Caucus can safely roll Cunliffe from next week

Claire Trevett writes:

More critically for Cunliffe is the open opposition among senior members of his own team to any collusion with the Internet Mana Party. The caucus is split between those who believe the party should hold its nose and do what it must to get the Government benches and those vehemently opposed to any such deal. The official line is that Labour will make its decision after the voters have had their say. Yet MPs Phil Goff, David Shearer and Chris Hipkins, as well as Napier candidate Stuart Nash, have strongly and publicly condemned the Internet-Mana situation.

Such things are usually left to the leader to take a stand on in public. The fact these MPs went over his head and spoke out shows the strength of their views and suggests they are wary of what Cunliffe might do and hope to pre-empt it.

There is some suspicion about the influence of Cunliffe’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, who has past allegiances to the Alliance Party, now reborn through Laila Harre under the Internet Party banner, and Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. He could well believe a deal in Te Tai Tokerau was a good idea. The MPs in question did get some return fire on David Cunliffe’s Facebook page from Labour supporters.

But Cunliffe can’t afford to ignore such strongly-held views in his caucus. He is about to head into his own danger zone. From June 20, Labour’s caucus has a three-month window to change the leader without having to go through the party’s new primary-style process giving its membership a vote.

If Cunliffe was thriving in the polls, he’d be on much safer ground to make such calls about the Te Tai Tokerau seat and the Internet Mana Party. There might be some grumbling but little else because there would be too much to lose by changing the leader. As things stand, it might not take much to spark a revolt whether a rival contender is ready and willing or not.

I’d forgotten that clause. There is no way caucus would roll Cunliffe if it meant an open leadership election again. But, they can do it safely after 20 June.

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