State of the Parties: Labour report card

Newshub's politics team has taken a good hard look at New Zealand's political parties and ranked them in key areas. Here's Jenna Lynch's take on Labour.

OPINION: Struggle street. Labour knows the place well - it's been living there for nine long years, and based on current polling, they might as well sign another three-year lease.

The party has battled since John Key came onto the scene. It's been through five leaders and still made no huge gains on National.

Could it be different this year? 

State of the Parties: Labour report card
Photo credit: Newshub.

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Leadership:  B+

On the face of it, Andrew Little has been struggling - polling at 7 percent in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.

But it is undeniable he's been performing well at times. The Labour conference speech was a highlight.

He's undergone a makeover, ditching the specs and employing an acting coach.

And despite the high-profile blowout over Willie Jackson, he's kept the Labour Party's internal struggles to a minimum.

He's also shown his tough side by keeping on track despite distractions, like getting sued by Earl Hagaman.

But Labour's leadership rating gets a boost due to one word: Jacinda.

Politics in 2017 is all about the brand and that's something Jacinda Ardern has. Her hoardings for the Mt Albert by-election didn't even need a surname. Jacinda. Everyone knows her. Name recognition is a branding tool you can't buy and something that Andrew Little was lacking. Tacking Jacinda to his side with her huge smile and positive vibe instantly softened him and did something no extreme makeover team could have done with Little.

Vibe:  A-

Let's go to Shapeshifter for this one: "For the first time it felt like the world was right on side." Those are the lyrics that Andrew Little walked out to at this year's conference. Shapeshifter. What a banger. What a vibe. And what a message to send to voters. It says, "Yeah, it's been a long hard nine years in opposition, but things are turning around for us."

That chorus goes on to say: "And if we take it too far to come back again, I don't mind". Wait, was this song written for Labour? They're throwing caution to the wind and going for it. And the vibe? Well, it's electric. When the Greens and Labour appeared together at the start of the year it was even better.

Like the poll ratings, the vibe has drooped a bit. But despite polling in the 20s, Labour still has a very real sense of optimism. That must mean there is still a good vibe.

Policy:  C

Labour's been listening to public opinion, focusing in on the issues they think matter to New Zealanders. It hasn't released much policy but what it has is in the target areas. Housing, health, education, jobs. They've made a big promise - 100,000 affordable homes. Then there's the shameless bribe for students - three years free tertiary education. And that other bribe in response to National's bribe - $60 a week for newborns.

But its bravest policy is immigration. They've waded knee deep into the immigration debate with a policy targeting 'low value' tertiary education and the resulting jobs. Andrew Little has repeatedly asked the question: "Why did we need to import 100 shelf stackers when we've got 90,000 young people not in work, education or training?" It's a great question that could resonate with those young people that don't have jobs, and possibly their parents.

It is also a smart move to tackle some of the country's other issues - housing, infrastructure. We can't build fast enough to keep up with immigration. Cutting immigration is a hard one to pull off without being labelled a racist and offending Labour's base. Labour have learnt that over and over.

This time instead of racist they were hypocritical. Just days after their crackdown on cheap foreign student labour, it was revealed Labour was using cheap foreign student labour. Oops - this would've been an A, but hypocrisy loses big marks so it's a C.

Fresh Face Factor:  B+

This one is a bit of a mixed bag. On one side, you've got strong wāhine high on the list. You only had to watch their women's showcase at the Labour Congress to see that Kiri Allen, Priyanca Rahdakrishnan and Willow Jean Prime are ones to watch. But Labour really could have done with more of a clean-out of the Y chromosomes.

They managed to axe last election's number one liability - David Cunliffe - and a couple more but the talent they've replaced them with aren't exactly 'fresh'. Willie Jackson has already done a round, and Greg O'Connor - the former Police Association boss - sure he's fresh to the Labour Party but not to the 'Liberal Wellington Elite' circles.

There's a couple more hanging around that have been in this place longer than I've been alive, like Ruth Dyson, but Labour have done a huge amount of regeneration over the past few years, so their list still looks very different to last time they were in Government. The problem is people haven't seen it because there was so much squabbling over Willie Jackson.

Outlook For September:   B-

Polling at 26.5 percent is not a great place to be 100 days out from an election.

In fact, it's a dire place to be. Despite having good policy, they've been gazumped by a National budget that hurtled straight into Labour territory. Labour's acknowledged they can't get into the Beehive on their own and got the Greens on board, but really at this point, all that's done is ramp up the contest for the left vote.

They're stealing votes from one another. They need to lure swing voters and those in the middle and they need to do it fast.  Labour could still pull off a win but they've got a very hard road ahead to Election Day.

Jenna Lynch is a Newshub political reporter.

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