Just asked David Cunliffe the big questions: “Does David Shearer have your full support? How will you vote if the leadership issue is put to the vote in caucus?” He won’t answer me. I ask him again. Still no answer. My cameraman suggests we come back later and try again, when Cunliffe’s awake. We climb out his bedroom window.
Camped outside Cunliffe’s Herne Bay house. Have spent most of the morning interviewing his neighbours, to find out if anyone has seen any signs of Cunliffe meeting clandestinely with groups of Labour MPs. No luck. Just then I see a group of people moving towards his front door. Aha! We leap out of the 3 News van, camera rolling, my microphone ready to catch everything said.
“Stop!” I yell, running towards the pack of MPs.
Something is wrong. One of them is holding a baby. Their leader is pressing a pamphlet into my hand and asking me questions about Jesus. I don’t recognise these MPs. Could this all be some sort of elaborate disguise? Could I have broken one of the most sophisticated political conspiracies in New Zealand’s history?
Cunliffe emerges from his house. I am waiting at his letterbox. I ask him if he will stand against David Shearer. I then ask him if he has found Jesus, and I give him one of the pamphlets the previous group had left with me (they made some very compelling arguments). Cunliffe scurries away to his car and makes his escape.
I get a tip off. Cunliffe has been seen in New Lynn. He’s clearly returning to base to shore up his support. Why else would the MP for New Lynn be in New Lynn? All the signs point to a coup attempt.
I do a ring-around of every Labour MP. Some MPs don’t answer their phones. There’s only one reason why they’re avoiding talking to me. They’re all in on the plot, so I write them down on my “for Cunliffe” list. Some of the names surprise me, though. I didn’t expect David Shearer to be amongst the conspirators.
David Shearer calls back. Says he was on a flight from Wellington and couldn’t take my earlier call (Yeah, right!). Says he is confident he will lead the party into the 2014 election. I ask him which party he will lead, and he says “what do you mean?” I sense the confusion in his voice, a clear sign that the coup attempt is rattling him. More evidence of crisis within Labour!
A majority of MPs I have spoken to say they back David Shearer. They’re only saying that because they know there’s a challenge about to happen. Why else would a group of MPs be so keen to back their own party leader? The plot thickens!
We get another tip-off. David Shearer has been seen having coffee in a Mt Albert cafe. We rush to the scene, only to learn he has gone to the toilet. I bang on the toilet door. “Why are you hiding, Mr Shearer?” I demand. “Come out and face the full merciless glare of the free press!”
A woman comes out of the door, demanding to know why she’s being harassed. Shearer must have climbed out the toilet window! We race outside in the hope of catching him making his getaway, but we’re too late. We decide to go inside and have a coffee of our own.
David Shearer is back! He claims he was in the men’s toilet, and a quick check appears to confirm his claim that we were staking out the wrong loo. But it’s a mighty convenient explanation. I’ve been around politics long enough to know the smell of a rat.
I ask him if he will give the party leader his full support if there is a leadership vote.
“But I am the party leader” he replies.
“It was a simple question, Mr Shearer” I retort firmly. “Yes or no!”
“But Patrick, I am the leader of the Labour Party. Your question makes no sense.”
I repeat the question. Shearer sighs loudly, finishes his coffee, and leaves the cafe. He runs to a car, jumps in, and gets away. Or so he thinks. He didn’t see what we did.
Clinging to the undercarriage of David Shearer’s car. I hope he stops soon. My fingers are sore from clinging on, and they’re covered with dirt and grease. I need to look my best when I confront him, so I won’t be able to wave my hands around in front of the camera too much. It’s snug under here, because my cameraman is with me too. I don’t know how he manages to hold that big camera and cling to the car at the same time. I sense another television award coming my way if we survive this.
The car stops momentarily, but just as we prepare to show ourselves it starts moving again. I can’t see where we are, so I assume the car has just stopped at an intersection.
The car stops again a few minutes later and the engine dies. The car door opens and we leap out from underneath and stick a camera in the driver’s face. Except it isn’t David Shearer. Did we hide under the wrong car? I don’t recognise this guy at all, and I don’t like the way he is running towards us. I don’t like what he just did to the camera or my cameraman, and I don’t like the way he is now looking at me.
I am now running for my life, chased by an enraged taxi driver. But why is he so enraged? There may be a story angle here. Is this the Shearer camp’s doing? They cannot silence the press!
Am back now at TV3 headquarters and am banged up, bruised, exhausted, and beaten. I don’t know what happened to my cameraman, and I fear the worst, but such is the price we must pay if we are to expose the truth. I’m on telly in an hour, so I’d better get myself cleaned up and prepare my lines.
Shearer’s strange behaviour and Cunliffe’s evasiveness lead me to a inescapable conclusion. I have uncovered a sophisticated plot by Labour’s leader to destabilise his own leadership, and that can only mean one thing: David Cunliffe has mind control powers and is directing David Shearer to destroy himself!