Who’s got the best team – Ardern or Bridges?

Post from Gezza:

Labour needs to be more than just Jacinda Ardern

The booklet for this weekend’s Labour Party conference features 13 separate photos of its leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and none of any other MP. Grant Robertson gets in to one picture on the side, but only alongside his leader.

Leaders are always important to political parties, but the degree to which Ardern defines Labour is extreme. This is a party supposedly built on the backs of cooperation between workers and not a single person, no matter how strong their brand is.

The Labour Party is still in need of some rebuilding after nine years of atrophy. A large part of that rebuilding will be standing up convincing and exciting candidates in every single electorate for next year’s election.

Labour is of course never going to win Clutha-Southland, or many over deep blue seats. But you get party votes everywhere, and Labour is not strong enough in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to win whole elections there.

The image of Labour as a party that only has strength in big cities is unfair, but only by a smidgen. The conference is in Whanganui this weekend, a seat Labour thinks it could win next year.

But an email sent out to Labour supporters said the conference was in Whangarei – a town with a somewhat similar name that is hundreds of kilometres away. Mistakes like this – probably made by someone in Auckland or Wellington who would only ever fly over these places – fulfil every stereotype of Labour as an uninterested urban party. Standing uninteresting candidates in hard electorates would set those stereotypes in stone.

Labour are still in the process of selecting their candidates, and could well end up with some exciting newcomers. But for now it can feel dominated by people who have done their time with the party, with several standing and losing last time.

This makes sense for some people. Young lawyer Steph Lewis in Whanganui increased the party vote by 5000 in the last election, and is exactly the kind of candidate Labour will want to put itself forwards with.

There are some other choices that are less obvious. Rachel Boyack significantly underperformed the party vote in Nelson in 2017 against an exceptionally unpopular minister, but has once again been selected. Unionist and party senior vice president Tracey McLellan has been selected for Port Hills despite being tarnished by her involvement in the assault allegation mess earlier this year. There’s something to be said for experience – but also the excitement of the new.

More notable is the absence of flashy well-known people from outside. There is no one of Chris Luxon’s stature running for Labour. Some of the most qualified people in the party’s orbit have picked other jobs – like new president Claire Szabo, who would have made an excellent MP.

To be fair to Labour, recruiting big names doesn’t always work out. John Tamihere’s career in Parliament is proof of that. But right now Ardern’s modernising influence on the party is not very apparent in its candidates. And it seems unlikely she will exert much influence on safe seat selection races like the one in Dunedin South.

Ardern herself is uncomfortable with how much the party’s fate rests on her shoulders. Ironically, fixing that will require her getting even more involved.

Henry Cooke puts his finger on a problem with Labour.

But the media itself (& especially television news) puts so much focus almost entirely on the party leaders & PM of the day that party spokespeople & even Cabinet Ministers often don’t get much attention & promotion.

National was basically John Key, John Key, John Key, before he became Sir John, with the occasional Cabinet Minister getting public attention when they got uncomfortably pushed into the limelight by some crisis (like releasing beneficiary details, or tv news showing people living in cars) or some other event that the news media fastened onto for its shock or entertainment value, like a thrown dildo.

Labour has some senior Ministers who aren’t very eloquent & stumble in dealing with Pakeha media (like Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis), or who just seem to come across as clowns, (like Willie Jackson, & Phil Twyford), so pushing them more to the fore is probably not a good idea because the media sharks can make make mincemeat out of them.

Grant Robertson & David Parker on the other hand for example, generally do well handling media interviews.

Shane Jones’s eloquence has become legendary (as he obviously intended) to the point where he can now even upstage Winston Peters at times; not an easy thing to do. But he doesn’t seem able to convince many people that his overall responsibility for the PGF is delivering much if anything in the way of measurable worthwhile results. Pork barrel politics & Jones seem to be always-associated words.

Polls show that, as John Key was for National, Jacinda Ardern is still Labour’s biggest asset. Their party vote polls however suggest her Ministers are perhaps viewed with less public approval & confidence.

National has the reverse situation – the party still polls well but Bridges doesn’t. My own gut reaction to Bridges’s announcements & media appearances is nearly always unfavourable (although I like to think I don’t allow gut reaction to decide my vote). To me he’s relentlessly negative (as Andrew Little was when Labour’s leader) appears disingenuous & I have no great confidence he’d be a good PM (but the awful grating nasally sound of his voice & his seemingly contrived body language may be driving that!). His team doesn’t generally really inspire me much either.

However, it’s noticeable that in their Law & Order policy paper National has made a particular point of including pages from each one of their Law And Order Team. So they seem to be onto the idea of marketing themselves as a team now – their government-in-waiting.

