Labour have sharpened their knitting needles

Earlier this week David Cunliffe acknowledged that he had made mistakes but would be starting a fight-back and focus on the things that mattered.

Stuff reported: Cunliffe: The fightback begins now

“I am sure that the caucus will be as determined as I am that we stick to our knitting and to our core messages about jobs, homes and families, and avoid distractions,” Cunliffe said.

“We have got past anger a long time ago, we are focused on what a campaign needs – a positive contribution by everybody and focused on the issues that matter.”

Labour’s campaign slogan is VotePositive.

The big thing being discussed today was sparked by another Stuff article:  Labour claims Hosking’s biased.

The Labour Party is in a standoff with TVNZ over plans to use presenter Mike Hosking to moderate the live televised leaders’ debates.

A Labour source said that, despite protestations, the party was unlikely to pull out of the two scheduled TVNZ debates. “When we heard it was Hosking the initial reaction was ‘Are you f…ing joking?’ But we are trying to get it changed. We are not making a hullabaloo about nothing, we’d rather they get someone else.”

Senior Labour MP Grant Robertson said he was not part of the negotiations, but joked: “If it’s true, we’d rather have Jeremy Wells as Mike Hosking, than Mike Hosking.”

Cunliffe said he was not involved in the negotiations. Chief of staff Matt McCarten is understood to be overseeing the arrangements.

It’s all over Twitter. And Labour blogs are full of it:

Rob Salmond at Polity:  Mike Hosking and this has been re-posted at The Standard: Polity: Mike Hosking

Is this Labour sticking to it’s knotting?

They have sharpened their needles and are taking stabs at the media.

It almost looks like Labour has conceded defeat already and are making excuses in advance. “Poor us” laments and blaming the media are only going to increase the electoral damage.

It’s a very difficult situation for them but they have to do something to not contradict their ‘VotePositive” slogan.


Cunliffe cheerleader chumped by change of tune

David Cunliffe’s chief cheerleader at The Standard, Greg Presland, has been chumped by Cunliffe’s change of tune on whether he knew anything about the sexual offender before meeting in Queenstown.

Presland posted in Herald says weird things about Cunliffe and Labour Clutha Southland candidate:

The Herald said:

… the Labour leader threatens to be distracted by internal ill-discipline and criticisms over his judgment, including the holiday itself and a meeting last week with a prominent New Zealander given name suppression on charges of performing an indecent act.

Mr Cunliffe confirmed to the Herald last night that he had arranged for the person – whose case has been the topic of media coverage – to meet a Labour candidate but said he had no idea about the controversial background until yesterday.

“If I had known of the suggestion, no such meeting would have taken place.”

You have to wonder why the meeting was mentioned and why it was thought that it would cause a distraction to Cunliffe.  

No doubt the intent is to continue with the bad news narrative that the right have been pushing but what was Cunliffe to do?  Have a Police vette conducted of all people that he may meet?  Even this would not have helped because the person involved received a discharge without conviction and had all details suppressed.  

And Cunliffe confirmed to the Herald he had no idea of the background until yesterday.

Presland is presumed to be close to Cunliffe in his electorate and he’s the lawyer who organised the donations trust. He’s been a dogged and loyal supporter.

But now Cunliffe has changed his tune in “Sometimes tough times make you tougher” – Cunliffe.

 Mr Cunliffe admits a prominent New Zealander’s possible sexual offending had been raised with him before he met with the man in Queenstown last week.

The Labour leader says the meeting went ahead because no proof had been supplied.

“There is a suspicion that a person who asked to meet me and my candidate down there might be a person in that category. All I can say is had I known that, and we did ask around if there was any reason not to meet, we wouldn’t have had the meeting.”

It must be tough  being a Labour cheerleader at the moment when Cunliffe keeps saying weird things.

There’s not much cheerfulness at The Standard these days.

Contrasting Labour hoardings

Labour leader David Cunliffe put up his first hoarding today, (as snapped by Patrick Gower).

Cunliffe hoarding

Interesting to see no ‘Cunliffe’ on it apart from the picture, and a meaningless slogan the most prominent wording. ‘Party vote Labour’ is far less prominent.

