Labour’s turn?

There has been unrestrained glee from Andrew Little and the Labour camp at the resignation of John Key, but they need to be careful.

Labour have long seen Key as the thing stopping them from having their turn in Government again. They have persisted in trying to batter Brand key, without much success.

Labour came away from last weekend’s Mt Roskill successful by-election with confidence, and Key leaving looks like the icing on their general election campaign cake.

But they should be wary of becoming overconfident and thinking that they can now cruise to ‘their turn’ in Government.

A change of Prime Minister doesn’t fix Labour’s problems.

Little has shown glimpses of confidence and less impersonal parrot approach over the last week but he has a way to go to look like a possible Prime Minister.

Labour ranks still don’t look strong. Their most prominent MP over the past year, Phil Twyford, has raised a few eyebrows over his behaviour. He publicly attacked journalists (who aren’t likely to return the favour with favourable coverage) and has done some odd things on Twitter.

Twyford is heading Labour’s campaign team.

Labour have to earn the trust of voters. One of their weaknesses for years is their sense of ownership of votes, their assumption that when National has done their dash Labour will automatically benefit.

I don’t think Labour is seen yet as deserving of ‘their turn’.

Little has to improve his public performances. He has to appear as better informed about issues and he has to appear has himself more, not as a reciter of political platitudes and PR.

And it would help if a few other Labour MPs stepped up markedly. While signs of friction have diminished there are few signs of a team working together that is capable and confident.

Winning an election is not just a matter of people warming to Little when they see he looks like a decent well meaning guy.

Labour still have to portray themselves as worthy of running a government and managing the economy – so Grant Robertson has a lot to do if he wants to contribute.

Labour as a party has to look capable, but they also have to appear able to be the real deal alongside Greens, who they have become co-dependant on.

And they also have to convince voters they could manage a coalition with both Greens and Winston Peters.

The prospects have improved for Labour, a little bit.

But ‘their turn’ won’t fall into their laps next year. Whenever the general election is it will be as much a challenge for Labour as it is for National with a new leader.

I’d currently rate Little 6/10 at the moment, and Labour 5/10. They have to get closer to 8/10 to earn a victory.

3 days versus 93

In the first leadership change in ten years, since John Key took over from Don Brash on 27 November 2006, the National Party took 3 days to choose their new leader, Bill English.

On Twitter Peter Dunne as described it “as quick and slick a contest as I can recall”.

In contrast Labour have had four leadership contests that have taken a total of

Helen Clark stood down on 8 November 2008, immediately after losing the general election. Phil Goff took over unchallenged 3 days later, on 11 November.

Goff announced he would stand down as Labour leader on 29 November 2011, 3 days after losing the general election. David Shearer won leadership contest against David Cunliffe and took over on 13 December, 14 days later.

During Shearer’s time as leader the Labour party changed their rules on leadership contests, stipulating a voting arrangement involving a mix of caucus (40%), party members (40%) and unions (20%). This has extended the time taken to choose leaders.

Shearer resigned as leader on 22 August 2013. After  contesting the leadership against Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, Cunliffe became leader on 15 September, 24 days later.

After Labour lost the next election Cunliffe resigned as leader on 27 September 2014.  After a contest against Grant Robertson, David Parker and Nanaia Mahuta, Andrew Little took over on 18 November, 52 days later.

That’s a total of 93 days of leadership contesting in a decade, but the time taken has become increasingly long

Going effectively leaderless for a month or two stalls progress while in opposition but they can get away with it. If Labour get back into Government and have a contested leadership under their current rules the time taken to change Prime Ministers could be more of a problem.

Greens also have a membership vote in their leadership contests but they have co-leaders so don’t go rudderless, and they are not likely to have a Prime Minister.

Which may be just as well – Russel Norman announced he would stand down as co-leader on January 2015, and James Shaw eventually won against Kevin Hague on 30 May, over 4 months later.

NZ First and United Future have never had their leaderships contested.

Rodney Hide resigned as leader of the ACT Party on 28 April 2011, and Don Brash was appointed leader by the party board 2 days later.

When ACT did poorly in the 26 November 2011 election Brash resigned on election night.  As their only MP John Banks was de facto leader until being appointed officially by the board on 16 February 2012.

