Six Givens, Two Whys: How the Expectations Game Favours Nats in Mana
To astute Mana-watchers, a National win in the by-election will not be a shock upset — it would not even qualify as much of an upset at all. The political environment in the lead-up to the by-election heavily favours National.
So here’s six givens:
- Given the absence of Winnie Laban on the ballot, the party vote from the last election is the best indication of the respective standings of Labour and National in Mana;
- And that the party vote margin favours Labour by only 2,500 votes or so;
- And that the National Party candidate is a Mana-based list MP who carries an element of incumbency;
- And that the PM is riding a wave of popularity, buoyed by a post-quake glow;
- And that the turnout in a by-election will be lower than a General Election by many thousands;
- And that low turnout is traditionally very bad news for Labour…
And two whys:
- Why has the media mindlessly bought National’s — and their allies in the blogosphere’s — spin that Mana is a “safe Labour seat”, and that winning it will therefore be a Herculean triumph?
- Why has Labour utterly opted out of the expectations game, and allowed the bar to be set so unreachably high?
Phil Goff is a credible alternative PM, and easily the best leadership talent within the Labour caucus. He’s tough, too, but no-one can forever withstand unrelenting waves of bad advice. Allowing the view that Mana is a Labour fortress to take hold is the direct result of an ill-advised political strategy. (It feels both churlish and a little necessary to mention here the recent examples of installing Faafoi’s replacement before the nomination was settled, the heavy-handed treatment of local members by paid political staff, and the Radio Australia debacle — it doesn’t take much to detect a pattern).
Perhaps I am being “controversial” again. I am certain there are elements still in the Labour Party who confuse candour with disloyalty. But, it feels neither disloyal nor controversial to plead via this piss-ant little blog that Labour needs to smarten up and toughen up — or else face not just a loss in the Mana by-election, but a loss far more damaging than it needs to be.