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A miserable failure


A week ago, I argued here that David Cunliffe represented less risk to Labour’s 2014 prospects than David Shearer.

My thinking was that, faced with Mr Key, Mr Shearer might melt down completely in the leaders’ debates, dooming Labour to a third term in opposition.

But after Mr Cunliffe’s incredible antics this week – the ridiculously facile answers to the media; the smarm; the smirking; the fake wounded innocence; the bizarre victim mentality – my view is reversed.

Put Mr Cunliffe on national TV every night and the voters will certainly be repulsed.

For all Mr Cunliffe’s denials, the truth is that there was a leadership challenge last weekend and Mr Shearer faced it down. 

Unless a third candidate like Grant Robertson or Andrew Little becomes viable, it is clear Labour is led by the candidate most likely to become prime minister in 2014.

Never a coup
Now, Team Cunliffe expects us to believe, there never was any kind of leadership challenge planned at all.

According to Mr Cunliffe’s diminishing supporters, all their man has done these last four years is diligently work on new policy to break the current neoliberal hegemony.  (Yes, they really do talk that way.)

Except for humbly putting his name forward last year, leadership hasn’t even been on his mind.

"Crikey dick,” he told the Herald last week when asked about residual leadership ambitions, “I haven't crossed that bridge at all.”

Neither he, nor his numbers woman Moana Mackey, has asked Labour MPs for their support this year.

When his supporters put it about that a leadership challenge would be launched to coincide with the party conference this November, they were just making it up.

The man himself didn’t know anything about it.

Right-wing construct
The new story being put about by Team Cunliffe is that all the speculation about a leadership challenge at Labour’s conference was a right-wing media construct.

Under this scenario, current leader Mr Shearer was put into the job by a right-wing cabal as the human face of the dreaded neoliberalism.  (Team Cunliffe also sometimes says Mr Shearer is a neoconservative but consistency is not its strong point.)

In contrast, Mr Cunliffe, shocked by the poverty he sees when he visits his New Lynn electorate from his home in Herne Bay, is a threat to the status quo.

While it’s not explained why he did nothing about it as Phil Goff’s finance spokesman for the previous three years, Labour lost the 2011 election because “voters saw that our policies were mostly the same as National’s.”

A new model is needed, he says, with more regulation and “a sustainable growth strategy for every industry sector and region”.

Alarmed at such apostasy, Team Cunliffe tells us, right-wing media barons, including even at Radio New Zealand, instructed their reporters to make up a story that he was challenging Mr Shearer for the leadership.

Poor Mr Cunliffe!  When he arrived at his party conference, the dastardly right-wing press gallery asked him whether he would support Mr Shearer’s leadership next year.

Mr Cunliffe could have said “yes” and the devious neoliberal plot would have been thwarted.  But, no, our Mr Cunliffe is way too honest for that.  Instead, he reserved his position:  “This is a constitutional conference, not a leadership conference.”

Disingenuously, the right-wing media decided that the fifth-ranked MP in the main opposition party refusing to publicly support his leader at their annual conference was newsworthy.

They even used camera angles to try to make Mr Cunliffe look smug and smarmy.

He’s not of course.  As his supporters point out, it’s just that his mind works so much faster than anyone else’s.  It’s why, presumably, Mr Cunliffe needs to use a slow, faux Polynesian accent when speaking at the Avondale Market.  Such intelligence and communications skills make lesser mortals jealous.

Cerebral but psychotic
One of those lesser mortals is Mr Shearer, who was named New Zealander of the Year for his aid work in Somalia, when Mr Cunliffe was a junior at New Zealand’s foreign ministry.

Playing his part in the neoliberal conspiracy, Mr Shearer accused Mr Cunliffe of undermining his leadership and overshadowing his big 100,000 new houses announcement.  (The state building 100,000 cheap new houses is classic neoliberalism, as any fool can see.)

Egged on by neoliberal kingpin, former PPTA and HART activist Trevor Mallard, Mr Shearer removed Mr Cunliffe’s portfolios and despatched him to the backbench.

If you doubt this is what Team Cunliffe is alleging, check out some of the posts at The Standard

For a marginally more cerebral but equally psychotic view, read Brian Edwards’ blog

Or talk to the Labour MPs who have had to listen to similar twaddle direct from Mr Cunliffe.

More by Matthew Hooton

Comments and questions

No one who carries on the way Cunliffe did at avondale market should be leader of a major political party. See

I have been a swing voter for years but for the last few elections have voted National.....basically because I have detested the vindictive personal attacks coming from Labour.
However, when David Shearer was voted Labour party leader I was once again thinking of the possibility of voting Labour....until I heard Cunliffe's avondale market rant....and read the details of the recent Labour party conference.Labour will not be getting my vote until they can clean up their politiking...had enough of nasty personal attackd thanks!Get on with the real issues facing NZ.

