Salmond back on Labour staff

Rob Salmond has announced (at Public Address) that he as back as a Labour Party leader’s staffer. David Farrar thinks this will be to utilise his data skills for voter targeting and turnout.

Salmond has been in and out of Labour offices. Back in January 2013 Farrar posted at Kiwiblog:  Salmond rejoins the Labour Leader’s Office

on his website discloses:

I am a native-born New Zealander, and also hold US citizenship. I work as Political Director in the Office of the New Zealand Party Leader, a position I have held since early 2013.

I have been a member of the labour party since 1998, and have worked on various partisan and independent campaigns for left-leaning government in New Zealand since 1996.

Earlier New Zealand-based work included positions in the Office of the Prime Minister (2007) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1998-2001).

It’s fascinating that Rob has moved back to New Zealand to take up this role. A very smart appointment by Robertson and Cameron as I rate Rob’s political and data skills very highly. I expect to see his presence lead to significant changes in Labour’s political operations.

A month before the 2014 election Stuff reported:

Labour leader tried to score a point over John Key yesterday by saying he rarely talks to bloggers, but that seems a stretch.

One of his closest advisers (priming him for the televised debates) is Polity blogger Rob Salmond.

Labour’s vote dropped to 25% in that election, so any changes introduced and advice given by Salmond didn’t help.

Yesterday Salmond announced at Public Address where he had been blogging:

Catch you later

This is my last PA post for a while, as I’ve recently taken on a staff role as Deputy Chief of Staff in Andrew Little’s office

Today Farrar commented on this in Back to the mothership:

Rob specialises in data and politics. I suspect this means Labour will be focusing much more on voter targeting and turnout.

However as we saw with the US election all the data in the world won’t get the wrong candidate elected.

Salmond must think he’s backing the right candidate this time.

He and Labour seem confident that their mayoral campaigning – see Salmonds previous post Four thoughts on polling in Wellington’s mayoral election – had the right formulae.

A key question though – is Andrew Little electable? Perhaps. He shares something in common with someone else’s campaign. Donald Trump had never previously won an election.

Brexit effects and boring punditry

‘Boring punditry’ as Rob Salmond posts his Four cents on Brexit, Fonterra, and New Zealand at Public Address:

There also may, or may not, also be political lessons to be learned from Brexit.

For example, some in New Zealand think the no confidence motion in UK Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn shows how out of touch [the Labour caucus OR Jeremy Corbyn] is with the real needs of [UK Labour AND/OR the UK public].

They believe this regrettable trait is shared by New Zealand Labour’s [MPs OR activists], and that the relevant New Zealand folk should follow Corbyn’s lead by [standing tough OR sodding off] in advance of the next election.

Without passing overall judgement on either argument, I think it is far too early to come to these kinds of conclusions.

That’s partly because it’s a bit tough to see all the ins and outs of supporting cast in the Brexit campaign from here, and partly because the situation facing UK parties in this historically unusual circumstance isn’t directly analogous to the comparatively run-of-the-mill politics going on here. Yes, that’s boring punditry, but sometimes boring is the right thing to do.

I don’t think this is boring punditry. It’s refreshing to see a sane and realistic political voice on Brexit effects.

I agree that it’s (probably) far too early to jump to conclusions about what Brexit means for new Zealand politics.

Our political and social situation is much different to the UK.

We have fairly open borders with Australia, but that probably benefits New Zealanders more than anything.

This is a lot different to open borders between 28 widely diverse countries of over 500 million people.

While there are some similarities between Labour leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Andrew Little – they were both chosen by new party vote systems as leaders despite meagre support from within their caucuses – Corbyn’s elevation was a shock and has always looked shaky, while there is no likely challenge to Little before the next election.

And New Zealand is not facing a major change in international relationships and an unexpected and imminent election.

Salmond’s calm and patient approach is sound.

National custard and Labour jelly

The National led Government may be showing signs of turning to custard but who wants warmed up Labour jelly?

Rob Salmond posted about a dire time for the Government at Public Address.

Custard

These last few weeks have been dire for the government, across housing, crime, employment, and caring for kids. Yes, I’m biased, but I haven’t seen National have this bad of a stretch for a long while.

kxkwlbq5

He details a number of things that have been going wrong for National – fair enough – and concludes:

This whole period has been very messy, possibly worse than they’ve had. And at the moment it’s not easy to see where the next big win for National is coming from, unless they massively reverse course on a house building programme, something 75% of the public wants but the government has spent years saying is insane.

There’s an old idea in politics that people aren’t willing to consider switching teams until they get sick of the incumbent, in just the same way most people don’t buy a new car until the old one starts giving them problems.

The last three weeks show a government car that’s starting to cough and splutter, spewing out noxious gas but not going anywhere fast.

The next fifteen months are going to be fascinating.

The Government car has certainly looked more dented recently. But Labourites have been predicting that the Key wheels are about to fall off for years.

