Tensions on the Labour front bench have just got even worse.
David Cunliffe’s speech on an economic direction for Labour did not go down well with many of his colleagues. The Nation reported today that Cunliffe was told in the following caucus meeting that his speech was stupid and foolish. I think it was neither of those – rather very calculated. But many MPs got up to criticise Cunliffe for his speech, including David Shearer.
The Nation invited David Cunliffe on this morning to talk about his views on economic development, and the problems he identified with current and previous policies. He was happy to do so, but Shearer’s office banned him from going on.
Now this is a very rare thing. Certainly some Ministers will sometimes not accept an interview request, but Opposition MPs pretty much never turn down such opportunities. We now have a situation where Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson has been gagged from speaking publicly on economic development and related issues. This is not the sign of a happy camp, and indicates how tense things must be.
The Nation even promised that they would not ask any questions at all about leadership. It would be an interview only on economic issues. But even that was enough for Shearer’s office to gag Cunliffe and ban him from being interviewed.
Shearer’s leadership is safe (for this year anyway), but the marginalisation of Cunliffe will go down badly with the many party activists who recognise Cunliffe’s talents and praised his speech.