Comedy at the Standard

I had to laugh this morning when I Stephanie Rodgers’ blog at the Standard – “The dirtiest election campaign backfires“. Ms Rodgers writes:

Yesterday looked like it was going to be a pretty bad day. There were scandalous revelations, blatant lies, unrestrained corruption gnawing at the very heart of the left. At least, that’s what we were promised.

But in the end what we got was a pretty standard, decade-old MP’s letter to Immigration asking about timeframes for a constituent and a chorus cry from people who were never going to support anything Labour did anyway for Cunliffe to resign.

What happened next was interesting.

As the story developed – or rather, undeveloped, because a few pictures of someone’s wife standing next to Rick Barker is not the Zimmerman Telegram – I saw a lot of people on my (admittedly leftwing, Wellington-focused) Twitter feed coming together to call bullshit on the whole thing.

In addition to providing a collection of tweets that supported David Cunliffe, Ms Rodgers also pointed to three other posts on the Standard as evidence that that nice Mr Cunliffe is being most unfairly picked on by the media. Apparently there’s no crisis if the people who share your ideology also believe there’s no crisis.

However, if it’s all a storm in a teacup and the public see though the invidious media manipulation, then why does the Herald’s current online survey have 62% of people answering “Yes” to the question “Should David Cunliffe resign as Labour’s leader?” Sure, it’s an unscientific, self-selecting survey, rather than a scientific randomly conducted poll. However, at the time of publication of this post, almost 16,000 had voted, providing a large enough sample that Labour should be worried.

Ms Rodgers goes on to write:

But it is, really, a story of hope. Because you have to ask yourself just how desperate the Nats have to be if their first kinghit on Cunliffe is an 11-year-old pro-forma MP’s letter which says nothing more than “how long is this going to take, yo.”

Now, I agree that the letter is, in itself, relatively innocuous. However, having spent weeks using Donghua Liu as a stick to beat National with, the unveiling of Cunliffe’s letter, in conjunction with the allegedly undeclared $15,000 donation from Mr Liu, completely destroys Labour’s “cash for access” line of attack. It destroys Labour’s “brain fade” line of attack against John Key. It forces Cunliffe to appear on every talk show in the land, denying that he’s a liar. And less than 95 days from an election, it stops Labour from talking policy.

That’s not National party desperation. It’s simply cynical and tactical use of a weapon at an opportune moment. And Cunliffe was gullible enough to walk into the trap that had been set.



  1. I rather think you missed the point of my post – it’s not that there’s no crisis, but that the attempt to use the Liu letter to dethrone Cunliffe and destabilise Labour isn’t working. (And that National must be pretty threatened by Cunliffe to try this.)

    As to why the Herald’s unscientific self-selecting poll might read one way or another, only the gods can say.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I’m unconvinced that there’s any attempt by National to “dethrone” Cunliffe. National’s well aware that Labour doesn’t have the time to bed in a new leader, and, frankly, who from Labour would be mad enough to take the job at this juncture?

      National is however happy to kick Cunliffe where it hurts because, from the government’s point of view, hamstringing the main opposition party and the leader of the opposition less than 95 days out from an election makes good sense.

      As to whether the attack has destabilised Labour, when the papers are gleefully reporting that Grant Robertson has the numbers to roll Cunliffe, should he want the job, then I’d say there’s a modicum of success to the destabilisation attempt.

      And yes, I normally don’t place much stock in unscientific self-selecting surveys, thus I’ll happily accept that the result could be flawed for any number of reasons. But that is a large sample of respondents saying Cunliffe should go…


      1. After watching the Herald online polls for the last 7+ years, I’d say that it is amazing that the number is down as low as 62%.

        I don’t think you realise exactly how self-selecting those polls are. On a loaded question like this immediately after political event, I’d normally expect the hang-em hight to be in the late 80s or early 90s.

      2. Fair enough, Lynn. That’s always the problem with self-selecting surveys – you’re not going to click to vote unless the issue resonates with you, so those with a relatively partisan viewpoint are more likely to vote.

        And people do indeed love to leap immediately upon a high horse, declaring that someone should be hung high… Further and more measured reflection often occurs at a later date…

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