Mixed Messages: Now is the time for every electorate-focused Labour candidate to come to the aid of the Party Vote!
LABOUR HQ needs to upgrade its intelligence. Because out there in the streets there are a host of disturbing signs – most of them their own!
Sure, the sudden departure of Andrew Little left Labour’s messaging in a state of considerable confusion. Inevitably, the production and distribution of new campaign material – especially hoardings – was not something that could be accomplished overnight. But, more than three weeks have elapsed since Jacinda Ardern squeezed her syringe-full of adrenaline (to borrow Rachel Stewart’s arresting metaphor) into Labour’s failing heart. That so much of Labour’s signage continues to present voters with outdated and, frankly, embarrassing messages is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a very bad sign.
What on earth is preventing the same groups of Labour Party activists who erected the Andrew and Jacinda hoardings from taking them down? More importantly, why are individual Labour candidates insisting on keeping their personalised hoardings in place?
Frankly, I’m surprised that Labour HQ ever countenanced the production of these things. How many elections does Labour have to lose before somebody realises that plastering a candidate’s name and face all over his or her electorate is an open invitation for voters to split their votes between a much-liked local Labour MP and some other party altogether? The Party Vote is the ONLY vote that counts when it comes to changing the government. Anyone who allows their ego to get in the way of maximising Labour’s Party Vote should be invited to see how well they do running as an independent.
In 2014 Labour received 25 percent of the Party Vote and around 35 percent of the votes cast in the electorates. Do you know what Labour got for that additional 10 percent of support? Nothing. Nada, Zip, Zilch. Racking up majorities in a multitude of electorate contests advances Labour’s cause not one iota. Had Labour won 35 percent of the 2014 Party Vote, however, the history of the past three years might have been very different.
It gets worse.
Every time a potential Labour voter drives past a hoarding that does not feature Jacinda’s smiling face above the party’s “Let’s do this.” campaign slogan, the leader’s and the party’s brand suffer.
It’s as though, for some reason, the people running the local effort don’t want to be associated with Jacinda’s rejuvenated national campaign. Or, even more damagingly, that they haven’t been able to get their act together sufficiently to allow the extraordinary change in Labour’s political fortunes to be given graphic expression in the streets where the voters actually live.
For Jacindamania to acquire sufficient momentum to carry Labour all the way to the Beehive, Jacinda’s face and slogan need to be on display everywhere. On every supporter’s front fence, and at every city intersection. People driving to work should not be able to complete their journey without Jacinda silently imploring them to “Let’s do this.” at least half-a-dozen times.
After all, on the same journey, they will have passed at least that many hoardings from which Bill English has reassured them that he and National are “Delivering for New Zealanders”. Labour’s candidates urgently need to get their heads around the idea that, in 2017, there’s only one face on Labour’s hoardings that matters – and it isn’t theirs.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 24 August 2017.