Clayton Cosgrove (source Whale Oil)

Cosgrove hoarding

Cosgrove is 8 on the Labour list but no ‘Vote positive’ or ‘Party vote Labour. Much less red, his own slogan which sounds a bit like National’s, and a very misleading ‘MP Waimakariri’ as Cosgrove is not an electorate MP.

Trevor Mallard has started putting his hoardings up a day early (source Holly Bennett).

Mallard Hoarding

Mallard is standing for the electorate only and isn’t on the list so is promoting himself, with ‘Vote positive’ and ‘Party vote Labour’ far less prominent at the bottom.

Megan Woods:

Hoarding Woods

Same layout as Mallard’s but Woods is also on the list (at 20).

Jacinda Ardern:

Hoarding Ardern

Same again. This seems to be the official 2014 layout. Jacinda is 5 on the list.

Chris Hipkins:

Hoarding Hipkins

Another standard layout with the all important party vote note prominent. Hipkins is an electorate MP and 9 on the party list.


Sue Moroney (source Whale Oil)

Moroney hoarding

Two different versions. The top one is recycled from 2008, promoting both Labour and Moroney but obviously no current slogan ‘Vote positive’. The second is very prominent ‘Party vote Labour.

Ironically Moroney’s recycled hoardings are the best party promotions. She is 10 on Labour’s list and has trouble winning electrates.

It’s strange to see each MP with vastly different hoardings.

Labour 23.5% in latest Roy Morgan

The latest Roy Morgan:

  • National 51% (up 3%)
  • Labour Party 23.5% (down 4.5% )
  • Greens are 15% (up 3%)
  • New Zealand First 6% (up 0.5%)
  • Maori Party 1% (down 0.5%)
  • Act NZ (0.5%, down 0.5%)
  • United Future 0.5% (up 0.5%)
  • Internet-Mana Party 1.5% (down 1%)
  • Conservative Party of NZ 1% (unchanged)
  • Independent/ Others is 0% (down 0.5%)

More bad news for Labour. Very bad.This suggests that the Fairfax IPSOS poll may not have been an outlier.

Greens get a lift but it’s not much use if Labour sink.

Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?” This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone, with a NZ wide cross-section of 819 electors from June 30 – July 13, 2014. Of all electors surveyed 5.5% (unchanged) didn’t name a party.

View interactive New Zealand Election charts here

New Zealand Voting Intention Summary

Cunliffe and the Labour blokes

Different columns on Labour, one from Rachel Smalley claiming David Cunliffe is trying to attract the female vote, and another by Duncan Garner on Labour blokes disregarding party interests and trying to shore up their electorate chances.

Rachel Smalley: Cunliffe courting the female vote

The most recent policy announcements suggest to me that David Cunliffe is not cutting it with women. You’ll remember Helen Clark lost the support of women in her final term, and I don’t think Labour has ever claimed it back. During his leadership challenge, remember that Cunliffe wasn’t popular with women in his own party. I suspect that’s resonating in the wider public too.

According to polls this year both Labour and Cunliffe have lost support from female voters.

So he’s going after the female vote. Women are more likely to bounce between parties. Men tend to vote for what’s right for their own wallets, but women are more likely to consider issues beyond personal wealth and economics.

A particular problem Cunliffe has is that women are more adept at reading body language and don’t like it when it differs from verbal language.

Even his “sorry I’m a man” speech, which was obviously targeting women, had suggestions of a lack of authenticity.

Meanwhile Duncan Garner posts Three Labour MPs say ‘stuff the party – I want to win my seat!’

Three Labour MPs have broken ranks in recent weeks – quite loudly and very publicly.

They are interested in one thing: self-preservation. They want to win their seats and they’ve given up relying on their party. They are clearly concerned Labour will poll poorly on election night, so they’ve decided to run their own campaigns – away from head office and away from the leader.

These MPs have either chosen not to be on the list or they have a low-list spot. They are vulnerable. It’s all or nothing for them.

They must win their seats to return to Parliament; this sort of pressure usually focuses an MP’s mind. They want to be back in Parliament and they want the $150k salary.

I’m talking about West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O’Connor, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard and list MP and Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davis.

He has left Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene out.

