New National leader and McDonalds

20 February 2018

There’s been so much debate about who the next leader of the National Party should be and why. Some say experience plus generational change, others say the one who can push Jacinda around the most, while others say a new face is the answer.


None of this matters?

In my view, none of that is important. That’s because the new leader has to be the one who can bond with swinging voters by showing warmth on camera. End of story. They need to convince the voters who matter that they care and are listening. That’s not just saying so, but being able to genuinely show it with their body language and tone of voice. If they can’t do this, they’ll lose votes, regardless how good they are as leaders.

Let me explain. From earlier disastrous Election results, it looks like National and Labour would each win about 25 percent of the vote regardless of what they do and who is leader. Elections are won by wooing the rest and these people want a leader with warmth who shows they care and are listening. That’s because people vote on emotion, not fact. Sure, some will look at policies, but many will look to the leader to make the final call, and remember that television is the only place 90 percent of voters will ever see the candidates.

Labour went through god knows how many leaders until they realised it. Goff, Cunliffe, Shearer and Little couldn’t show genuine warmth on camera. Jacinda does. That’s why the Labour vote grew. Many would say her policy positions were weaker than her predecessors, but she got through to lots of swinging voters with her warmth and convinced them that she genuinely cared. That’s why Labour’s vote grew about 10 percentage points after Jacinda took over.

One thing she couldn’t do was poach vulnerable National voters. The extra votes mainly came from other parties. I’d argue that this was because English did a great job in keeping them. He was a transformed man on camera with a new ability to show the warmth that so many voters want to see in their leaders. John Key was also an expert at this.


Will the next leader have these skills?

All of the five candidates may be fantastic leaders. But that doesn’t win Elections. Elections are about marketing to swinging voters and that’s done on television. So whoever works best on television has to be the next leader.

Here’s another way to sum this up. Do McDonald’s make the best burgers or are they just the best marketers? I think we all know the answer to that. It’s no different in contemporary politics. For their sake, I hope the National Party caucus realise it.

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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.

Add a comment2 Comments

Reply Bruce Pollock | February 21st, 2018 at 4:54pm
Completely agreed Pete. It was JK's boyish charms that saved his bacon many times. On TV his personality shone through and the masses swooned to hear his every word. It was largely irrelevant what he was saying (any details) or how many times he stumbled. (um to the best of my knowledge...) people loved him because his charm shone down the lens like lights on a possum. Jacinda has it, but crikey those 5... Anyone of them will relegate the Nats to the lost world of opposition fro years.
Sorry but I still cant see a new JK in their ranks, maybe Amy.. There will be a hidden gem but they better find him/her soon...
Reply Pete Burdon (Author) | February 21st, 2018 at 10:45pm
Great insight Bruce. Yes, I think they'll miss English more than many people realise.

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