Labour response to fiscal update

Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson has responded to the release of the latest half yearly Treasury update.

Economy must deliver a fair go for New Zealanders

The latest Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) provides further evidence that the economy that the National Government and Bill English have is sitting on shifting sands and leaves many people behind, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says today.

“It’s easy to glance at the headline figures and see a rosy picture of government surplus and economic growth, but look harder and there is plenty for New Zealanders to be concerned about.

“The country’s economic growth is a sandcastle based on rampant house price inflation, high personal debt, and on population growth that is putting pressure on infrastructure and public services – pressure that this Government is failing to address.

“On a per-person basis New Zealand is hardly growing at all. It’s no wonder people are feeling that they are working longer hours but they are only treading water. And the forecasts today are for almost no real wage growth in the next two years.

“And then there are the tens of thousands of people just being left behind, homeless, out of work and losing hope under National’s watch.

“Labour’s focus is getting New Zealand back to its best. That is when everyone has a roof over their head, access to the best health and education systems in the world, and the opportunity of decent work and a good pay packet.

“As Finance Minister I would commit to more investment in people through strong public services, starting to pay back the enormous debt that been amassed since 2008, and planning for the future by restarting contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund.

“Bill English however is still playing politics with dangling irresponsible tax cuts. This is all the more so with this year’s surplus slashed due to the Kaikōura earthquakes.

“Calm the farm, Bill, and pull back on the tax cut carrot. The HYEFU shows that the real priority is invest to get sustainable growth that foster the innovative and productive economy that will deliver decent jobs,” says Grant Robertson.share on twitter

Standard negativity post-Key

John Key’s resignation is Labour’s best opportunity in eight years to turn things around and look like a better governing option.

But going by reactions at The Standard left wing negativity is entrenched.

It’s understandable that there will be some jubilation about Key’s exit from Government, but most of the reaction at The Standard has been an attack on Key and his legacy and his party.

They’re dancing on Key’s grave before he has checked into the political hospice.

Before Key’s announcement it Labour and Green and Mana had been on virtual life support at The Standard, with only an occasional beep from the heart monitor – there was some joy after the Mt Roskill by-election win on Saturday.

But come Monday, before Key’s announcement, he was the only post focus:

Since then the Standard posts have been:

Even their two Daily Review posts featured Key images.

Absolutely nothing on Labour, Greens and the door opened to their opportunities next year.

Ironically ex-Standard author Te Reo Putake, a Labour supporter and Andrew Littler promoter and fan, asked to post a positive Labour/Little/Opposition here – Key to the Kingdom. He has been banned from The Standard following a civil war.

Key’s resignation is the best gift to Little and Labour (and the Greens) for a decade.

But the Greens and especially Metiria Turei have put most of their efforts into criticising and attacking Key, when he is no longer a political threat. Winston and other NZ First MPs have attacked Key. This sort of negativity is reflected at The Standard.

National are vulnerable. The public will have an extra  look to see who they think can run Government competently.

And I see mostly see Opposition mud flying, still.It seems like a particularly stupid first impression post-Key to present to the public.

If opposition parties, and supporting online forums like The Standard, want to take advantage of National’s current vulnerability surely they can at least try to look better, rather than worse.

Is the left capable of being positive?

Key to the Kingdom

Banned Standard author Te Reo Putake writes for Your NZ about how John Key’s shock resignation will revitalise Labour, the Greens and NZ First.

It’s been a great few days for the opposition. The Mt Roskill by election was a stunning win for Labour, the Greens have picked up a media friendly new candidate in Hayley Holt and Winston Peters has, well, I don’t know what Winston’s been up to, but I’m sure he thinks it was great.

And now John Key’s resigned to spend more time with his money. Good news for Barack Obama, golf’s no fun without a caddy.

John Key’s resignation opens the door for two, perhaps three new Prime Ministers in the next twelve months.

First, Bill English will take over, on Key’s recommendation. If the polls plummet, he’ll be shafted by Easter, to be replaced by whatever counts as budding talent in the National caucus.

Bennett? Bridges?

It won’t matter, really, because whenever the election is called, early or late, Andrew Little will win.

Hold on, I hear you saying, what about the polls?

