Speaker: An Open Letter To David Cunliffe
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Well said James, well said. You hit on the key issue too - the party needs rejuvination. The best hope for that is Grant Robertson. He represents the new generation of progressive politics in New Zealand and the best hope of uniting the Labour Party.
As well as being time for Grant (and you) it is also time for Jacinda Adern in my opinion too.
From crisis comes opportunity - and if the worst result in generations isn't enough to allow a party to present refreshment and renewal, what is?
I lost count of the number of times I door knocked someone who told me they had voted Labour all their life, but wouldn’t vote for us as long as you were leader.
I had a couple of those conversations with people I know, just casually.
This is really blunt and honest, and it's brave. I think it is a valuable contribution to the discussion, and I hope people consider it carefully.
How much of this dislike for Cunliffe is real and how much is generated by the media, who will simply transfer the perceived disdain across to the next leader?
(The only way they might ease back is when they perceive that a leader is basically a National man with a red badge, and thus good insurance if the people tire of National for a couple of terms. That's how Tony Blair got elected in the UK and look what happened - three Tory parties with no opportunity to elect anything else).
Also, Ilam. How many of the "voted Labour all their life" people are actually Labour, as opposed to Nat supporters who are bloody happy they got their cracks filled and house repainted ahead of homeless people down east.
Nicely articulated, though as person the same age as Cunliffe and Key (and Obama, and I think Russell, too), can we tone down the 'new generation' rhetoric? I'm not convinced a 40 year old or a 30 year old will necessarily do any better. It's not an age thing, it's a charismatic thing. As someone who's thinking I greatly respect put it, "if you want to defeat Slytherins, you must become Gryffindor." Also, you need a Harry Potter (male or female). But any specific age is not a prerequisite.
I think this is very well put. I had a similar experience during the campaign where we were campaigning relentlessly for the party vote. The worst experience was talking to a 70 year old lady who said she had voted Labour her entire life (that is a lot of elections and a lot of Labour Party leaders!) - but she wouldn't be doing it this time because she simply "couldn't stand" David Cunliffe. She had met Cunliffe personally at an event and couldn't bring herself to do it. He was just too smarmy and disingenuous for her. Easy to see how we go down to 24% when we lost those types of supporters.
I don't necessarily agree that Cunliffe should resign as an MP if he loses. Maybe he could stay. That should be up to him.
Stephen Judd, in reply to
How many of the "voted Labour all their life" people are actually Labour,
I'll take that one, as James' former campaign manager. Lots. We focus our limited doorknock and phone canvas resources on people that have canvassed Labour in the past or areas that statistically should be rich in Labour support (high deprivation index, low home ownership, good booth results in previous elections, that kind of thing). Ilam is dominated by Fendalton and Merivale but Aorangi, Bishopdale and Bryndwr where we went hardest are far different in demographic. To be honest, I got that same feedback too.
I'm sympathetic to the argument that DC got systematically destabilised by the dirty politics machine. On the other hand, there was the unaccountable quiet period after the leadership race that created that space. Also, once slimed, it's hard to get unslimed. It's a tough one.
Nat supporters who are bloody happy they got their cracks filled and house repainted
Well actually, there's a lot of quake damage and protracted EQC/insurance wrangles in the posh suburbs that you don't hear about (don't want to affect property values dontcherknow). Conversely, the areas we were doorknocking have heaps of rentals, and some pretty dodgy ones at that.
Peter Darlington, in reply to
As someone who's thinking I greatly respect put it, "if you want to defeat Slytherins, you must become Gryffindor." Also, you need a Harry Potter (male or female).
In this analysis, Cunliffe's a Hufflepuff, right?
Using purely anecdotal data ("My grandmother always voted Labour, but can't stand Cunliffe") to make decisions seems like a sure way to make a poor decision. Surely there's a better way?
I’ll promise you this. If you win, I’ll step aside from the party, to let you and your supporters mould it into the party you want
That's a good idea. I think it would be healthier for Labour to split into official parties of the centre and left and whatever, rather than continue the cats in a sack stuff that's been going on. That way they could form explicit coalitions with each other with clear boundaries. Or perhaps make the current problems explicit by immediately ruling out ever going into coalition with each other, and instead competing to be best friends with The Key Party and Winston First.
It will be hard, though, because the bought media are still struggling to come to terms with MMP, or unwilling to frame things outside the "looney left"-centre-right spectrum that they've used to such devastating effect for the lastr few years.
Given Labours strong focus on winning electorates, a deliberate overhang strategy might be workable - get all the MPs with strong electorate followings to band together into "the real Labour Party", put a bunch of more collectivst MPs into "the modern Labour Party", and perhaps some of the more experienced members could form "Old Labour - the brand you can rely on".
Andrew Jones, in reply to
I agree, this is a really well written, thoughtful piece. Well done James on expressing your thoughts on the issue from a position within the Labour machine.
The thing I baulk at as a mid 30s, left leaning health professional is the view that 'Change needed, change not equaling Cunliffe, therefore change must equal Robertson' is rather short sighted.
I think that what David Shearer (and Mike Williams) has expressed that the review must occur before a leadership change is bang on. The decision to install a caretaker leader today is the right one, but it should be in place until we know what the future looks like, not just until one of the two available options is selected.
