NZ Labour’s woes are well documented. The latest round of polls – both with Labour sub 25, are frankly, disastrous. On these numbers Labour will be lucky to get deputy leader David Parker re-elected, and the prospect of any new list MPs just looks like a fantasy.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. From my distant perspective, it looks like Labour is running some excellent on the ground campaigns. Some of the MPs look like they’re making great visits (David Shearer and Chris Hipkins seem to have had a really sucessful visit through the regional North Island). Kelvin Davis is getting good media from his work helping flood victims in his electorate. I’ve heard that some electorates are smashing their voter contact targets. The fact that they’ve even managed to agree to targets at all amazes me (I have previously sat in a Labour meeting where the idea of targets was quite literally dismissed as “boss talk”).
And as Phil Quin pointed out on the Q+A panel the other week, Labour do have some very good policy positions. Chris Hipkins really needs to be commended for the work he continues to do with education – their school donation and class size policies are really solid vote winners.
Unfortunately, Labour seems to have since dropped them like a lead balloon.
Using Facebook as a sample of Labour’s external comms*, let’s have a look at what they’ve done with the education announcements…
2 July – Labour announce their school donation policy with a nice graphic on Facebook. Lovely stuff.
3 July – Cunliffe posts a story about how the PPTA back’s their policy. Nice touch.
5 July – Saturday of party congress. Cunliffe announces iPad for every child policy with another nice Facebook graphic.
6 July – Sunday of party congress. Leader’s keynote speech. Presumably in the speech Cunliffe announces their major policy of employing 2000 new teachers to reduce class sizes. But you wouldn’t know that from his Facebook page which stays completely silent on the matter.
7 July – David Cunliffe is awkwardly holding a sausage.
8 July – David Cunliffe meets the Japanese Prime Minister. Does he talk about education? We’ll never know.
10 July – A week after the key note speech a video of it is posted online. Without any mention of the policy. You have to watch the 36 minute video to discover that Labour wants to reduce class sizes.
10 July – Chris Hipkins launches Labour’s excellent education manifesto. It’s a beautiful document that really easily sets out some great policy. Does Cunliffe or the Labour Party mention it? Nope.
Number of mentions of Labour’s education policies after they’re announced: 0. Number of times David Cunliffe has mentioned that they are reducing class sizes on Facebook: 0.
Hell, it’s even depressing to look at a Facebook feed of all Labour candidates and party pages. The last time anyone from Labour talked about education was Grant Robertson three days ago.
Labour candidates should be told to post about it. They should be told to do a visit, then talk about how the education policy is relevant to that visit afterwards. People aren’t going to vote Labour because you have dunked yourself in a pool of icy water. They will vote Labour if they think that improving our kids’ education is worthwhile, and that Labour is the best party to deliver that. You have a good policy. Go out there and sell it!
In a week where Labour committed hundreds of millions of dollars to make worthwhile and significant changes to education, candidates should not be posting videos of ice water challenges. There are enough distractions from Labour’s core messages thanks to donations scandals, Kim Dotcom etc etc, Labour shouldn’t be using Facebook to create even more diversions.
And by totally going to ground and refusing to go out and sell Labour’s policy, David Cunliffe doesn’t even look like he wants Labour to win.
* Facebook certainly isn’t and shouldn’t be Labour’s only communication tool, but given they can easily use it to reach an audience of hundreds of thousands of people, they would be criminally negligent to ignore it. And sadly it doesn’t look like they’re picking up the slack here in any other medium.