Rodney Hide: Don't mention the polls!

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Professor Nigel Haworth, President of the New Zealand Labour Party. Photo / Supplied
Professor Nigel Haworth, President of the New Zealand Labour Party. Photo / Supplied

Spare a thought these summer holidays for Professor Nigel Haworth, President of the New Zealand Labour Party.

He has attempted to rally members and supporters with a missive declaring, "We're finishing an excellent year in which the polls and popular feeling on the streets tells us that we are on course to victory in 2017".

The polls! The polls! Don't mention the polls! But he did.

In his day job Haworth is an academic at Auckland University where facts and truth are paramount. In his spare time he heads up the Labour Party and, in politics, propaganda rules the roost.

The polls a year on from their election defeat in 2011 had Labour and the Greens trailing National by 1 per cent. A year on from their 2014 defeat Labour and the Greens are trailing National 10 per cent.

The polls are worse for Labour than when David Shearer was leader.

We understand the need for positivity and talking the team up.

But positivity can't be at the expense of reality. You can't be 10 points down at half time and tell the team the scoreboard shows you winning. That's delusional. That does nothing to rally the team.

You can inspire the team telling them we can win, that we have done the hard yards and are well placed to win.

And in truth that's Labour's position. It can win the next election. It has done some hard yards and the team has settled down under Andrew Little's leadership.

The polls this far out don't matter much. They are certainly not a predictor of what will happen over the next two years.

The purpose of political parties is to change the course of events and to make history. That's what Labour must do.

Experienced politicians take polls seriously but don't comment on them. That's because sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not.

And there is in politics party propaganda. We are right. They are wrong. We will win. They will lose.

But in a democracy facts can't be suppressed and must either be ignored for propaganda purposes or spun to a better conclusion. They can't be turned on their head and placed inside out. The polls don't show Labour on track to win in 2017.

I fear that in slipping off the standards of academia Haworth has slipped a little too far. In discovering in politics no strict need for accuracy, he has thrown out facts and abandoned reality.

His missive to the troops will dispirit them. Our leader doesn't grasp politics or comprehend our situation.

His failure to see where we are suggests he is unlikely to get us to where we would like to be. There's a sense that Labour remains out of touch. Haworth's rallying cry simply reinforces that view.

- Herald on Sunday

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