I am obviously really saddened by David’s announcement that he is withdrawing from the Labour leadership contest. The combination of a poor electoral result, internal pressure and adverse media, created and fuelled from some within his own Parliamentary ranks, and a review of what is best for the party have caused him to reconsider and then to withdraw.
At one level I do not blame him. It is said that being Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics and his reign has been particularly difficult. He also has a young family and being put under the public scrutiny microscope, especially the way that he has, is not an enjoyable experience.
Hopefully he will take a bit of time to recover and get back on his feet. His talents are considerable and he has a significant role still to play in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
The decision belies some of the criticism of him. He could have won the leadership contest but the current turmoil would have continued. His support in Auckland particularly amongst Maori and Pasifica is still huge. He dominated the Affiliates vote at the last leadership election and would have featured highly amongst their preferences this time if he had stayed. And you only need to read the overwhelming majority of comments on this blog to see what progressives think about him. Clearly he is prepared to put party interests ahead of his own.
So what now for him? He is still one of the most capable MPs Labour has. His past successes such as getting the New Lynn rail undergrounding through against Treasury Advice and uncoupling Chorus from Telecom were significant achievements and underscore his immense abilities.
It is vital for Labour for Cunliffe to stay in Parliament to be a Senior MP and to shape the party’s future. He can easily take on Joyce and English.
And who should the new leader be? Someone who oversees rejuvenation in the party and ensures that caucus discipline is maintained. And who is true to the principles of the party. And who has the support of a majority of members. Cunliffe has endorsed Andrew Little whose prospects now must be very good. Andrew has been careful to hold himself apart from the factions and is someone who clearly will work to unite the party and I cannot emphasise how critical this is.
And to David Cunliffe can I suggest a short holiday to get yourself ready for the next three years. Recent events reaffirm how important it is that the Labour Party is ready to hold this Government to account.