Thursday 14 September 2017

This Is Still A Fight: Some Thoughts On The Newshub-Reid Research Poll.

Enough of "Let's do this", Jacinda. It's time to say "Let's do them!" Labour thought it could bluff its way through this election with warm fuzzies and vague promises. They assumed that these would be enough because the electorate has grown weary of the National Government. Well, the Newshub-Reid Research Poll has reminded them in no uncertain terms that this is still a fight.

FIRST OF ALL, it’s just one poll. And, one poll does not a Labour election loss portend. RNZ’s Poll of Polls which averages out the results of the three or four most recent polls, presents a considerably calmer picture. In a nutshell, National and Labour are level-pegging; NZ First and the Greens are drifting dangerously close to the 5 percent MMP threshold; the Maori Party looks set to take two seats; Act just one; and the rest (including The Opportunity Party) simply aren’t in the race.

Even so. The latest Newshub-Reid Research Poll has delivered a pretty solid kidney-punch to the Centre-Left’s morale. What had begun to feel like a smooth escalator ride to certain victory has been brought to a sudden, stomach-lurching halt. The Nat’s are sitting pretty on 47 percent – enough, with the Greens out of the running, to let them govern on their own.

The cynical genius of the Crosby-Textor pairing has armed the National Party with a pretty serviceable baseball bat and they are swinging it hard. Frustratingly, that Nat bat has been carved out of Labour’s errors. In a fine example of Crosby-Textor’s standard operating procedure. National’s fightback strategy zeroes-in on Labour’s point of maximum vulnerability: their MPs’ abiding fear of stating clearly what it is that they intend to do – and how they intend to pay for it.

Instead of responding to National’s “Let’s Tax This” jibe with a resounding “Hell, Yeah!”, Jacinda has been persuaded to double-down on the Little-led Labour Party’s “keep it vague until the election’s safely won” strategy. The Tax Working Group was supposed to save Labour’s blushes by placating voters with the promise of wise and disinterested expertise. Clearly, the party strategists failed to read the Brexit Memo. Had they done so, they would have been alerted to the fact that the electorate’s faith in “expert opinion” has grown rather thin of late. The stock response of 2017 voters to the prospect of having their future decided by a committee of experts is: “Whose experts will they be?” and “Which side will they be working for?”

Forced to rule out more and more of the promised Working Group’s most predictable recommendations, Jacinda has been made to look as if she already knows what her committee’s findings are going to be – but is reluctant to tell us. This merely reinforces the doubts National has been at such pains to sow. Tactically, her position is grim. As Paddy Gower observes:

“Part of Labour’s problem is that it keeps ruling certain tax variations out during heavy interviews. That keeps the story going. And the problem now is there is no way out for Labour – it cannot backtrack on this. It has to take its vague tax policy all the way to the election – and National will hack at it every step of the way. Labour must find a way out of the tax vortex. Suggestions on back of an envelope to J. Ardern of Mt Albert please.”

Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time for snail mail. So, Jacinda, please accept the following as my best shot at describing “a way out of the tax vortex”.

Strategically, Labour’s best bet is to go on the offensive over tax. Not by responding to endless challenges to rule this or that tax out of contention, but by reminding voters why they pay taxes in the first place. Give it to the voters straight. That if they want better health care, better education, more affordable housing, improved mental health services and clean rivers and streams, then they cannot avoid the question of how all these things are to be paid for. Tell them that Labour’s Tax Working Group will be asked to come up with the fairest ways to gather revenue, but also tell them that they should not be in any doubt that gathering-in more revenue is, simply, what her government has to do if it is to fulfil its promises to repair the damage wrought by nine years of National rule.

Jacinda should remind the electorate that the determination of tax policy: how much should be gathered, and from whom; goes to the very heart of the democratic tradition. It’s why Kings were required to summon Parliaments. It provided the rallying cry for the American Revolution: “No taxation without representation!” Taxes are the price we pay for civilisation – and democracy.

And then she should turn her attention to the farmers. Because, with their bare-faced lies and angry demonstrations, they have shown the rest of New Zealand exactly why a Working Group to improve the fairness of our taxation system is needed. The farming sector’s dirty dairying has been subsidised by urban taxpayers for long enough. A reasonable contribution from farmers to the cost of cleaning up the waterways they have so recklessly befouled is only fair. Jacinda should invite all those who believe farmers should pay a water tax to join her and James Shaw outside the headquarters of Federated Farmers in Wellington. The spiteful decision of Waikato cow-cockies to protest in Jacinda’s home-town of Morrinsville should be answered in kind.

Labour thought it could bluff its way through this election with warm fuzzies and vague promises. They assumed that these would be enough because the electorate has grown weary of the National Government. Well, the Newshub-Reid Research Poll has reminded them in no uncertain terms that this is still a fight.

The National Party doesn’t do surrender. It understands what the Centre-Left appears to have forgotten: that every general election involves a deliberate intensification of what Labour’s founders referred to unashamedly as “the class struggle”. Or, in the words of Leonard Cohen: “the homicidal bitchin’ that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.”

