When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The revenue portfolio looked like a pretty big step down for someone of Cunliffe’s experience and skill – it’s usually a training ground for first-termers – but that experience and skill has allowed him to make something of it.
With Cunliffe as spokesperson, Labour’s been the parliamentary wing of a business/union coalition against Dunne’s stealth taxes.
The result: humiliating backdowns for Dunne, a stain that may threaten his hold on Ohariu (if Labour puts up a decent candidate), and Cunliffe and Labour on the side of the winners.
There’s plenty more weakness on the revenue front to be exploited. While traditionally spokespeople have concentrated on IRD scandals and management issues, the real avenue of attack is tax policy itself. The massive loopholes that the rich and overseas investors can make use of while leaving us ordinary people carrying the tax burden are ripe for attack.
It feeds into the developing ‘us and them’ narrative (eg. SkyCity, bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich, minimum wage cuts for young workers, bene-bashing), and positions Labour as being on the side of the honest person in the street.
Turns out Shearer did Labour more good than he realised when he shunted Cunliffe into a novice portfolio.