Is Cunliffe being given a fair go?

December 4th, 2011 at 9:33 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged previously that I think is the best contender for the , based on his back-story, his freshness and his moderation. However he is untested, and a more risky prospect than . People need to see if Shearer can handle the pressure of being Opposition Leader and then Prime Minister.

I have a high regard for David Cunliffe also. When David was Minister of ICT and Communications I had a very constructive relationship with him. He never refused to deal with me, despite my National background, and I think his reforms were excellent. He was obviously one of those Ministers who could drive a policy agenda through a ministry, not one of those who just sits back and administers what the Ministry tells them to do.

Anyway the point of the post is the disparate treatment both Davids got on . First up was David Shearer. His questions were basically:

  • When did you write you speech?
  • Was it a road to Damascus moment?
  • When did you decide to run?
  • Did you discuss running with anyone previously?
  • Are you surprised you are now the front runner?
  • Does Goff support you?
  • Are you happy with Labour’s policies?
  • Will you sacrifice some in caucus even if they support you?
  • Can you work with Cunliffe?
  • What would you say to vacillating caucus members to get them to vote for you?

There wasn’t one tough question there. It was basically just an opportunity to talk about himself. Now let us contrast that with the questions to David Cunliffe:

  • Why aren’t you more popular in the Labour caucus?
  • Then four further questions on whether Cunliffe is unpopular!
  • Do you take any responsibility for the fact that Phil Goff didn’t have the numbers?
  • Four further questions on whether Cunliffe was to blame or trying to get him to knife Goff such as “So would you be a better campaigner than Phil Goff was?”
  • Okay are you committed to the platform that Phil Goff presented and you presented at the last election?
  • Okay do you rework them with a mind to making them more palatable to centre voters, or left voters?
  • And you say you’re a diplomat.  Have a look at this from the campaign in Avondale. (plays video and three follow up questions)
  • Do you consider if you win this leadership battle, that your primary role in let’s say your first 100 days as leader, is to rebuild and reform the Labour Party or beat John Key?

Now look stuff like the video is fair game, but overall I think the two interviews were unbalanced. Shearer didn’t get a single tough question, while Cunliffe had most of his questions as tough questions, including multiple supplementaries on a topic to try and get him to say something damning.

I doubt this was a deliberate tactic of Sean or The Nation. Because Shearer has not held senior rank within Labour, there is not so much to question him about. But the media do have a responsibility not just to let Shearer be annointed by acclamation as he is a nice guy, but to actually put him under pressure and see if he copes.

As I said at the beginning, I think Shearer is most likely to get a better election result for Labour, but that is subject to him showing his mettle.

UPDATE: Pleased to report that Q&A was much more balanced, and sadly Shearer performed very badly. If he has another performance like that on television, momentum will flow to Cunliffe. I’d advise people to watch the show and see for themselves.

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42 Responses to “Is Cunliffe being given a fair go?”

  1. hmmokrightitis (1,580 comments) says:

    I can just hear them over at the lack of standards right now…

    Arrgghhh noes!!!11!!! That evil right wing prick has backed Cunners now as well, first he said Shearer, which mades us hates him, now he says Cunners, what shall wes do?

    (Wait for sound of faux intellectual left wing brains to explode…)

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  2. Mark (1,471 comments) says:

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that Cunliffe would not make a very good minister. But that is not the selection being made. Labour needs a unifying leader an Cunliffe seems to struggle in that area alone. Whoever wins it tho has a hell of job on their hands.

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  3. tvb (4,313 comments) says:

    Perhaps you should have contrasted this analysis with the interviews on Q & A. There Cunliffe gave the more commanding performance by far and Holmes made that pretty clear. Tamahere was quite defensive about Shearer and so was Johansen. And there is some reservation that the old guard who did so much damage holding Labour back in the last parliament, may dominate Shearer too much whereas they will not dominate Cunliffe. I think the game is wide open with Cunners making up ground with these interviews.

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  4. Lindsay Addie (1,325 comments) says:

    I’m not a Labour person so I have no vested interest in who leads the party but I do think Shearer would be an extremely risky choice. I say this because:

    1. He is in serious need of proper media training. On TV he struggles to put a decent sentence together off the cuff that makes much sense. I guess he could do an Obama and read everything off a tele-prompter?!! But there’s no time for on the job training leading a major party.

    2. Related to the first point is how is he going to go in the house during question time when firstly trying to get the better of Key and secondly competing against Peters? Winston will try and establish himself as the proxy leader of the opposition. So for a relatively inexperienced MP parliamentary debates with seasoned politicians will be no easy task. A look at Hansard for his contributions reveals he has made no big mistakes but he’s never been on the front bench (which Key was before he became the National Leader). To make things worse he’s had a very light weight presence during question time.

