27 Oct 2011

Labour focusing on policies, not leadership

8:52 am on 27 October 2011

The Labour Party kicks off its election campaign on Thursday, putting the emphasis formally on policy detail rather than leadership and a presidential-style campaign.

The approach mimics Labour's billboard campaign in which its leader Phil Goff is absent, apart from in his own electorate of Mt Roskill in Auckland.

That is in stark contrast to the National Party billboards where its candidates appear alongside pictures of leader John Key.

Mr Key says he thinks Labour's is an odd strategy.

"You expect whoever your leader is to be the person that's there supporting the candidates. I'm on the hoardings of every candidate we have, because what I'm saying to the people in that community is I stand by that candidate and I'll be backing that person doing the best I can to make them a good MP."

But Labour's campaign spokesperson and central Wellington MP Grant Robertson says it is a different approach, but one they believe will work.

"New Zealanders have got a clear choice at this election. It's the choice between keeping our assets or selling them and a vote for Labour means keeping our assets.

"We know that these are policies New Zealanders like - the more they hear about them, the more they like them - and we think that's what will win us this election."

However, branding specialist Dave Bassett told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report the Labour Party risks motorists missing the message on its billboards and they have been reduced to a sea of red and faces.

"At the end of the day, what the billboards are about are obtaining votes. And when you're zipping past a billboard at 100km/h, you've got a moment to make a decision and I look at a Labour Party billboard and wonder what on earth they're asking me to do."

Dr Bryce Edwards, from Otago University's politics department, says whatever Labour's motivation, a focus on the policies will allow voters to understand more about each party's different approaches.