John Armstrong illustrates the size of Labour’s problems:
While National was promising a brighter future, Labour was offering a better past. But no-one lives there any more. Labour had lost touch with middle New Zealand. . .
Labour’s overall vote shrank by 15% at the 2008 election. That was not unusual for a party that had been in power for nine years. But Saturday night’s result saw Labour’s vote shrink again, this time by 23% on the 2008 provisional result.
All up, nearly 300,000 voters deserted Labour between 2005 and 2011 – that amounts to 35% of the party’s 2005 election night tally.
The reasons for this are many.
John Key’s popularity and increasing support are among them but they are more symptoms than causes.
Labour had some really silly policies – GST off fruit and vegetables and not-working for families.
“People must always be able to earn more in work than welfare . . . “
Labour spent most of the election campaign attacking John Key and misrepresenting National’s mixed-ownership model for state assets policy as asset sales.
Phil Goff’s ratings improved as people saw more of them but the party went backwards.
After National’s disastrous defeat in the 2002 election the leader Bill English and president Judy Kirk with Steven Joyce’s assistance undertook a complete review of the party. A special constitutional conference re-wrote the rule book and provided the foundation for rebuilding the party.
Labour will have to do the same. Armstrong says:
The Labour Party can dither no longer. Some of its most sacred cows are in need of slaughtering.
The magnitude of last Saturday’s crushing defeat dictates that whichever David – Cunliffe or Shearer – emerges triumphant from the leadership tussle, his first action should be to initiate a rigorous, thorough and preferably independent top-to-bottom review of the party’s structure and practices.
Nothing should be exempt from scrutiny. Not even that most delicate of subjects – the role of the party’s trade union affiliates.
Failure to do so won’t just make it difficult if not impossible to win the next election, it will gift the Green Party the opportunity to become the major party on the left.