Visit the full NBR website

Cunliffe flat on the mat but comeback on the cards

Former Labour party president Mike Williams says David Cunliffe is down but not out, despite his embarrassing demotion to the backbenches.

The astute political observer believes there is nothing to stop the aspiring leader from grasping the top job in time.

"I don't think it's mortal damage. You can always come back, you can perform well from the back bench, and he's a good performer in Parliament.

"He also has a good electorate organisation. The people of New Lynn are very loyal to him and he's a hard-working local MP.

"I just think he's got to bide his time."

But for the moment, Mr Williams believes he has a "close to zero" chance of securing enough support when the next leadership spill is held in February.

"I think Cunliffe brought all of this on himself.

"He overplayed his hand and what he did looks to an outside observer as sheer opportunism, so for the moment he'll just have to retreat to his electorate in New Lynn.

"I don't see any other way that David Shearer could have handled the situation.

"He accepted a 40% vote for Cunliffe would have provoked a spill so he had to move and establish his authority."

Asked whether he believed Mr Cunliffe could become more electable than David Shearer, Mr Williams said:

"Who would have thought in 1996 that the great discovery of the election campaign would have been Helen Clark.

"I think she doubled the party vote during the campaign, but a discovery, for God's sake?

"I mean, she had been minister of health and housing in the Lange government, she'd been deputy leader of the party, deputy prime minister and suddenly she was a discovery.

"You just don't know how people will shine in campaigns or how they won't. The campaign environment is totally different to normal."

Mr Williams say Mr Shearer has had a year to sell himself to the party membership and "he's done quite a good job of that".

"I attended a Te Atatu LEC meeting earlier this year and he was there in jeans and an open neck shirt, he was relaxed and he had all of us in the palms of his hands.

"So I think the earth has moved under David Cunliffe and I don't think he realised that.

"But as far as sending him to the back bench, I think that's risky.

"The next poll will probably show a decline in Labour voting intentions, but the Shearer people can easily put that down to the machinations of the Cunliffe group so they can survive that.

"But I think what they've got now is a situation where they've got at least one MP who will be working towards a Labour defeat, and that could be a worry."

More by Rod Vaughan

Comments and questions

David Cunliffe deserves his day as leader. if anyone knows anything about clean economics its him. JK links with BOA Bank is disgusting!!!

This sort of ignorance is why NZ is poor.

its common for world leaders to be supported by international banks, nothing new.

Cunliffe's often agenda tainted (addled) rants on economics come from economic's text books he's bought from book shops. sounds like he thumbs through the passages yet, often misunderstands the economic contexts and attempts to apply logic...gets all confused and makes a bit of twit of himself in the process (as stated most commentators chuckled over when he prattled on about macro-economic tools needed for the reserve bank).

links to banks? explain the same banks involved in the "climate change" scam-paigne in the same context as cunliffe and "clean economics". what a crock.

Mike Williams is astute. Few additional comments. Cunliffe's supporters are spread out across not just New Lynn but New Zealand. They are not just the foot soldiers, the modest financiers but the Labour Party credibles, the "wide boys" (such as Williams). They are those within caucas motivated not just by self-preservation but substantial belief in the ideals of the Party.

Cunliffe may be publicly pilloried by the party pygmies but it is not possible to irradiate his base because his base is intrinsically embedded. The giants- preceding this creation of the perfumed petty, insignificant and hidden thwuugs- are the models to be emulated, that will be looked to and promoted.

Agree, some astute observations from Williams.

And, if I understand correctly, the caucus will not have the last word on who the leader is, like it has done before. That changes the nature of NZ party politics in a big way.

IMHO, Shearer has reacted according to the 'old' rules. Banish Cunliffe to the back, reduce his visibility and the media's interest in him.

Under the 'new' rules, I imagine Cunliffe is now freer to speak out on issues, provided they are in line with Labour's policies, and he'll certainly have a lot more time to meet and greet with other people who will have their say come February.

I'm starting to see this as a 'generational' shift, like what happened when Labour ditched Rogernomics and a new generation of leadership came to the fore. Now, there's a mood for philosophical change, coupled with resistance from some who don't want change and I imagine that's what's driving these ructions.

