Tuesday 29 April 2014

A Reason To Vote

The Great Includer: David Cunliffe's speech to the Young Labour Conference argued that politics-as-usual has failed. A prosperous future, he warned them, cannot now be built the same way as the past. It’s no longer enough “to work for our people”, said Cunliffe, “we have to work with them.”

DAVID CUNLIFFE’S SPEECH to the Young Labour Conference on Saturday ended what’s been a hellish week for the Opposition on a surprisingly defiant note.
“I believe that our people are a community, not a commodity. I believe that when the least fortunate of us does better, we all do better. I believe that in this great country no-one should be left out or left behind.”
Cunliffe is a disconcertingly happy warrior. An exile on the back benches, with the insults of his enemies still ringing in his ears, the man’s confidence that he would come back and win the leadership of his party was indomitable. Even now, in the wake of Shane Jones’s deeply damaging defection, and amidst rumours that Labour is polling in the low 20s, Cunliffe’s confidence remains undiminished.
A large part of that confidence is based on what might be called the “technological” aspects of contemporary political campaigning. Labour appears to have got its hands on something similar to the computer software that proved so crucial to both the Obama presidential campaigns. The team around Cunliffe is adamant that with this new technology they will be able to identify precisely the groups most likely to vote for Labour.
This technological fix will not, however, be enough, on its own, to secure a Labour victory. A major reason for Cunliffe’s presence at the Young Labour Conference (the largest since the late-1980s) was to reinforce the importance of the role they will play in “getting out the vote”.
The Obama Campaign’s success was not only about putting in the technological fix, but also about how efficiently the mountains of data it was crunching could be conveyed and practically applied on voter doorsteps by the tens-of-thousands of volunteers that made up its hugely effective “on-the-ground” organisation.
“Change is not a spectator sport”, Cunliffe told his youthful audience. “Our opponents are counting on young people like you, your classmates, friends and flatmates to stay home in September. They are betting on the apathy of young people like you. They are counting on your silence. We need to prove them wrong.”
Aware of their imminent dispatch onto the streets of Wellington and the Hutt Valley for an afternoon of door-knocking and political proselytising, the Labour leader told his young listeners: “The conversations you will have today are part of hundreds and thousands of personal contacts we are having all around the country.”
Data-mining plus feet on the ground.
“That is how we are going to win this election”, Cunliffe assured them. By building “a grassroots movement for change”.
Cunliffe’s confidence – symbolised by his permanently fixed cat-who’s-got-the-cream grin – strongly suggests that he’s been convinced that, on election day, this combination of improved technology and inspired grassroots organisation, which Labour intends to operate below the news media’s radar, will leave all the doom-saying pundits struggling – like the hapless Karl Rove on Fox News in 2012 – to explain why the impossible keeps happening right before their eyes.
But is the Opposition Leader’s confidence justified? If the rumours concerning poll results in the 20-25 percent range are borne out, how will Labour’s campaign maintain the high level of morale and personal commitment necessary to keep an effective get-out-the-vote operation in play?
At an even more basic level, how do Cunliffe and his advisers ensure that the demographic groups deemed “most likely” to vote Labour actually place two ticks on the ballot papers?
Recent research undertaken in the United States strongly suggests that electoral success comes to the party whose policies adhere most closely to the preferences of its political base. The progressive American writer, Dave Johnson, argues provocatively that “there is no swing block of voters between the parties”. “The lesson to learn”, he says, is that: “There are not voters who ‘swing’, there are left voters and right voters who either show up and vote or do not show up and vote. If Democrats don’t give regular, working people – the Democratic base – a reason to vote, then many of them won’t.”
What Cunliffe must decide, and quickly, is whether offsetting the introduction of a Capital Gains Tax; raising the age of eligibility for NZ Superannuation to 67; supporting the free-trade principles of the TPPA; and tinkering with the Reserve Bank Act against his party’s “Kiwibuild” housing scheme; the proposed single-buyer of electricity, New Zealand Power; and the “Best Start” support payment policy for infants; will be enough to give Labour’s base “a reason to vote”.
“I believe that politics-as-usual has failed New Zealanders”, Cunliffe told Young Labour. A prosperous future, he warned them, cannot now be built the same way as the past. It’s no longer enough “to work for our people”, said Cunliffe, “we have to work with them.”
Properly developed, that concept could give much more than Labour’s base a reason to vote.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 29 April 2014.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Politics as usual not working? Excuse me for being cynical, but we have heard this before. And all we get is politics as usual.
Actually I'm quite happy with politics as usual it's policies as usual that need changing :-).

