Willie Jackson, credibility and a missed opportunity

3 May 2017

The whole Willie Jackson saga about his list place has caused two big problems for Labour when it comes to getting valuable media attention in the lead up to September’s Election.

Firstly, its another self-inflicted diversion away from a positive news story to a negative one. Labour’s list announcement should have been about the bright new stars who are likely to become MPs later in the year.

Remember the news media are always looking for the best angle on a news story. That would have been the focus if the rumours about Willie Jackson being furious about his list placing of 21 had not come about.

What was the second problem?

The second problem it created was around credibility. Jackson continually told media he was not upset about his placing and that was at odds with his leader Andrew Little. That meant things didn’t add up. Who was telling the truth, Little or Jackson?

This all took place on Monday and early on Tuesday morning. Then at a press conference, Jackson said he was disappointed. This means he wasn’t telling the whole truth earlier. This is never a good idea with the media.

What should he have done?

When word got out about Jackson’s disappointment, he should have admitted it from the beginning. This would have done two things. It would have prevented the media continuing with that angle. They would then focus on the issues Labour wanted coverage on such as the new fresh look of the list.

It would also have prevented the credibility problem it created. Clearly someone wasn’t telling the whole truth from the beginning. This put Little in a hopeless position as leader. The last thing he needs is a credibility problem in the lead up to the Election.

It’s pretty clear that he was telling the truth from the start, but Jackson’s early response questioned the accuracy of Little’s comments. He should never have put his leader in that position.

Labour have a bit of a history of sideshows derailing their campaigns. If they want to occupy the 9th floor of the Beehive after September 23, they won’t want any more of these.


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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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