Thanks, team, for joining me here. It’s been a good spell for us. John Key’s in serious trouble, and we haven’t had an own goal from one of our MPs for at least 24 hours. Wait… Trevor, are you tweeting again? Trevor! Put it away!
Anyway, we’re still having a devil of a time connecting with the voters. We’re struggling to get our faces in front of the public. Part of the problem is that whenever the media want a quote from the opposition they go to Winston or Russel instead of us.
So this tells me that we’re doing it all wrong. I don’t read any of the blogs, but I’m told by my advisers that some people out there in cyberspace think we don’t seem to know what we stand for, and don’t seem to approach any issue with passion, conviction or certainty.
We all know that’s rubbish, but it’s the perception that counts. People digest their news in very small bites. So we need to learn to feed it to them.
This means we need a new strategy to get the media’s attention. We complain a lot about how the news is being dumbed down in favour of stories about celebrities and football stars, and yet there it is, the answer right in front of us.
Let’s play their game. Let’s give the media what they want.
My leadership team and I have come up with a list of things we can do to improve our image with the media and get more time on the TV, on the radio, and especially in the magazines.
I expect a few of you are going to be pushed out of your comfort zones, but this really will be for the greater good. I urge you all to attempt as many of these things as you can.
The first thing I’m going to ask you to do is ditch your spouse. No, no, please, no groaning. I’ve met some of your husbands, wives and partners, and I know a lot of them have sacrificed a huge amount for you to be here. But let’s face some brutal facts. Most of them just aren’t glamorous. They’re not the type to capture the imagination of the public.
I want you guys out there dating models, out there in the clubs, and hooking up with rugby stars. We can’t manage to get on the political pages, but we can sure as heck dominate the gossip pages and women’s magazines.
Let’s create a story around our people that the public will really get into. Our views on monetary policy and welfare may be important to a few in the beltway, but more people would notice us if we were out there sleeping with beautiful people.
This is going to be a challenge for a few of you. Su’a, I know you’re a family man with very strongly held conservative beliefs, but I honestly believe you’d be making more headway with the media if you were photographed stumbling out of a nightclub at 3:00 am with your arms wrapped around a young blonde.
The other thing we need to work on is how we look. It’s an unfortunate fact that most politicians are just pig-ugly. The only reason any of us ended up here was because we joined the high school debating team and discovered we liked the sounds of our own voices, and the only reason we joined that team was because we were regarded as lepers by our peers. Don’t take this personally, because it’s not just you guys here. Whenever I look around in Parliament I find myself thinking “f**k me, there are some seriously ugly people in this room”.
And I acknowledge that the problem starts at the top. Looking back over the years I’m struck by how astonishingly ugly some of our prime ministers have been.
But we can be different. We can be the party of change. We can’t change who we are, but we can change the faces we were born with. If your face needs a bit of work, then go get that botox treatment or facelift. If you’re thinning on top, as I am, then do something about it. Or if you’re piling on the pounds, get to the gym and shift it.
Let’s all lose those pasty faces, too. I’ve put forward a proposal to install sunbeds in some of our electorate offices, so that those of you who can’t manage to get to the beauty salon because of your work commitments can get that stunning tan while you work.
I’ve recruited a well known former Australian test cricketer to help us with our image. You should see this guy. He used to be chubby and unkempt, and now he’s transformed himself into a metrosexual who is dating someone hot and famous.
The clothes we wear also say a lot about us. I appreciate that we’re bound by protocol when we dress for Parliament or special occasions, but when we’re out and about meeting people we have the chance to express ourselves. Look at the attention Lady Gag gets over her outfits. Imagine if someone in this caucus had come up with the meat suit first?
I’m going to lead by example. I’m hearing a lot about how disengaged a lot of young people are from the political process, so I have decided to change my appearance. My strategy team have done a few mockups in an effort to make me look fresher and younger, and here’s my favourite one. What do you think?
