Netflix has launched with a roar in Australia and New Zealand, and research is starting to come in showing that the take-up has been huge.
Analysts predict that if Netflix were measured as a 24-hour station by Nielsen, it would have more viewers than ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox within the year.
This is yet another piece of evidence that very significant numbers of people are abandoning traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines).
While I have no doubt that a very good (and expensive) TV ad campaign might have previously been able to win elections, there are more and more reasons why this is no longer the case.
If you were to sink the vast bulk of your campaign budget into TV ads, you should really stop and think about how many people would actually see them (and that is assuming they have any effect at all, of which there is limited evidence).
Apparently Phil Quin, Josie Pagani, Stuart Nash, Nick Legget, and some others want to start a think tank called “Progress”, which might, supposedly, endorse candidates. (Yes, yes, there will be inevitable jokes about think tanks containing Stuart Nash) Predictably, and with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, Greg Presland at the Standard has compared this to the Douglas-ite Backbone Club.
I can’t see why the supposed think tank is at all controversial. Quin, Pagani and co share a certain vision for the party. They want to advance this vision by advocacy; in order to advocate more effectively, they’ve decided it would be best if they formed a collective to amplify their voices. Those are all good left-wing principles.
Now, obviously Nash has to be careful. Unlike in the UK, where Progress, Compass, Socialist Campaign, and the Tribune Group are able to operate with MPs taking a significant role, New Zealand’s stricter expectations of caucus discipline probably constrain Nash from heavy involvement in a group that might disagree with official party lines. But individual rank and file members of the party shouldn’t have to worry about maintaining strict adherence to the party line, as long as they make it clear that they aren’t speaking on behalf of Labour, and avoid simply running the party down.
In the long run, of course, the Labour Party is a democratic(-ish) institution. If the membership disagree with the ideas “Progress” advocates, then they can vote them down. This might require left-wing members of the party to articulate ideas of their own and organise to get them into policy, and to support and develop candidates of their own. This would also be a good thing, particularly from the point of view of the left of the party.
The Labour Party under Clark was almost entirely devoid of ideological disputes, as a way of repressing the unresolved issues of the 1984-1993 era. Internal party elections were fought purely on personalities and factional allegiance in the worst sense of the word. This lack of internal ideological structuring meant that when, in the post-Clark era, the party was forced to develop novel political strategies, it lacked the intellectual armoury to do so. Internal decision-making still avoided any fundamental ideological component, and devolved into crude factional struggles based on patronage networks. The routes to advancement within the party did not reward the development and articulation of political theory or policy, but were instead dependent on patronage and personality.
Particularly frustratingly from a left-wing member’s point of view these patronage networks, which generally maintained lip service to the notion of “left-wing Labour” or a “true-red Labour”, allowed centrist, or even right-wing, careerist politicians to position themselves on the “left” of the party without in fact making any commitment to left-wing principles or policies.
An internal debate between left and right offers an opportunity for the party to move away from a purely patronage based model of internal organisation. This can only be good for the party as a whole. In particular, it offers an opportunity for the left of the party – which, after all, maintains that it is the largest grouping – to organise, proffer coherent and attractive ideas, and support strong candidates.
The envelope on which NZ Labour’s campaign review was written on the back of has unsurprisingly been leaked. Expect a witch hunt to distract from just how sub-standard the review is.
The content of the review, and lack-thereof, offer a fascinating insight into a party in turmoil. The actual 2014 general election campaign is skimmed over – most of the focus of the review instead seems to be the party’s organisational structures.
I’m going to go through the review and offer some thoughts. Starting with part 1 – General Election 2014.
Part 1 – General Election 2014
1A Campaign organisation
The late start under a changed leadership team left too little time to allow Labour to prepare and implement an effective campaign. In general, Labour’s campaign preparation was inadequate.
The new leadership team should make an immediate start on developing and implementing a coordinated strategic plan for contesting the 2017 election. A small and properly constituted Campaign Committee should be established at least a year out from the election and should be charged with preparing and implementing a campaign strategy which achieves buy-in from everyone, from the leader down.