Take Davis: yesterday he engaged Labour in its biggest u-turn in years. He told me he supported the Puhoi-Wellsford road project that his party has openly mocked and criticised.

Davis is a staunch promoter of Northland interests and has put this before the party.

Further south in Wellington, Trevor Mallard is openly campaigning for the return of the moa – against the wishes of his party and the leadership. It’s a desperate cry for attention: Mallard needs visibility and the moa got him the headlines.

That has been a bizarre sideshow. Cunliffe initially responded “the moa is not a goer” but Mallard has kept on going on about his pet project of the future.

And further south again, Damien O’Connor voted with the Government 10 days ago to allow storm-damaged native trees to be harvested in protected forests.

Tirikatene also voted with the Government on the tree bill.

These three blokes are the outliers in the Labour Caucus. And they are blokes too; they need to make some noise to be heard. They clearly have issues with the tame approach within their caucus.

O’Connor and Davis certainly look in touch with middle New Zealand, their electorates and their issues. They have given the one-fingered salute to their struggling party and put self-preservation first.

O’Connor, Tirikatene and Mallard are relying totally on holding their current electorates in order to stay in Parliament, they don’t feature on the Labour list.

Davis is in a doubtful list position and to put a bob each way on his chances he needs to keenly contest Hone Harawira to try and win Te Tai Tokerau off him.

While Cunliffe is struggling to woo the women voters some of the strongest male presence in Labour is going their own way, disregarding the wider party interests, and as Garner says, putting self preservation first. This suggests they don’t hold much hope of the party doing well.

Cunliffe is struggling to appeal to women and failing to appeal to his own caucus for unity.

It’s hard to see how this can work out well for Labour.

Unless Kim Dotcom sinks National, giving Labour  a shot at forming a Government despite their shambles.


Labour uncertainty on Capital Gains Tax

Labour don’t seem to be on top of their numbers with their proposed Capital Gains Tax, and they don’t even list it as a policy on their website.

Bloggers with close connections to National and Labour, David Farrar and Rob Salmond, have exchanged fire over David Cunliffe’s claim that Labour’s Capital Gains Tax would increase tax by $4-5 billion per year. This has raised uncertainties about Labour’s numbers and their CGT policy.

David Cunliffe speaking on Q & A on Sunday:

By the way, a capital gains tax which at full running is going to bring in 5 billion dollars a year, close to, 4 to 5 billion is the single biggest change to New Zealand tax policy in decades and it’s one that I’ve personally championed for years.

I questioned this amount in Capital Gains Tax – how much more tax? I quoted Labour’s  Fiscal Plan:

This policy will raise an additional $25 million in its first year, growing in outyears to reach $1 billion a year by 2020/21.

Salmond has now posted on this – DPF on DC on CGT. He provides a table of estimated revenue that shows:

  • $1.419 billion by 2020
  • $3.669 billion by 2028

That is neither $1 billion by 2020/21 nor $4-5 billion at all – Salmond concedes “David Cunliffe probably shouldn’t have used “$4-5 billion,” given these estimates”.

Salmond says “This was modelling work BERL did in 2011 for Labour’s CGT policy, which I think is pretty much unchanged in 2014.”

As the revenue in the table starts from 2013 it must have changed, a CGT won’t begin until 2015 at the earliest.

Labour seems to be all over the place with their figures. They introduced this policy in 2011, they should have the numbers sorted out by now.

And while Cunliffe promotes it as “the single biggest change to New Zealand tax policy in decades and it’s one that I’ve personally championed for years:

For such a major part of Labour’s revenue plans their knowledge of the numbers and their lack of readily available information on their website is very strange.

Capital Gains Tax – how much more tax?

There’s some doubt about a claim by David Farrar that Labour to increase taxation by $5 billion a year through their proposed Capital Gains Tax.

On Q+A, David Cunliffe said:

By the way, a capital gains tax which at full running is going to bring in 5 billion dollars a year, close to, 4 to 5 billion is the single biggest change to New Zealand tax policy in decades and it’s one that I’ve personally championed for years.

That’s appalling. That’s an extra $5 billion a year ripped out of NZ families and businesses, to be spent by Government.