    He looks a prospect for the future but he hasn’t earned his political stripes yet. Is Cunliffe a better choice? Who knows, it’s not my problem – I didn’t vote for Labour, thank goodness!!

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  5. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    So, you think Cunnliffe destroying the value of telecom shares by legislation is ok. ( I’m not syaing the objective of the policy was wrong but certainly the way it was done was.)
    You think allowing a ratbag chinese immigrant to have citizenship despite the Immigration Service saying not to is ok because he donates to party funds.
    Slimball is what Cunnliffe is.

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  6. JamesS (352 comments) says:

    “a ratbag chinese immigrant to have citizenship’ – that narrows it down to about 200,000; who are you referring to?

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  7. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    Shearer will also have an argument with the likes of Kelly et al in the union movement where as Cunnliffe will roll over and kiss their bums.
    Shearer also signalled that he was open to private participation in the Govt. Business processes.That has to be his biggest plus.

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  8. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    Too lazy to look for yourself. Here ya go. Plenty of press at the time.

    http://briefingroom.typepad.com/the_briefing_room/2011/12/immigration-scandal-sinks-david-cunliffes-leadership-hopes.html

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  9. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    Lindsay

    I tend to agree with the points you make. Shearer might make a good deputy leader, though I don’t think that’s an option for him right now. But I think he could do with 3 more years in Parliament on the front bench, learning what is required to be a good leader. He may well make an effective leader now but there is a big risk involved.

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  10. JamesS (352 comments) says:

    Ian Wishart ha ha that loon? if anything it probably encourages caucus members to vote for Cunliffe!

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  11. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    JamesS,

    I agree. Wishart is comlaining because Cunliffe apparently ignored the advice of officials (though that is not clear). Goodness gracious, if politicians simply rubber stamped official advice, we may as well elect officials! We elect MPs to make their own decisions. Unfortunately, successive Ministers of Justice have rubber stamped official advice from the Justice Ministry, which has consequently seen no wide ranging inquiry into the Peter Ellis case. If only ministers could think for themselves.

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  12. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    Gees you guys go back and look at the papers. The chow was a bloody crook and paid his way into Jones and Cunnliffes protection.
    FFS are you really that bloody thick.

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  13. JamesS (352 comments) says:

    Viking I think you need to go back and look and all the deranged conspiracy theories Wishart has written about over the years; he has about as much credibility as the average Social Creditor.

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  14. mavxp (496 comments) says:

    Cunliffe is a safe choice for Labour now as he is *clearly* the more experienced MP, campaigner, strategiser, and better communicator.

    Comparing Shearer to Key as an outsider moving in and taking the leadership, Key was devastating in the televised debates against Cullen in 2005. I don’t see Shearer being that good at going head to head with anyone just yet.

    Do they need a good communicator straight off the bat though? Will the media pay them any attention until the next election anyway (like they ignored Goff, the Green leadership and Winston until after the World Cup this year). In the house, Winston will lead the opposition anyway, nothing to be done there. That does give them time to groom him for the election year debates.

    Tough choice for the Labour peeps to make. If Shearer the whole Labour front bench will have to step up in the house until he ready to lead. If Cunliffe, they can follow his lead immediately.

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  15. hmmokrightitis (1,580 comments) says:

    If Cunners does take it, wonder how Shearer will react – tantrum or suck it up?

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  16. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Who cares who leads this ramshackle bunch of envy merchants, crash and burn and good riddance to anything and anyone who has served under or been annnointed by Clark.

    Talk of cleanouts and such is nothing but rubbish, none of these bludgers will fall on a sword, you only have to see this in Goff staying on for three years where he will do nothing other than add to his superanuation.

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  17. Ross Miller (1,686 comments) says:

    If I were a Labour MP and making my choice solely on what I saw and heard on Q & A this morning it would be no contest.

    Cunliffe 33 vs Shearer 1.

    Bu that isn’t the way it works.

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  18. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    I agree with Pauleastbay about the next Labour leader.

    Who cares? These socialists are out to spend our money, so the longer it takes to choose him, and the bloodier the infighting, the better.

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  19. Pongo (371 comments) says:

    Experience with warlords, rival factions, dealing with refugees and the dispossessed while mired in useless stifling UN beauracracy means Shearer is well qualified to lead the labour party.

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  20. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    I think Shearer as the leader of Labour has the potential to change the landscape of NZpolitics. The disappearance of ethic and moral standards worldwide in politics are obvious. Shearer could be a new start for New Zealand – even a model for the world to work on ethic and moral principles. Anyway a great contender for Key.