Have you not considered voting for any party other than Labour or National? They are very much the same party, you know - same policies, made up from the same sorts of careerists, arrogant, no moral nauseam.

Looking at Cunliffe speak at the Avondale market makes me so proud that one day he may be our first Polynesian Prime Minister.

Labour needs re-invent. Bring back Bob Harvey

You summed him up. Cunliffe has too much self-regard and too little self-awarenes. He got his comeuppance.

"In contrast, Mr Cunliffe, shocked by the poverty he sees when he visits his New Lynn electorate from his home in Herne Bay, is a threat to the status quo." - is this the Mitt Romney of New Zealand ? "shocked by the poverty" indeed...for gods sake where has he been all this while ?

What poverty???.
The only poverty in NZ is the poverty of 'lack of budgeting skills'; and a large degree of 'I'm entitled'.
Personal responsibility, priorities and motivation are never mentioned.

Rubbish, of course there's poverty, what sort of ivory tower do you live in? I deal with people in that situation every day, people who weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouths and who work in jobs on the sort of pay people like you probably lavish on their pedigree pets each week. Whatever world you inhabit, it's not the real one.

I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth either; more like a farm shovel.
Motivation, and an open receptive mind has got me to where I am; and I now have the knowledge to recognise lazy disinterested, unmotivated drivel writers when I read one of them.

Why am I thinking National supporter?

Your narrow out-of-this-world mind.

Most who end up in clover fail to acknowledge that they were born with an opportunity, had a lucky break, fell into a situation, just happened to be at the right place at the right time (try Jamie Oliver as an example). There are thousands out there who work their b##tts off but fate has dictated their opportunity didn't work out or they didn't ever get their lucky break.

Don't delude yourself that what you have is entirely your own doing and ... be humble enough to accept you worked hard and got lucky....much of what you got is what you have from another's bad hand in life...

Real Rubbish this time!!

It's simple. If you can't feed them don't breed them.

But if they stop breeding their income will disappear! Stop paying people to breed and breeding will stop. Simple.

Matthew - what a shame some of your readers have no sense of humour or understanding of irony.

It seems so.

What a dreary lot politics has become and perhaps it matches the mood of New Dulland. Where is the no holds barred, eye gouging, below the belt feisty stuff the public poor scorn on yet deep down want to witness.
To the left John Key the Mr blubber lips forgetful appeaser and slightly further left all the rest of them in no particular order of talent.
More claret & spittle please on TV or I'll die of boredom certainly their policies have done so already.

I would like to say 'wonderful insight" Mat Hooton. But it's not. It's just very obvious fact. Mr Hootons skill here however is in writing something that represents events as they really were, presenting the participants as they really are and not regurgitating the usual 'this makes a better news story' routine we have been fed for some time on this issue. Cunliffe got done like a dogs dinner, his demeanour irritates many people and he would have led labour deeper into the abyss. After struggling for some years to get out of the hole the last thing Labour need is to start digging again. Nice, well written story Mat.

We shouldnt be concerned about the labour party. NZ has the best labour party in power now.National is certainly left of centre.

Two elections with not a major game changer in sight.

When I am the leader of the Labour Party........John Key found the centre and kept it. Now there' s only the far left. Shearer and John Tamihere should join the National Party , leave the far left to the PPTA, unions, and all the other users and losers.

I always bathe and put my young children to bed just before the 6 pm news for fear they may see David Cunliffe and suffer nightmares.

Repetition of same old propaganda. Hooton was a national candidate ! Cunliffe was on the side of the members and they won. The old Caucus establishment has been truly shocked by the Conference vote.
Cunliffe is very popular with the voters in new Lynn, the membership, unions, exporters, economists and large employers.
Cunliffe is liked and respected by all who know him.
Hooton and co are delivering the same old garbage that Mallard has peddled for years. Both National and shearer's positions are threatened by Cunlifffe.
Hooton is backing the wrong horse.

what nonsense

I was never a National candidate. If Cunliffe is so talented and so strongly supported, how come he can't get even another 13 votes in his own caucus? I suspect its because they have seen too much of the Avondale Market speech in him to trust him as leader in an election campaign.

Sorry, I should have said that you tried to be a Nationsl Candidate.
Cunliffe and the majority of delegates wanted the
members to have a say in a Feb spill . That is what Saturday was about.
Of course Cunliffe wanted that outcome so that he could make a bid. The members wanted it because of the dismal performance by Shearer. The only time and place for a bid is in Feb, not last weekend.
There was no failiure, just poor planning of soundbites.
The support for Cunliffe has become wider and stronger as a result of the over-reaction by the Leaders.