There is a case for a capital gains tax. I support a broad base tax system. However I’m sick of new taxes being added on, with no compensating reduction in income and company taxes.

If ’s capital gains tax was really about changing investment incentives, then they’d commit to reducing income and company tax by the same amount of revenue their CGT would bring in.

But in reality, their CGT is just about increase the tax burden on New Zealanders by $5 billion a year.

There’s doubt about the amount at least. Oddly Labour don’t list Capital Gains Tax in their announced policies.

It is mentioned in Monetary Policy:

Another step to encourage NZ savings, and investment in the export and import substituting real economy, would be to remove the tax bias which currently favours investment in land based investments by introducing a tax on capital gains from property, excluding the family home.

The current tax bias is unusual in western countries and contributes to underinvestment in the productive economy, and savings.

The tax advantages drive asset prices, and demand for mortgage borrowing, to higher levels than would otherwise be sustained. This increases demand for imported borrowings, which puts pressure on the exchange rate.

This distortion in the tax system also pushes up house and other property prices beyond the reach of many, while enabling wealthier New Zealanders to pay lower rates of tax on their economic income.

It’s not mentioned in their Fiscal Plan summary  but it’s in the associated media release (briefly):

“Labour will introduce a new, progressive top tax rate of 36 per cent on income over $150,000; that’s the top 2 per cent of income earners. We will also raise trustee income tax to 36 per cent to avoid trusts being used as tax avoidance vehicles.

“This combined with our capital gains tax will allow the Labour-led Government to run surpluses and pay down National’s record debt by the end of our second term,” David Cunliffe says.

David Parker says: “Everything is paid for, plus we are in surplus.

It’s in their detailed Fiscal Plan:

However this only claims to bring in an extra $1 billion per year:

This policy will raise an additional $25 million in its first year, growing in outyears to reach $1 billion a year by 2020/21.

Cunliffe or the Fiscal Plan must be inaccurate about how much extra per year Labour would tax.

UPDATE: a comment at Kiwiblog suggests another total:

From David Parker in the 2011/2012 budget debate

Treasury’s estimate of the long-term revenue from a capital gains tax excluding the family home was $4.8 billion per annum. We remodelled that through our consultants, Business and Economic Research Ltd, and they cut that back by $2 billion per annum at the maturity of the scheme. So it is raising $2.8 billion per annum once it is a mature scheme, rather than $4.8 billion. The sensitivities in the Business and Economic Research Ltd analysis show that it could be $1 billion per annum more than that, but we have taken the conservative course and assumed the lower figure.

The maximum claimed there is $3.8 billion, still well under Cunliffe’s $5 billion.

Labour’s poll hopes

Labour are not in a good place in the polls, having trended down since a surge just after David Cunliffe became leader. All the polls last month had Labour in the twenties.

This sort of support level makes a Labour led government look unlikely, but even if other parties on the left plus NZ First got enough support for Labour to cobble together a coalition their hand would be weak if they only had about half of the contributing MPs. The balance of numbers matter.

Polls were discussed in a Q & A interview with Cunliffe on Sunday.

CORIN If we could look at the polls now, back in February Labour was on 34%, you told Nine to Noon your goal was to get higher to the late 30s if not 40, those were your words. Now you seem to be aiming for 31.

DAVID Oh nonsense.

CORIN What’s happened?

DAVID No no I’ve never said that, I’ve said I’m sure that we will be back up into the 30s…

CORIN 2 or 3%…

DAVID No no no, that is 2 or 3% just from the ground game.

This is how Radio NZ reported Cunliffe on Friday:

The Labour Party goes into its annual congress this weekend after weeks of poor political poll results

Despite that, leader David Cunliffe’s message to members will be that Labour can and must win the election.

National dropped on average about 6 or 7 percent during election campaigns, and Labour’s work on the ground to get people to polling booths must add 2-3 percent for it, Mr Cunliffe said.

That put Labour well within striking distance of forming a coalition Government, he said

Polls for Labour over the last month ranged from 23-29%. Adding 2-3 percent to that would barely get them into the thirties at best.

Back to Q & A:

CORIN You still want to get 40%?