The numbers have been heading Little’s way for months. No, really. His task is to maximise Labour’s vote, but more importantly, build the numbers for both his party and the Greens. Most recent polls have had those two party’s combined vote just short or just above the point at which a coalition with NZ First could form a viable Government.

That’s how MMP works folks. If only Roy Morgan could work that out.

National can’t afford to lose even a couple of percentage points next election. If they drop even slightly, Winston is their only hope of staying in power.

It’s important to remember that National have scraped through three elections on the strength of their leader and the supine support of their mini me’s in Epsom and Ohariu.

ACT will be back, but Dunne’s done.

The maori party will not be back next election either. They’ll be swamped by Labour this time round. And a good job too. Bye bye, brown tories.

Without Key, National will almost certainly have to do a deal with NZ First to retain power.

Now, I don’t kid myself that Winston Peters can be relied on to do the right thing and back a Labour led Government.

Indeed, the resignation of Key takes away one of my favourite arguments, which was that Peters wanted to be the one who brought Key down. He hasn’t forgiven the Nats for forcing him out of Parliament in 2008 and I always fancied that if NZ First had the balance of power post election, he’d make Key dance a jig to his tune for a few weeks, then go with Labour anyway.


I’m still convinced that Peters sees more scope to get his ideas over the line as part of a Little led Government. Have you ever looked at NZ Firsts policies? The vast majority could have been remits at a Labour party conference. Ok, rejected remits, but, hey, you get the idea.

The fly in the ointment for that arrangement is the Greens. Winston doesn’t trust them. He once told me that they’d sell NZ out for a snail. I laughed at the time, but if he does opt for the Nats post election, that’ll be the reason.

And what of the Greens? What do they get out of Key’s quitting?

Well, probably not much. This doesn’t have the same potential impact on their vote as it does for Labour.

However, there may be some Blue Greens who will shift their party vote their way. It’s noticeable in the inner city electorates that there is strong tactical voting by conservatives who have an environmental conscience. Maybe that’ll get them an extra MP or two.

And, of course, they’ll be part of the next Government, in some form or other.

Ultimately, it will be Labour that is the big winner here.

Kiwis have traditionally let governments run for two or three terms, then let the other fullas have a go. That’ll be the outcome next year.

Andrew Little may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is a genuine guy, hard working and honest. He’s distressingly straight laced and painfully awkward in front of the cameras.

You know why?

He’s no show pony. He just wants to do the work.

I think voters will grudgingly accept he’s the right person to take the country forward for a term or two.

And with Key’s bitter legacy of growing inequality, poverty, underfunding of health, education and cops, and the apparent end of the Kiwi dream of owning our own home Little will have plenty of good issues to campaign on and plenty of problems to fix when he’s in the hot seat.

Barring some other seismic political shock, Andrew Little will find himself Prime Minister this time next year.

And I reckon you’ll be surprised at how good a job he does of it.

Labour and local versus national

Michael Wood came across very well on Q & A, articulate and confident.

Andrew Little not so much.

He sounds convinced that Labour efforts and successes in the local body elections and the Mt Roskill by-election will translate to the general election next year.

He seems convinced they are getting it right about campaigning on issues ‘that matter to new Zealanders’.

But he is repeatedly asked about Labour’s poor poll results – and he confirms their internal polls is a smidgen better than the recent Colmar Brunton 28% last week – but keeps avoiding that lingering problem.

Little and Labour seem convinced that what they are doing now is the right strategy for the election next year.

Having faith that local political strategies – people tend to vote on local issues in by-elections – will work for them in the big one next year is a big risk.

In the current turbulent political environment world wide anything could happen.

Little is getting more practiced at switching questions to his rehearsed lines. That approach didn’t work for Hillary Clinton in the US. It could work here, but at the moment Little is not working very well.

A good win for Labour but…

Michael Wood and Labour had an emphatic win in the My Roskill by-election, but they still have a lot to do to turn around their Parliamentary performance.

They put in a lot of work and got a result Labour needed – but there was probably little doubt they would win, especially after Greens decided to not stand a candidate to help Labour, and National’s Parmjeet Parmar turned out to be an unimpressive candidate.

