For the decision by a quartet of Labour MPs to accept the invitation from SkyCity to enjoy their generous hospitality and a sweet view of the first France test was staggering in its myopia.
Then the bank account:
David Shearer’s admission in March that he had overlooked and failed to declare several thousand dollars in a New York bank account was a nightmare for Labour, skewering two of the attacks levelled at the prime minister: that his wealth distances him from normal people, and those forgetfulness issues.
And the recent debate:
On its own, the SkyCity box thing does not a Labour party crisis make. But it fits a pattern. The commanding effort by David Shearer at the party conference late last year increasingly looks like an anomaly. In his contribution to the urgent parliamentary debate on the Peter Dunne resignation the other day – a debate Shearer personally demanded – the Labour leader appeared to be reading from a script that had been torn up and sellotaped together at random.
There has been much chatter about Shearer’s performance in that debate. What makes it really bad is that this was a snap debate demanded by Shearer. It was almost as if he didn’t expect to get it and hadn’t prepared.
It’s true that Labour could end up leading a government if it continues in the current vein, but it would be one of hell of a shaky coalition, with the party outnumbered in Parliament by National by some distance.
They need a shake. An adrenaline shot. A risk, even. It’s now seven months since David Cunliffe was sent to the naughty step – expelled from the front bench for failing to squash talk of an insurrection.
Clearly he continues to be seen as a divisive figure, but he’s also shown, even from the backwater of the tax spokesmanship, that he remains a formidable politician. Confronted with National’s niggly, muscular front-row of Joyce, Brownlee and Collins, Labour can’t afford to leave Cunliffe in the shed.
But how about the ABCs?
As for the – ahem – optics, the promotion of an MP who had served his time would project strength, evidence of the leader’s vaunted experience in conciliation. To those MPs who continue to feel aggrieved on Cunliffe’s part it would send a message that the infighting must end.
A risk, yes. But a necessary one. Shearer’s elevation to and retention of the leadership has been enabled, so we’re told, by the weight of the Anyone-but-Cunliffe sentiment in the Labour caucus.
Less than 18 months out from the election, that ABC needs rethinking. Anything but carry on like this.
I would be surprised if Cunliffe was promoted to the front bench. His supporters are all being weeded out. Chauvel has gone. Dalziel is going. Mahuta has been demoted.
The real battle will be if Shearer loses in 2014. Then we see Cunliffe vs Robertson for the leadership. Cunliffe could win the membership vote by 2:1 so Robertson will need to win the caucus vote by at least 2:1 to balance that out (they get 40% each). Hence they will continue to try and weed pro-Cunliffe MPs out of caucus.