DAVID I would love to get 40% and I’m sure we’ll be well up into the 30s, and just remember in the last couple of election campaigns the National government or the National Party has dropped about 6% during the 3 months of the campaign. Now if they do that and we get 2 or 3% off the turnout, and make sure that our policy releases and our media and our comms are well placed, then I’m absolutely convinced we can win this election.

Same claim, hoping for National to drop 6% and Labour to gain 2-3%.

Labour’s media and comms have been performing poorly. Policy releases have also suffered hiccups. They had a hit financial policy release a week ago and had a lot of attention on their weekend congress which may have helped their cause, but Cunliffe’s “I’m sorry I’m a man” comment may have seriously undone a lot of good work.

CORIN Okay, but the trend over the last 2 or 3 months has been down. Under David Shearer Labour was up around 34%, 35%, 36% in some instances. There has been a steady trend down since you have been leader to now what 29?

DAVID Well look I think we should be very clear about the rhythm and sequence and I’ll be quite open with you. Of course we started off after the primary campaign with numbers around 36-37, that’s if you like the blush of enthusiasm.

CORIN Well you had 34% after the campaign, and I think you had 1 point balance in our poll like that campaign. ….

DAVID We had a good conference, we had a good by-election result, we had a reasonable effort I think around the asset sales campaign. I think it’s true that it did go a little quiet over the summer break, and we had a number of changes in our team early in the next year which probably caused us to lose a bit of momentum if I’m honest, but we picked up from that, which is great.

They went quiet over the summer break and came back from it poorly, trending down in the polls since. They haven’t picked up, as David Farrar’s poll of polls shows:

Since the leadership bump last year it’s been all downhill.

There’s been, as you are well aware over the last couple of weeks, a sustained attempt at a smear campaign against Labour.

What has picked up are the excuses, blaming a smear campaign, blaming media bias and blaming polling company conspiracies (Cunliffe has only blamed a smear campaign but Labour bloggers have been claiming extreme bias and conspiracies involving National, media and polling companies).

Labour analyst Rob Salmond has done some research that is behind Cunliffe’s repeated comments on National dropping support. He has blogged on this at Polity – National dropped 6% in 2008, 2011 campaigns.

At my briefing to Labour’s Congress over the weekend, I made a point about National’s performance in recent campaigns, which was later picked up in David Cunliffe’s speech.

National has dropped six percent each time.

For those interested, here is the data that sits beneath this claim. All I did was find any published poll where the field dates included the day three months before election day1, then compared that to the final election result.

This six point drop in National’s performance often went to parties opposed to National. Famously, in 2011 the big beneficiaries were New Zealand first, who rocketed from around 2.5% in the polls all the way to 6.7% three months later. In 2008 the Greens were significant net beneficiaries of campaign-time changes.

Labour seem to be pinning their hopes on a similar trend down for National leading in to this election. It may happen again or it may not, as is the case every election the circumstances are quite different.

It is certain that National will be doing everything they can to avoid a repeat of last election’s tea party debacle, and while Winston Peters will again be looking to benefit from media attention that boosts NZ First he won’t be wanting a repeat of 2008 where NZ First missed the MMP cut.

The Internet Party-Mana mix this campaign could also make quite a difference. IMP could poach support from Labour, and they could also scare swing voters off Labour for fear of a week Labour coalition adversely influenced bu Greens, NZ First and IMP.

And Labour will be keenly aware of a different trend not repeating, when National’s support plummeted to 21% in 2002 when Bill English just failed to impress. Some pundits have been suggesting similar could happen to Labour under Cunliffe.

And Salmond, unlike Cunliffe, was prepared to mention potential negatives for Labour from the past two election trends.

For completeness, I should note that in those two elections not many of National’s went to Labour.

Labour also shed some support during these campaigns, but at less than a quarter the rate of National’s loss.

So Labour are hoping National repeats a downward trend but Labour does the opposite to those trends.

This all sounds like a mix of wishful thinking from Labour plus trying to talk up the polls and talk up the party faithful and the voting public.

At their congress Labour clearly signalled a party and policy approach to their campaign with less emphasis on leadership and Cunliffe. This approach didn’t end well for Labour and Phil Goff  last election.

