Edwards on gagging of Cunliffe


The absence of anyone from Labour on The Nation was explained by Garner at the very start of the show. The programme had invited Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, , to discuss more or less the same things that Norman and Peters were discussing on Q & A – the future direction of the economy. Cunliffe was happy to appear but, conscious of the current sensitivities in the parliamentary party over Labour’s leadership, sought an assurance that that topic would not be canvassed in the interview. He received that assurance in writing from Executive Producer Richard Harman and Garner himself. 

Despite those assurances, Cunliffe’s appearance was later vetoed by what Garner called Labour’s ‘top team’ which he defined as ‘David Shearer and the media team’. The reason given was apparently that the ‘top team’ didn’t want anything to distract from Finance Spokesman David Parker so close to the Budget.

Shearer was badly advised to ban Cunliffe from appearing. Rather than make his speech less of an issue, it has made it an even greater issue.

Anyway, ‘the top team’ didn’t like Cunliffe’s brilliant speech and he was apparently bawled out by Shearer and others and told the  speech was’ naive and stupid.’ That tends to be the price you pay for idealism. And, according to the extremely  well informed Duncan Garner, the  price may be high for Cunliffe who has been ‘put in his place, somewhere down the bottom of the pecking order’.

This is so utterly stupid that it beggars belief. Cunliffe is not only intellectually brilliant, he is by far Labour’s most accomplished debater in the House and on television and radio.  No-one in the Labour Party can hold a candle to him as a media spokesperson. Stammering and stuttering seem to be the main criteria for that at present.

Ouch. That is pretty brutal.

Finally, given the paranoia that clearly surrounds Cunliffe in the Labour Caucus, I should perhaps add that nothing in this post came from him.

Cunliffe had a good career before he entered Parliament. If he remains marginalised, I would not be surprised if he packs it in at the next election – which would be a pity. That is however the hope of some in the ABC faction.

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