It seems to have been Labour’s main strategy – wait until it’s their turn.

So the Government has looked a bit like lumpy custard lately – but tellingly on a Labour leaning blog the comments quickly turned to the lack of solidity in the presumptive alternative, Labour.

Tristan:

Trouble is Labour for what ever reason as still so unlikeable I wonder how much difference it will make.

izogi:

What am I supposed to think after reading this? If the point is meant to be that a Labour-led alternative would be better, then I wish there were more in here about what Labour would be doing, why Labour’s people are superior, would make highly competent and better Ministers who are less prone to screwing up, and how it’d overall be better.

Otherwise it’s just asking people to vote for the least worst instead of the best.

Joe Wylie:

It’s like we’ve internalized the right wing talking points.

When Rob Salmond offers nothing beyond passively spectating while National deliver a series of own goals, yes, you could be forgiven for thinking that.

Alfie:

Meanwhile Labour is still shooting itself in the foot with unwanted headlines like Andrew Little: ‘I was wrong’.

Labour still looks too wobbly to look like a credible alternative.

Salmond tries to defend his post and strategy:

I agree that there’s a two-fold challenge for parties of the left – to show their promise as well as the incumbent’s shortcomings – and they need to meet both challenges to win the right to govern. Commenters are entirely right about that.

The only thing I’d say is that not every blog post is about every aspect of politics.

Put another way, a *blog post* that concentrates solely on National’s shortcomings does not mean the left’s *electoral strategy* is to concentrate solely on shortcomings. There are many other blog posts and other media that do different things to this post. Indeed, in many other forums Labour and the Greens are already rolling out their positive vision for New Zealand, promoting alternative policies on housing, jobs, kids, and so on. It’s the combination of all of those posts that make up the strategy, not this post alone.

Salmond admits that his post is a party of ‘the strategy’.

There is not much sign of Labour “rolling out their positive vision for New Zealand”, and even those who would like a decent alternative to vote for are not seeing it.

Labour is currently better known for ruling out policy positions and having a jelly-like policy strategy.

And Labour and Andrew Little have become likened to ‘barking at every passing car’ – which is what Salmond’s post appears to be encapsulating.

That’s the vision we feel New Zealanders will warm to come election day, and that people will go the booth next year voting for a great progressive vision as well as to get rid of the current crowd.

3077273018_45b36b4421

There you have Labour on a plate. Warmed up jelly is not very appealing to voters.

When will we see a substantial main course on offer?

MoU a poll punt?

Labour and Greens have described their Memorandum of Understanding as being a game changer, but is it more of a punt on being a poll changer?

Labour has been fading in party polls for years, and it’s party vote has been sliding for five successive elections:

  • 2002: 41.26%
  • 2005: 39.10%
  • 2008: 33.99%
  • 2011: 27.28%
  • 2014: 25.13%

Greens rose as Labour fell, but seem to have levelled off – they seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

 

  • 2002: 7.00%
  • 2005: 4.66%
  • 2008: 6.72%
  • 2011: 11.06%
  • 2014: 10.70%

 

In the MoU launch yesterday Metiria talked about it being positive for polling, and that was repeated by James Shaw on Breakfast this morning: “when Labour and Greens cooperate both of our polls go up”.

Launching the symbolic MoU this far out from an election seems aimed, initially at least, at pushing their polls up.

This is also the line Labour staffer/consultant Rob Salmond is spinning too, in a post at Public Address – Labour and the Greens in a tree…

At present, the right is polling around 48%, the left around 40%, and New Zealand First has around 10%. Since the last election the left is rising while the right is falling. We’re right at the bottom of the range where the right can be re-elected on its own. With any further poll movement over the next 15 months, it will be not be clear on election night 2017 who the Prime Minister will be. 

The progressive left is now back in the game.

That makes it the right time for the left to cooperate, with the aim of consolidating the current positive trend and making the opinion change faster.

Like the Green leaders Salmond thinks that the symbol of cooperation will push this trend.

There’s a stream of academic research about this, most prominent in Sona Golder’s (2006) book The Logic of Pre-Electoral Coalition Formation. That research provides evidence that parties who cooperate before an election, rather than campaign completely independently, ultimately are more likely to win government. That’s a pretty good reason to formalize things.

Except that we are not heading into an election campaign, that’s a year away. Is there any research on mid-term cooperation?

…the academic research suggests moves to provide voters with more certainty and more unity in a potential governing coalition tends to get rewarded at the polls.

Labour have tried several political moves already this year to try and turn around their polling. Without any obvious effect.

So they appear to be trying a different stunt at an unusual time of the electoral cycle.

Sometimes, and most strongly, that’s a pre-electoral coalition.

But an MOU achieves at least some of the same goals  as a coalition agreement, and so we’d expect at least some of the same electoral rewards.