“Sunny Ways” have taken Jacinda a long way, but now it is time for her to unleash a blast of true arctic fury. “Fear and lying” is a good start, but, to put it bluntly, at this point in the campaign Labour’s voters are in need of a much more visceral morale boost. The opportunity is there to deliver a blunt message to all those who believe that taxes are what other people pay.

National’s friends in the countryside have raised their hands against “Let’s do this”. It’s time to show them what it means.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 13 September 2017.


Polly said...

Jacinda Ardern,

simply needs to lay Labours TAX plans before the people of NZ.

A hidden agenda is not good enough.

What is she hiding from us?.

Enough of the trickery and bull dust.

Pinger said...

Ardern requires some of the Paul Keating Labour mongrel:

Comorant said...

Mhmm. Labour's own doing. Had 9 years to come up with tax policy that they could have been up front about. To limit the damage they have now reacted by making themselves identical to National. Not much of a choice we have.

On the subject of the poll. Ridiculous over-reaction and poor understanding of margin-of-error by main stream media.

Richard Mayson said...

Chris on your conclusion that Labour/Jacinda should go all out demolishing National's emphasis on taxes, is in fact buying to the Textor Crosby tenet of diversion from issues on which you are vulnerable and calling the shots, regardless of the truth on areas where a level of perception exists you are strong. And I know Textor Crosby from as far back as 2005 and Hollow Men.

The moment you capitulate to your opponent's agenda on issues you effectively hoist up a white flag. Labour/Jacinda have to be even stronger on their core theme issues confirmed by polls of concern to the voting public of Health, Housing and environment in this order. And overarching these core issues the relentlessly positive mantra and personality of Jacinda. Just because some inflated media commentators think they know the priority order doesn't mean Labour should fall for this. Don't forget most of the Press Gallery for nine years had an anal retention problem with John Key and objective journalism is not part of their arsenal

jh said...

I just voted for TOP Party. Even though it will probably be a throwaway vote I believe GM deserves it. EG immigration has to be proven to be of benefit rather than: a) boosts my property portfolio or b) confirms my status as one of the uber humans.
Calling NZF supporters racists and xenophobes is just toff ignorance (however). The concerns of working class NZr's are real and valid.

greywarbler said...

Thumbs up for what you say Chris. The most important thing is to be courageous, definite, practical, reliable and not be the disinterested in society and business ethics Labour finding ways to sidle around the difficult truths. Bloody well state things and let the enveloping number of human pests overrunning us start feeling threatened. The country is being over-shadowed by the comfortably off who have left their love for their country and all who sail in it out for the rubbish collection.

I want a country I can be proud of, and I want the left to respond and blossom for all the others who feel the same. (Damn it spring is here.) So get some good policies and stick to them otherwise you deserve the kick in the pants that you will receive. NZ can't be left as a bunch of mealy-mouthed critics who worship money and style and have no framework that is home-made (all imported from overseas). NZ needs home grown backbone and if Labour doesn't find it, I think we have lost the opportunity altogether.

Our future looms, can we fight for NZ instead of tamely toddling off to fight for The Man overseas, laying other countries to waste. We are being slowly demolished by greed, bad business and blind neo lib. What a waste of a good country full of promise. NZ - so sad to see it waste away. RIP?

Nick J said...

Looks like Jacinda just took the advice.

thesorrowandthepity said...

"Strategically, Labour’s best bet is to go on the offensive over tax" .... That would be tantamount to her writing her own political suicide note Chris! There's only one way & one way only for her to salvage a position that would give them a win.
Go on the offensive over water!
The levy on farmers isn't a tax (keeping with her reality check U turn), it's a fine!
Talk about how much money the farmers are making, talk about the fact that Fonterra & Federated Farmers have been warned for two decades now that water quality & nitrite levels would become an issue, & now its time to pay up.
Talk about how the NZ population has already been taxed by stealth to fund the destruction of their own drinking water whilst the people making the profits have contributed nothing to the problem they've created.
Demand that Fonterra, Federated Farmers & the Nats actually acknowledge there's a problem with this countries waterways. Demand that they show the NZ public immediately (like all of thirty minutes ago!) an action plan of what they plan to do in actual physical steps to fix the problem (not some bandaid coat of paint talk committee that's just there to play for time), physical concrete steps. If they can't put up it merely shows them to the public to be complacent out of greed, it shows that the stick is required as the farmers have been eating all the carrots.
They had their chance to do something on their own; they haven't; now government action is needed!
In short Chris your saint Jacinda needs to start counter punching.... or get outta the ring & go home!

Kat said...

Good captains always listen to their navigator.

Unknown said...