Davo Stevens said...

Not surprised that Jones left. He's another rightwing socialist. Check his background.

Cunliffe has to come up with more help for the lowest paid and multitudinous retail workers. We will see how that pans out as the election rolls on. If he doesn't come up with something that improves their lot, those people will either not vote or vote Greens. Either way Labour is the loser.

Martin Connelly said...

But does anyone believe him? His words say one thing, but his body language says something else. He strikes me as a "my way or the highway" sort of person.

Jan said...

Martin, do you think anyone who does not have strong convictions and the determination to succeed is going to survive effectively as the leader of any sort of party? There are leaders and there are followers and everyone has something to offer, but the sort of person who has, as my grandmother would have put it, "a wishbone where his backbone ought to be" is not suitable in a leadership role. Consensus is fine, but eventually someone has to say "this is what we're doing".
The important thing to do is listen to what is being said - do you agree with his ideas?

Kat said...

Jan, unfortunately a large proportion of the electorate have succumbed to the mind-numbing smile & wave, jokey-blokey, word mangling, BBQ & beer, proud to be a gambler character of the the Prime Minister.

It may take some time for them to recover. Cunliffe plans to fast track that recovery post September 20th.

Jan said...

Yes, Kat, I can see that and I find it really scary. His populist approach reminds me of Muldoon. My partner was a parliamentary reporter when Muldoon first became the leader of the National Party while they were in opposition, and at one of their many 'cocktail parties' I asked an MP (I think it was Doug Carter) why they had chosen such a man; surely they couldn't like or admire him? True, he said, but we know he can win for us.

Tiger Mountain said...

Labour need to drop the super at 67 or at least make it clear that from 60 on those that need it could opt in earlier.

There is a couple of percent of the vote in that for late 50s early 60s age people first made redundant under Rogernomics and or flogged out by slaving in a deregulated labour market.

Jigsaw said...

I am told and I am sure that it is true that the left of the party-those who represent the trade unions and the gaggle were celebrating mightily when Shane Jones left. I can believe this because they seem -like their leader, to have little idea of the actual (small)space that they occupy.

Chris Trotter said...

Well, Jigsaw, that's a pretty bold statement.

The NZ Council of Trade Unions represents approximately 300,000 trade unionists - making it by far the largest civil organisation in New Zealand.

The sexologists, Masters & Johnson, estimated the gay population of the USA at between 2-5 percent.

Assuming that New Zealand's gay community represents a similar percentage of the population would put their number somewhere between 90,000 and 225,000.

Another rather large figure.

And even assuming Labour gets no more votes in 2014 that it got in 2011, the party would still boast the support of 614,937 Kiwis.

So, not that small a space, really.

Davo Stevens said...

"When people behave like sheep, they're governed by wolves" Very apt today.

Agreed Chris, the TUC is a large organisation but does it have any teeth? They certainly haven't been pushing the rights and work conditions of the lowest paid workers.

Whther we like them or not, what unions do is make sure that the profits are spread out into the economy not just clustered at the top.

Robert M said...

Whether Cunliffe or Parker are left or right remains undeterminable. Their actual policy seems technocratic and competent. National in contrast have the most incompetent cabinet since 1920's. Collins, Tolley and Parika are a farce of stupidity and common ugliness. English gutless.
The main need is for Labour to dispose of yesterdays old NZers Goff, King etc

Jigsaw said...

Yes I am sure that you believe that Chris-it reminds me that Derek Fox once said that people with Maori ancestry would one day be in the majority and therefor we would have Maori government. Just because someone is gay doesn't necessarily mean that he/she will vote for a Labour government just because there are more gays in that party. Surely there is at least as much diversity of political opinion within the gay community as there is within the population in general. The fact is that with the loss of Shane Jones Labour just further narrowed its appeal base within the population especially the working class population. My point was that if they realised it or not they were celebrating the loss of part of their support. Or perhaps you are saying that the Labour party doesn't have any factions.........

Binders full of women said...

I begrudgingly contribute to ctu and would sooner commit seppuku than vote lab green ... So count me out

Marcus said...

David Cunliffe seems to be finding his feet and I agree with his views that our people are not just a commodity for the rich to exploit. My criticsm of David is that he perhaps tries to be too smooth and he will always be battling the allegation that he is trying to be like John Key (Mr Smoothie). Would like to see him adopt a slightly more aggressive style to make Key look just like the Mr Feelgood that he is.