Labour seem to be punting on a less strong MoU that is not pre-electoral “so we’d expect at least some of the same electoral rewards”.

This seems to be quite a gamble. Izogi at Public Address points out:

Trying to extrapolate the future based on a chart like this, which shows the declared effect happening once before, is dodgy at best.

Salmond has tripped over his data analysis and political strategy before.

If this doesn’t improve the polls for both Labour and the Greens what then?

What if the polls deteriorate further? Ditch the MoU and try something else? Ripping up the agreement will be easy, but it will be a lot more difficult undoing the symbolism of a Labour-Green combo.

It will take several months to see what effect the MoU has on the polls (complicated by other factors that could affect polls).

The Greens have long wanted stronger more open cooperation between themselves and Labour, but until now Labour have not been willing.

Labour needs their polls to improve. Andrew Little needs his polls to improve. Otherwise they will be increasingly written off as a credible major party – the MoU is already seen as an admission by Labour that they are now one of several lesser parties.

Greens can probably survive unscathed if this doesn’t work. But it looks to be a big throw of the dice for Labour, and a play that now used can’t be used again in the actual election campaign next year.

The MoU looks like a big punt on the polls for Labour.

More UBI discussion

Labour have succeeded with one thing – getting some discussion going on a Universal Basic Income.

Gareth Morgan has been promoting his interest at the Morgan Foundation blog:

Scott Yorke (I think still an active Labour supporter) posted The terrifying cost of Labour’s UBI at Imperator Fish.

This has been reposted at The Standard – Imperator Fish: The terrifying cost of Labour’s UBI – where there is a good comment thread with a lot of discussion on numbers.

And Rob Salmond continues his spat with Matthew Hooton on behalf of Labour with a post at Public Address – Eleventy billion dollars!

In this morning’s National Business Review (paywalled), Matthew Hooton estimates Labour’s Universal Basic Income Policy could cost up to $86 billion.

This is the latest in a series of escalatingly absurdist claims about the UBI, starting with David Farrar’s $38 billion, John Key’s $76 billion, and Stephen Joyce’s 80% tax rates.

By next week, I expect Cam Slater to estimate the UBI costs $240 billion, New Zealand’s entire GDP.

Salmond goes on the critique Hooton’s numbers, then concludes:

Instead, all these insane figures are part of a deliberate, coordinated strategy of scaremongering, coming from many of the usual Dirty Politics suspects, aimed at shutting down an important policy debate just as it’s getting started.

But I think the media and the public are smarter than this crowd give them credit for. They can see this con-job a mile off.

So the Labour strategy seems to be to create a fuss and complain about all the discussion they have generated.

Hooton makes this point in response:

Labour still has quite a few MPs in parliament. I would have thought if Labour wants a public discussion on a UBI those MPs should be getting involved, rather than putting a staffer up on Public Address to rebut a column in the NBR. But far be it for me to give Labour political advice.

Labour seem to have an aversion to sensible advice.

Hooton defends and explains some of his numbers.

Just a few brief(ish) points.

1) For those with a subscription or working for someone who has one (and I think students at some universities), the actual column is here:http://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/ubi-just-cynical-ploy-increase-welfare-and-tax-mh

2) The column makes clear at the outset this is an idea not policy. The word policy appears only once, and in the sentence: “It’s difficult to think of a policy proposal with more going for it.” I don’t know why Rob claims I said it was Labour Party policy. The column also makes clear I support a UBI in principle and I outline the key policy benefits, especially around EMTRs, administrative savings and reducing indignity for beneficiaries. I mention the huge amount of work that Lockwood Smith did in opposition in the 2000s trying to make something like a UBI work. (In fact, and I don’t mention this, I first encouraged him to do so when he became National revenue spokesman after the 2005 election).

3) The $86 billion gross cost assumes:
(i) a UBI is indeed “universal” in that:
(ii) everyone gets it from aged 18 until they die;
(iii) there is a top up for children under 18 as with the current Jobseekers’ Allowance and Working for Families;
(iv) it is enough to survive on, and
(v) there are no financial losers among existing beneficiaries.

4) Rob acknowledges I discussed the potential $25 billion saving if the full $86 billion model was implemented. He seems to have missed the bit when I said tax changes would be needed to bridge whatever difference remains, specifically “higher income and company taxes, new taxes on carbon and capital gains, and a tougher IRD.” Is there anyone who thinks a UBI can be implemented without those things?

5) I criticise Andrew Little’s “little helpers” for calling people liars for trying to put some numbers around a UBI. Labour has called for a discussion and public debate on its idea.

6) It is perfectly OK for Labour (or its paid proxies) to say that the $86 billion gross cost is too high. But then they need to say which of the assumptions in 3 above should be relaxed. If they won’t relax any of those assumptions, then $86 billion gross is a fair estimate of what the policy would cost.

