Is David Cunliffe really that much of an enigma? I guess one of the problems for the right/ media about banging on with questions about “who is David Cunliffe” and the ‘enigma’ of Cunliffe is that you might actually get an answer to your question. And when people see and understand that answer, as they will, they’ll wonder what you were up to (and how smart you were) going round and round on the question.
Having known the man fairly well for a decade, my answer would be, 160 IQ, brought up materially poor (in a caring, values- intense family); has deeply loved and hugely successful/ busy partner/ mother of children and sons (hence the house and where it is); genuinely successful top end business consultant before politics (hence the respect/ support of senior business and consulting people); seriously loved by the large, diverse New Lynn Labour electorate people.
In terms of character, he listens. He learns and has learnt to attend, even when his brain is running ahead, and he thinks he already knows the answer, or what you are going to say, or ask. He weighs the larger justice, the bigger picture of the thing, as well as about ten other important variables, and comes to strong, if sometimes provisional positions, which he is confident enough to modify (and take personal responsibility for modifying) when needed. Interpersonally, he doesnt hold grudges against colleagues or enemies, and cares about how people are: he won’t throw people under buses. In terms of basic confidence and faith, he gets knocked down, and he gets up again. He believes he can lead, and that that leading will make a positive difference.
But most importantly, this to me is the politician who has come to the best vision for a much less neoliberal, post GFC NZ economy that can deliver the social and labour market goods. And these are goods that David Cunliffe’s clear core wants to see delivered. And, politically, this is a guy who can articulate that in ways that genuinely move people, from overpaid CEOs to people on nasty low wage contracts. And the guy who will simply push and generate ideas and enthuse and engage until there’s progress on that.
I dont think it’s that hard: that’s essentially him. The rest is manner, being “moved” by things at the same time his brain is whirring at warp speeds, semi-bridled enthusiasm and revving high to get on with it: nothing sinister there.
Those who seriously fear he might actually get to lead, and do the above things, however, do NOT want you and me to see the clarities and strengths. But my experience, as someone who started out shocked and annoyed that the New Lynn MP might live in Herne Bay, and who turned full circle on that when I knew the closer situation, is that there is clarity here. Real, deep, good clarity: IF you want to see it. I think that the more people see of him, as long as they are not competing with him for the job, the more they will recognise this. Attempts to frame him as tricky or something else he isn’t will look a bit silly at that point.
He’s unusual/ rare but not incomprehensible, unless you actually don’t want a clear and plausible and popular answer to your question about “who he is”. But let’s face it, all Labour leaders are a little rare and different, or they wouldn’t find themselves in a position to get the job. Once the public get a feel for the rareness, they can be very forgiving, especially as the strengths start to deliver.