David Cunliffe’s supporters have done him no good. I warned him about this months ago when he invited me to lunch at Bellamy’s.
The latest evidence comes from Greg Presland, spokesman for his electorate committee, going on Morning Report today. There may be a complaint made to the Party, although they haven’t decided yet, and they haven’t yet thought about what grounds there may be. Doesn’t sound that solid to me – I’m not sure they have a toe to stand on let alone a foot.
Presland thinks the way David Cunliffe has been dealt with is unfair. Lynn Patterson effectively dealt with his main complaint, which seemed to be that other MPs had declined to say how they would vote in the February endorsement vote, by reminding him that there we’re other media besides TV where they had been explicit in their support for David Shearer. David Cunliffe by contrast had consistently refused to provide such support.
Presland refused to say whether New Lynn would endorse Shearer in the New Year. He thought all MPs should go back to their LECs to discuss the matter. I don’t know what they will discuss in New Lynn, but I think I can predict what the discussion will be at every other LEC. I don’t think it will either be complementary or complimentary to whatever is going on at New Lynn.
Presland charged that Labour MPs had been undermining Cunliffe. RadioNZ’s political editor Brent Edwards however noted that Presland had also been pointed to as one who had been critical of Shearer and supportive of Cunliffe writing on blogs.
One thing out of this is now absolutely clear. Any hope David Cunliffe had of ever being the Labour leader is now utterly dead in the water. There is still a role for him in politics if he so chooses, but he needs to look in the mirror – as long as it’s critically.
Shearer has acted decisively and lanced the boil. There may still be a bit of pus to come. I hope not. Greg Presland has been a good servant of the party, most notably in regaining a property in Onehunga that was wrongly alienated. It’s time to cool it, not wind it up.
Addition at 7:30pm:
As Lynn says I don’t often drop into comments, so I thought I’d put my response to some up in the post. I’ve been out all day in the Wellington sun. Welcome Greg Presland to the Standard; as I said I am aware of your contribution and commitment to the Labour Party.
People may be overlooking what I said in my post about the warning I gave David Cunliffe on the 29th of August in Parliament, that his friends were not doing him any good. I do believe that any person should get a warning before they get themselves into trouble, and I gave him that warning.
I certainly consider myself on the left, but I am not interested in the variations of left purism. What drives me is the knowledge that working people and indeed the nation do best when left parties are in government. I have fought for that all my time in politics. What I also know is that the only way this can happen is through the Labour party, as one part of a combination at the next election.
As I have indicated on this site from the beginning, in my opinion David Shearer is the best choice for Labour leader in this environment. I also think that when the left splits, it loses. I have fought against splits all my life in the Labour party and the labour movement.
At Labour’s conference this weekend, had there been clear air, Labour’s policy and Shearer’s presence would have had a major boost. Shearer gave a magnificent speech, and the content was the best I have heard from a Labour leader in nearly thirty years. But he didn’t get clear air. There was a surprise move to make the party leadership a question in three months time, on the basis of a minority vote.
I spoke against the amendment to change to Council’s recommendation for a simple majority for the leader’s confirmation to one that would allow a minority of caucus to trigger such a move on the bais of two long-standing labour principles; the principle of majority and the principle of solidarity. The principle of majority gives the legitimacy for democratic decision-making, the principle of solidarity means that once the majority has made its decision all in the collective support it. Solidarity is not much talked about these days, but it is essential for labour success. I’ve been described as a member of the “old guard.” Relatively speaking, I am certainly old. But I am very proud to be a guardian of the principle of solidarity.
Being old also means that I have seen most of it before. What I saw at the Labour party conference was a small group organising to spring a change for a purpose, and the purpose was to force a leadership vote on the party in February. The only beneficiary of such a move was David Cunliffe. So did the media, so did many in the caucus, so did members of the Council I spoke to. I may be old, but I am not stupid.
I do not think there will be much support around the Labour party for New Lynn LEC’s complaint. David Cunliffe has paid a high price for the activities of his supporters and his own lack of judgment, but he cannot say he was not warned. The party wants to get on with supporting the policies outlined by David Shearer in his magnificent speech, and organising to win the next election to put a hands-on government into place.
As is often the case with these matters, there is a silver lining in the clouds – in fact it may be a gold lining. When Parliament meets next Tuesday, there won’t be any taunts from National about Labour’s leadership. What National most feared has come about; a Labour caucus unified, and David Shearer as leader. Roll on 2014.