7) If a party wants to have a public debate on a major policy idea, that is great, but how can people debate an idea if they are told they are liars for considering the fiscal side? For example, if a UBI of the type I describe in 3 above could be implemented at a cost requiring tax increases of only $10 billion I would be all for it. Who wouldn’t be? But how can anyone even begin to consider the matter without some parameters, including fiscal parameters? To initiate a discussion without providing some information on the fiscal implications is entirely disingenuous. It would be like National saying “we’re thinking of $100 a week tax cuts for everyone”, refusing to give further information and then calling people liars if they tried to work out what that might cost.

Let the discussion continue – thanks to Labour initiating the UBI debate, but no thanks to how they have conducted themselves in discussions.

Sock puppetry, shilling and lying

There were some prominent accusations of political sock puppetry yesterday.

Mickysavage at The Standard: The sock puppets, the media and the UBI

And now for the second “contribution”, this one from the sockpuppets at the Taxpayers Union.  I think a few lefties should sit down and design a similar sock puppet organization and see if it can attract similar media atteniton.  I suspect that North Korea is looking our way to see how it is done properly, such is the TU’s ability to get media coverage.

The level of hypocrisy here is really high….

Why the media even tolerate these clowns is beyond me.

NBR sparked a major spat on Twitter with a head to head interview of Matthew Hooton and Rob Salmond.

Head to head: Hooton & Salmond
on accusations of shilling and lying

After quibbling about what Andrew Little actually said about tgreats against Paul Bennett and implications about Matthew Hooton:

Hooton: …and then of course for some reason he brings highly paid PR operatives into it and when he’s asked what he means by that he says me…

Little didn’t bring Hooton into it, he didn’t rule Hooton out when asked about him.

Salmond: Again that’s not true, you’re just making it up again Matthew.

Hooton: No, he was asked, Rob, you need just to, I know you’re being paid for this interview by the Labour Party, but you need to take into account …

NBR: All right Rob, are you being paid?

Salmond: Of course I’m being paid, I’m you know so’s Matthew being paid…

Hooton: No, so I’m losing money from being here Rob because I don’t, I’m not a paid shill. You are a paid shill. You go on the media, and you are paid to run lines on blogs, and in the media, on behalf of the people who are paying you money. I’m not.

Salmond openly posts at Public Address, his last post was prior to and related to the Standard post: The Taxpayers’ Union rides again!

Salmond: Matthew you’re in the PR industry aren’t you, is this true? I’ve heard rumours you’re in the PR industry…

Hooton: Yeah that’s right.

It’s well known that Hooton runs a PR company: Exeltium “is is New Zealand’s most successful corporate and public affairs consultancy”.

Salmond: You’re in the PR industry, isn’t that exactly how the PR industry works? So that’s really you isn’t it?

Hooton: I also have a hobby called political commentary, and one of the things which I think the Labour party fails to understand, because you come from more of a command and control culture, is that some people just do have political views and wish to talk about politics and some people find that interesting. And they don’t have a financial in it. They don’t get paid by a political party the way you are. The only political party in recent times i think that’s paid me is the Mongolian Green Party, and I think I got a speaking fee from the Conservatives, whereas you are paid by Andrew Little’s Labour Party.

Salmond: Yes I am and I’ve never hidden that fact from anybody.

Hooton: But you’re accusing me, and Andrew Little does this regularly, and many of your friends on the left wing blog, accuse others of taking money. But the irony is it’s you that takes the money.

Salmond: Well I think you know, I’m not sure if you’ve got the Alanis Morrisette irony disease there, I don’t think there’s anything ironic about that…as you heard earlier in this interview what I’m accusing Matthew of isn’t of being paid by anybody, those words never crossed my lips…

Not those words but strongly implied at least in the above transcript.

Salmond: I’m accusing him of being an incompetent commentator, now he says he’s just a hobby commentator, and maybe that’s showing…

Now that’s ironic. Salmond was prominent in Labour’s embarrassing Chinese sounding surname debacle, and he continues to show that he’s out of his depth as a party paid political commentator.

This is only half way through the NBR interview, I’ll transcribe more when I get the time.

But after this, yesterday morning, Salmond and Hooton continued a slanging match on Twitter. See:

This included:

2004! Wow. Time to stop hyperventilating. Can someone take a paper bag? , you nearby?

Not a good look for Salmond, nor for Labour.

If Andrew Little wants to turn his leadership around he needs better PR advice and much better shilling.

Danyl reacted to this with a disclosure at Dim-Post:

Voluminous disclosure

Rob Salmond and Matthew Hooton had a discussion about commentators and ‘paid political operators’ and conflicts of interest, which seems like a good time to disclose that I’ve recently done a bit of paid contract work for the Green Party (research, writing). Also, and possibly more significantly, as of last week I’m a member of the Greens’ Campaign Committee, which is tasked with planning and implementing the party’s 2017 election campaign. So I will not be a totally disinterested commentator when analysing the upcoming campaign or politics in general.

