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Parker, Robertson back Cunliffe

UPDATE: Labour leader David Cunliffe is suggesting Prime Minister John Key had a hand in a smear campaign against him.

Mr Cunliffe has questioned how the PM knew about a letter Mr Cunliffe wrote for Donghua Liu two weeks ago.

The Labour leader says he wasn't told of it until half an hour before it was released.

"I think you should ask the government how come the Prime Minister had a copy of that letter two weeks earlier when the media put in an OIA on Monday," Mr Cunliffe said this afternoon.


EARLIER: Grant Robertson and David Parker appeared with David Cunliffe at a joint press conference in at Parliament at 1.45pm this afternoon, pledging loyalty.

Most pundits regard Mr Robertson and Mr Parker as the only credible candidates to try and tumble the Labour leader. 

Mr Cunliffe said there was no question of a challenge.

Mr Robertson said, "I support the leader, that's why I'm here."

This morning, Mr Robertson and fellow senior Labour MPs Annette King, Jacinda Ardern, Clayton Cosgrove, Chris Hipkins and chief whip Sue Moroney reportedly met with Mr Cunliffe.

But if there was any attempt to to nudge the Labour leader into walking the plank, it appears to have fallen flat.

The meeting was to catch up on the events of the past 24 hours, Mr Robertson said.

He added that Mr Cunliffe had not asked him to rule out a challenge. He had not offered any assurance "because it was not necessary to have that as part of the conversation. It's not an issue. I assured him that I absolutely support him. I have no intention of challenging him before the election."

From tomorrow, Labour MPs enter a window where they can remove their leader by a simple majority vote (under the party's convoluted new leadership election system, caucus can otherwise be outvoted by party members and affiliated unions who supported Mr Cunliffe's election).

The conventional wisdom is that it's perilous to roll your leader this close to an election — as Labour discovered in 1990 when it traded Geoff Palmer for Mike Moore in a failed last-minute bid to regain ground.

However, the latest poll is so dire that even senior list MPs such as Ms Ardern and Andrew Little face losing their places in Parliament, a prospect that could potentially galvinise them into action.

But at this afternoon's standup press conference, Mr Cunliffe said he had the full support of caucus. 

Mr Little — the media-savvy former EPMU boss once seen as a leadership contender — has kept a relatively low profile during his first term.

Today, asked if their would be an attempt to roll Mr Cunliffe, he replied, "I strongly doubt it. I've got my head down in work and haven't spoken to every colleague but I do not conceive of it being even a remote possibility."

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Comments and questions

This whole story is starting to look like no more than a dirty little entrapment scheme by Bill English and his contacts in the media. Hopefully NBR will not allow itself to be duped

How is it entrapment? Did National make Cunliffe write a letter? Did they make Labour accept a donation? Did they take the photo of the bottle of wine being handed over? Did they make Cunliffe get on his high horse about contact with Asian businessmen and selling of policy? Did they arrange for the media to make a big song and dance about a properly declared $22,000 donation to National?
Or are you clutching at straws because the Labour leader has given his foot both barrels and is currently trying to reload for the other foot?

Come on, Cunliffe is starting sound like a whinger. - Wah, wah, wah, it's all John Key's fault. Unbelievable.

Ruby, you need to look closer to home!

Some older readers might remember the Moyle Affair. That involved similar misuse of government resources for political advantage. It is clearly no coincidence that two or more big swinging Ministers have lately been channelling Muldoon. They may end up in the Rocky Horror show too.

'Muldoon was three quarters right that night about Russell Marshall and Colin Moyle and three quarters boozed that night. Both Moyle and Roger Douglas were very overrated, being nothing more than rather average professionals in a rather talentless Labour Party at least in the house.

Keys reckons there might be some more.....he needs to be very sure he has no more National MPs with dirty secrets.....I suspect Keys will be embarrassed yet again. All politicians seem to get involved in murky Chinese deals lately.

My view is that Cunliffe is the most intelligent rational leader for NZ.

Parker and Little are from rather similar provincial backgrounds.My own experience is that in pre 1985 nz the intelligent towns, New Plymouth, Iinvercargill, Timaru,.Christchurch and Wellington. Strangely Dunedin and Auckland declined from the mid 1960's because the protected industries were finished and the traditional professions notably medicine stopped change.

The point is that Cunliffe, little and Parker have none of the traditional gender obsessions of Labour and are the least Chinese aligned politicians in NZ.

A strange comment, given that Cunliffe couldn't really have made a worst fist of this leadership.

He may be book smart, but he really lacks common sense and self-awareness. Combined with his perceived smarminess, that's a death knell for politicians up against John Key.

Interesting perspective! (cue sarcasm)

No one wants to hold a poison chalice. Simple. It would be political suicide . At least we will have a strong government now and not a group of scruffy individuals from the left who would implode if in government.

Mike Moore got a poisoned chalice in 1990 when he got the job of Labours leader.He got thumped at the polls.He was leader for six weeks.Maybe Robertson or Parker would rather wait until September 21 to challenge Cunliffe.

If Cunliffe does fall as Labour leader, it will be after the September election. In that case, I suspect that Robertson would replace him as leader, retaining Parker as finance spokesperson, perhaps with Cunliffe as Economic Development spokesperson.

No way Cunliffe will stay around as someone else's lacky. The blow to the ego would be too severe. He will leave Parliament and go back into the private sector

I'm quite sure Robertson and co. will back Cunliffe. Only a fool would want that job right now. Mind you the whole picture will change soon after the election when Cunliffe will be rolled like a tumbleweed.

