Is Cun­liffe the an­swer af­ter all?

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Is Cun­liffe the an­swer af­ter all? Pol­i­tics be­ing what it is, the next leader of Her Majesty’s Op­po­si­tion may not be cho­sen on the ba­sis of a clear-sighted, al­tru­is­tic as­sess­ment of which con­tender would be best for the party, and the na­tion.

The usual per­sonal grudges and tribal af­fil­i­a­tions will come into play, and the best hope is that th­ese can­cel each other out, some­what.

Grant Robert­son was the first to de­clare his hand, amid early as­sump­tions that David Cun­liffe would be Robert­son’s only gen­uine op­po­nent, with Shane Jones as a sideshow and spoiler.

It is a mea­sure of David Shearer’s iso­la­tion that no loy­al­ist residue of a Shearer fac­tion has had to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

From the out­set, Shearer looked like an af­ter­thought cho­sen for the job by the old guard (Trevor Mal­lard, Phil Goff, An­nette King etc) af­ter their first pref­er­ence, David Parker, pulled out.

Shearer’s faults – his in­ex­pe­ri­ence, his awkward pre­sen­ta­tional style – were ra­tio­nalised into be­ing ad­van­tages, as an un­pol­ished con­trast to Prime Min­is­ter John Key.

Shearer tried his best. The prob­lem was that he made even his Or­di­nary Bloke per­sona look like hard work, es­pe­cially when com­pared to the ‘‘at ease in his own skin’’ style of his mil­lion­aire op­po­nent.

Shearer wasn’t a po­lit­i­cal an­i­mal.

If he was, he might have grabbed for the re­sults of the last Roy Mor­gan poll, which showed National los­ing ground and the com­bined Labour/ Greens vote ex­ceed­ing the sup­port for the cen­tre right.

In the end, Shearer de­cided it was too lit­tle too late, es­pe­cially in light of the ham­mer­ing he re­ceived in the House from Key dur­ing the fi­nal stages of the GCSB Bill.

Labour will be choos­ing its leader un­der se­lec­tion rules that di­vide the rel­e­vant votes on a 40/40/20 ba­sis be­tween the cau­cus, the party and af­fil­i­ated unions. As with the advent of MMP, th­ese new rules were a byprod­uct of a dark his­tory of di­vi­sion and abuse of power.

Shearer, for ex­am­ple, be­came leader in the wake of a con­sul­ta­tion with unions and branch meet­ings at which anec­do­tally, Cun­liffe emerged as the clear pref­er­ence – only for this to be ig­nored by the cau­cus old guard.

Ob­vi­ously, the rule changes mean that an Any­one But Cun­liffe at­ti­tude in cau­cus will be less able to skew the out­come.

Un­for­tu­nately for Labour, the vot­ing re­sults could also starkly ex­pose any split be­tween a party that prefers Cun­liffe and a cau­cus ma­jor­ity likely on past pat­terns, to sup­port Robert­son.

At time of writ­ing, Cun­liffe had not an­nounced his can­di­dacy.

At the very least, it must have crossed his mind whether the Shearer/Robert­son team and their cau­cus sup­port­ers should be left to carry the can for this en­tire term, thereby en­abling him to in­herit a more united cau­cus in the wake of a 2014 de­feat.

Po­ten­tially, the unions have a me­di­at­ing role to play.

Above all else though, the unions need Labour to win the next elec­tion. For all Cun­liffe’s flaws – and his fa­bled ego­tism has been brought un­der con­trol in re­cent years – only the diehards in the Labour cau­cus could fail to see that while Robert­son and Cun­liffe are both ex­cel­lent pub­lic speak­ers, Cun­liffe has been bet­ter able in the House to score hits on the govern­ment front bench.

For Labour there are no risk­free op­tions, whether it be Robert­son or Cun­liffe.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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