It goes beyond how we look, though. We have all experienced the nastiness of politics, and we all know how personal it can get. But most of the time we’re engaged in slanging matches with our opponents over what someone in office has done or should do. We all like to think it’s important work, but by god it bores the shit out of people.
I’ll tell you what sort of conflict will get the attention of the media. A good old fashioned feud. I want each of you to unbuddy up with a government MP and vow to make their lives a miserable hell. Pick on something personal to them, like the size of their arse, or their breasts, and ridicule them mercilessly and in public. If you really want to go the extra distance you could try sleeping with their partner, breaking up messily, then reconciling three or four times, before returning to your own partner. If that doesn’t get you on the front page of New Idea I don’t know what will.
All of this will create an atmosphere of tension and anxiety that the media will just love. And because we’ll be better dressed and well-tanned, and the others will be dowdy and pasty-faced, we’ll win the hearts of the public.
We also need to take care about the way we talk. Too often the language of politics goes over the heads of people. Don’t just quote statistics. Talk about the issues people care about, like which hip-hop artist is the hottest, who will win New Zealand’s Got Talent, and which nation currently has the most powerful tight-five.
And when pressed into political debate, be clear and concise. Don’t try to be clever or evasive. Just tell it like it is. It doesn’t matter whether what you say goes against party policy, because we want people to be judging us for our hotness.
And get angry. Show some emotion. For example, when you’re debating the issue of child poverty with another politician, don’t offer up boring facts or appeal to people’s senses of justice. Talk in a language that the audience can understand. My comms team assure me that the phrase “yo! f**k you bitch! Are you, like, totally whack, motherf**ker?” will work on most speaking occasions that don’t involve actual official state ceremonies. And if you finish your sentences with “word yo” and “innit” your audience will adore you.
But even that’s not enough. We all know that I love my music, and I’m pretty handy on the guitar. A good tune can be powerful and can create an emotional response. We don’t want people to be voting with their heads. What we want is for them to feel it in their soul. That’s why we’re going to establish a Labour boy-band. I know none of us here are young any more, but with a bit of surgery and a decent new wardrobe I honestly think we could pull it off. So who wants to be in this band? I’ll lead it, but I need three volunteers. What about you, Parekura? Clayton? Okay, that’s three of us. Anyone else? Okay, Andrew, thank you for that.
No, Ruth, I appreciate your offer, and don’t take this personally, but your version of “The Gambler” with Maryan and Moana pretty much sealed our fate in 2008.
Now we’ll need a name for our group. Any ideas? What was that, David C? “No Direction?” Yes, I like it. That’s sorted then.
Finally, there’s one area where we can do a whole lot better, but you may not like what I’m about to tell you. But if you’re seriously interested in the future of the party then I urge you to keep an open mind.
From the next election onwards we need to change the way we select our candidates. I like you all, and you’re all good people, but even if we do everything I’ve suggested I’m still worried that it might not be enough.
We’ll start by stacking our party list with hot twenty-somethings. We want our MPs to be engaging, hip, and shaggable. People who are fashion trend-setters and who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything but designer clothes.
It’s going to mean that most of you will need to find something else to do in 2014, and I’m aware that this development may have some impact on the quality of some of our policy initiatives. The finer points of fiscal policy may prove a challenge to the hipster Grey Lynn fashion designer who inevitably becomes our Finance spokesperson. Just as the Social Development portfolio might be a huge learning curve for the lingerie model used to dating rich men and who has never had to buy a thing for herself in her life. But these are issues we can work through.
Our opponents will have no answer to us. Their attacks on our MPs in Parliament will just bounce off, as our people just pout back and say “like, whatever, dude. Oh my God, did your mum dress you in that outfit?” while madly updating their Facebook profiles to slag whoever is being a like, total bitch.
I hope you’re as excited as I am about this change in focus. It’s all about making Labour relevant to the twenty-first century. I know it sounds a bit daunting for some of you, but rest assured that when you’re booted out in 2014 and replaced with a younger and hotter version, you’ll be helping to transform Labour into the political party people most want to go to bed with.