While I don’t really disagree with the sentiment here, I find it an odd thing to open the review with (defensively stating “we didn’t have enough time”). David Cunliffe had a year between taking over as leader and the general election – which oddly is the lead time the review recommends for the setup of a campaign committee. I actually thought that the campaign committee was a standing committee, and if it isn’t, it should be. With three year terms no political party can afford to take two years off from campaigning.
1B Candidate selection
Candidate selection on the whole worked well and produced some excellent candidates. Late candidate selection hampered some 2014 electorate campaigns.
There should be a strategy developed for early selections and electorates with limited potential to generate a significant candidate pool. Attention should be paid to the transparency and fairness of the process for drawing up the list and to the structure of the list.
Oh candidate selection worked well, did it? The late selection bit is rubbish too – it is one area where Labour actually did really well. Six months out from the election Labour had selected all but seven electorate candidates, well ahead of Nats, Greens and NZ First.
Yes there should be a strategy developed for early selections, but this was done following the 2012 Coatsworth/Shearer review. What this review needed to do was ask *why* didn’t it happen – or is it simply misinformed.
The campaign was undoubtedly hindered by a shortage of financial resources. The finance available was less than in earlier campaigns, though only a little less by comparison with 2011. Labour must do better in this respect in 2017. Labour must build greater confidence in its ability to win and to form a successful government, and – in addition to building its database of online donors – it must use high – level business and other contacts, supported by a strengthened group of professional fundraisers on the staff team, in approaching the corporate sector and other potential sources of funding for donations.
We need more money. This could pretty much be the title of the review. Let’s see if any action is actually taken.
Perceptions of tension around the leadership and disunity within caucus seriously undermined Labour’s credibility with voters and frustrated any attempt to present a Party that was ready for government.
It is imperative that Labour acts – and is seen to act – as a disciplined and coherent team that is ready for government if it is to win the trust of voters in 2017. As a key element of this process, the senior leadership team within Caucus should be given greater prominence and responsibility throughout the three years.
Yes, leadership was a problem. However the review conveniently ignores the harsh reality that the party was facing an election with a deeply unpopular leader. I’d be interested to know if this review panel has actually seen the research the party did on leadership? Yes, caucus disunity was a problem for David Cunliffe, but only in so far as it had been for every single Labour leader before him. Though I don’t have any hard stats to back this up, I actually think the party and caucus seemed pretty united during the campaign, and I certainly don’t recall any leaks against the leader (as had happened previously).
Sadly, the recommendation the review provides (giving the senior leadership team in caucus more prominence and responsibility) doesn’t really seem to be a solution to any problem, real or imagined.
So, we’re at the end of the General Election 2014 section of the review, and we have the following recommendations:
1. Form a campaign committee a year out from the election.
2. There should be a strategy for early selections. The list selection process should be “transparent and fair”.
3. More resources are needed for training candidates, campaign managers and volunteers (this was 1C, which I haven’t covered because it’s totally uncontroversial)
4. We need more money, and to do that we need more professional fundraisers in head office.
5. Giving the senior leadership team in caucus more prominence and responsibility.
I challenge any member of the Labour Party to take a look at that list and tell me that it adequately addresses the problems Labour’s campaign in 2014 faced.
Part 2 – Policy and Positioning
This section has a list of policy and positioning recommendations which it tells us are not actually recommendations, because they first need to be passed to the Policy Council and then the Media and Communications Unit in the Leader’s Office. I’m going to ignore it, as the party almost certainly will (after Patrick Gower has finished mocking 2G).
Part 3 – Party Governance and Organisation
This truly is the strangest part of the review. It goes from making recommendations based on problems Labour faced in 2014, to just making stuff up. I’ll try and summarise, but forgive me if I end up rambling, due to the nature of the subject matter.
3A – Party legal status
This is an issue I’ve heard about before, and still to this day don’t really understand (the review doesn’t go into much detail). I don’t know why it was a problem, or what the review is recommending, so hopefully the new general secretary will be able to finally resolve this.
