The battle of the Daves

Vernon Small reports:

Labour’s “three Davids” will put their case to party members before MPs pick a new leader on December 13 as the two main players court the pivotal vote of Shane Jones.

Party president Moira Coatsworth said the unprecedented meetings were planned in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, and possibly Dunedin.

“Constitutionally it’s MPs’ vote at caucus but I am really keen we have member feedback and input into it,” she said.

The meetings would be closed to the public and media.

It’s a good idea to have meetings around the country. I can understand wanting them members only to allow more candid discussion, but think it would also be a good idea to have at least one open to the media, to boost their public profiles.

David Cunliffe, and David are lining up to contest the leadership, with running on a ticket with Mr Cunliffe, as his deputy.

Having on the ticket may help win the caucus vote, but I am unconvinced it would help Labour win an election. The deputy leader is your party’s candidate to be the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, and I have to say I’ve never seen any sign that Nanaia can perform at that level. She held very junior portfolios as a Minister and has been near invisible in Opposition. People can exceed expectations, but the choice of Mahuta does seem risky.

Grant Robertson is running as deputy on a ticket with Mr Parker, but has not yet been specific on whether he will also seek the leadership.

This isn’t personal against Grant, but I’ve said many times do not have as your deputy, someone who sees it as a very temporary stepping stone. If Parker/Robertson wins and Labour does not go up in the polls, there will be constant speculation about whether Robertson will roll Parker – even if Grant is 100% loyal.

One possibility is Mr Jones, a list MP, who is yet to make a final decision but is thought to be considering a tilt as deputy.

He may be using the option as a negotiating ploy to secure a plum portfolio such as finance.

Cunliffe is the logical choice for Finance if he is not Leader, and Parker the logical choice if Cunliffe is the leader. Jones would be credible for the role in terms of background, but the question mark would be over his work ethic. As Jones has considerable natural talent, he tends to glide somewhat in his portfolios. Now you can do that in some portfolios, but not in Finance. If he did get Finance, it would probably be a very good discipline for him.

Sources said yesterday that both the Cunliffe and Parker camps had offered Mr Jones the third slot on their front bench; a move seen as a way to bring swinging voters on board.

It will be a very interesting contest.

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