Saturday, January 14, 2017

An open letter to Andrew Little: Labour needs to start listening if it wishes to win.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Ahead of the meeting of Labour Party caucus in the town of Martinborough, I wish to flog a dead horse. This is because Labour Party is not in a habit of listening to anybody, least of all a Brown boy like me. And it is in this small town where the cream of Labour Party will gather in the New Year on Monday and Tuesday 16 and 17 January, 2017 to “plot election strategy.” 

Martinborough is a town in the South Wairarapa District, in the Wellington region of New Zealand. It is 65 kilometres east of Wellington and 35 kilometres south-west of Masterton. The town has a resident population of 1,600, but will bulge slightly with movers and shakers from Labour Party this week. 

Some six months ago I tried knocking on their doors with some thoughts, with no results. However, knowing its apathy, lethargy and lackadaisical attitude to suggestions from well-meaning members, I use my blog, FIJI PUNDIT to write this open letter to Andrew Little (sometimes Angry Andy) directly, and hope somebody will listen.

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little: He needs to make Labour listen, inculcate a paradigm shift, grab the opportunity of changed leadership in the National Party, and most important of all: stop scoring own goal.
“Hi Andrew, this is a Fijian bloke you hardly notice in Labour meetings, as I may be considered so insignificant. My speciality is media and communications. I possess a Masters in Communication, with honours from AUT. Despite some attempts to get Labour’s attention, I never heard back to grant any help in my area of speciality. The Party immediately needs to improve on two things: to inculcate diversity and enhance efficiency in its administrative and support office. 

For a change, the right wing National Party seems to have more colour than Labour, which is still too White, not reflective of the demographic make-up of Aotearoa. On its internal management, it has performed miserably in the recent past. Last election campaign was very wanting, and an ineffective media and communication cell let the party down. It is one thing to have good policies (even bad ones), it is quite another to sell them on a timely basis, well dressed for the market. Labour has been failing in this area, and many commentators have observed and commented on this deficiency. But it appears nobody has been listening or noticing within the caucus and leadership. 

What is more worrying is that I recently briefly bumped into your President (of course he will not remember it), and even he believes Labour has an outstanding media team. However, the results, poll and public media humiliations speak the opposite. I have already enumerated them to your General Secretary, Andrew Kirton, and do not wish to further embarrass you with truth that will hurt, and which perhaps Labour does not wish to confront.

My question is, with so much highly paid and supposedly celebrated media, communications and public relations team, why did we have such an unfortunate and defeating let down by this department? Why has Labour failed to effectively use social media and other communications channels and sources to its advantage?

Now is an opportunity to clean up the Labour Office, with many such openings, and having efficient and effective personnel that can take the Party to victory in the next election. Please do not go for cronies, try looking outside the box. The fact that an Ethnic/ Indian Party was launched shows perception in the ethnic communities that the main political parties are incapable of taking care of those communities and their grievances. I disagree with this, but this perception is out there. 

HEAVY RAIL TO THE AIRPORT: Labour needs to bite the bullet and commit heavy rail to Auckland Airport to prevent bigger chaos at airport.  Puhinui is the shortest distance of seven kilometers to Airport, mostly through green country. They need to commit this option in 2017 election manifesto.
The caucus in Martinborough need not re-invent the wheel. These strategies have already been communicated to your Secretariat. Some of suggested policy items needing your consideration to “plot election strategy” are as follows:

Heavy rail to airport. Labour party needs to show it has balls to tackle this issue stifling development of Auckland. It also needs to silence and pull Auckland Airport Board in line, which thrives on cash cow of parking profits to scoff at this idea which will weaken their cash cow. I will do a separate article in Auckland Council Watch site on Facebook, arguing for a heavy link from Puhinui (Southern Link) to Airport, via Puhinui Rd, linking Domestic and International Airports, and thence linking to wider Auckland rail link. This no longer is an option, but a necessity for Auckland to manage Airport commuters.

Introducing laws and regulations to protect large voters who are tenants. We need to strengthen laws around renters to grant them security of tenure from unscrupulous landlords. I would even suggest inflation-based rent controls, even proposing rent freeze.

Having equal protection for landlords as well, from unscrupulous tenants.

Eyeing and targeting the low-decile non-voting younger (especially Maori, Pacific and Ethnic) people who have been marginalised from housing market, employment and other opportunities by the National Government. We need to concentrate on some million non-voters. One way is to mobilise our Youth team on social media where the prong of strategy would be to reach these marginalised and ignored voters. 

North-Western Busway, and other transport strategies to correspond with booming population in West Auckland, especially in and around Whenuapai and Kumeu / Huapai area.

Concession /subsidy on driver-learning for younger drivers, or even introducing in upper forms in schools.

The biggest election campaign for Labour will be those sitting in gridlock in Airport traffic will decide to change to the Party which has balls to commit heavy rail to the Airport.
Labour Party needs to realise and appreciate that to win the election, they have to win Auckland. To reiterate, they also need to re-vamp communication, media and public relations cell and re-visiting its media strategy, assuming they have one.

As earlier stated, the fact that an Ethnic/Indian Party has been formed shows that Labour, which has been a beneficiary of their large support must have failed somewhere. 

While he may not be your best friend, Rodney Hide at times does speak much sense. In a critique on Labour on Sunday 25 September, 2016, he appeared to have spoken some sense.

Among other things, he said about Labour, that…..“Their minds are closed and they gasp and take offence at any idea or opinion different to their own……. They are a self-reinforcing sect who in their wretchedness and anger are becoming ever smaller. Their narrow and insular outlook prevents them reaching out. Little (my idea-pun intended) wonder it's not attractive to new recruits…………………. Labour is the narrow party that has shut itself off from the great bulk of New Zealanders.”  

The caucus in Martinborough needs to prove Hide wrong. I will wait to see to what extent this eventuates. The ball is in your court. I close my case. You are at a liberty to ignore this communication, but Labour needs a paradigm shift if it wishes to wrest power back from National in the next election. John Key has gone, and Labour, for a change, has to stop scoring its own goal, and grab and capitalise on the opportunity.

The past strategies and support office have failed, hence they need new blood and new ideas in administrative support. 

You can ignore these at your peril.

Wishing a fruitful deliberations in Martinborough - hope you can make Rodney Hide eat his words.

Yours Sincerely,

FIJI PUNDIT, aka Thakur Ranjit Singh, 
Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland.”
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[Thakur Ranjit Singh is an Auckland-based ethnic (read Indo-Fijian) journalist running his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT. He is a member of Labour Party, a former Board Member of Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) and is a media commentator.]