3B – National level organistational structure
This section a series of recommendations. Sadly the review doesn’t mention what problem they are trying to address. Here is what they suggest:
1. A new sub-committee of NZ Council, the Executive, which would include the Leader, President, two senior Vice Presidents, General Secretary, and three Party members elected directly by the membership. Tasked with developing and implementing campaign strategy as well as selection criteria.
2. Maintaining and expanding the NZ Council to include an ethnic representative.
3. A Campaign Committee to be appointed by NZ Council.
4. Sector groups to be reviewed (yes, this review recommends more reviewing).
5. Te Kaunihera Māori, the Māori section of the Party , should also undertake a review (are we seeing a pattern here?).
As I said earlier, I don’t really know what the problem is the review is trying to address here. I would actually assume that the new Executive and Campaign Committees would conflict and potentially hinder each other’s work.
3C – Local organising
The recommendations in this section are a mess. They recommend cementing the LEC (electorate committee) as the main unit of power, not abolishing branches but removing any power they have. It also recommends finally abolishing regional councils, which should have happened when Hubs were implemented. However it still leaves in place the regional reps on NZ Council (which will never be allowed to get smaller) and regional conferences will never die. Sadly review doesn’t touch on how the “Hub” organisational model worked or didn’t in the general election.
3D – Affiliates
Precis: the affiliation model is broken (also, we get no money from them).
The main recommendation that there should be a working group to “examine the most effective way for affiliates to be integrated into a campaign strategy.” And it also handily points out that the money gained from unions is small, but doesn’t have any recommendations on what to do about that.
3E – Candidates
I’m going to quote the first line of this section: “The real question appears to be how the Party identifies candidates and then prepares and supports its candidates before, during and after the election.”
I’m sorry, does it?
It also then goes on to say:
“One of the most criticised aspects of the last election was the process for selection of list candidates”
Really? Not the fact that you got 25% of the Party Vote?
It then goes on to make the following recommendations to change this ‘problem':
1. Any member with 10 signatures should be able to nominate for the list (this is raising the current threshold, but it’s still so low it doesn’t matter).
2. All nominations should be vetted (and presumably vetoed) by a three-person “Vetting Committee”.
3. Moderating Committee should change to being composed of the NZ Council + 4 members of caucus (does that include the members that already sit on NZ Council).
These three recommendations are the most incredible thing in the review. They’re proposing to centralise power in a way that would make Muldoon blush. While they complain about a lack of democracy and transparency, their recommendations propose the opposite. Amazing.
3F – Fundraising
The main recommendation here is to put in place a capital fund to pay for campaigns. And to do that they want to “unlock the significant resources held by local entities of the Party”. Good luck with that.
At the end of the day this review is a mess. However the biggest problem will be if the party focusses on the guff in it (I can already imagine the fights that changes to LEC and regional council rules will cause) and continues to ignore the very real political problems it faces – which remain largely unaddressed.
Given this review is a waste of the envelope it was written on, it will be interesting to see how the new leader and president react (I can’t imagine the current General Secretary doing much to improve the situation).
There are few people who would doubt that digital is becoming an increasingly important component of political campaigns. Sadly I can no longer find the source for this graph, but it’s one that I’ve shown a few times recently to convey that both sides of politics are embracing digital as an increasingly large chunk of their campaign expenditure (in the US at least).
One of the quaint things about election campaigns in New Zealand is the disclosure of electoral expenses, in order to enforce their spending caps. This allows us to very accurately examine what political parties are spending, and what they are spending it on.
Now that the 2014 election expenses have been released I’ve been able to compile what the various parties spent online, and there are some interesting numbers… (data here if you can’t see the full table)
|Social Media||Websites||Display Ads||Misc Digital||Total Digital Spend||Total Spend||% Digital|
While I wasn’t surprised to see that both the Greens and Internet Mana spent a large proportion of their budget online (at 9.2% it’s a higher proportion than the 2012 Obama campaign) – to be honest I was surprised the Internet Mana party didn’t spend more. The only other minor party that made a substantial investment was ACT – presumably getting David Seymour’s video far and wide.
What is surprising is both the huge proportion of their budget that National spent online (18% is much higher than I’ve seen in any other political campaign). As well as investing reasonably heavily in social media and a rather good looking website, they totally saturated online display advertising. It looks like they totally dominated in this space.