Ive had a dozen people tell me that cunliffe might not have known what he was signing as he'd sign thousands of these sorts of letters a month, but at the end of the day he is the party leader and it is his duty to be a leader and accept fault. Good parties need good leaders and his weasly attempts to implicate National just looks terrible. Labour cannot afford this nonsense now so close to a general election

John Banks said the same ,he never looked at what he was signing.Ignorance is no excuse,ask John Bank's judge.

And key's memory is poor too.

the centre vote has moved to national. End story. Nothing can be done in 2014. It will not move back until 2017.

Cunliffe has the backing of Parker & Robertson alright... until the 21st, then they'll back him to the hilt... repeatedly... to the hilt.... yes, they have his back alright!

Of course they do a big pay cut if they don't.

Don't you think it would have been widely discussed within Labour when Liu's residency bid blew up in their face back in 2007. Remember Shane Jones was fearing for his career over the matter that caught Dover Samuels and Damian O'Connor too. I imagine Cunliffe knew all along what he had done he just (foolishly) expected an 11 year old document to be long since destroyed. He wasn't checking to see if he had met the man he was checking to see if all evidence of it had disappeared and he could plausibly deny it.
I have no issues with the letter. Wealthy Chinese have 2 things pollies want. Money and votes. Every book on doing business with China talks about fostering relationships. This is the end result. National want to be a bit careful about gloating to much. There are still plenty of press runs to go between now and 20 September and 23% of voters in that Stuff poll were undecided.

From my perspective as a former National voter in multiple elections, who has never voted Labour and will not this time:

Judith Collins' actions are much worse, and much more dishonest.

This is a failure of record keeping - one which others have obviously prepared for in advance in order to slam Cunliffe. Collins' case was a clear conflict of interest that she was dishonest about multiple times over, and which clearly delivered benefit to a business she has a familial interest in.

Hey Horse, check the Whale

It is increasingly clear that there is a dirty tricks team at work here.

There is not any evidence at this stage of a donation to the Labour party from Liu.

The letter in question was a form letter from an MP's office, as is standard practice. That the government was provided with the letter by staff within the department involved, and that they briefed the PM's office on it, then it was held onto until the PM was out of the country and a new poll was released, and the released in an entirely planned way, are all signs of inappropriate use of government resources for political ends.

Ipso facto: Dirty tricks,

This new poll was done before this latest information so it is not relative to today's poll. What will the next poll bring?

No dirty tricks, just an inevitable result.
Herald had already put in an OIA request for the whole file (as you would expect) which got rejected. Once that happened it was pretty obvious they would narrow their request until they got what they wanted. Let Cunliffe deal with them, if he answers honestly there is minimal issue or fallout, if not sit back and watch the fireworks. National could never have planned on Cunliffe having record keeping that was this bad, if his records were up to spec he could have front footed this and made any direct attack from National look like a desperate smear so why would they even risk trying it?

Clearly the knives are out for Cunliffe, and rightly so. The man is not Prime Ministerial material and both he and his extreme hard-left views are a millstone around the neck of Labour, something that I predicted would happen at the time of his election to the Leadership. The only question now is who will administer the fatal blow and when will it come?

My advice would be to make it fall soon and swiftly and let the healing begin. The problem for Labour though are the unions and the broader membership. The capture of the party by those with an extreme hard-left ideology and identity politics, aided and abetted by a bunch of disparate bitter and resentful left-wing no-hopers is actually what now stands between them and the Treasury benches. They must understand and understand it urgently that it is not the unions or the membership of the Labour Party that gets them into power, it is the average Joe Bloggs of New Zealand. Yet the party is as out of touch and as far away from the average New Zealander as I have ever seen it my lifetime. Yet their hubris, their grudges, the dark plots, the endless score settling, ideology and manufacture of self-serving truths prevents them from either seeing it or doing anything about it.

Frankly, the caucus needs to act and to act quickly. Ultimately it must take leadership of the party and this issue or else there will be no caucus left to keep.

You're right. It's inevitable that Cunliffe will be dumped. Problem is nobody will want the job this side of the election. So it wouldn't surprise me if he simply resigns and leaves the party in the net few days. He knows the alternative, and going quietly before the election would be best for him - if not for the party.

The problem they have is that there is nobody left in Labour 2014 who isn't hard-left or an identity politician ( alright there is one I can think of who isn't). They effectively ran the last one (Jones) out on the last bus.

All that has happened is that the traditional "broad-church" Labour Party of old, is now called National and has a different colour logo.

As I see it, the quality people who used to be the Labour Party (ie. Annette King, David Shearer to name two that I hold in regard are sorely lacking nowadays. The same with the Green Party, Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Sue Kedgley who were real party members and politicians and good people who really believed in what they were doing and for the right reasons are all missing.Until you get opposition members who are there for the right reasons they will never be successful. It's not a job just for something to do - it's a real job that affects everyday people and their lives, not just a play thing for these idiots. If you had a surgeon carrying on with this behaviour no one would ever go to hosipital. They have a job to do for the people - not for themselves.

Cunliffe's problem is that he is insincere and a play actor. His Avondale Market speech when he used the Mana microphone is the best example. It is available on Youtube.

On National Radio today he talked about "We working people." What a pretence! Everyone knows he is not a blue collar worker. He is upper crust Herne Bay!

Caucus cannot roll the leader by a majority vote. The Labour rules clearly state a majority of caucus can elect a candidate ( independent of the party and unions) in the 90 days before an election...IF there is a leadership vacancy. If Cunliffe doesn't resign, they can't roll him.

I have one piece of advice for the Labour leader: People in glass houses should not throw stones.

Leave Cunliffe as leader of Labour, he's doing an absolutely stellar job of losing the election for them. Nothing National could do would be as damaging to Labour as having this guy as their leader. Can't wait to see the results on election night, it'll be a humiliating walkover and good job too.