Will this make a difference to their polling? Will Bridges stand back & let the spokesperson team do more of the talking in the coming months? Will the media co-operate?

Is this what Henry Cooke’s suggesting Labour needs to do, to counteract National’s strategy? Could they pull that off, with their Ministers?

Leave a comment

21 Comments

  1. Duker

     /  1st December 2019

    Key was numero uno too for National during its time as PM . Its how it works

    “Rachel Boyack significantly under performed the party vote in Nelson in 2017 against an exceptionally unpopular minister, but has once again been selected. ”
    The results were Boyack increased the party vote 17% over what Maryan Street got., ( didnt all candidates increase the party vote ,likely Ardern factor) and yes as a new candidate she was down but Street had been running since 2008 ( and was an list MP with a local office for some of that period).
    Nelson also has a strong Green candidate vote (24%, which then drops to 7% ,probably over to labour, for party vote) which like many other places splits the anti national numbers who then win with 40%

    Reply
  2. duperez

     /  1st December 2019

    If Ardern formed a team made up of the twelve apostles and forty nine of the greatest people of all time many would still not vote for her. The entertainment spectacle would be great though with the claims of social engineering, populism, etc.

    Imagine the slogan possibilities though. “What good is it with St Peter on their team if there are reds under our beds?”

    “Mother Teresa wants to hug the gangs, Simon will smash them.”

    Picking candidates is an interesting game. If Chris Luxon is such a fantastic, capable candidate why weren’t they confident enough to stand him in a marginal seat which they don’t presently hold? He’s win Palmerston North wouldn’t he? If they want a 19 year old candidate we are told is such a prospect, why didn’t they stand him in Botany?

    Reply
  3. Corky

     /  1st December 2019

    Great post from Gezza- almost like a hawk flying overhead and seeing the situation laid out like an Arcadian vista. However, such a vantage point also shows up the divisions and no exit lanes in this projected wonderland that the public is being shown.

    For myself, I’m more interested in where the refugees from NZ1 will be heading, and what Maori are thinking and doing..especially Labours Maori caucus – something I will be concentrating on.

    I think Jacinda has the wood on Simon, but Kid Raptor has a bigger magazine to spray Jacinda with. The upcoming leaders debates will be some of the most important in recent times.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  1st December 2019

      Well, that’s partly why I’ve made a point of mentioning that Kelvin Davis doesn’t come across well in Pakeha media. I don’t know how well he does with Maori media & because I don’t speak & understand te reo Maori, nor the dynamics of Maori hui & marae, I have no idea how well he does with Maori electorates & audiences, but he certainly appears to be well in his comfort zone when I have seen him on Maori tv.

      Reply
  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  1st December 2019

    Plenty of bribes are being handed out this weekend.

    People might ask why these treats are being offered when money’s being borrowed for infrastructure.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  1st December 2019

      If they haven’t got money they’re hopeless. If they have got money and are spending it, they’re ‘throwing money around.’ If they have got money and aren’t spending it they’re stealing our tax money for nothing.
      And most importantly, having money and spending it is election bribery.

      A challenge is to work out the angles about the education money announcement, the bitching complaining, moaning, criticising or whatever Nikki Kaye is going to be in the media with tomorrow. She might say it’s bribery.

      She was in our town the year before the last election making big announcements on behalf of herself and Hekia Parata. Local schools were to get major investments. I can’t remember it being called bribery.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  1st December 2019

        I can’t remember it being called bribery.

        Don’t you know any Labour voters there, dupers? Or were they calling it pork barrel politics? 😉

        It’s pretty much a given for me that every party promising money in an election year gets accused of bribing the voters.

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  1st December 2019

          When you live in a veryNat town things like that just happen. I remember one project asked for, begged for over many years with plenty of evidence over the years to support the wisdom and necessity of having it done. And the stupidity of not doing it. No amount of submissions seemed to have any effect.

          Magically a couple of months out from an election one of the Minister movers and shakers had the front page coloured photo of the ceremonial ‘first spade’ in the ground.
          My letter to the editor of the regional newspaper termed it a “vomit-making political stunt.” Naturally enough that was edited down to “political stunt.”

          How strange that the project ended up to be Plan B, the half-pie solution, the one that would suffice (and keep the natives happy.) Years later in a supreme act of largesse in time for another election what should have happened in the first place was granted us.