By contrast not only did Labour spend a tiny amount of money, but even the proportion of their total spend on digital was small.
This led me to wonder what this looked like compared to the 2011 election. So I dug out those numbers and compared…
|Total Digital Spend 2011||Total Spend 2011||% Digital 2011||Change between 2014 and 2011|
Surprisingly the Greens dropped their digital spend as a proportion of their total campaign budget, but I imagine this is probably because their total campaign budget was so much larger this time, and much of their additional resource was allocated to TV. They still spent almost three times as much online in 2014 as they did in 2011.
While National outspent Labour and the Greens on digital in 2011, they dramatically increased their spend in 2014. To be honest, I’m really taken back by it. You don’t think of the Nats as being on the cutting edge of campaigning, but I’ve never seen a political party invest so heavily in digital media before. Let’s hope the new look Labour team decide to do things a bit differently.
This data has been hand coded from the election expense results. There will be data entry errors on my part.
I’ve broken the 2014 data down into three sub-categories of digital spend: social media, websites and digital display advertising. Apologies for not doing this with the 2011 data.
I’ve compared the 2014 Internet Mana party with the 2011 Mana Party – very different beasts.
If you have trouble viewing this data on my blog, you can see the spreadsheet.
I’ve been contacted by Labour to point out some of the digital spending in their expense that I missed, I have updated accordingly and removed a paragraph from my post that is now inaccurate with the new figures. If anyone else spots mistakes or omissions I’m more than happy to make corrections.
There’s a lot of analysis about “why Labour did not win”. (Short answer: it was heavily overdetermined.) But this is about just one reason that is not why Labour did not win, one thing that almost certainly made no difference to the result: hoardings.
There’s various theories about Labour’s hoardings, ranging from the true – Vote Positive was a weird choice for a message – to the somewhat kooky – apparently we should have plastered David Cunliffe’s face over everything, as if voters might have somehow forgotten he was leader – to the utterly crazy – the claim that Auckland MPs were hiding party vote hoardings on back streets. These theories, of course, are always delivered with complete certainty.
But there’s a fundamental problem with these arguments: hoardings have very little effect on the outcome of elections. Hardboiled American political hacks have a stock phrase for this: “signs don’t vote”. It’s not quite fair to say they don’t do anything – seeing a neighbour’s fence with a candidate’s face on it does matter, because it’s an endorsement from someone in your community, someone who’s part of your broader social milieu. But a large billboard at the roadside? It just doesn’t make much difference. As an Auckland friend of mine sarcastically puts it, “I always make voting decisions based on what corflute on the street tells me”.
There’s some academic research to back this up*, and smart American practice is shifting this way. So, overall, if your theory of Labour’s loss relies on poor hoarding design or display, it is not a load bearing structure.
* Which I’m too lazy to look up right now, sorry.
As part of the NZ Labour leadership election, the candidates are able to email the party membership and sell themselves. Knowing how messy Labour’s membership list can be, I thought I’d reproduce the emails in case anyone wants to use them to make up their mind, but missed getting them.
Here they are, in the order that I received them.
Grant Robertson – New Generation
I am writing to you to seek your support to be the next Leader of the Labour Party. I don’t do so lightly, knowing the task that lies before us, but if you give me this honour I commit to rebuilding our movement and reconnecting with New Zealanders.
I’m proud of the core values of our party to give everyone a fair go, the opportunity to make the most of their potential and the obligation to look after each other. But, like many of you, I heard the message on the doorstep that some New Zealanders had lost their connection to us. Building on our values we have to re-assert our purpose, and be consistent, bold and clear in standing up for all New Zealanders.
To rebuild our movement we must first listen. Not just to ourselves, but also those beyond our party. I am proposing a Labour in the Community programme. An on-going engagement between our party and the people we serve. This will have succeeded when New Zealanders see us as a relevant, liked and valued part of their community, not just when we ask for their vote at election time.
