WAS IT PURE COINCIDENCE? Just 48 hours before the opening of Labour’s annual conference in Palmerston North, David Cunliffe contributes a blinder of a speech to Parliament’s General Debate. Watching and listening to the speech it’s hard to avoid the impression that the man lumbered with all the responsibility for Labour’s catastrophic 2014 election defeat was using his speaking slot to send a message to the gathering rank-and-file.
“If you’ve been wondering why you voted for me back in 2013,” Cunliffe seemed to be saying, “it’s because, when I want to, I can unleash a speech like this.” He had no need to add: “Can anyone on Labour’s front bench say the same?” Because Labour’s members were already asking themselves that question.
It’s increasingly difficult to form a clear impression of Cunliffe the politician. Blackening Cunliffe’s name, and trashing his performance as party leader, have played a crucial role in enhancing the shaky legitimacy of the man who replaced him. It has also allowed the party to avoid examining too closely the contribution of other Labour MPs to the 2014 debacle. The stories of Cunliffe’s indecision; his inability to formulate a strategy and stick to it; his obsessive and exhausting micromanagement; these are all that’s needed, now, to explain away Labour’s worst electoral performance since 1922.
And Andrew Little (the man whose winning margin was less than 1 percent) has been able to emerge from this carefully constructed narrative as Labour’s unlikely saviour. After a long run of incredibly bad luck, Little is portrayed as Labour’s lucky break. A strong and stable contrast to the unaccountably hopeless Cunliffe.
Because that is the contradiction that so many of Cunliffe’s supporters still cannot reconcile: the before-Cunliffe and the after-Cunliffe. The coolly ruthless assassin of David Shearer’s hopes; the man who repeatedly reassured his supporters that he would be leader of the NZLP, and then proved as good as his word. Could he also be the hapless, accident-prone, foot-in-mouth Cunliffe who, as Leader of the Opposition, took Labour from 37 percent in the polls to 25 percent at the ballot-box?
Listen to Cunliffe’s speech carefully, and an answer, of sorts, emerges. National’s strategy, which turns out to be exactly the same strategy as that of the Crosby-Textor-advised Conservative parties in the UK and Canada, is to use the Right’s allies in the news media (and the blogs) to destroy the reputation of new Opposition leaders before the public has time to form a firm opinion of their own. Foot-tripped from the very beginning, and unable to establish any kind of secure footing, Cunliffe struggled constantly to tear off the labels being fastened to him from every quarter (including, tragically, by members of his own caucus).
Cunliffe does not dispute the facts of his less-than-stellar performance as Labour Leader. There are things he knows he should not have done – or, at least, done differently. All he was trying to say in his Wednesday-afternoon speech was, in essence, two things. First: “You weren’t wrong to make me your leader, because, when I’m good – I’m bloody good!” And second: “I know I stuffed a lot of things up, but, never forget, I had plenty of help!”
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 7 November 2015.
The present incumbent could say the same, couldn't he !
" use the Right’s allies in the news media (and the blogs) to destroy the reputation of new Opposition leaders before the public has time to form a firm opinion of their own"
Is there not something of a contradiction here between this statement and your desire to have the Labour Party conference stocked with these allies? (Just askin' don't jump down me throat :-).) Could it be that the advantages of having an open conference – and I'm not sure they really ever are properly open – are outweighed by the disadvantages in today's media climate?
You certainly have a point, GS. As someone who watched Paddy Gower manufacture "Cunliffe's Coup" at the 2012 conference, I'm well aware of what can happen.
Overall, though, I think it best to take the bad with the good. Citizens cannot hope to know what is happening, politically, unless journalists are allowed to do their job.
Providing there are enough on hand to ensure that the readers, listeners and viewers can distil from their often wildly varying reports a more-or-less accurate view of proceedings, then all should be well.
If we don't have journalists putting slants on Labour discussions then we will get it from within.
Micky Savage from The Standard has this as a heading for this first report.
Brook Sabin has suggested that the Labour Party conference is in crisis following the release of the TPP text. He must be at a different conference to the one that I am at.
Cunliffe was not trusted even by the 'left' in the party. He is still seen by a very large percentage as being untrustworthy. He is finished but fails to see that. In contrast Andrew Little is seen by many as a ditherer. He told me and many others he would get rid of the 90 day trial, now he is dithering. He was elected by telling lies. The union movement was mislead. Is he dodgy ? time will tell.
greywarbler, we will get rose-tinted slants from conference appointed spokespersons. A few of the MPs / delegates will supply their useful bloggers.
All these Anonymous comments. How am I supposed to identify who I'm responding to. A plague on all your anonymous houses.
To get any reports of LP conference I suggest, Bowalley Road, Kiwi Blog, The Daily Blog, Matthew Hooton and Brook Sabine @ Twitter. The Standard's Greg Presland aka Mickey Savage is a stooge. PS the adoption of the name 'Mickey Savage' By Presland is a absolute crime and travesty against Michael Savage.
David Cunliffe setting up secret trust monies with Presland was the major cause of the hatred directed against Cunliffe by the people and Labour activists. Presland escaped, Cunliffe fell.
