The Dom Post editorial:
David Cunliffe itched to be Labour Party leader for years. After losing power in 2008, the party lumbered along under two failing leaders. He barely hid his ambitions to replace them.
Now, 10 months into his tenure, he should take a moment to enjoy the role. Barring a miraculous campaign performance, he’ll be finished soon.
The heart of the problem is Cunliffe’s judgment and temperament, which have been found lacking yet again. Under direct questions on a specific matter, about a public figure involved in repeated scandals, the Labour leader got it completely, insistently wrong.
He followed up the blunder by issuing veiled threats at caucus colleagues considering disloyalty – all but calling them “scabs”.
That was a huge mistake. It was obviously the pressure getting to him. But the pressure of being opposition leader is nothing compared to the pressure of being Prime Minister.
If Cunliffe was ahead in the polls, or if this was an isolated misstep, he could shrug it off quickly. But his support is so low, and his gaffes so familiar, the impression will linger longer than the incident itself: that he is not up to running the country.
From his secret trust for donations to his leadership bid, to his laughable description of his $2.5 million Herne Bay home as a “doer-upper”, Cunliffe has repeatedly made a fool of himself in awkward, revealing ways.
Combine those mistakes with a haughty, serious style, a tendency to preach instead of persuade, a fondness for vague rallying cries (with liberal talk of “Kiwis”) instead of insights that speak to people’s concerns, and Cunliffe’s predicament is not surprising.
Despite all that MMP means Labour could get to form a Government despite winning say only 25% of the vote. The election will always be close.
Yet the way things stand, it isn’t making a case for anything much. Cunliffe’s leadership is a big part of that. If he can’t urgently change something – and so far there’s little to suggest that he can – then he should get ready for the inevitable end.
92 days to go.
Also today is the start of the regulated period where the parliamentary budgets can no longer be spent on most advertising, and any spending by parties must fall under the spending caps.