Labour should focus on their message, not Hager book

29 March 2017

If the Labour Party have learnt from the lead-up to the last Election, they won’t spend too much time on the Nicky Hager book, but focus on the points they think could sway swinging voters to their side in September.

Failure to maintain this focus was a major reason for their heavy loss in 2014. Instead of campaigning on policies that could win votes like housing and health, there was too much emphasis placed on things people didn’t care about. This ranged from complaints about unfair television coverage to a desperate need to attack the credibility of John Key. The ‘Moment of Truth’ was another sideshow that didn’t help. This left little space for what a Labour-led Government would actually look like if the party was successful.

This year they don’t want those distractions. They’ve already had one with the controversy   around Willie Jackson. That means they don’t want to pay too much attention to the Hager book. Obviously they do want to accept interview requests on this, but not be too proactive on it.


Although the allegations in the book are serious and may lead to an inquiry, is the demand for an inquiry a vote winner? I would doubt that this is an issue that people will decide who to vote for on. For that reason, it shouldn’t be a focus.

Labour need a core message and they need to stick to it. Housing policy will clearly be one point in this message. Others could include Health and Education. They will need to decide and stick to it. This doesn’t mean they don’t discuss other issues, but their message should be where they are proactive. The need for a campaign message is just as important as it is for individual media interviews. People will remember very little, so you need to narrow down what you say and repeat it over and over again.

Winston Peters is a great example of a politician following this process. You only ever see him when the issue is related to his core message. That’s why everyone knows his party is against foreign ownership and excess immigration.

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Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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