What Went Wrong?

Whatever we thought the result would be on Saturday night, we did not expect that. I thought that Labour would be hitting about 28%, and the Greens about 14%. Combined with New Zealand First, that would have put Labour in with a shot at Government. The reality was shocking. Labour dropping to 25% was only just outdone in shock value by the Green Party also dropping 2% to 10%. That result would have hit the Green Party, who were expecting to gain several seats, hard.

So what went wrong? On the surface it’s quite easy to see the gaps in Labour’s Party Vote that contributed to this defeat. The safe Auckland Labour seats of Mt. Roskill, Mt. Albert, New Lynn and Te Atatu all re-elected their Labour Party MPs, but the party vote overwhelmingly went to National. Labour also came third to National and the Green Party in a few electorates, including Wellington Central. While the Labour heartland electorates came out for the Party on the day, with Manurewa, Mangere and Manukau East all Party voting Labour, along with Christchurch East, both Dunedin seats and Kelston, the turnout in these seats were relatively low, with under 30,000 votes in the South Auckland fortress seats that have delivered government to Labour in the past. In contrast, National Party seats saw turnout of well over 30,000.

Evidently, this is why Labour lost. People in most of their safe seats returned Labour candidates but chose to give their other vote to National. In the seats that Labour did win, turnout was too low.

We need to work out why this happened. The answer doesn’t lie with the campaign, or the policies. I honestly believe that Labour’s campaign was well organised and run with a sleekness and professionalism that the Party should have been employing for the last three years. Labour’s policy was tight and as more came out there was less protest. The policy was targeted at a wide range of New Zealanders and was well received – it didn’t undermine Labour.

Nor do I believe that David Cunliffe was responsible for Labour’s loss. In the months before the election Cunliffe came out as a solid and strong leader. In a large majority of the debates Cunliffe was resoundingly declared the winner. He outshone Key on economics, he didn’t let the Prime Minister get away with any of his familiar dancing around questions, and he proved that he is the only person to lead Labour into 2017.

For some reason, people just did not want Labour be in government. The reason lies in something far more fundamental. Labour missed out on something integral in their campaign that they needed to have in order to persuade people to vote for them. Maybe it did just come down to the fact that people bought the spin about David Cunliffe. Maybe ‘Vote Positive’ didn’t connect with people. Maybe the 3 term trend is just too strong in New Zealand.

The party needs to find out what this missing element is. Labour won’t win elections unless they can turn out the electorate, especially in South Auckland. Losing the Party vote in their safe seats is appalling and needs to be rectified before lasting damage is done.

One thing is certain though – the knives coming out two days after the election is not the way forward


6 thoughts on “What Went Wrong?

  1. There’s more than a little wishful thinking here.

    1. Our party vote dropped big time in Mangere, Manakau East and Manurewa. It also appears to have dropped a lot in Mt Roskill, Mangakiekie, Auckland Central and New Lynn. We have to wait for the special votes to have the full picture.
    2. David Cunliffe simply isn’t the right leader.The problem is that people don’t like him. A lot.That’s a big problem in politics.

      • 1: In fairness, yes. I was responding to: “While the Labour heartland electorates came out for the Party on the day, with Manurewa, Mangere and Manukau East all Party voting Labour.” It’s true that Labour still got the majority of the PV in these electorates. But it wasn’t just turnout that was low in these seats, they saw some of the biggest swings away from Labour (at least on the preliminary result).
        2: Yes. But if Labour pick Cunliffe again, they won’t go anywhere.

  2. Well said. In response to Chess the funny thing is that people do not like the media bashed using Cameron Slater lines David Cunliffe but they do like the David Cunliffe they saw on the election trail who is the real David Cunliffe. We need to give him a chance.

  3. It is Cunliffe. He doesn’t come across as honest or sincere. Well not to me, and I still voted for them. I don’t see any charisma in him either. It seems JK oozes it. We are in to the cult of personality folks. If it don’t shine like a brass buckle then it ain’t real gold.
    Whatever Labour does next time round it has to be different then the last two very similar campaigns as well. Lets not make the mistake of that old human ability to keep making the same mistakes over and over again and not learn from them.
    The electoral commission is severely failing New Zealand by not engaging in the missing million. That is their failing. This has to be fixed.
    Allot of focus and energy was on preaching to the converted as well. It may make for loud applause and warm fuzzies to be constantly told how wonderful you are by the ones that love you, but you need to connect to the ones that don’t love you yet.

  4. I agree with Brendon.

    On the campaign trail it was just a constant stream of people saying they had switched off from listening to Labour because they didn’t like him. And that included people who had met him and watched the debates.

    I understand Greg and the New Lynn group backing their man. That makes sense and good on you. But I hope the rest of the Labour Party took the time to talk to people outside West Auckland Labour Party during the campaign. And let the result soak in. The man is a liability. With him as leader, the left will not get the 15% swing we need for the Labour/Greens to govern.

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