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  21. backster (2,140 comments) says:

    SHEARER has the support of Goff, King,and Mallard as well as D.P.F. Whale Oil and Tamihere. I think the first three will be able to mentor mould and strategise him to present the policies most acceptable to them. Cunliffe on the other hand spoke to Helen CLARK last week (the Nation) and refuses to say what they discussed. WHALEOIL please enlighten us. CUNNERS also wore his party red tie on both The Nation and Q&A whereas SHEARER wore one with light green stripes on The Nation and one that was a lighter shade of blue on Q&A ………Indecision go figure. Anyway I’ve no doubt both have their sights on the end game http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/42115

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  22. adze (2,059 comments) says:

    Shearer needs to work on his interviewing voice; that stammer is a really bad look (?) for a prospective PM.

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  23. dion (95 comments) says:

    Let’s not forget the Hawkes Bay DHB fiasco.

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  24. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    Shearer won yesterday but lost badly today. An urgent call to Brian Edwards might be needed by Shearer’s backers.

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  25. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    JamesS (154) Says:
    December 4th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Viking I think you need to go back and look and all the deranged conspiracy theories Wishart has written about over the years; he has about as much credibility as the average Social Creditor.

    It has nothing to do with Wishart you dummy. It was well traversed here on KB and every other media at the time. Clark shut it down.
    The man was a crook and captured those two into his influence. Bad judgement by both. that’s what matters.

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  26. JeffW (325 comments) says:

    I am travelling at present, hence haven’t seen any of this, but the impression given to me by Silent T is very much one lacking in trust. He looks shifty to me.

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  27. Ian Wishart (83 comments) says:

    JamesS, don’t be a prat, you sound like a conspiracy theorist. I’ll put my record for accuracy against yours any day.

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  28. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    Cunliffe: buy back any sold assets
    By Hayley Hannan
    Updated 10:38 AM Sunday Dec 4, 2011

    David Cunliffe would look at buying back any state owned assets sold under the National Government.

    lying prick. No better than Cullen. Socialist to the extreme.

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  29. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6083287/Cunliffe-says-he-would-reverse-asset-sales

    These prats don’t get it. Its labour that are fucked not nationals plans.

    They have just had the worst pasting they have had in 80 years and they are too stupid to realise thats its the people involved that are the problem.

    The New Zealand people loathe and despise the New Zealand labour Party . They loathe and depise the partys MP’s as they have no connection what so ever with the New Zealand public.

    Many appear to be forgetting they got their arse handed to them in 2008 when dear leader was still in charge. Politically it was her and then daylight back to anyone with ability so they are dreaming if they think anyone presently involved can breath life back into a rotting corpse

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  30. flipper (3,940 comments) says:

    Pauleastbay…. Absolutely spot on!

    Many years ago, Labour promised applicants (Gordon Dryden’s Watties, UEB and Kerridge grouping) for a private TV licence that if they were successful then an incoming Labour Government would nationalise them WITHOUT compensation. So they have tried the big stick in the past. It may work for induistrial disputes with weak employers, but in 2011 ???? With individual New Zealanders?

    And we have had railways. What a dog. That was a Cullen and the over-rated Clark debacle that saddled Bill English et al with an on-going fiscal hole.

    Three years later, Cunliffe (Luv the Whale’s reference to the silent T) wants to try again.

    If Europe implodes so do we. With what will the much vaunted and part time ivy leaguer pay? The NZ Super(borrowed) fund? Or will he and his idiot followers follow the TV model of 30 years ago?

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  31. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    Shearer was dreadful on Q & A.Incoherent and unimpressive

    Cunners was his usual smarmy self. So Cunliffe when asked about Mahuta on the ticket launched into the need to have a treaty partnership and bi-cultural country, then realised he needed to court Pasifika and Asians so became somewhat incoherent, other than to convey that he saw Labour as a party of poor brown people led by a smart white guy – Cunners. Vomit inducing

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  32. oldpark () says:

    Watched Q+A this morning thought Shearer got away with murder with his answers.Thought the questions asked by the guy with the rounded shoulders Guyon,were not enlightening enough.Even then Shearer seemed to tumble and stumble with his wishy washy responses.To rate him over Cunliffe in a scale of ten being best.Iwould give him a two only because i have never seen a one.Cunliffes body language told me he felt much superior to the man from the UN who was quietly parachuted into NZ politics.If a decision had to be made today ,rightly i would give Shearer THE DCM.Shearer cant think on his feet or his bum.As for Cunliffe would like to see him up against Shane Jones who to me has the human touch and seems very affable to the listeners or viewers.Labour should give Jones the opportunity,bring back Jonesy all is forgiven we were only kidding,er, er, letting on.