I've been at the conference these last few days.
I've not a party n crisis, but an upbeat group who have begun the hard work of accepting the failure of 2014, learning from it, and identifying policies that will again remind Aotearoa/ New Zealand that Labour is the party committed to shared prosperity for all New Zealanders.
There has been debate, there have been some excellent speeches, ample time to meet and greet the party stalwarts - from the dedicated team n the desk through to the party's leader.
I've been in any number of sessions, sampled the Palmy weather and culinary delights with comrades and colleagues, and so far have come away delighted at the genuine vibes of unity and optimism I've experienced.
Any Maryan Street's Friday night speech was simply a stunner.
I know Chris that you've been extremely disappointed that the media were excluded from a number of sessions. But I have to say that Brook Sabin's false narrative demonstrates the main stream media's lack of public service value at the present time.
Thanks for your comment, Anthony.
The problem the rest of the country has with reports such as yours is that they all fall so easily into the "Yes, well he would say that - wouldn't he?" category.
That's why allowing the media in is always the best course. Their stories are (or should be) disinterested and, hence, believable.
As for the bad reporting. Well, once again, the solution for that is in your (i.e. the NZLP members') hands.
Thanks to Michael Cullen's parsimony, the fifth Labour government's broadcasting policies were a complete and utter failure. Real effort needs to be put into re-designing public broadcasting in NZ.
By lifting the standard of public television, in particular, you would also be lifting the quality of the private television networks. Set the bar of journalism high and TVNZ's competitors will have to compete upwards rather than downwards (which seems to be the case at the moment).
Ah Mandy Rice Davies. Brings back so many memories. And so true.
Anthony, if you'd hung around here a bit more you would have noticed a comment that said something like "politicians never admit to failure, or any bad stuff happening." Can't you see that this is one of the reasons that people begin to dislike them? We get sick of all the Pollyannaish, rose tinted spectacle bullshit that we have to endure, because you buggers can't tell the truth. God if only for one somebody would say "well we fucked up, that we are doing our best to fix it." Haven't heard that in a long, long time.
We spent half our lives explaining to kids that we should tell the truth. When it matters. And politics matters more than whether someone's arse looks big in this. Just start trusting people for Christ's sake. Why should I have to make judgements about who to vote for based on lies. Made that mistake in 1984.
All these Anonymous comments. How am I supposed to identify who I'm responding to. A plague on all your anonymous houses.
Totally agree and I go further. Pseudonyms are cowardice. If you havent the courage to use your own name you shouldn't comment.
But Andrew that is so absolutist. People who don't feel comfortable with having their name exposed to family, employers, employers they are hopeful of getting, etc etc shouldn't have to. Chris knows from their addresses who that entity is. I see that Chris subscribes to a blog called Anonymous! What I want is an identifiable word that is their adopted name, their nom de plume. Call me feather-headed, for being greywarbler!
And this business about names - what a load of bull. I don't know if someone using a name is using their own one, even Chris may not know. So why trumpet it as a banner of transparency, honesty and integrity. I write my things with as much of those as I can muster.
So Tom Dick or Harry - there are names galore or words by their tens of thousands. It should be easy enough to put a chosen one in where it says Name/URL.
Jesus I'm tired of saying this. There are good reasons for many people using a pseudoym Andrew. If you don't have any good for you, but there are some as do. And naturally enough I intend to comment whether you say I'm a coward or not. Is not as if you're the only Andrew Nichols in the country anyway. :-) Publish your name address and phone number – otherwise you're a coward too.
Andrew Nichols, you speak bullshit.
What is said on blogspots is what matters.
Who says it is irrelevant, except to egotists.
Stick to the discussion and forget your own importance.
I agree that "Anonymous" is irritating, but it could well be a casual passerby and not worth responding to. What is your problem?
On some blog sites, and topics, anonymity is important to the person's security.
How do we know that "Andrew Nichols" is not a pseudonym?
Accusing people of cowardice is often the action of bullys (who are fundamentally cowards themselves).
Be careful of your use of language.
Do not use blog sites to give yourself a screen credit or byline.
It amongst all the confusion on these responses to this David Cunliffe issue are a couple of very sensible observations.
The first one is simple. It doesn't really matter who makes the comment but if the comment is apt then we take it at its face value.
Next, if you tell lies, eventually you will be shown up for that. People just simply do not like deviousness.
Nevertheless, the Labour Party needs to accept that for a large number of years it has stuffed up. Labour laws were not addressed sufficiently well during the Clark administration. Poverty in New Zealand has been developing for more than the years that the National Government has been in power. Currently the Labour Party has deserved over the whole business of the TPPA. How are they going to protect sovereignty for New Zealand citizens?
Labour Party failures can be made into positives by simply admitting to their failures. Admissions will lead to clearing the air so that a beacon can be held high saying that these are the things that we really stand for.
Cunliffe's speech, as shown on the video in the posting above, is reminiscent of Norman Kirk. To me, is the kind of inspiration, if it is meant, that people will be able to support. I want to see more of this speech occurring as well as statements in print.
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