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Labour Leader Poll result

Sunday 8 September, 2013

Panel discussion in response to Labour Leader Poll result

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Q+A 8 September, 2013

PANEL DISCUSSION

Hosted by SUSAN WOOD

In response to LABOUR LEADER POLL RESULT

SUSAN To Labour's leadership race now, and after a week on the hustings, are we any closer to a clear winner to take Labour through to the 2014 general elections? We have the results of our new Q+A Colmar Brunton snap poll of 510 people. We asked, which candidate is most likely to lead Labour to victory and beat John Key in 2014 election? David Cunliffe won by a clear margin on 39%, followed by Shane Jones on 18 and Grant on 15%.

We also asked, who would be most likely to beat John Key in a television debate? Again, eligible voters said David Cunliffe was their preferred candidate. He’s sitting there on 36%. Shane Jones on 27% and Grant Robertson on 11%.

With some of the candidates promises big infrastructural projects, we asked, who would be most likely to follow through on their promises if they became prime minister? David Cunliffe just pipping Grant Robertson to the post there on 25%, Grant Robertson 24 and Shane Jones on 17%.

But when asked, which candidate best identifies with the average New Zealand voter, Shane Jones is leading the way. He’s sitting there on 31%, followed by David Cunliffe on 29 and Grant Robertson on 19%.

And in our last question – who would inspire the most people to get out and vote on election day? Again, the winner – David Cunliffe, 33% of the vote. Shane Jones sitting there at second again on 30% of the vote, and Grant Robertson on 17%.

Welcome back to the panel. Corin has joined us. Interesting results there, Mike. I think we’ve seen it consistently all along – Shane Jones just coming up there through the middle.

MIKE Well, it’s a two-horse race, but not the two horses that we thought. It’s interesting. Two things have happened since the last Q+A poll. One, you’ve taken out two of the contestants – you’ve taken out Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little. Now, I would have thought that those numbers would have gone to Grant Robertson. They haven’t, and that’s because something else has happened, and that is the campaign has started. And I think David Cunliffe certainly got off to the best start. There was criticism of it, but there was razzamatazz. The other two just made press conference statements where they could have taken advantage of that. And I think that Cunliffe appears to have momentum. So does Shane Jones, and I think that Grant Robertson has not gained momentum and is not gathering momentum.

SUSAN But, David, it’s almost like there are two races going on to some extent. Grant Robertson’s more behind the scenes with the party faithful who will be voting. Jones is very much a public campaign, isn’t it? Talking to the voters.

DAVID Absolutely, and that’s because to a degree – he won't say this – he’s actually playing for becoming the kingmaker. Where his supporters’ second preferences go is key. He could end up deputy leader, very senior front bench out of this, and he does that by building up the public support. You know, you’ve got the caucus and the members’ vote. Robertson’s slightly ahead, they think, in the caucus vote. The members’ vote – everyone says, and I think it’s right, that Cunliffe is ahead there, but what we don’t see but is happening behind the scenes is MPs aren’t just sitting there waiting for the members to vote. They are working those phone lines. They are talking to members. And, you know, if someone like Phil Goff, who’s been your MP for 30 years, comes to you and says, “I don’t think you should vote for this person,” that is going to have an influence. So it’s a bad-news poll for Robertson, but it doesn’t mean he’s out of the race.

CORIN I agree with that 100%. I mean, you look at the South Island – Ruth Dyson, for example, will be telling her supporters to back Robertson and why she is. That is Grant Robertson’s strategy, really. He’s banking on having enough caucus members and also the key heavy-hitters in caucus – let’s be honest about that – as well behind him out there and putting out those strong messages of support and getting those supporters to back him. But the problem with this poll is when those supporters see the numbers for Cunliffe in the wider pictures of winning the election, will they start to peel off and start to think, “Boy, we’re going to have to back him because he’s the only one who might be able to beat Key.”

DAVID And the worst statistic for Robertson in this is amongst Labour voters, only 9% think he’s the best. That’s the one – nine out of 10 are picking someone else if they’re a Labour voter.

CORIN Small sample size, though. I would say that.

DAVID True.

SUSAN But consistent these polls have been.

MIKE There's a point to be made, Susan, here that the reason that Shearer was removed to a large extent by the Cunliffe people, and he sort of – uh, the Robertson people – was because of a poll, ok? Here you’ve got a poll telling the caucus people how to vote. Now, if you're going to be consistent, if a poll removes Shearer, then a poll should favour Cunliffe. But could I also say that Shane Jones is— You’re quite right. It’s a wonderful piece of insurgency. Here is the Women’s Weekly.

SUSAN Let me hold that up.