Now, more than ever, we must be a party that faces the future. We cannot rely on past glories or wallow in old conflicts. We must have the confidence to lead the world in facing up to the emerging issues of our time. In reducing inequalities, addressing climate change and applying new technologies there are great challenges and huge opportunities.
Above all, we must be on the side of our people. We need to talk less about ourselves and focus clearly on the concerns of our communities. We need to be the party for education, for health and for housing. We need to build a coalition of workers, entrepreneurs and small business people – those who work, think make and create.
To do all of this we need a new generation of leadership. After six years in Parliament I believe I have the experience to do this job, and the energy and fresh ideas to inspire. We have the talent in our team to take it to the government, and to re-build our movement. Together we can make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders.
If you want to make contact and ask questions or let me know your thoughts, please email me,email@example.com. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible over the coming weeks.
“Grant is a person who is very well grounded, confident in who he is without being arrogant or pretentious. He knows and lives Labour principles…”
“Grant was born in Palmerston North in 1971 and grew up in South Dunedin, the youngest of three boys in a middle class Presbyterian family…”
Nanaia Mahuta – Stronger Together
- Institute change where it is required;
- Build a cohesive, unified Labour Party grounded in and led by our vision for all New Zealanders to achieve their potential;
- Review our policy platform so that we are all of one mind, one voice on the key issues that matter;
- Articulate who we are and what we stand for in the MMP environment;
- Lead with integrity, commitment, authenticity and fairness; and
- Require a disciplined caucus with its sights firmly set on becoming Government.
I am ready to lead a Labour Party that cares about the state of our environment, wants economic opportunity to benefit more people, supports opportunity and innovation, and helps hardworking people to get ahead.
I maintain relationships with key decision-makers and influencers of change in my electorate which has weathered the ups and the downs of the political cycle. My leadership style is to build a team based on a common objective and maintaining focus on the important issues. My experiences have taught me that being able to listen, connect, problem solve, be decisive and draw on strengths of people are some of the essential elements to take people forward but, more importantly, authenticity of relationships are crucial to building trust and confidence.
It’s Time for Unifying Change and I Have a Plan – David Parker
I am writing to you to ask you to vote for me as your Leader of the Labour Party.
My experience as a senior Minister and in law, accounting and business gives me the conviction, real life experience and steel in my backbone to do the job.
I am standing because I want to lead Labour forward to once again share the hopes and aspirations of working New Zealanders – to lead a party we can all be proud of and one New Zealanders will be proud to vote for. We must look outwards not inwards.
Right now big structural problems face NZ. Our economy isn’t fair. The problems we face nationally are not going to go away. That why it’s vital we have a strong opposition over the next three years and a united Labour Party. I can stand up to John Key and I have a plan to lead Labour to win in 2017.
- We must unite caucus and the party around our common goal of fair economic outcomes for everyone.
- We must start fresh conversations that focus on the priorities of working New Zealanders.
- We must focus on answering the tough questions in a way that unites the country toward a better future.
- We must live up to our responsibilities so New Zealanders feel proud to vote Labour.
Put simply, I believe in a fair go and a fair share. I have the experience, the smarts and the passion to lead that change. I know how to build a better New Zealand – have no doubt about it.
Help me to deliver fair economic outcomes for all New Zealanders by entrusting me with your vote. Labour people are ambitious and optimistic. We know what we need to do. It’s time to get started.
I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.
Labour is the party that was built by working Kiwis – Andrew Little
Labour is the party that was built by working Kiwis for working Kiwis. We are still that party.
But we have to get our house in order. Because if we don’t then all we have is a bunch of good intentions gone to waste.
We need to fix the machine. We need to bring the pieces of the Labour movement back together and focus them on winning government and making changes we need to to build a fair society.
It’s a big task but it’s one we need to address one step at a time. First we need a caucus that communicates effectively within itself and with focus. Getting to that point will be the first job for the new Leader. Then the Leader and caucus need to reach out to the party and ensure they work well within themselves. Then we need to work alongside our affiliates.
We must find a common cause, within the movement, and with the many, many New Zealanders who want something better for themselves and for their families.
If we don’t find common cause as a movement we will never earn the trust of New Zealanders.
I can do this. I have done this before.