I don’t really do any of the mainstream media political commentary that Hooton and Salmond do. And no one in the Greens asks me to write or say certain things on the blog. (They have, in the past, but the requests were so lame I did not comply.) I find that my bias is mostly one of omission. I get confused about what I know that is and isn’t confidential, so I basically mostly say nothing about the Greens so I don’t get in trouble. If the party somehow becomes so newsworthy that I have to write about them, and I have to check what I’m writing with the staff or leaders I’ll make sure I disclose that. Otherwise they’ve got nothing to do with any of my pontificating.

He has disclosed connections to the Greens and in particular to James Shaw before but this takes his party association to another level.

This means that most of New Zealand’s biggest political blogs have party connections:

  • Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) has National Party links and is paid by some MPs and national and local body candidates to promote their interests and attack opponents.
  • David Farrar (Kiwiblog) has long had close connections to National and is John Key’s pollster.
  • Public Address – Russell Brown is closely aligned with Labour and Rob Salmond is paid by Labour.
  • The Daily Blog – Martyn Bradbury has been paid by the Mana Party and implied he was paid by Dotcom’s Internet party.
  • The Standard has had and still has authors with close connections to the Labour Party and to a lesser extent to the Greens.
  • Danyl/The Dim-Post is now on the Green’s campaign committee

Matthew Hooton floats around commenting wherever he can on radio, on TV, in print media and he pops up on various online forums – he often pops up at The Standard and elsewhere. He denies any party funding for his activities, so (not disclosed in the NBR interview) he was a keynote speaker at the recent ACT annual conference.

Most people with the commitment to comment online have (or have had in Hooton’s case) party involvement.

Disclosure: I have never received any money for any content here at Your NZ, and everything posted under my name has been written by me unless shown as a quote. I have no involvement or connection with any political party or politician, nor with any media organisation. Your NZ is financially and politically independent.

Late Labour unspinning

Again Labour have launched policy proposals without any apparent plan to manage the publicity nor the reaction.

The Universal Basic Income idea is worth discussing (this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth implementing) but Labour seemed to quickly lose control of the narrative, with focus on the Gareth Morgan suggested $211 per week level of payment and the overall potential cost.

A couple of days ago:

Mar 21
Who is in charge of strategy?
Mar 21

Apparently Rob Salmond, mostly. Matt McCarten is said to have little influence these days.

It was Salmond who popped up yesterday to try to put out UBI fires and to complain about the media not doing Labour’s job, with Home-spun non-truths at Public Address.

Versus David Farrar who was quick off the mark for National:

Enter David Farrar. Yesterday he decided he can put a cost figure on this policy, despite nobody having said what the policy is. Here’s his headline:

Labour’s $38 billion bribe!

Ohmigod! $38 billion! That headline sounds massively expensive. But it’s also utterly, hopelessly dishonest.

Versus NBR:

Somehow the editorial staff at the NBR missed this obvious dishonesty, and reposted Farrar’s article on its website, screaming headline and all. That’s shoddy journalism.

 Versus Tracey Watkins:

So what happens when one of these not-true-home-truths becomes ingrained? Well, a small corner of Tracy Watkins’ weekend column provides a clue. In this post I’m not taking any particular issue with Tracy’s assessment of Labour’s performance last week – certainly it was a tricky wee period. I’m taking issue an important, but false, asserted fact:

“Labour used to have a stranglehold on the ethnic vote. No more. “

 Salmond closed his post:

I’ve learned to expect this kind of manufactured-made-up-trope from David Farrar and Cam Slater and other tools of National’s publicity machine. But it shouldn’t take someone like me to point out when its been making it up. That’s the fourth estate’s job, too, yeah?

Is it the fourth estate’s responsibility to manage Labour’s PR?

Surely it’s up to Labour to at least manage the launch of a major policy discussion and have prepared and prompt reactions. Labour’s PR machine should have been all over MSM and social media if they wanted to have some control of the narrative.

It should have been very predictable that the potential cost of a UBI would become a major talking point and target of attack.

Complaining about the media a day or two after initiating a major discussion is not good party communications.

Is Salmond in charge of strategy? Or does he step in because no one else is managing things competently?

And where does Little fit in to this? Is he being pulled in different directions? Or is he leaving communications to his team and being let down?

Little appears to be struggling and so does Labour.

One thing’s for sure, Farrar and the media won’t do their job for them.

Coming in late trying to unspin predictable reactions is not a smart strategy.

Polity polls and pondering

Rob Salmond, Labour Party consultant now an author at Public Address, has posted on recent polls – Poll Soup. He complains about poor analysis of recent polls by media, so I’m complaining about his poll analysis.

At the outset, let me say this is not a post that says the polls are wrong, nor that the left are where they want to be.