Wood has done a lot of groundwork before succeeding in getting in to Parliament, first standing for an electorate in 2002. His record:

  • 2002 stood in Pakuranga
  • 2005 stood in Pakuranga, 58 on the Labour list
    – he got about 9,5000 votes both times against Maurice Williamson
  • 2008 stood on the Labour list only, at 56
  • 2010 elected to the Puketapapa Local Board
  • 2011 stood in Botany by-election, lost to Jamie-Lee Ross
  • 2011 general election on the Labour list only at 32
  • 2014 stood in Epsom, 39 on the Labour list
  • 2016 elected in Mt Roskill by-election

So Wood has been persistent in seeking a seat in Parliament, and has now succeeded. He looks like he could be a good electorate MP. Time will tell how he goes in Parliament.

Wood is 36 so adds a youngish MP to the Labour caucus, replacing 63 year old Goff who was first elected in 1981, a year after Wood was born.

He doesn’t help Labour improve it’s gender balance, and doesn’t improve their ethnic representation, although Wood is now MP for an electorate with the highest number of overseas born residents (probably about half).

This win will gave Labour a boost of confidence after a bad week, with three polls at 23%, 28% and 29%, and a number of pundits writing off Labour’s chances for next year.

However Labour were buoyant after successes in the local body elections and that didn’t translate into better poll results or performance in Parliament.

With the by-election success Labour has something positive to end the year with, but they should do a lot of soul searching over the summer break if they want to look like realistic contenders next year.

This win won’t fix Andrew Little’s deficiencies as Labour leader, nor will it fix Labour’s baffling strategies.

Both Wood and Little will be interviewed on Q & A this morning.

More than a Little Labour problem

Labour has been thrashed this week. First by polls:

  • Colmar Brunton 28%
  • UMR 29%
  • Roy Morgan 23%

UMR is the poll Andrew Little cited as proof that the public polls were wrong.

And political journalists have been scathing. A couple of examples:

Duncan Garner: After nearly 3000 days in opposition Little’s Labour has lost the ‘everyman’

It has been a dreadful end to the year for Andrew Little.

The latest Roy Morgan political poll has Labour at just 23 per cent, which would give the party just 28 MPs in Parliament.

…because Labour already holds 27 electorate seats, high-profile MPs such as Jacinda Ardern and David Parker would be looking for new jobs.

If Labour dropped one more per cent, Labour would not even get Andrew Little into Parliament.

That’s the ultimate embarrassment: when your leader doesn’t make it to Parliament.

This poll should be a major wake-up call, but it won’t be; my sources tell me no-one is planning to roll him over the summer BBQs.

Labour MPs clearly have low expectations in this caucus. They are happy for Little to take this one for the team and start again post-2017 with another duo of dancers.

So what has gone wrong? Shane Jones, Phil Goff, Clayton Cosgrove, Nick Leggett all deserting the Labour ship. Little has publicly slammed ex-Labourites as far right.

The ‘everyman’ has been ditched in favour of this current mob. This is a narrower Labour Party, the so-called broad church has been given its marching orders.

It seems to me that Labour doesn’t want the ‘everyman’ yet it wants his votes. I think Labour has lost the working bloke to NZ First and National.

They no longer identify with Little and his lightweight mob. I asked a press gallery journalist this week what was wrong with Little.

She said Little can’t explain anything, he has no charisma, he’s angry and, finally, he’s not John Key. I would add that Little fumbles and bumbles his way through interviews.

He lacks clarity and throws a few tired slogans at the public, who are likely to have tuned out a long time ago.

That’s how I see Little too. I thought he had promise two years ago, but he has failed to grow into the leadership role.

He is utterly uninspiring to most New Zealanders and the polls clearly show that. Who is he? What does he do in his quiet times? What makes him tick? Is he really as unfriendly and remote as the television suggests.

The answer is no, he’s not, but that’s how he comes across

After almost 3000 days in opposition, Labour looks more clueless now than it did at the beginning of that process. That leaves me to ponder this – are they finished as a major political party?

That’s a question that is coming up more often, a serious questioning of the future of the Labour party.

It is much more than a Little Labour problem. Is there any chance of them turning things around and rescuing the party?

