Labour leader Andrew Little dismisses Helen Clark's advice about 'commanding the centre ground'

Labour leader Andrew Little says talking about the need to win voters in the centre is "meaningless".
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON / FAIRFAX NZ

Labour leader Andrew Little says talking about the need to win voters in the centre is "meaningless".

Labour leader Andrew Little has rejected a suggestion by his predecessor Helen Clark that parties on the left must "command the centre ground" to win elections, describing the suggestion as "a pretty hollow view".

Little says he instead is focused on building "a coalition of constituencies" as he prepares for next year's election.

Clark told TVNZ progressive parties like Labour could not be written off and had to "roll with the punches" despite poor results around the world in recent years.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark says parties on the left must "command the centre ground" to win elections.
MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark says parties on the left must "command the centre ground" to win elections.

"The truth is that the modern politics in democratic societies has become a bit like a consumer exercise. You try something; you try something else."

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However, they had to ensure they had the support of voters in the centre in order to succeed, she said.

"It's possible and it's necessary, because to win an election in New Zealand or probably any Western society, you must command the centre ground.

"You have your strong core of supporters, but you must get the centre ground voters, and I think I was successful in that for quite a lot of years."

'IT'S MEANINGLESS'

But Little said he didn't think an analysis about the centre is at all helpful - "it's meaningless".

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"What I talk about and what I think about are the issues of the day and the constituencies who are most concerned."

Little said his focus was instead on forming "a coalition of constituencies", such as low- and middle-income Kiwis concerned about issues like housing and those in the business sector unsatisfied with the Government's efforts to grow the economy.

"Right now, we've got a whole bunch of people in New Zealand who are being shut out of the kind of opportunities that were taken for granted 20 years ago."

A one-size-fits-all approach could not be applied to parties on the left across the world, he said.

"It'll be different for New Zealand than it is for Australia or the US or the UK or whatever, but an analysis about politics that is about...the centre isn't helpful."

 - Stuff

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