National & Labour Know They Must Ditch Fuddy Duddy Images. But How?
New Zealand’s two major political parties have been revealed in the same day to each have bungled their separate strategies to turn a youthful face to the electorate.
The first was when a very young National Party Member of Parliament did what party officials who sought to block his original selection said he would do which was fall out with the same electoral officials, an incident spiced up by the now seemingly mandatory secret taping sub plot.
The second incident involving the Labour Party followed hard on the heels of the National Party episode.
Nearly 100 electioneering “interns” mainly from the United States were brought to Auckland to assist in campaigning for the Labour Party and along the way to receive lectures from luminaries of the party.
All this at a time when the Labour Party, the equivalent of the US Democrats, was itself campaigning against people from overseas taking the jobs of New Zealanders and in so doing forcing up the price of accommodation.
Fired up by the notion of a Bernie Sanders type of youth crusade the Labour Party Auckland operatives had forgotten to consider that people from the United States insist on a high standard of accommodation in New Zealand.
Indeed, it was the failure of the New Zealand premium hotel sector to provide things that Americans like, such as air conditioning, that was such a problem prior to the arrival of the United States franchise hotels in order to provide its citizens with their home comforts in the South Seas.
The United States interns were less than impressed by the sparseness of their billets.
They were similarly underwhelmed by their failure to meet the high level Labour Party figures who, in the event, seem not to have realised that they were supposed to have met the interns in the first place.
In electioneering strategic terms however both these episodes demonstrated how both the main parties are turning themselves inside out to demonstrate their regard for youth values meaning the youth vote.
The two very recent European elections, the one in the UK and the one in France indicate that their attention is justified.
In election wining terms in New Zealand for Labour and National this means stopping the youth vote sliding into the Green Party.
The Greens embody all the conventional middle class ideological values on things like climate and refugees.
Neither was the mood of the main party strategists improved last month when they surveyed the cover of the house magazine of this voting bloc North & South (pictured) which channeled Vanity Fair with a tableau of idealised Green candidates.
The National and Labour election schemers saw before them the embodiment of the yearnings of this whole sector which is bounded at the younger end by career-friendly university types still in touch with their capping mag days, and at the older end by Guardian Weekly subscribers.
Because National and Labour share something else too.
It is an indelible musty-fusty sectarian aura redolent of times gone by.
This understanding haunts the high command of both the main parties.
It is the reason the National Party forced on an entirely rural and safe farming electorate a perma-grinning disco type in their early 20s whose short career in the real world was notable for a stint with Big Tobacco.
It is the reason that the Labour Party turned a blind eye on a semi-freelance operation to whip up a US-style youth storm in Auckland.
Both the two main political parties will now start once again to heed their once powerful local organisations at electorate and divisional level.
These representation committees will tell them that twisting and turning to meet fashionable media-driven yearnings is one thing.
Also that meeting grass roots expectations requires a fixed and determined longer term direction.