If so, then I draw two conclusions. First, that Cunliffe represents the future, not the past (and before you write him off, check out his Blockhouse Bay speech just before the 2011 election - it speaks volumes). Second, that, for all the guffawing from National, they will eventually have to make a similar generational shift, or find themselves out of touch, as people who were the movers and shakers of the Rogernomics/Ruthenasia ideology start to drop off.

The Big Question now is to win the election in 2014....Is Mr Shearer competant enough to lead Labour Party to be the next Government?


Labour won't win the next Election - National will lose it and Labour will come to power

The competency or otherwise of Jonkey over the next 24 months will determine who leads in late 2014

The Shearer - Cunliffe debarcle is a media beat up because 'nothing else is happening to write about'

neither light my fire, but we will get one of them unless Jonkey lifts his game!!!

Labour should be searching for New Blood now....perhaps Jacinda ARDERN is the best bet!

Shearer is with the wrong party , labour party is full of fat, ugly,thick, badly dressed people with rotten teeth and I thank god they are not representing us on the World stage, Cunliffe is a slippery little rat who is history.

Come on - dont hold back now....

Those ex-teachers and lecturers, sociologists, consultants and advisers, unionists, perennial committee members, 2nd-string journos and reporters, bureaucrats and lifelong career MPs -- all look and dress a little better than what you've described, don't they?

No actualy they dont < I have actually gone soft on them and I didnt mention the lesbians and gays that have infiltrated the labour party.

The Answer to the past noise is always Grant Robertson.
Who hated the members for getting the 40% trigger for a wider selection run-off?
Who blamed Cunliffe when the Members ignored the Caucus?
Who wound up Shearer to demote Cunliffe?
Who is scheming to shaft Shearer?

Yes, Mike is right. The party will come to its senses and select Cunliffe.

How can-anyone trust Cunliffe after undermining two leaders?

Then again, that's what Winston Churchill was accused of, until everyone caught up to him...

Labour party problem is the third sex and long may it continue.

Cant believe the LP dont understand the rules of good governance. In any organisation that is to functional effectively the ruling body MUST be the ones that elect the Chairman/President and Deputy from their own numbers. No organisation can function effectively if the ruling/governing body has its leader/ deputy forced on them. Its a receipe for disaster UNLESS the governing body respect and will work with the leader and thats unlikely.
Think of most organisations and you will find thw governing body elects its leader for that reason.

Err, well, there's the Green Party. They elect all office holders including leaders, annually. And even then, there are strong powers of veto that make it more a decision by consensus, rather than election.

Other than that, wouldn't 99% of org's force their leaders on folks from the top down? Can't think of many examples at all. Maybe some of the unions. Clubs & societies, I suppose (which are structurally similar to political parties).

At the end of the day, the Nat's must be laughing all the way to the next election, this is just typical Labour, couldn't organise a decent "P_____up" in a brewery.

You reckon, with NZF on 5% at the midway point of the cycle National will not be laughing too hard.

Don't be too sure. I'm a swinging voter and following this fight with mild amusement. I consider John Key & the Nats have made a strategic error in MMP and the next election will deliver a Labour / Green coalition (god help us). Who will lead that coalition...?

Cunliffe's tactics have been very flawed - he could have used his economic development portfolio to position himself very well and create some real debate over alternative approaches to development. This would have built his credibility and people's trust in him. Instead, he is now simply seen as someone loyal only to himself.

#10. Cunliffe did not make a leadership bid: he supported the membership's proposal to have a party wide "electoral college" selection process. That was his sin.
Then Roberson/Mallard framed that as dis-loyalty to Shearer in order to knobble Cunliffe. Robertson is the one panning a coup.
Cinliffe was out out played on this occasion.

good points.

a perfect, charecterisation of labour's dysfunctional irrelevance really. a party looking for a message to lead but, finding that the absence of a message means the "leaders" struggle amongst themselves to lead a dysfunctional, confused, disillusioned mob who sum up a party with nothing worth saying really.

And who does Robertson support? Cunliffe! They are all init together.

« Back to home page