Tracey Watkins: So much for giddy optimism: Labour and Andrew Little can’t bring themselves to speak the language of revolution

Andrew Little’s two-year anniversary in the Labour leadership rolled around in November and the lack of fanfare is a pointer to the quiet desperation in Labour’s ranks.

At a fractious front bench meeting on Monday, Little shouldered responsibility as leader for Labour’s polling slump.

There was lots of finger pointing. But there was also a sense of urgency about breaking the cycle. There was talk about taking risks. Even “breaking the rules” as one insider put it.

It’s not rules they need to break, they need to break out of a shrinking bubble, they need to stop blaming and dissing everyone and everything else for their problems that stretch back nearly a decade.

Little will spend less time in Wellington and more time on the road next year.

It’s been a tradition for years for party leaders to get out of Wellington on Thursdays – Little will extend that even further by spending most of the political week away from Parliament.

Disappearing into the regions could backfire by lowering his profile.

But he will get to shake a lot of hands. And trying to raise his profile hasn’t helped much either.

Labour is trying to shed him of an image as a leader who barks at every passing car.

Little’s big problem is that if he disappears he loses, and if he appears he loses.

It’s not, as some suggest, whether they are too left or too centre or too right.

They have a serious credibility problem. They lack clarity, they dither, most of their MPs seem to be marking time, they lack confidence and belief, they lack purpose.

The caucus looks like it is withering away, and even the promotion and defence of Labour here has become low key and muted.

The leader is a part of this but there is more than a Little Labour problem. But it will require a significant change to leadership to turn things around, someone has to lead change into a positive direction.

Andrew has to rethink his approach and he has to reform his own public persona. He has to start by really believing he can lead change. And then showing it.

And he somehow needs inspire his caucus MPs to lift their game substantially, because at the moment they don’t appear to care about their growing malaise.

Nelson electorate deal denials

Mixed messages over Labour-Green electorate deals or no deals continue, with denials from both Labour and the Greens that there there will be no deal in Nelson.

In the original 1 News report Exclusive: The backroom deals that Labour and the Greens are working on ahead of 2017 election Andrea Vance said:

In Nelson the Greens fell like they can pick up a lot of votes and so they’re in talks with Labour at the moment to stand a Labour candidate aside so that the Greens can have a clear run in that seat in Nelson.

The reason the greens have chosen Nelson is because it’s a classically Green seat. Now they’ll campaign hard in that seat because they’ve been given a chunk of money by an anonymous donor who has specified it must be used in the campaign in Nelson and the West Coast only.

And so Labour found it easy to stand aside because the candidate there would go up against Nick Smith for the electorate vote who’s been there for years and years and years and there’s a strong incumbent.

There is some very specific information there. Someone must have given this to Vance. Metiria Turei and her plans to stand in Te Tai Tonga also featured in that item.

Little responded on 1 News’ Breakfast programme: “This is news to me, we have no agreement on any seat”.

A follow up from 1 News: ‘Bugger that!’ – Labour members leave party over proposed deal with Green Party in Nelson

Eight Labour members have quit the party in protest over a proposed electorate deal with the Greens in Nelson.

One of those who quit said the members had emailed in their resignations – and the reasons – to the party.

“They were eight core people and they’ve walked away. They expected us to help the Greens… we’re not going to work for the Greens, bugger that.”

The ex-member said supporters were unhappy about how they learned about the proposed deal.

“It leaked out at the [annual] conference. One of the candidates was told by Andrew Little… people here are really angry.

But Labour continues to deny any deal in Nelson. Stuff: Labour denies giving Green light for Nelson:

The Labour Party has denied suggestions it is standing aside in Nelson, despite media reports that it is engaging in strategic deals with the Greens ahead of next year’s general election.

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton said despite an agreement between Labour and the Greens to work together to change the Government there was no such plan for Nelson.

“We have a very strong party in Nelson and that won’t change. I’ve been impressed by how our members have remained committed to winning government next year,” he said.

“This is about how to work together under MMP to change the Government and get the economy working for all New Zealanders.”

A “no such plan for Nelson” denial followed by general poliwaffle.

Greens are also now denying a deal has been done.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said no decisions had been made about any electorate seats, including Nelson. He also said was wrong to suggest that there was any connection between this donation and its candidate selection process in Nelson.

