David Cunliffe has announced that he will let the Labour Party decide whether he stays on as leader.
Mr Cunliffe made the unscheduled announcement ahead of Labour’s caucus meeting today.
Addressing the media in a press conference before caucus this morning, Mr Cunliffe says Labour’s leader “may or may not be me”.
Mr Cunliffe says more of the behaviour exhibited in recent days will be damaging to the party if it continues.
My personal preference, which I am sure will be no surprise, is that David Cunliffe remains as leader of the party. His personal performance during the campaign was good and his debating was superb. He has only had the job for 12 months. Norm Kirk failed twice and Helen Clark failed once before winning. There is no one else in the party who could have performed the way that Cunliffe did. And his personal preference rating improved considerably as Kiwis had a chance to see the real David Cunliffe, not the Cameron Slater hatchet job which we saw far too much of during the first half of the year.
Sure the end result was very disappointing. The Green party vote sunk by an almost identical percentage so there were obviously bigger forces at play than just the campaign or the leader. It is noticeable however that the Greens are quietly contemplating the result whereas the loud expressions by some within Labour’s ranks has been deafening.
There are changes that can and must be made. The party vote results in some seats are very disappointing. In New Lynn we held it to a relatively respectable 1.5 percentage points. Nearby seats had a drop of over 7% points. They need to reflect on the type of campaign they ran.
And the leaking from within caucus has started again. Whoever it is they are damaging the party and New Zealand Council should deal with them. Yesterday there was this report mentioning comments from an anonymous front bench MP and this Herald report quoting other unnamed MPs. Today there are further comments from anonymous sources attacking the party’s hierarchy. National does not do this. Part of Labour’s problem is that it occasionally looks like a rabble whereas National maintains tight focussed discipline at all times.
Some MPs like David Shearer are suggesting that Labour should tack back to the centre. Here is a challenge to them. The party’s policy platform has been remarkably stable for some time. Can they say what particular policies are evidence of a leftward trend?
And Josie Pagani has stated that Moira Coatesworth and Tim Barnett should go. She has no idea what is happening in the party or the incredible work that these two put into the party. She also keeps claiming that the party has a policy of trying to capture the “missing million” voters who did not make it to the polls. Here is an offer to Josie. She can contact me and ask me at any time what is happening within the party. The latest strategy was one to increase turnout and enrollment AND seek to persuade middle voters with specific policies. It has been the strategy for a while. The missing million is something that her friends Cameron Slater and Matthew Hooton use as a weapon against the party and it grates that the supposed commentator for the left should be an echo chamber for the right.
Shearer and Phil Goff have suggested that we should delay issues about the leadership. I agree that a measured approach is optimal but only if the leaking and public attacks stop. Yesterday was wall to wall negative public comments by members of the Caucus and if they want a reasoned discussion on what happened this should stop.
Stuart Nash’s comments have been particularly unhelpful and his comment that he wants to turn Napier into a safe Labour seat neatly summarises a major difficulty for the party. In an MMP environment the party vote is king and the only vote that really matters. The party is running far too many electorate centric campaigns.
These are troubling times for the party. Either caucus unites or the party’s future is bleak. The indifference of various elements to the interests of the movement itself is deeply concerning. And if they think that removing Cunliffe from the leadership is the solution then they really need to think again.