When I became the leader of the EPMU, one of New Zealand’s largest and most powerful unions, it was a house divided. I led the project to bring it together, to modernise it, to bring through new talent. I built a union which took our member’s issues out to the public, to the media, and won the argument again and again. We covered a lot of ground and during that time I dealt with organisations from small business to New Zealand’s biggest corporates on many different issues.
The one unifying thing, across all of these issues, was fairness. We got fair outcomes for our members and for New Zealand workers across the board because we worked together.
We are a party of immensely talented people. But right now we’re working as individuals, not as a collective movement.
We must fix this. We can.
We need to regain New Zealanders’ trust. We need them to know that when we make a promise, we can deliver. We need them to know we stand for them and their ambitions. Not just against what’s wrong but for what is right.
As part of that we must acknowledge the trust Māori put in Labour in delivering us six of the the seven Māori seats. They are our voters and we must make good on their return to us. We must ensure that Māori are represented well within Labour and that advancing their aspirations is a cornerstone of our Party. That’s what being representative is about.
People have asked me why I’m standing. I’m standing because I believe in Labour’s values. I believe in fairness and justice for workers, for families, for all New Zealanders. People aren’t getting a fair go right now, and I won’t tolerate a society in which the very few at the top gain at the expense of the many.
I won’t tolerate a society in which good jobs are destroyed and replaced with insecure work, in which people in the middle are squeezed tighter and tighter by the cost of living and have no way to get ahead. A society in which those at the bottom fall off the edge of the cliff.
These are the principles I have stood for throughout my life and they have been at the core of how I have led. They are the principles that the Labour Party embodies.
But to stand up for those principles we must be a united Party with new ideas and a real plan to win back the trust of New Zealanders.
I can bring the party together. I have the track record to prove it.
I’m asking you to vote for me as number 1 on your ballot so we can rebuild and win. Together
Andrew Little MP
Labour is out of touch. It had too much policy, and the leader was unable to explain to everyday New Zealanders just what the consequences of those policies would be. Major spending promises were seen as opportunistic and unrealistic, while important taxation changes weren’t seen as credible. The overall narrative was trapped in negative opposition, without ever articulating a coherent positive vision for the nation. The party itself lacks members, lacks skilled activists, and is continually short of money.
This is a description of the New Zealand Labour Party from, roughly mid-2007 to now. The details change, but the overall picture doesn’t, and the result remains the same: electoral underperformance.
There are, of course, various proposals floating around at the moment aimed at turning around this decline: Phil Quin or Micheal Wood or Lew Stoddart’s or …, and in due course, the Party’s own review recommendations. These proposals are all valuable, even if they do have a tendency to reflect the author’s own preoccupations – not that this article doesn’t.
But we’ve been here before. We had exactly the same problems at the last election, and we had a review, and we made changes, and yet here we are again. Why? I think there’s two important points: firstly, and somewhat fatalistically, Labour is not entirely in control of it’s destiny – there are external factors that matter, and it’s important not to overrate the importance of those things we can control. But those external factors, important as they are, have to be put to one side. Labour needs to focus on those things it can control.
Secondly, the NZLP is deeply resistant to change. Institutionally, it is hugely conservative. So at the last review, a series of big, important changes were put forward: campaigning hubs, women-only shortlists, direct member involvement in selections, creation of a supporters register, party-wide election of the leader, reformed policy making processes. Some of these changes happened: we have a democratic process for the leader, we have a different policy process now. Some didn’t: the supporter’s register, women’s only shortlists, direct member involvement in selections. Some happened, but never really clicked – campaigning hubs.
If the NZLP is serious about change, it needs to start by being committed to change. At present, far too often, the party refuses change. The institutional structure has too many veto players, and the culture of the party is too conservative and insular. The governance structures of the party are weak, and too dominated by factionalism and patch protection. Too often, the party is dominated by heavily institutionalised members who have been there for a very long time, protecting fiefdoms that are increasingly irrelevant and out of touch. This doesn’t mean jumping for every change possible, but it does mean acknowledging that previous efforts at reform have been stymied by excesses of caution and conservatism.