Key v Cunliffe Day 1

Tracy Watkins writes:

If the deputy leadership was a lost opportunity for symbolism, Cunliffe’s first head-to-head battle with Prime Minister John Key was another. In a sign of how heavily caucus headaches had been weighing on his mind, Cunliffe’s usual polish deserted him and he muffed his questions to Key not just once but twice.

That won’t upset his supporters too much; even on a bad day Cunliffe’s sure-footedness in the job is a marked contrast to his predecessor David Shearer.

And Jane Clifton:

Brain experts are always telling us that the subconscious is never off- duty, and it was pretty clear yesterday that David Cunliffe’s deeper mind hijacked his mouth during his first clash with the Prime Minister as Labour leader in Parliament yesterday.

He’s had an intense few weeks of campaigning for the new job most caucus colleagues didn’t want him to have, and 48 hours of demoting some of them, and sacking their staff. So when the time came to demand answers from John Key about the Government’s protection of tech company Chorus, out came the word “caucus” instead. Quite the Freudian slip.

He kept his composure during the resulting laughter, but when he repeated his question, about a phone call from the chairman of Chorus, out came “caucus” again – followed by another volley of hilarity.

It was repeating the mistake that really led to the hilarity.

“Why don’t we try that one more time?” he said wryly to Speaker David Carter, before finally managing to say “Chorus” – which drew him a chorus of mock approval from the Government benches. And possibly a caucus of mock approval from his own benches.


John Armstrong writes:

The bout everyone had been waiting for began just before 2pm with a lengthy handshake, the Prime Minister making a rare crossing of Parliament’s chamber to the Opposition benches to congratulate David Cunliffe on his new job before returning to the Government trenches with every intention of demolishing yet another Labour leader.

It ended at 2.16pm with the new Leader of the Opposition resuming his seat, perhaps a little bruised, but otherwise intact, having failed to do likewise to Key. …

As a former Communications minister, Cunliffe well understands the issues. He certainly floated like a butterfly, at times diverging from his set list of questions if warranted.

But the fuss over the Government’s stance on a Commerce Commission ruling is complicated. Cunliffe’s eight questions to Key failed to build a convincing case of “crony capitalism” on the part of National and Chorus.

Key had come well-briefed, the mass of blue stickies splicing his papers being the clue. Cunliffe thus stung like a butterfly.

The only harm was self-inflicted. At one point, Cunliffe referred to the chairman of Chorus as the “chairman of caucus”. When the laughter died down, he inexplicably did exactly the same thing again. When he finally got it right a third time, National MPs burst into ironic cheers and applause.

And Fran O’Sullivan:

David Cunliffe leveraged the “axe the copper tax” campaign in Parliament yesterday to signal he intends to keep waging war against John Key’s Government over claims it is indulging in “crony capitalism”. Cunliffe’s question was direct: “Does he still think that Chorus will go broke if his Government does not intervene to change the pricing for access to the old copper-based broadband network as proposed by the Commerce Commission; if so, why?”

It was a marked change from the fatuous and deeply repetitive questions that Cunliffe’s predecessor David Shearer used to lob in each week asking Key if he “stood by all his statements”.

It was a welcome change from that silly question.

Cunliffe has strong support from the unions who played a huge role in catapulting him into the top job.

It’s inevitable that business lobbies will be seeking an assurance that a future Labour Government will not be purely a creature of the union lobby, that it will be pragmatic and not doctrinaire.

He didn’t get 70% of their vote for nothing!

And finally Audrey Young:

Prime Minister John Key walked across Parliament’s debating chamber and shook David Cunliffe’s hand to congratulate him on his election as Labour leader before the battle commenced. …

Mr Cunliffe twice questioned Mr Key about getting a phone call from the chair of Chorus, but opened himself up to a right hook from Mr Key.

Perhaps with the memory of his first caucus meeting today fresh in his mind, he twice referred to Mr Key getting a call from the “chair of caucus”.

On the third attempt, he got it right to mocking applause from the Government benches.

“One thing is true,” said Mr Key, “I do get a phone call from my caucus, but they all voted for me….

I can only imagine what the phone call from Trevor is like in San Francisco at the moment.

I suspect Trevor will get a round of applause when he returns to the House.

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