Written By: - Date published: 9:20 am, August 11th, 2014 - 81 comments
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You have to hand it to David Cunliffe. He has had all sorts of stuff thrown at him this year but each time he gets back up and gets on with things.
The weekend’s campaign launch was an example of what he is capable of, a wonderfully passionate speech delivered well and with clearly thought through policy to a thousand people and Labour and Cunliffe look like they are ready to campaign. And a recent reversal in some disastrous polling and a bit of momentum and suddenly anything looks possible. David Cunliffe may be an inspired campaign away from being the next Prime Minister.
It seems that everything is currently going right, Suddenly we are seeing some sympathetic media pieces such as this recent piece in the Sunday Star Times which are fleshing out Cunliffe as a person and showing that behind that huge intellect is quite an ordinary person.
And National must be looking at the current situation with real despair. Its current polling is about 5% below where it was in 2011 at a similar time. And it has not had a good few weeks. Between Joyce’s ill tempered display of Tory arrogance, to Hauiti’s, McCully’s and Groser’s displays of Tory greed, to McCully’s ineptitude in relation to the Malaysian diplomatic incident and to the Lochinver Farm sale and the concern that we may become tenants in our own land there is a lot for National to be worried at.
So the discussion has to be, how does Labour win it from here?
Some things are working very well. The leader’s office has settled down and is providing the sophisticated type of political approach that has been missing from labour for a while. The membership are really energized. I am seeing levels of activity that I have not seen since 2005 when the threat of a Don Brash leadership caused progressives of all sorts to mobilise. And the on the ground feedback is overwhelming positive and there is also an intense negativity about John Key that I have not seen before.
Cunliffe has had a couple of incidents where some slight verbal inaccuracies has become major stories. I do despair at the insistence of the media to focus on a few stray words and to ignore the real issues that we face but those are the rules that political parties play by so obviously Labour and Cunliffe has to do better. The playing field may be tilted but that just means that Labour has to perform really well.
And Caucus needs to do better. There have been some signs of ill discipline and of MPs not following agreed positions. There is nothing that will make the membership more grumpy than seeing the benefit of their on the ground campaigning being undone by some stupid action. Labour needs to appear united and competent if it hopes to win. And MPs need to stick to the game plan which is to be positive.
The problem for National is that the media attacks on Cunliffe have started to look more and more like they have been choreographed. They hit the really silly stage when he was criticized for having a few days off with his kids and for wearing a red scarf and for meeting a prominent New Zealander who may have something dodgy in his past. A number of people said to me that the media had gone too far and the innate sense of fairness that most kiwis have has started to kick in. Cameron Slater writing five attack blog posts on Cunliffe a day is no longer having the desired effect. Of course if having something dodgy in their past was reason for total exclusion Slater would not be amongst us.
The collective right are in disarray. It was interesting that the best performing of the leaders in the weekend’s minor party leaders debate were Turei, Harawira and Peters. Dunne was nowhere, Craig not worth the admission price and Whyte was totally out of his depth.
It must be very worrying that ACT do not look like they will make it in Epsom. I think asking the locals to vote for Seymour is too much of an ask given Whyte’s performances. And it looks more and more likely that the Conservatives will not make the threshold and will instead siphon off a group of potential votes for National into never never land.
Of course Labour is not going to get there by itself. The Greens are performing well and obviously they need to keep up their support while Labour increases its support.
As has been said many times by Matthew Hooton this election will go down to the wire. An inspired campaign by David Cunliffe and he may win what until recently looked like the unwinnable election.