Three months and three gaffes.
It is an understatement to say it has not been the greatest start to election year for Labour leader David Cunliffe.
The slip over the baby bonus, by failing to disclose in his speech that it would not be paid on top of parental leave, took much of the wind out of his January sails.
It also deflected attention from a $500 million spending pledge that Labour had hoped would set the agenda.
No sooner was the House back in February than the $2.5m property-owning man was attacking Prime Minister John Key for living in a leafy suburb and defining his own mansion as a doer-upper and his own situation as middle of the road.
The climb-down came at the weekend.
This morning he has admitted it had been wrong to set up a trust for donations to his leadership bid. (If the cost was about $20,000 for his leadership campaign, why seek donations at all?)
That from a man and a party that has attacked National’s old habit of funneling donations through entities like the Waitemata Trust and joined in the condemnation of Finance Minister Bill English using a trust structure for his Wellington pile.
Cue, too, unwelcome echoes of former Labour leader David Shearer’s memory lapse over his undeclared United States bank account.
One gaffe might be unfortunate, two careless.
Three in three months is bordering on accident-prone.
Making Shearer look like a safe pair of hands.
Kiwi Poll Guy looks at what has been happening on iPredict:
iPredict is running a contract on National winning the 2014 election. It was originally launched on 26 October 2011, a month before the 2011 General Election, and has been floating around between $0.40 and $0.60 since then. It’s only in the last month that the stock has moved significantly beyond $0.60, so it’s worth taking a quick look. Full trade history is taken from Luke Howison’s excellent API interface for iPredict, and then tweaked with a bit of Excel.
As shown in the graph below, the increase in price since has been pretty constant since it was trading at about $0.45 in October 2013, about a month or so after David Cunliffe was elected leader of the Labour Party. The average daily price hasn’t dropped below $0.60 since 8 February 2014.
And last night was at 68.5%. In four months the probability of National winning the election has increased by over 20%. That is a huge movement, and while some of it is related to the economy and National’s improved performance, a fair bit must be about Labour not looking anywhere near ready to govern.
The Dom Post editorial:
David Cunliffe has made a hash of the donations issue. He was slow to admit that he used a trust to hide those who gave to his campaign for the Labour leadership.
He was slow to admit that this was problematic. Now he says he doesn’t think ”in hindsight” the trust ”fully represents the values” he wants to bring to the job of Labour leader.
These are awkward phrases which reveal a deeper conflict. The brutal truth is that hiding the donations inside a trust opens Mr Cunliffe to charges of hypocrisy. This is partly because he belonged to the Labour-led government which specifically outlawed the use of trusts to hide political donations. And hiding election donations is against basic principles of openness.
Now he has disclosed the names of three donors but not of others who he says required anonymity. You would think this kind of thing would have set off alarm bells for an aspiring Opposition leader. Hadn’t he heard the fuss caused by other ”anonymous political donations?”
This is what astonished me – that it never rang alarm bells for him, or any of his team. How could anyone in Labour think a secret trust was a good idea after they spent the last decade railing against them. Cunliffe and Presland had both railed against them personally. Either they’e incredibly stupid or their previous opposition to secret trusts was fake – they’re only against other people having one.
The Labour leader got into a similar pickle when he attacked Prime Minister John Key for living in a big house in a wealthy suburb. So does Mr Cunliffe, and once again the critics called him a hypocrite. It didn’t help that he then blustered about his house being a ”do-upper”, the worst house in the (very expensive) street.
This cuts no ice at all. Most voters see little difference between Mr Cunliffe’s $2.5m house in Herne Bay and John Key’s $10m house in Parnell. Both are by ordinary standards opulent homes owned by obviously wealthy people. Mr Cunliffe made an ass of himself by posing as the champion of the proletariat against the toff.
He needs to decide who he really is and what he stands for.
Here’s the trouble. If you need to “decide”, then it isn’t real.