Rodney Hide: Tent debacle another stumble

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It's hard for the Leader of the Opposition to win some media coverage. Photo / Mark Mitchell
It's hard for the Leader of the Opposition to win some media coverage. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It's hard for the Leader of the Opposition to win some media coverage - especially when up against a popular Prime Minister who has stolen your policies and wears your clothes. That's Andrew Little's lot.

The answer is media stunts, preferably illustrating how the Government is failing and how your policies would make a difference. Stunts involving real people and real problems work best. It shows you are connected and caring. Real people can do the talking for you.

The good thing about stunts is that you get to prepare them. You get to choose when and where and have time to develop and craft your message. You have staff and MPs to check things out.

It is important to check every detail and every fact from every angle. The journalists will pounce on the slightest mistake to write a story contrary to the one that you are hoping to make.

You especially have to check the talent. Involving real people is good but they can wander off message.

And so it was this week for Little.

The issue was housing. The problem overcrowding.

The journalists were given the address. Turn up and Labour will show you 17 poor people at one address living in a tent.

The journalists are there ahead of you. Everything is ready to go. But then the homeowner wanders out to tell the journos there is no problem, there is no overcrowding, the tent is for furniture and material while he renovates.

The homeowner sounds content and aspirational. He's fixing up his house. He's looking to the future. It's a disaster.

The stunt reinforces the impression that Andrew Little is unlucky and bumbling.

Little's staff hastily redirect journos to the local Labour office. The leader is "a little lost for words and confused about which house he was meant to be at".

But no matter, there was a house with a tent that his local MPs had been working with. Just not that house.

It's hard to comprehend how such a monumental error could be made. Had the local MPs not talked to the homeowner? Had Little's staff not checked and rechecked the story?

I don't have the answers but the stunt reinforces the impression that Little is unlucky and bumbling. The story will have hardly registered to most and will soon be forgotten except by political tragics such as myself who will tell and retell the story to highlight the importance of preparation and how things can go horribly wrong.

Labour has no route to power without the support of Winston Peters. Peters can't abide amateurs. He isn't about to make one Prime Minister.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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