But the analysis of the polls this week has been poor.

Primarily, there’s been the claim that National’s high 40s ratings show the TPP protests and/or Labour’s tertiary policy launch have had no impact. That claim is wrong, both because an overall poll rating doesn’t say anything in particular about single events, and more importantly because the government has actually lost almost 2% support over the summer break. Here’s the evidence:

There were four public polls in November / December  2015 – two from Roy Morgan, and one each from TV3 and the New Zealand Herald. Across those four polls, National’s average was 49%.

There have been three polls so far this year – two from Roy Morgan and one from TVNZ. Across those three polls, National’s average was 47.5%, 1.5% below its average from November-December.

Over the same period, the government as a whole (National + Maori Party + ACT + UF) is down an average of 1.8%.

So the claim of “no movement” is a stretch.

TNZV made that claim by comparing their poll in February with one in October, some four months ago. There’s been a lot of events over those four months, not just the TPP and Labour’s policy launch, including a bunch of more recent polls to compare against.

Comparing 3 polls at the quietest time of the political year with 4 polls at the second quietest time of the political year is a fairly narrow analysis, especially when one of the polls in December could easily be a high outlier.

Looking at the trends of a single pollster, Roy Morgan…

…it shows National rising slightly. Salmond notes:

For completeness, the latest Roy Morgan poll does in fact show National up slightly from January to now. But I’d hardly be the first to note the jumpiness of that particular poll from one polling window to the next. I always prefer more evidence than that.

More evidence, the last five Roy Morgan results for National: 49, 49, 47, 48, 48.5

Not much jumpiness there, especially taking into account a margin of error of about 3.2%.

I deliberately left out the previous three Roy Morgan results: 43, 50.5, 44.5

That’s quite ‘jumpy’ – if you choose your range you can just about support whatever contention you like.

The ‘jumpiest’ result in the ranges Salmond used happens to be Herald-Digipoll in December of 51.3%, which in a four result sample (the others were 46.7, 49, 47) can make quite a difference.

Here’s another way of cherry picking poll results:

  • Last 5 results: 51.3, 47, 47, 47, 48.5 = 48.16 average
  • Previous 5 results: 50, 47, 49, 46.7, 49 = 48.34 average

Statistically there’s nothing in that comparison.

Then Salmond looks at future prospects of left (Labour+Greens) versus right (National).

National, of course, remains in the box seat. Along with its solid hangers-on (ACT, UF), it sits in the high 40s. Solid supporters of an alternative government (Labour + Greens) sit a little above 40%, and the swinging centre is climbing towards 10%.

If the election were held today, I’ve little doubt National would be returned even though – as noted on One News – Labour + Greens + NZF would be very nearly able to form a government if they wished. On today’s numbers, I think Winston would choose Key if offered the choice.

To be seriously in the game, the putative left coalition needs to at least tie National at election time. Obviously, having the combined left beat National is better again, and the higher the margin the better. But at a minimum, a tie’s required.

That means the left needs to shift around 4% of the population from supporting the status quo to supporting change.

National -4 and Labour/Green +4 is a shift of 8%. It’s certainly doable.

It’s interesting that Salmond is suggesting that “to be seriously in the game” Labour+Greens needs to at least tie with National, otherwise he thinks NZ First would go with National (that’s uncertain).

So their target is about 45%, which could be Labour 33 + Greens 12, or Labour 35 + Greens 10.

But that would still need NZ First to make up the numbers.

Would Winston think that National 45 versus Labour 35, or National 45 versus Labour Green 45? It’s hard to see Labour being level with National on their own.

NZ First are polling relatively high for them between elections, in the range 5.5-10 since the 2014 election. They normally better their polling in elections.

What if NZ First get 10% and Greens 8%?

There are many interesting possibilities. And don’t forget the final numbers, which could be ACT, Maori Party and Dunne if he doesn’t retire. They could still make the difference, as they have for the past two elections.

There’s some interesting discussion in Poll Soup, especially on the ‘missing million’ that some on the left still think is their holy grail.

Salmond/Labour view on adding Red Peak

In his weekly media conference yesterday John Key intimated he might consider adding the red Peak flag to the final four designs, providing he gets cross party support (excluding anti-flag change NZ First).

He said it would require Labour to back adding red Peak and to also back the flag consideration process – while flag change has been Labour policy they have been opposing flag change under key.

Labour insider Rob Salmond was quick to reveal his (at least) views on this development on Twitter. It’s reasonable to presume he might have had some communication in Andrew Little’s office.

So every other party – excluding NZ First – need to commit to supporting Red Peak & flag process of law is to be changed.

Bullshit. Key’s got a majority. He can change the law to put in Red Peak all by himself. The buck stops with him.

When was 59 seats out of 121 a majority?

 You’ve got poodles.

Both of them have been pretty yappy and bitey this year 🙂

Clearly Salmond had no interest on compromising to allow Red Peak to be added. To him it was very political.