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  33. adamsmith1922 (890 comments) says:

    If the answer is Shearer or Cunliffe or Parker, then what is the question?

    If these 3 are that Labour can offer then they are doomed.

    Neither Shearer or Cunliffe seem prepared to address the issue of union power, without doing that then the list issue will not go away.

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  34. David Garrett (6,938 comments) says:

    Lindsay Addie: Spot on.

    Shearer was a very very poor performer in the House…and obviously that was NOT facing question time…Anyone who thinks he is the great white hope of the Labour Party (it’s just an old expression kiddies) is in cuckoo land…

    Although it takes up only a fraction of a PM’s/ Leader of the Opposition’s time, if you can’t perform in the House and handle the scum who pass for political journalists this century, you are toast…

    But for our sake I hope to God they pick him!

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  35. Nookin (3,260 comments) says:

    Cunliffe is all about what HE wants to do and what policies HE will implement. All he is doing is showing that the labour party has no unified view on significant issues. He is driving a wedge into a party that will soon have a very disaffected faction. The fact that he has adopted an adversarial campaign just proves how unsuited he is to the job

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  36. kunst5 (51 comments) says:

    Most people don’t know about David Shearer, but make all sorts of negative assumption. In contrary to Key, obviously he was a valuable contributor to the world community, a front person, even risking his life.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Shearer

    So – why not leave it there and judge him and comment later on his political performance during his carrier as a parliamentarian ?

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  37. AnnaL (4 comments) says:

    “Kiwi Tall Poppy Syndrome” is portrayed by Matt McCartan in the Herald and by the various commentators after most TV interviews, including the riveting Q&A this morning.
    So we all agree that Cunliffe comes out on top in every measurement: a Brilliant mind; Successful Pre-parliament Experience; Faultless and Transformational as a Minister; a solid family background; a polished and prepared and highly enigmatic leader.
    WOW, we cannot have that type of behaviour around here. It is arrogant to be like that.
    (Note to dictionary publishers: the word “arrogance” has an entirely different meaning in NZ)
    However there is certain arrogance (in the true sense of the word) in the actions of some of Mr Shearer’s sponsors. To send a 2 year backbencher into the fray with so little skill and preparation, and to hype him as “the second coming” is what I call arrogance.

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  38. Viking2 (11,344 comments) says:

    His Wiki page is impressive. Not to be misjudged I think.

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  39. Johnboy (15,903 comments) says:

    Perhaps one of them could have a sex change operation and they could become Labour Co-leaders?

    Cunners has the obvious inside running to become womanly. :)

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  40. Liberty (257 comments) says:

    Ian Wishart
    “I’ll put my record for accuracy against yours any day.”
    That would be a interesting challenge
    Your God Theory. A Nice bed time fantasy for deluded Jesus fanatics.
    The Global warming theory. You are correct.
    So you are 50% right

    Sorry DF a little off topic.

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  41. Richard Harman (7 comments) says:

    David: I’m not sure you watched the whole of this weekend’s “Nation” (which I produce). Your summary of questions leaves a fair bit out. Some of the questions to Cunliffe were firm — but he is Number 3 in Labour’s Caucus. He therefore has a higher profile and longer political track record than David Shearer and it is reasonable to ask him to account for his political career so far. Surely the central criticism of David Shearer — that he is inexperienced — means that there is less to ask him about in terms of his career. But the separate interviews (which you have partly summarised) made up only half the segment with the two contenders. The final ten minutes was the two of them together and this was the policy section where they were more or less asked the same questions or asked to address the same topic. The interview ended with both being asked what their campaign slogan for the next election might be. Only Mr Cunliffe could answer that.
    I take full responsiblity for including the “Show us the money” tape and the tape from the Avondale market. This blog is just one of many arenas in which Mr Cunliffe’s performance on both those matters has been debated at considerable length. Your readers would have been the first to cry fowl if we had not referred to them.
    I spoke to David Cunliffe after the interview and he was not unhappy.

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  42. Nostalgia-NZ (5,090 comments) says:

    I realise I’ve been swept along with the ‘not popular’ within caucus argument. That in fact, if true, might be showing a leadership strength. Cunliffe for example might be unsettling to his contemporaries, that is hardly a weakness. Certainly appearing detached at times, as though viewing the consequences of another script, or aloof, even ruthless, are attributes of a leader. His assertation that Shearer is ‘connected’ with a past that must be escaped is very clever.

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