Garner on Cunliffe and Labour

3 News political editor blogs:

The majority of Labour politicians clearly dislike . With a passion. And with a serious degree of what now looks like hatred and mistrust.

That’s become so very clear to me this year – but even clearer since I released our 3 News poll on Sunday night.

I suggested David Shearer might be rolled before the next election if he couldn’t get his numbers up. And while not many in Labour denied that – they all said Cunliffe won’t replace him. Over their dead bodies.

This reflects that the anyone but Cunliffe faction in Labour is very real, and in fact a majority of the caucus.

In fact, Labour MPs have openly joked with me that Cunliffe, who is away on a lengthy family holiday overseas, should stay there.

Two very senior MPs have told me they would like an internal travel fund set up to keep Cunliffe out of the country for as long as possible. How nasty is this caucus? He is clearly not missed.

But Cunliffe is not only disliked by his caucus – he is not trusted. So many have told me he never delivers on his promises and is sneaky and lazy.

This is from his own colleagues. I don’t think Cunliffe is lazy incidentially.

Sources have told me Shearer was advised to demote him when he became Labour’s leader, but Shearer resisted and said he wanted to work with Cunliffe.

That hasn’t worked apparently – my sources tell me Shearer is deeply disappointed with Cunliffe and he feels let down. This relationship cannot last.

According to Shearer’s sources, the Labour leader no longer trusts Cunliffe. That view is shared by the majority of the caucus.

I suspect doing speeches on what Labour needs to do, and urging activists to lobby their leader doesn’t help.

I have no problem personally with Cunliffe. We have always got on. I couldn’t really understand why they didn’t opt for him. I do now.

He is not just disliked – he is actively campaigned against. He’s probably hanging around to see if Shearer fails – and he’ll have another go.

But perhaps he doesn’t realise just how many of his colleagues are blocking his progress.

I can’t see him being the leader of this party. Ever. You need friends in the Labour Party caucus to survive. Cunliffe can count his on one hand with ease – he may even have fingers left dangling.

If I was him I’d look for a new career. It’s clear there is an impenetrable roadblock between him and his aim of being party leader.

And they all sit in the same room as he does. This hatred has largely stayed out of the mass media to date. But this is a story worth telling. This is not a collision course for Cunliffe. He and the caucus have already collided – and it’s a big pile up.

The real question is – does he know how bad it is? And what will he do next?

I actually rate Cunliffe’s ability. He did some very good things as a Minister, and is seriously smart. But his relationship with his collegaues has always been tense. They gave him the silent T nickname within a year of him becoming an MP, and things have obviously got worse.

He has a staunch following in the party. Any move to demote or push him out would get resistance. A decision by him not to stand in 2014 would also be a vote of no confidence in Labour. It is difficult to see a way forward for Labour on this issue.

I suspect Cunliffe hopes that if Shearer fails, he will become leader. However my understanding is the unions are committed to keeping in place Shearer for now, so their preferred candidate of Little can become the leader after Shearer. Little would pick up almost all of the 20% union vote under Labour’s proposed new rules. That means Robertson would need to win the caucus and members votes by a 3:1 majority to compensate and that is a hard call.

Despite that I still favour Robertson as the likely next leader.

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