Waiting on an official Red Peak line from Labour. Andrew Little’s previously said he’s a fan and would vote if it were an option in 1st ref

National can engineer the law change without Labour. They’re the government and all. This is buck-passing, plain and simple.

BUT you guys might accuse him of wasting parliament’s time, is his point. I think.

Well our accusations have never stopped Key wasting Parliament’s time before…

No interest in cross party support.

So if Labour and Greens agree to a law change, Red Peak will be a 5th option in the 1st referendum.

What kind a majority are you looking for here? Nat + ACT + Dunne can do this all by yourselves. So clean up your own mess!

Labour have been active contributors to messing up the flag process so it’s not surprising to see an unwillingness to help tidy it up.

Labour blocks Red Peak inclusion.

Also, I understand Labour’s made a counter-offer – give voters the same options they had in MMP referendum, and is in.

Andrea Vance retweeted Brook Sabin

Right. Labour says no. Now, can we just move the f*** on?

Labour hasn’t said no. I understand Little made a counter-offer.

A counter offer that is effectively a refusal. Labour insisted on not just adding Red Peak but also changing the whole structure of the referendum process despite official recommendations for the existing process that were voted on and accepted by Parliament.

Y’all just missed a golden opportunity to not be dicks

No, they didn’t. They’re trying to give voters the option to say “stop wasting our money” if that’s their wish.

o, the PM just opened up a great big political trap and Labour fell into it. this is so pointless!

PM doesn’t need Labour to do it … which is what Labour shoulda said. instead of this stupidity.

That’s not going to happen tho, all you’ve done is piss off Red Peak people & given Key something else to slap you with.

Yesterday we heard “wasn’t going to happen.” Let’s see how strong Key’s resolve is to deny NZers choice.

Or how determined Labour are to deny New Zealanders choice. It appears that Salmond and Labour rushed their reaction without thinking things through.

But it’s not his resolve. He’s said ok. It’s Labour’s resolve to deny people the choice being tested now

DUDE. It’s you guys that are the road block now. You said NO right off the bat. He will laugh at you.

No. Labour wants NZers to also have a choice, like they had in ’92, to call it off at stage 1 if they want.

And then change the thing to add in red peak and slap you with that too. How many times do you wanna lose?

Labour die NOT say no. Labour said “Yes, if…”

our “Yes, if…” is everyone else’s “No, but…”.

Labour is effectively saying no, and Salmond knows that.

In contrast James Shaw said he liked the idea of adding Red Peak but would need to consult with the Green caucus.

So everyone is now just playing politics with the flag. For a referendum no one cared about, it’s now getting a lot of heat.

Labour isn’t playing politics. It’s just trying to get voters the choice to call the whole thing off if they want.

That appears to be Labour’s aim, to call the whole thing off. While they have supported flag change in their policy they don’t want it happening under Key’s watch.

There’s a lot of Red Peak supporters. Salmond (and Labour) seems to have misjudged how they will view Labours continued spoiling tactics.

Andrew Little has just spoken about this on TVNZ Breakfast and reiterated Labour’s stance, they will only agree to add Red Peak if the whole referendum structure is changed (which will reduce the chances of flag change).

If Labour successfully sabotage this flag consideration process there is no way we will get another chance to consider flag change at least while Little is leader. It will likely be decades before it will be offered as a choice again.

This has wider implications.

If our politicians and parties can’t work together on something as straight forward as considering flag change without making it a political shit fight (and John Key must take some responsibility for that too) then the chances of looking at flag change again in the foreseeable future looks bleak.

And the chances of doing things far more contentions and complex, like considering ditching the Monarchy or working on a Constitution, would be a waste of time.

Labour pessimism versus optimism

There’s been contrasting columns at the herald over the past two days.

On Tuesday there was Phil Quin: Labour’s pessimism ploy. (Quin resigned from Labour when the Chinese surname data was promoted).

Despite a considerable souring of economic sentiment, Labour, under Andrew Little, has barely moved in the polls since last year’s historic drubbing. His personal popularity lags behind predecessors David Cunliffe and David Shearer – and Little is more than 20 points adrift of where John Key stood at a comparable juncture in Helen Clark’s third term.

Little is no ideologue; nor does he play one for the cameras like Cunliffe. Instead, his animating worldview is one of pessimism. He is gambling that voters are change-averse, grumpy and fearful of the future.

