David Cunliffe faced his first leadership challenge today and came through it with flying colours. He set a high standard, and when that standard was tested he lived up to it. That’s leadership. It’s tough on our Jen, but I’m sure she agrees it was the right thing to do. Contrast that with John ‘Higher Standards’ Key’s protection of Bill ‘Double Dipton’ English.
David Cunliffe set a standard that he and his team wouldn’t make Grant Robertson’s sexuality an issue in the leadership contest. But it turned out that, before Cunliffe entered the race, Jenny Michie, who had been assisting his campaign had said:
“I think it’s not a big a deal as it used to be. You know we now have gay marriage, and it actually went through without that much of a fuss, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Having said that I think we’d be naïve to imagine that there would be no resistance to a gay Prime Minister at this point. I think some people might have a problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t.”
Cunliffe could have wiggled out of doing anything – it’s not like Jenny’s comments were particularly inflammatory – but he didn’t. He said ‘well, I’ve set my standard, and now I have to live by it’. He didn’t wait around, he moved proactively. That was a tough call and it was the right call.
Contrast that with John Key. His deputy was caught out claiming tens of thousands of dollars of public money for an ‘out of town allowance’ for his Karori house on the basis that he lives in Dipton. The truth was that the Karori house is and has been his home for years – his family lives there, the kids go to school in Wellington. It’s hard to define what English did as anything other than stealing. What did Key do about it? He changed the rules so that English could keep on getting money.
That’s the difference between Cunliffe and Key. One sets standards and sticks to them even when difficult. The other talks big and then weasels out of accountability.
What about Jenny? It’s a tough thing but she’ll be right. She’s an organiser with incredible and infectious energy. This thing was hardly a hanging offence. She’ll keep on fighting the good fight for the Left and for workers’ rights.
And what about Clare Curran? The MP whose twitter rant two weeks behind the times sparked all this and was the worst breech of protocol in what has otherwise been a remarkably well-behaved leadership contest. I’ll leave that to Shane Jones:
“She’s demonstrating to us what’s wrong with our caucus. Either the moon in Dunedin was in the wrong phase or she’s casting around for a new job”