Joe Hendren

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Does National party strategy come from the CityRats?

Chris Trotter poses an interesting question. Did the success of the Citizens and Ratepayers Campaign in the last Auckland local body elections provide a 'dry run' for the general election campaign of National led by John Key? Is the same strategy at work?

"Like Banksie, Key is promising that he and his followers have changed. That they’re no longer the flinty-faced mob they used to be under Don Brash. Oh dear me no, they have turned over a new leaf, and become kinder, gentler tories: National-Lite. Also, like Banksie and his C&R strategists, the Nats are relying on the voters’ rapidly waning affection for the incumbent left-wing adminstration to carry them into power without having to first undergo too much in the way of intense media scrutiny.

Could this explain the Opposition’s extreme reluctance to talk about too much policy detail? In case somebody ends up disagreeing - i.e. attracting attention and making news? Is Key hoping to take down Helen Clark’s government in the same way that Banksie took down Dick Hubbard’s - by default?"

Trotter believes the Left opened the way for the CityRats to win in an environment where there was little public scrutiny of their ideas or what they stood for. I largely agree with Trotter's analysis here. I would also note that a compliant media was also a factor.

This suggests a Labour party general election campaign based around 'keeping National out' is less likely to succeed than a campaign based on big ideas (like interest free student loans). Announcing progressive policy is more likely to force the Nats to talk about policy in a way they wish to avoid. Act's Roger Douglas may have this effect too. Labour would not need to run the negative message, as National and Act will scare the horses all by themselves, just like Maurice Williamson did with his $50 a week estimate of road tolls.

I posted the following as a comment in response to Chris' post - I thought I might as well note it here too.

Another related issue is the failure of the centre-left/left to come up with a credible electable candidate for the Auckland Mayoralty for as long as I can remember. While Hubbard won in 2004, he ran a dreadful campaign in 2007. Hubbard’s politics are centrist at best - I am sure many voted for him because he was on the left of Banks, which is not saying much. In 2001 there was the fracas created by the Labour wing of City Vision endorsing a failed National party cabinet minister who also ran a dreadful campaign, and lost badly.

Could we please have a centre-left candidate at the next mayoral elections who people of the left actually want to vote for? A candidate who can generate some enthusiasm around local body issues and encourages a greater turnout?

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