Increasingly, it seems, political parties are based on very shallow ideology and personality. A hollowing has occurred and not enough understand the country is walking on thin ice. These cracks and groans we hear are the ice giving way, so we'd better watch out, because we're not well equipped for what could result.

I've been told: you can never trust a guy who sports a beard or mo. It's a way of disguising your face the same way as the inner-thoughts.

Why all the brouhaha? Neither of the two Davids make the cut as a PM-in-waiting. And if these two are the best, the Labour Party has to offer, they better get used to languishing on the Opposition benches.

I had voted national in the last 2 elections . Not any more. Labour and the Greens will get my vote this time.

So speaks the voice of irresponsibility!

It’s the people like you making short-term kneejerk emotional voting decisions that are the very reason I have spent the last 18-months shifting my business affairs to a range of more business friendly jurisdictions around the world.

In the words of Mike Williams, past Labour Party President "the Labour Party did and still does lack people with a business background”, so look out NZ when (and it is only a matter of time) Labour and the Greens get in bringing their ill-thought out socially dominated policies and their lack of global experience that are guaranteed to accelerate NZ's slide to the bottom of the OECD.

National may be far from perfect but it’s a much better option than the alternative.

Gotta to laugh. Under the circumstances, National would be much more preferred than the clowns in Labour and Greens...Wait !!!! Lets go for Winston Peters !

So which is it? Labour or Green. They are quite different and some thought should go into the decision? Perhaps voting left is good enough? Then again, perhaps you might want NZ First so they get past the 5% threshold.

Ironically, it is your swing vote that decides elections. Really a bit of a shame. National are so centralist to try and not upset the swing voters too much but in your situation they seem to have failed. Interesting to know what Nat have done wrong in your eyes to turn to "Labour and the Greens".

Spoken like a true Kamikaze voter.

Unions are the reasons for poverty in new Zealand. Since the 80s they have stifled growth and split the centre left.

Unions got rolled in the eigthies and pretty much stuffed in the nineties. No, the main reason why NZ has experienced increases in poverty, is because we bought into neo-liberal economics. "Trickle down" theory dictates the necessity of wealth polarization so that it, not surprisingly, really does trickle. As you might be able to imagine, inequality like this will eventually beggar any egalitarian society. If we don't have checks on capitalism, amongst which can be decent unions, then get used to this picture of poverty, because it's going to get worse really quickly.

But of course it trickles up, not down, and is now more of a stream than a trickle.

Keep the wages for the plebs who do the actual work suppressed, as they have been since the 1970s, and pay up for "talent" at the top. That's been the neo-liberal mantra for the past two decades. We know this sort of thing doesn't work; it destroys morale and productivity and has been a major cause of NZ's debt-fuelled property bubble and many of the snout-in-trough multi-millionaire execs and CEOs have weakened or destroyed the companies they have been paid exorbitantly to take care of.

what a monuental yawn the entire affair was. Labout needing some profile beyond clare currans facile panic laden emails engineered a bogus leadership coup and the media who should have feigned indifference lapped it up like a puppy around a milk bowl. Sad very sad

The issue for labour is not about who is leader, as miserable as they both come across, it's about what they would offer. Unfortunately thye have skewered labour out of the role as the dominant socialist party. The only place labour could possible take is to take over National's now non-existent right-wing posture. However, that wouldn't sit with their values (as flimsy as they are). National are only popular because they've successfully implemented a range of Labour's policies, such as the ETS and the super city (which is, in effect, just another tax to bear).

Or you might consider that National have done an excellent job, holding 'steady as she goes' through the GFC. Refusing to panic and interfere with the dollar's value is one example. It's hard to imagine how tough things would become for consumers and therefore many businesses if we dropped even lower against the Aussie dollar - and they're our major tradfing partner. It's easy to critisize NZ's performance, but spend a month or so in Britain, Europe, or America and lil' ol' NZ looks pretty rosy.

Vote Green Labour to ensure NZ is just a PI stepping stone to Aussie. Watch the Aussies protect their space by changing automatic rights for Kiwi's to move there. Won't need Peter Jackson to create movie sets of hobbits, they'll be those down in the creek scrubbing themselves with Sue Kedgely's new clean and green pumice soapstone, with Russell "not normal" Norman hiring out horse drawn carts as part of the GreenTech 100% pure NZ, suitably modified by nostalgic reminiscences of Stalin's failed central controlled subsistence hunter gatherer policies. Can't wait? Go live in North Korea in anticipation.