little.

Hardly anyone is saying the party “is in good shape”. And the report has been leaked  under Little’s management.

There’s a lot more in there, and most of it is honest, straightforward and sensible.

Yeah, right. Then in typical Standard fashion TRP attacks the messenger, or in this case the leaker.

One thing that does not get mentioned, however, is the issue of internal discipline. TV3 were leaked this document. No point gnashing our teeth over who leaked it because they’ll keep ducking and diving anyway, but whoever you are, you’re scum.

So internal discipline under Little’s management isn’t so flash after all.

And commenters at The Standard even go as far as naming suspect MP leakers. TRP is usually quick to stamp on any messaging or accusations or statements of fact that are unfavourable to his task, but he lets this speculation go unmoderated, so he must be comfortable with internal witchhunting. He could be doing it himself under alternate pseudonyms (he’s known to comment under different names).

Then in a comment TRP says:

I don’t know how widely circulated the leaked version was so it may be that no MP had access to it. One of the noticeable changes under Andrew Little’s leadership has been caucus unity and discipline. Prior to his election, leaking was commonplace. Since he took over, it seems to have stopped completely.

So TRP allows specific MPs to be accused (two of them) but tries to claim a new level of “unity and discipline” under Little’s leadership.

The review didn’t mention how far divorced from reality some of the people acting for Labour are, and that’s a problem that looks entrenched.

However more and more with an interest in Labour and ‘progressive politics’ can see the problems, with the party and now with this report. Patrick Leland in Reviewing the review:

The envelope on which NZ Labour’s campaign review was written on the back of has unsurprisingly been leaked. Expect a witch hunt to distract from just how sub-standard the review is.

See the above and the Standard post and thread.

The content of the review, and lack-thereof, offer a fascinating insight into a party in turmoil. The actual 2014 general election campaign is skimmed over – most of the focus of the review instead seems to be the party’s organisational structures.

He comments on sections of the report, critically, then concludes:

At the end of the day this review is a mess. However the biggest problem will be if the party focusses on the guff in it (I can already imagine the fights that changes to LEC and regional council rules will cause) and continues to ignore the very real political problems it faces – which remain largely unaddressed.

Given this review is a waste of the envelope it was written on, it will be interesting to see how the new leader and president react (I can’t imagine the current General Secretary doing much to improve the situation).

If Te Reo Putake’s attempts to paper over the cracks (or chasms) and pretend “I guess the take home message is that the party is in good shape” are any indication of how Labour sees the report then the party is going to struggle to recover, financial fix or not.

UPDATE: according to ‘Saarbo’ even the leak can’t be Labour’s fault.

I refuse to believe that someone within Labour would have leaked this report to Gower.

This leak is either a hacker or Labour has someone within its ranks who has been planted and leaks in the best interests of Labour’s opposition party’s, it seems implausible but at some stage someone has to start asking this question.

Labour review leaked

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”.

Review details:

Published by 3NewsNZ
The Labour Party has released findings of its review into what went so wrong at last year’s election.
Published by: 3NewsNZ on Jun 03, 2015
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

That’s ironic, a copyright notice.

Link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/267495328/Labour-Review-2015

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.

1D  Fundraising
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.

1E Leadership
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.

1G  Messaging
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.

3D  Affiliates
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.

3E  Candidates
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.

3F  Fundraising
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.

UK Labour had the data and expert advice

There’s been a lot of discussion about the supposed inaccuracy of the UK polls. And there’s been many claims that the Conservatives with the help of Crosby Textor have an insurmountable advantage in data gathering and expert advice.

But a BBC article shows that Ed Miiliband and Labour had an expert pollster assisting them (it’s obvious they would be have but this puts it into facts).

James Morris, a partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, worked for Labour from when Ed Miliband was elected leader in 2010 until the election last week.

And according to the BBC Labour leadership thought public polls were too optimistic.

Morris  told Newsnight that…

…while “the lead in the public polls suggested Labour had got past the issues that sunk the party in 2010 – its record on the economy and immigration – we knew we had much more work to do and were still dogged by a loss of trust.”

That is why, he said, the party ran a campaign based on a more “pessimistic scenario” than was the political consensus.

He continued: “While the public polls had Labour ahead until the spring of this year, in our polls cross-over [when the Tories overtook them] came right after conference season in 2014. A four-point Labour lead in early September turned into a tie in October, followed by small Tory leads prompting the party to put reassurance on fiscal policy and immigration at the heart of the campaign launch.”

And Labour also used focus groups.

Mr Morris said: “As focus groups showed the SNP attacks landing, we had Labour behind in the marginal seats.” This was, he said, despite the fact that “a public poll in a similar set of seats at the same time showed a three-point Labour lead”.

Using internal polls and focus groups sounds just like the Crosby Textor/National approach here.

So if Labour in the UK had the data and they had expert advice why did they do so badly?

Economic credibility (of the major party plus coalition options) and public perceptions of leaders are probably the defining factors in elections.

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