DAVID Not Germaine Greer! (laughs)

MIKE And Shane Jones is in it. Now, how on earth do you pull that off?

SUSAN And actually all week there's been a lot of criticism of this, Jennifer – Shane Jones, he’s been out there. He’s had Dot by his side. There's been a lot of sort of puffery around him, and a degree of crudity. Fran O’Sullivan picked it up in her column yesterday. He’s talking about neutering the Prime Minister. There's women jokes – being called geldings. Has he gone too far? Is this all just too much?

JENNIFER Well, I think, really, it’s about the public campaign that he’s running to demonstrate that he can do things that the other two can't. So, make people turn out, attach himself to voters that perhaps the traditional Labour have left behind.

SUSAN Well, he wanted to attach something to the Prime Minister. I mean, let’s actually listen to what he had to say.

HEATHER DU PLESSIS-ALLEN (voice-over): So, Grant’s brought me to the very place where he first met his partner, Alf. But someone’s missing.

HEATHER DU PLESSIS-ALLEN: Where is Alf?

GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, he’s not here tonight. He’s actually got a few other things on.

HEATHER: You’re not hiding him, are you?

GRANT: No. no, I’m not.

HEATHER (voice-over): Is that true, Grant? Because there’s Alf. [Arrow points to man behind Heather and Grant.] We didn’t realise that was Alf when we were filming – just look at your cheeky smile – and he was there the whole time, Grant.

GRANT: No, no, he’s not out here tonight.

DAVID (chuckles) Oh dear.

SUSAN That was obviously a different clip. That was the clip—

DAVID Still a good clip!

SUSAN ...about Grant telling porky pies, essentially. I mean, how— Mike, you sit there with a straight face: “No, he’s not here tonight.” And there he is in the background. Stupid?

MIKE That’s incredible. That is really silly.

SUSAN And it really raises questions around integrity if you’re going to lie, filthy black lie so simply over something like that, how do people trust you otherwise?

JENNIFER Yes, although I do think at the moment the public aren’t voting for him, and so how much traction that will get. But going back to the Shane Jones thing—

SUSAN Shall we have a look at the clip?

JENNIFER Oh yes.

SUSAN We’ve got the clip right, so we’ll have a look at it.

SHANE JONES: I’m going to tie a bungee cord around the sensitive spot, and then I’m going to get those callipers and cut them. And then the trader from Wall Street and then the mercenary of capitalism can suffer what he deserves – a dead cat bounce.

JOHN KEY: (chuckles) Sounds painful.

SUSAN It does sound painful.

JENNIFER Well, it does, and I suppose the thing is this might work for giving people a bit of a giggle – some of the non-PC set – but really it doesn’t bode well for the kind of diplomatic skills you might expect a Prime Minister to have.

SUSAN Well, Mike, you can't really have a Prime Minister running around talking like that, can you?

MIKE Well, I was in an audience where he did talk like that and I can assure that they absolutely loved it. He knows how to work a crowd, and it seemed to work for him. But I would say this – the effect of Shane being in this race is that there are a lot of people coming to those meetings and who are going to vote who otherwise wouldn’t vote. And that’s actually an advantage for Cunliffe, because most of Shane’s second preferences – and he announced this on Radio New Zealand this morning – will go to Cunliffe. So he started off by saying he is the kingmaker, and that is what he is turning into.

SUSAN Kingmaker and potential deputy, you’re thinking?

MIKE I don’t know. Remember the deputy is actually chosen by the caucus, and the best bet is Shane’s got six, maybe seven supporters in caucus. That doth not a deputy make.

CORIN Does he need to change his strategy now in this final week. Now that he’s got the public’s attention, does he then need to shift and show the fact that he does also have the financial skills and the nous or whatever and a bit more “diplomacy”—

SUSAN And depth.

CORIN ...to show that he can do that as well.

MIKE Yeah, I think that would be a very good idea. He’s got a really stunning CV. He’s got a Harvard University degree. He’s worked in private enterprise. He knows everything there is to know about fishing. I would go that way if I was Shane. He’s got their attention. Let’s hear about the substance.

SUSAN You’re nodding there, David.

DAVID Yeah, and, look, that’s probably the danger to National could be a Cunliffe-Jones combination. They’ve both worked in the private sector. They’ve both got economic credentials. Where if you compare that to Robertson and maybe Ardern as the deputy – both have worked in government their whole lives. Doesn’t mean that they will necessarily succeed, but it gives them that potential to say, “We’ve got a different economic plan, and it’s credible.”

CORIN Is there a conflict, though, between those two? I mean, you’ve got David Cunliffe saying he’s going to pull the party far to the— further to the left, I should say, and then Shane Jones saying no, he won't.

SUSAN But he’s only saying it for now.

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