Spot on Chris. Labour has frustrated the hell out of me over the past four elections. Their policies appeared largely ad hoc and often knee-jerk to garner last ditch votes. Eg Goff's last minute promise to take GST off fruit and veges. All I have yearned for, and I'm sure for many of the electorate, is for them to appear that they believe in themselves and their policies and shout them to the rooftops. Instead, they are always on the defensive and too often caught with their pants down. EG Key to Cunliffe in a debate: "Will your CGT apply to the family home?" He didn't know and equivocated. And it all appears deja vu now.

Lange stared down Muldoon as Clark did to Brash. Adern and Robertson now need to similarly stand up to the haughty disdain of English and Joyce by confidently and fulsomely trumpeting what they are going to do about the very serious challenges facing our very worthy country.
Mark Simpson

jh said...

I think the swinging in the polls represents uncertainty. It would be interesting to know how people really, really think.
Checkpoint has an article about a woman living in a small caravan because she can't afford rent. Duncan Grieve finds the TV3 documentary about Chinese money in housing "deeply problematic". Is that an election issue? - No some things we don't discuss in polite conversation. Siding with a local against a foreigner is othering (even if it is true). Kim Hill called Steve Bannon "a thoroughly unpleasant person". The only reason given is that he was "nationalist, globalist" and behind Trumps "populist agenda". I recall arguing on Public Address and being taken aback when it was suggested that infill housing had nothing to do with immigration.
I was taken aback; to me it was obvious. I wasn't aware of New zealanders suddenly having something like the large family of yesteryear, yet I was aware of the juxtaposition of the two factors.
This is the situation Trump saw: real issues buried by elites.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Steve Bannon is a thoroughly unpleasant person. He ran Breitbart FFS where they make shit up. And by that I don't mean publish stuff that I disagree with. Breitbart is against women's reproductive rights, it is islamophobic, and Bannon himself has provided a platform for neo-Nazis and seems to seek their approval. Not to mention he's as barmy as a boxful of badgers. And he seems to get away with all this because his fan boys think he is antiestablishment and a rebel. Sometimes I just despair at the lack of thought they put into this sort of thing. Really they should get out of their mothers basements and get a real job – and maybe a girlfriend or something.

Victor said...

The trouble is that changes to the basic structure of the tax system are inherently complex, replete with infinite fish hooks and open to manifold misunderstandings.

In the absence of accurate information, they are the stuff that rumour, doubt and Crosby Textor cannot but feed upon.

Hence the wisdom of doing the groundwork in your first term and then putting a detailed series of proposals to the voting public before the next election.

A downside of the delay might be a revenue gap (although Grant Robertson insists otherwise)and a consequent stymieing of other reforms.

But such a shortfall would only exist because Labour has (wrongly in my view)failed to undertake the inherently less complex and nuanced tasks of either raising the top tax rate or extending by more than a couple of years the period in which our piddling little level of government indebtedness gets eradicated.

Of course, either of these expedients would have left Labour open to the normal spurious charge of fiscal irresponsibility.

But these alternatives would have been Rumsfeldian "known knowns" and (at least as far as the ordinary punter's concerned)probably less corrosive of confidence than the "known unknown" Gracinda was betting on till yesterday.

My hope is that Labour won't now appear too weak and wobbly.

greywarbler said...

Barmy as a boxful of badgers. That is so good you are the political junkies Dr Seuss, or closer to home the adult version of Hairy McClary of Donaldson's Dairy.

And the geeks and modern young wimmin could stop in their individual pursuit of their fancy goals, think it's all been done before - getting together for a brighter future! Then after thinking for a while, see what went wrong in the past instead of pursuing the modern dream which cleaned off and dried, turns out to be an old one coated in fool's gold but with a clever app added. If they start thinking of others, repeat he tangata three (toru) times, and look through Maori initiatives there is likely to be one that leads us out of our slough of despond, or will stand improving on.

greywarbler said...

Just looking at the draconian taxes on the low incomes people would be a good move by Labour. CGT can wait, it is the GBH of tax on the poor that is leaving the biggest bruises. Taking the weight off their backs would increase their prosperity and increase their spending money.

Try encouraging people in rentals to advise a helpline when they were very cold, or damp. Having teams of people encouraging people by helping them to get warm clothes, get leaks and dampness treated adequately would ensure that any rent rises based on more money in tenants' pockets was turned into home improvements. Starting at the bottom strata with housing help would be a sensible move.

Add that to less tax on the poor with little secondary tax if at all, much more flexibility encouraging more forays into short-term jobs without clawback even when quite a money booster; six monthly checks would be sufficient, not the immediate one that seems to apply now.

And allow parents to earn lots more before they see any downward move in their benefit instead of almost 90% loss when tax, benefit reduction and transport is added up, with perhaps more than the rest taken out in extra child costs.

Look after the parents and stop the way they are clobbered. Do the superior types at the top have any warm feelings for fellow citizens at all? It seems that people like Jenny Shipley and Ruth Richardson hate mothers. Some of them seem to have no feelings of connection to others at all.

Just do this Jacinda and Metiria and you would get a great big sloppy kiss from so many kids and their parents. It would be wet, messy and gross but so sincere and well-meant so don't be put off - let's do it!