          As for ‘pork barrel politics,’ most voters here wouldn’t have heard the expression and certainly never have used it. Of course that includes both Labour Party voters.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  1st December 2019

            National is very cunning with it’s promises for school buildings
            ….first there’s approval for concept plans with the buzz it’s a done deal
            But by the time next election comes around it’s now approval to call tenders which is another 2 years delay.
            This repeated all round the country with some projects finally getting the go ahead because the charge can’t be carried on any longer. Even badly leaking schools get the run around.
            Whether it was national cycleways… Christchurch major projects, School rebuilds, Roads of importance …it was delay delay delay

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  1st December 2019

              You may have to ready yourself for 20 years of delays, Duker. Tell me, will Jacinda still be leader if Labour loses the election? The liberals will not like the opposition benches again. All that power over farmers,da fillfy witch, gun owners and social trends,gone. Someone will have to pay.

  5. Duker

     /  1st December 2019

    “Labour are still in the process of selecting their candidates, and could well end up with some exciting newcomers. But for now it can feel dominated by people who have done their time with the party, with several standing and losing last time.”
    98% of those who stand in seats they didnt win last time wont win next time either . Even you wouldnt win Gezza .
    Seats are very hard to swap unless theres a big shift from nationals support ( isnt happening) or the Greens give up standing in electorates ( isnt happening).
    The total money given to Nationals electorate Mps is prodigious one of the reasons why they like keep them and dont like losing them.
    National is more of fund raising organisation with political operation on the side rather than the other way around.
    Luxon knows he will have to make rivers of gold flow if he is to make headway in the party, and yes Conservative Christians have been known to cross palms with silver and lots of it.
    As a fund raiser in Auckland he will be competing with Judith who has her own well tendered orchard of conservative money trees. Will he grow his own orchard or steal her low hanging fruit , hard to say. Im betting shes worried and she’ll increase her time on the Chinese banquet circuit. ganbei

    Reply
  6. David

     /  1st December 2019

    The Labour party weekend conference pretty much sums up why sticking with Jacindamania is their only option. For a party that was elected on building a hospital in Dunedin, building 10,000 houses a year, planting 100 million trees, light rail in Auckland and the rest of the laundry list of infrastructure projects that havent been built or even progressed they have some brass neck announcing unspecified or costed infrastructure projects down the line.
    We are closing out the year of delivery with no deliverables immediately obvious which as a taxpayer is a huge relief. The reason why I might vote Labour is they are useless and cant spend my tax dollars thanks to their total ineptness. National on the other hand have a competent line up ready to deliver which is costly.
    Lets just keep Labours cabinet away from any scrutiny lest they are forced to lift their game.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  1st December 2019

      Did you never Check Nationals housing promises over their 9 years…. they had the line up of clowns like Smith and Bennett – who lied about knowing on car windows.
      The long running SHA was a joke , never delivered the low income houses it promised and when all the holders of SHA consents werent budging on building anything …the Nats just extended their consents for longer than the original timeline.
      Their “Wormfarmer” Woodhouse is a now a top ranking MP, yet everything he touched turned to …wormcasts. The rankings are based on money raised of course , thats why Jami-Lee Ross was so high up , and he took that Invercargill woman who wasnt his wife with him.

      Reply
      • David

         /  2nd December 2019

        I have a new hospital, 2 new high schools, 2 new primary schools, a nearly finished motorway, a 4000 house subdivision all within 10kms of my house and built under National..just way to good at delivering at taxpayer funded stuff so having a few years of inaction is a blessing.

        Reply
  7. Corky

     /  1st December 2019

    Labour are still getting things wrong…they had the auto cue set too high at the Labour Party conference. Jacinda had to lift her eyes skyward as if asking Marx for divine guidance. The camera filming her captured all this. I doubt an atheist would vote for her after the reverential display.

    That said, Labour is now starting to apply the hurt. National will need to respond.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  1st December 2019

      What news did you watch? 1News gave Jacinda & their conference fairly minimal coverage tonight I thought – a brief item with a very short clip of her talking about the $400k for schools – including the extra work & income it would provide for local tradies & suppliers – & a clip of a school with repair work obviously needed, one principal saying it would go a big way to help pay for some of the remedial building maintenance work they needed (painting, I think) & Simon bemoaning it & saying something like they were just looking to buy votes from mums & distracting from their failure to deliver on their big ticket promises like housing.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  1st December 2019

        Mind you, 1News at 6 on Sunday is always in a shortened format. They only have 2 news segments instead of 3 before their Sports segment. If you’re a party leader wanting more coverage you’re probably best to do your keynote speech on Saturday.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  1st December 2019

        I saw Jacinda on Prime News that had extensive coverage comparative to what you describe for TV1

        Reply
  8. Blazer

     /  4th December 2019

    Labour just need to keep repeating ‘9 years of neglect’….National are the kick the can ,down the road party.

    Reply

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