The missing million

Labour has made much of the so-called ‘missing million’ voters who stayed home in 2011 and failed to cast a vote. The prevailing wisdom among many in Labour since 2011 has been that Labour needs to target those stay-at-home voters, bring them back into the fold, and the 2014 election would be Labour’s.

David Cunliffe and his supporters see these ‘missing million’ as being almost entirely left wing voters; his recently discovered left wing rhetoric, as well being a sop to the unions and the Labour party activist wing, was presumably supposed to be a signal to the ‘missing million’ that it was now safe to return to Labour.

The problem is that to date it hasn’t worked in the slightest. Labour has simply been treading water in the early-30s poll-wise. The ‘missing million’ have not been returning home. Why? It’s hard to say, but it seems reasonable to conclude that, for a start, many of those who didn’t vote were from the political centre – those who simply find that neither National nor Labour are able to offer a world view and policy platform that has any real relevance to them.

Labour’s problems are succinctly summed up by blogger Elipsister, in her recent post “Perspective from an undecided left voter“:

Unity. Its a tired slogan of the Left. What does it even mean these days? No matter how bold or militant those on the Left make the typeface, unity just does not follow. Instead, we appear to have dominant voices (comprised of activists, partisan bloggers, MP’s, party members and hacks) purporting to represent the broadly composed Left as a single movement, and with the single aim of deposing John Key and his National led government (another tired, overused and unhelpful phrase).

I accept that many of these voices have done a great deal to highlight the gross abuses of power, dodgy dealings, incompetency and arrogance of the National led government. But in doing so, many have also highlighted their own dodgy dealings, incompetency, arrogance and penchant for their own abuses of power. Rather than advancing any ground, they have effectively neutralised it.

However, its the secondary tactic that concerns me most as an undecided voter – the attack on the moral character of undecided voters. Whether its on blogs or other social media platforms (facebook or twitter mostly) the voting police have already embarked on their passive-aggressive (mostly aggressive) “vote or you’re a horrible person campaign”, because if you don’t vote, apparently, you’re basically voting for John Key.

This is a ridiculous argument. It is also incredibly manipulative. It is not even close to bringing about genuine unity because it demonises undecided voters for not unquestioningly falling in line with the dominant consensus. It preys on the good intentions of such voters and attempts to guilt trip them into subordinating their own values and principles to the will of the dominant voices who care only about getting rid of John Key and the National Party.

And for what? To replace the current authority with their own.

If the Left want to change the government, then those dominant voices should probably first change their attitudes. Undecided voters should not be treated as enemies. It is not their fault that the parties have so far failed to persuade them to want to vote, or to in fact want to vote for one of the left wing parties. If the Lefts ambition wasn’t so blatantly just a reach for power (like their right wing counterparts), then perhaps undecided voters might reconsider their positions.

Unfortunately, the ‘missing million’ now seems to be a bit of a talisman for David Cunliffe, a cross to clutch before him whenever someone mentions the polls. True to form, here’s what he said on NewstalkZB this morning:

If one-quarter of the missing million vote it’s game over red rover, you’ve got a Labour led government, right? One-quarter of the missing million vote – game over. And we’re going to get them to the polls.

Within Labour though, those who believe in the ‘missing million’ will continue to believe, no matter what they’re told. “The polls are wrong!” they’ll say. “These are people who don’t have landlines – of course they don’t feature in the polls!” And it will only be on election day, when voter participation declines a few percent more, that it will become clear that the ‘missing million’ stayed home once again.

“2017 will be different though! They’ll come back and vote for us then! And then who’ll be laughing on the other side of their face?”

Every party has its own brand of Koolaid…

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