Quin detailed:

  • The CGT reversal was just the first of numerous maneuvers that reflect this downbeat assessment of the public mood.
  • On the TPPA, Little’s Labour has adopted an unapologetically protectionist stance. It is no small matter for Labour to abandon decades of enthusiastic support for trade liberalisation, long seen by politicians across the spectrum as a key to New Zealand’s current and future prosperity.
  • Labour’s release of leaked Auckland housing data in order to highlight the prevalence of Chinese-sounding surnames is perhaps the singular event of Andrew Little’s tenure to date (full disclosure: I resigned from the party over the issue). It was an audacious and high-risk gambit. Little himself conceded he knew it would attract accusations of racism – but public polls suggest it has fallen well short of being the game-changer Labour had hoped.
  • Perhaps nothing showcases Labour’s defensive crouch better than its decision to oppose the referendum on the New Zealand flag. Labour’s historic mission is to forge a proudly independent national identity for New Zealand. It’s depressing to see Labour cede this turf to John Key for negligible political gain.
  • Labour is mining economic anxiety for the prospect of electoral gain and, in the process, usurping National’s historic role of defending, by any means necessary, what constitutes the status quo.
  • By playing up fears about the perils of globalisation or an impending Chinese invasion, Labour will encounter furious and vocal agreement. This shouldn’t be mistaken for a groundswell. Voters don’t reward parties who merely echo and reinforce feelings of despondency without offering real solutions.

Quin concludes:

Labour, in particular, thrives when it approaches the future with gusto, not trepidation. Merchants of doom and gloom might fill the airwaves, but they rarely win elections.

Yesterday Rob Salmond promoted an alternate view in Rob Salmond: The true state of Labour.  Salmond is stated as a communications and analytics consultant, whose clients include Andrew Little.

Is the Labour Party pessimistic, or optimistic? Does it oppose change or embrace it? Is the movement marching forward or standing still? Answering these questions is important, because it helps us understand the engine room of the next government.

It depends on whether you see things from where Labour is trying to present itself from it’s communications team or how the puiblic generally sees Labour. The Standard has hardly looked optimistic about Labour’s chances for a long time, it doesn’t represent all of Labour’s emotions but it’s a significant view on the thoughts of the activist Labour left.

Take home ownership, the political hot-topic of the year. Labour leader Andrew Little thinks home ownership rates really can go up again in Auckland, and across New Zealand. I’d call that optimism rather than pessimism. To get there, Labour’s proposing big changes, for example a large-scale, government-led programme of house building, or big changes to our investment rules.

Labour have succeeded in highlighting Auckland’s housing issues but this has drawn attention to the problems with escalating values rather than promoting a difference under a future Labour Government.

The plight of regional New Zealand’s another example. Little reckons our heartland towns really can get out of their current funk, and become potent economic forces again. For me, that sounds like more optimism. Labour’s ideas for achieving that include major capital expenditure on rail links and ports. Doing that might also help New Zealand’s economy diversify, becoming less dependent on dairy as new industries grow.

Except that many regions aren’t in a ‘current funk’. Tourism, apples, wine, avocados, meat etc are doing better than ever. There are labour shortages in some areas.

This is where Labour is failing – they have been talking down the regions, talking down the economy, talking down the TPP. Tacking an ‘optimistic hope Labour can do better’ doesn’t negate the negativeness.

Once you look at real examples of Labour’s contribution to the public debate, it’s hard to see where the pessimism argument is coming from.

No it’s not hard to see pessimism.

Quin does, correctly, that Little’s decision not to pursue a Capital Gains Tax was motivated by electoral pragmatism. He also notes, also correctly, that Labour’s position on the TPPA is a skeptical “wait and see” at the moment, not a definitive yes or no.

These are certainly shades-of-grey positions, the signpost of a party cognizant of both its principled starting point and the limits of what the public actually wants. Serious political parties always care about both these things. But those premises don’t lead to Quin’s pessimistic, fearful conclusion.

These premises are meaningless waffle to most people.

Many commentators have noted Labour’s caucus is more united, more disciplined, than it has been since Helen Clark. For the first time in around six years, the leadership murmors have disappeared

“Many commentators”?

Recent Labour related news has featured:

On polls:

Quin says Labour “has barely moved in the polls since last year’s historic drubbing.” Labour got 25 per cent in last year’s election. Less than a year later, four of the five latest polls have Labour above 30 per cent. An increase of more than five points inside a year, with the Greens’ vote steady or slowly increasing as well, isn’t “barely moved.” It’s “solid early progress.”

It’s more like tenuous recovery from an embarrassingly low election result. It was thought that Salmond’s Chinese surname data waw an attempt to get a populist poll boost but it barely had any affect ap;art from annoying a lot of people on the left.

It’s a communication consultant’s job to talk up optimism.

That doesn’t mean the public see optimism or are optimistic about Labour’s next election chances.

Labour are still requiring the support of both the Greens and NZ Fiirst to look like they are able to form a Government.

Can Salmond sound optimistic about that?

Winston Peters looks more optimisitic about his chances of being the next Prime Minister than Andrew Little.

To actually look optimistic (rather than say you are optimisitic) voters need to see a Government in waiting that they think is viable and manageable.

I think Mr Salmond has a bit more work to do yet.