Mike Hosking: Labour pains - Why it's failing


Key may be on a roll, but Cunliffe and his party have committed the great sin of not learning from failure.

National leader John Key has rare political gifts. Labour leader David Cunliffe has a mountain to climb. Photos/ APN, Mark Mitchell
National leader John Key has rare political gifts. Labour leader David Cunliffe has a mountain to climb. Photos/ APN, Mark Mitchell

This weekend Labour's doing what National did last weekend, except they're calling it a Congress.

It's the big party get-together that takes on new meaning given it's election year.

I bet Labour wishes it wasn't election year.

Or if it has to be election year, I bet Labour wishes it was January again and they could start all over.

Labour's in a mess.

They look in no shape at all to compete, far less win an election.

Up until about now I've been running the line that's generally run in election year when it comes to polls and predictions.

The line is that, "there's still a lot of water to go under the bridge", the line is, "a week is a long time in politics", the line is, "the polls will tighten".

Well as we sit here now this morning I feel less and less of that is true.

It looks increasingly possible that a lot of what appears might happen, actually will happen, even though it's July and the vote's in September.

One of the things I think will happen is that Labour won't break 30 per cent and quite possibly will do worse than that.

The tragedy of that is they will have committed one of life's great sins.

In life you learn from your failures.

In 2008 they got 27 per cent of the vote.

That was a disaster and led to all sorts of repercussions.

But those days are sent to test you. The good operator sucks a day like that up, looks at what didn't work, thinks about what will work, and then sets about making sure they don't revisit it all. It looks like Labour's learnt nothing.

I might at this point offer them an excuse.

National. The opponent is on a roll. The opponent has an economy on fire and people vote on economies. The opponent has a leader of rare political gifts and talents. The opponent has worked out what moves polls and what doesn't, what to spend time on and what not to.

So Labour can rightly wonder in those quiet moments they undoubtedly have, when they're reading poll numbers like 23, 27 or 29, just what it is they need to do to. They can write at least part of the gap off to the other blokes being on top form.

But as much as they will hate hearing this, much of their problem is of their own making. The trick at least in part to political success is giving people what they want. And quotas on lists, more tax, stopping people cutting up trees that are blown over, isn't it.

And that's before we get to Trevor Mallard and his moa. How inexplicable is that? No one of that experience raises something that nutty, this close to a poll, in a party with this much trouble, without knowing what they're doing. And what he's doing is taking the piss. I could've seen past it if Trevor closed it down, said nothing, apologised, put it down to a mad moment.

But he took my Seven Sharp colleague Jehan Casinader into the bush, and talked about what sized moa he would like to see, and what sort of noise they'd make. He looked like someone who'd been let out on day release.

Those are the days as leader you must wonder whether you are in a parallel universe.

Ahhh the leader.

Yes that's another one of their problems. He's better than Grant Robertson, but not the circuit breaker that Shane Jones might've been.

Which by the way is a very good example of how slick National is. Shane Jones wandering the Pacific in his invented job looks increasingly like a National Party stroke of genius.

I have a lot of sympathy for Mr Cunliffe right now.

To get out of bed each day and attempt to climb the mountain he's facing takes determination and a lot of Panadol.

This weekend is part of that process.

You look for a bounce out of a conference or 'congress'. You look to get some "mo" going as the Americans say.

Labour sure do need some "mo". They also need a miracle.

- NZ Herald

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