I don't know what the right answer is, but rushing a leadership change when broader work is required seems short sighted and actually seems to reinforce the view that Russell had highlighted post election that the electorate didn't trust Labour to lead.
One thing missing from this post and other post-election analysis is the discussion on policy. All talk has been on personality, with Cunliffe, President style not resonating with voters and yes there is some truth to this but… a lot of the policies missed the mark: It’s about the economy stupid. The economy is going ok and compared to many countries around the world we are doing very well, Labour missed this fact and tried to paint a different picture which by far the majority of New Zealanders didn’t believe. If Labour is to move forward they need more than a new leader, they need to look at why anyone outside of the hard core faithful should vote for them. Creating a new leader is papering over the cracks and ignoring the glaring fact that they offered no alternative in vision for the country and came across as a tax and spend party. Where was their uniting vision of a positive and confident future where success is celebrated and through success New Zealand as a whole prospers?
bob daktari, in reply to
I'm sympathetic to the argument that DC got systematically destabilised by the dirty politics machine.
...and by those in his own caucus too it seems
As a wanna be Labour voter, (ie swing to and from the party depending on candidates and policy), I supported Cunliffe as the parties choice of leader... I don't know if he should be replaced but if its Robertson, whom I don't think is the right choice btw, I predict the exact same series of smears (whale et al are already well down that path) which will return the exact same reaction from those whom don't actively follow and critique the reportage of the party
Personally I'd like to see the ever quiet in these matters Ardern stand up and show herself to stand for something, other than just being there. If she is the future leader many desire, me being one - time to start showing her colours... plus I'd very much like to see James in parliament one day
I wish we had more time. But it was David Cunliffe who didn't want to wait, who wanted to rush through this process as quickly as possible.
Fair enough Cunliffe has got to go, personal ambition is just not enough but will a new leader be enough? .
What part did the party president and other behind the scenes advisers play in the defeat?
The economy is going ok and compared to many countries around the world we are doing very well
In 2000, you could afford to live in Grey Lynn on an average professional's wage and a saved (as opposed to inherited) deposit.
By 2005, it would have been Kingsland, maybe.
Now it's the arse end of Avondale if you're lucky.
But it's happened slowly enough that people don't care, and they think it's actually a good thing that their mouldy shack in a semi-ghetto an hour's drive from the city is worth half a mil.
And why not follow the greens and maori parties with a co leader structure?
Andrew Jones, in reply to
It doesn't mean the party can't choose to have a caretaker for an extended period of time. His resignation doesn't mean that a new leader must immediately be appointed/elected.
Richard Aston, in reply to
Now it’s the arse end of Avondale if you’re lucky
I work in Avondale and hey the arse end ain't a pretty sight
Stephen Judd, in reply to
by those in his own caucus too it seems
They were pretty good from the end of the leadership race up until the election loss. I am pretty angry about the orgy of leakage and public back-biting since then, from every quarter, and have said so to MPs I know.
If James Dann viewpoint is widespread throughout the Labour Party, then Labour has some significant problems. Yes David Cuncliffe didn't captivate the public, and said some stupid things, but David Cuncliffe alone didn't lose this election. I agree that Cuncliffe should step down, and not to run as Leader but If Mr Dann believes that the election result is solely due to Cuncliffe I believe he is deceiving himself.
The only thing that stopped my partner & I voting Greens, was Labour's Sovereign Wealth Fund "NZ Inc." & the CGT. Personally the Green's have better leadership and frankly better discipline, which is iconic considering they don't even have a 'whip'. The ill-discipline of the past few days makes disappointed I voted Labour, I seriously doubt Helen Clark would have tolerated this behaviour from her caucus. To be blunt if you can't lead yourselves - you certainly can't be expected to lead New Zealand.
The saddest part of this is that it is all being done in ignorance. Nobody has taken the time to genuinely collect data (not anecdotes) to figure out why voters chose to vote the way they did.
Anything done in this environment of ignorance is a pure crap shoot and has little chance of being any benefit to the party or to the people of New Zealand that the party wishes to represent.
For me that is Mr Cunliffe's fault.
Who wrote this on September 4th?
"Cunliffe spoke well on these matters, as he has done over the last 3 months of the campaign in the city. He knows that Labour’s policy is popular here, as he has been down here to announce it, and has talked with hundreds of residents who are in difficult situation. Instead of just making light of people’s real hardship like the Prime Minister, Cunliffe has showed an empathy that Key lacks. While the media in Auckland and Wellington might have called it one way, the people in Christchurch were only presented with one leader who understands the issues in this city, and it wasn’t the Prime Minister."
Max, in reply to
Yes. Although the major problem with Lew's post is that it avoids that reality that the Labour Party ran its most data-driven campaign ever. Good - of course we should be doing that. But Lew is chastising the Labour Party into doing something it already is doing.
I believe we should have had the leadership election after a full review of what happened. But David actually didn't give us that choice. He bolted and forced the leadership race.
More data would be fantastic, but we got to work with what we got. I talked to 1000s of voters during this election. The mind-numbing consistency of the feedback I received from votes - that they didn't like Cunliffe - weighs heavily on my mind.
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