Much could happen between now and September 20, but pinning hopes on National polling patterns to repeat but Labour poll trends to reverse recent and historical seems either hopeful or desperate for something positive.

And the message doesn’t seem to be inspiring the activists. The Polity analysis was reposted at The Standard yesterday afternoon – Polity: National dropped 6% in 2008, 2011 campaigns.

There has only been four comments on that. Another Polity repost on education policy has a more typical 109 comments.

Labour might have to hope for something other than poll history.

Carrots versus cost of carrots

As Labour release more policies they are differentiating themselves more from National.

Finance spokesperson David Parker recently released Labour’s alternate budget. This was seen as well thought through and prudent, although there was some criticism from the left for it being too miserly.

Over the last week Labour have switched to education. This has the appearance of loosening the purse strings as carrots to entice voters have been prominent. These include:

  • Reduce class sizes by 2018,  in primary schools from 29 students to 26, in secondary schools from 26 students to 23
  • 2000 new teachers
  • Computers for all students age nine and up
  • Affordable payment plan for parents to pay for new technology
  • Modernise school buildings
  • End voluntary donations by providing annual $100 grant per student.

All of those policies will cost more. Labour say they will re-allocate National’s funds to better utilise (and better pay) the best teachers, but that may not cover all these policies.

Details aren’t available yet online, they only have very brief summaries and a link to a factsheet doesn’t work. Labour will need to cost their carrots or they will get hammered by National.

Labour are differentiating themselves from National on education policies along the lines of more versus better.

Additional teachers will cost more but on top of the cost of salaries is the cost of training and administrative overheads and extra classrooms will be required.

An updated alternate budget may be required.

But Labour are clearly differentiating themselves from National.Labour will be promoting the extras they are offering, while National will be questioning the cost of handouts.

The election could be fought on carrots versus cost of carrots.

“Man up, step up and stop this bullshit”

David Cunliffe has been reported as calling on men to “man up, step up and stop this bullshit” when launching Labour’s policy on addressing violence.

Labour will take decisive and far-reaching action to address violence against women and children, says Labour Leader David Cunliffe.

“As Labour Party Leader, I am determined that we address the causes and consequences of family violence.

“But this cannot be achieved in a piecemeal manner or without a unified effort across government agencies and NGOs.

“That is why our action plan will be led from within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet,’’ David Cunliffe said.

Violence is a pervasive problem throughout our society. It can have severe adverse effects in relationships and families, and in education, work and social life.  It has an obvious impact on crime.

So putting this degree of importance on the issue is welcome.

“On average 35 New Zealanders are killed by a member of their family every year, and one in three women experience intimate partner violence.

That could be misleading, I don’t think the ‘one in three women’ claim applies to a year, but nevertheless the violence and murder statitistics are appalling.

Last year 20,000 women and children sought the help of Women’s Refuge.

That’s very sad.

“This is totally unacceptable. It has a devastating physical and emotional impact on the lives of a great many of our women and children.”

A shame that men have been excluded from that, many men are also devastated by violence.

“Labour will work towards its elimination. Today we are announcing a package of measures for immediate action, as well as other longer term solutions.

Elimination of violence is a lofty goal but one we should at least move towards as best we can – and better than we have been.

“We will adopt an Action Plan to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Children.

Again, men should be included.

“We will provide $60 million over four years for family and sexual violence to support front-line services, primary prevention and education.

If this is additional funding it will be welcome. Sounds like a small investment if it can be spent effectively.

“We will reform the justice system to provide real justice to survivors while upholding the right to be presumed innocent.

“We will review prosecution guidelines and the operation of protection orders.

Some of this at least has just been looked at by the Government. National made an announcement on it on Wednesday – see PRIME MINISTER ADDRESSES FAMILY VIOLENCE.

It’s good to see both major parties promising to do more to address violence and associated problems.

Perhaps National and Labour can work together more on this to make a concerted effort to deal with the problems regardless of the outcome of the election.

It;s odd that  Labour have focused solely on women and children in their media release. Men are a substantial cause of problems with violence but also suffer from violence substantially.

Grant Robertson partially acknowledged the damage wasn’t exclusively to women and children:

Ending violence, esp against women and children requires a whole community response, but govt has to show leadership


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