“That is patently incorrect … no decision has been made about the Nelson electorate seat, or any others, and no donation, regardless of its size, will have any bearing on our decision-making process.”

The original report didn’t say a deal had been done, just that Greens were ‘in talks with Labour’, albeit implying it looked likely to happen.

And of particular note is that Shaw is doing the backtracking, not Metiria Turei.

This is a real muddle and doesn’t help Labour and Greens look like a cohesive government-in-waiting.

Is Labour a 19% party?

Colmar Brunton’s recent poll had Labour on 28%, and the just released Roy Morgan poll has them on 23%. One is bad, the other is an awful result.

But is it a surprise?

Andrew Little has failed to impress – this interview with RNZ yesterday is unfortunately typical, fumbles and bumbles interspersed with a few tired slogans: Labour warns about rise in borrowings for first homes.

His Speech to the Property Council’s Residential Development Summit didn’t even rate a post at The Standard (someone lamented the lack of media coverage).

Instead attention was on yet another defection from Labour, and all Little could say was, effectively, ‘good riddance’.

Nick Leggett ‘wasn’t true Labour’ – Andrew Little

Labour leader Andrew Little has rubbished former Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett’s chances of winning a seat next year as a National Party candidate.

“I’m not particularly worried – we’ve got a fantastic MP in Mana who’s established himself,” Mr Little told Newshub.

“I said at the time when Nick stood for the Wellington mayoralty that he wasn’t true Labour. He claimed that he was. He wasn’t elected.

“I think that New Zealanders actually see through people who say they are one thing but they’re not, and they get backed by the 1 percent to challenge Labour MPs and Labour candidates. I think people are past that so no, I’m not particularly worried.”

“People who are aligned to the Labour cause actually genuinely take action about improving housing, about lifting incomes, about making sure that schools are properly funded, and our hospitals are properly funded.

“What they don’t do is go around looking for those on the highest incomes to back them – to challenge whoever because that’s all they want. Labour people, passionate Labour in their heart – they stick with Labour, they campaign on Labour issues, and for the Labour Party. Nick’s not one of those people.”

Mr Little says there won’t be any last-minute conversations to try to keep Mr Leggett on.

“I think he’s pretty much said that he’s not interested in Labour. John Key’s calling him, and they’re welcome to that relationship.

What’s notable about Leggett’s defection is someone with obvious political ambition sees no future for himself in the labour party.

‘True Labour’ seems to be a rapidly narrowing (but poorly defined) brand. The only thing that seems to be consistent is spraying those who walk away from the party with bitterness.

Shane Jones. Phil Goff. Clayton Cosgrove. David Cunliffe. Gone or going. There are calls for David Shearer to go as well as he is not seem as ‘true Labour’ by some on the left.

Josie Pagani and Phil Quin are often lambasted for not being ‘Labour’ enough, as are many people who get abused on Twitter, Facebook and The Standard.

And that wasn’t all yesterday. 1 News reported ‘Bugger that!’ – Labour members leave party over proposed deal with Green Party in Nelson

Eight Labour members have quit the party in protest over a proposed electorate deal with the Greens in Nelson.

It includes one supporter who held membership for 30 years and the campaign’s coordinator is also understood to have walked away.

One of those who quit said the members had emailed in their resignations – and the reasons – to the party.

“They were eight core people and they’ve walked away. They expected us to help the Greens… we’re not going to work for the Greens, bugger that.”

The ex-member said supporters were unhappy about how they learned about the proposed deal.

“It leaked out at the [annual] conference. One of the candidates was told by Andrew Little… people here are really angry.

On Tuesday Little virtually denied there was any deal being done with Greens in Nelson after Metiria Turei sprung a surprise by going public and left Little floundering.

Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton said:”We’ve had a couple of resignations but nothing different to the usual flow of members coming and going across the country.”

The ‘usual flow’ seems to be down the twenties. Is Labour heading for 20%? Little and the Labourites who remain seem happy burn off support as they turn the party to ashes.

It looks increasingly like New Zealand will remain dominated by a single party, with a few smaller ones yapping from the sidelines.

What will it take for the penny to drop within Labour? 19%?