My Labour sources have been telling me for some time that those who expect David Cunliffe to go, if Labour loses the election, are wrong. They say he has made it very clear that he doesn’t care about the support of caucus, so long as he has the unions and activists on side.
This poses a huge dilemma to Grant Robertson if Labour loses. He massively has the numbers to roll Cunliffe. In fact under Labour’s rules, Cunliffe needs a 60% confidence vote, otherwise the leadership is vacated. If they have a caucus of 34, then just 14 MPs voting against will cause a vacancy in December.
However if they roll Cunliffe, and Robertson stands against him, and loses again, then Robertson may never become leader. He won’t get a third chance. So the Robertson Camp are genuinely unsure whether to risk rolling Cunliffe come December. Up until a few weeks ago they were assuming he would do a Clark and Goff and resign if he loses. But as reported in the Herald, he won’t:
Labour leader David Cunliffe says he expects to get the 60 per cent endorsement of caucus that he will need in a confidence vote soon after the election even if Labour loses the election.
Mr Cunliffe has also indicated he would seek to stay on as leader if Labour was still in Opposition. The party’s rules require a caucus confidence vote within 3 months after an election at which the leader must get at least 60 per cent support.
Asked if would expect to get that endorsement even if Labour was still in Opposition, he said “I think that’s quite likely.”
This helps explain why Cunliffe no longer has a target of getting 40% of the vote, but is now saying he just wants to get Labour into the 30s:
Mr Cunliffe had originally said he hoped to lift Labour into the 40s in the polls, but it is currently polling at just below 30 per cent in most.
He denied he had since lowered that target, but refused to give a new target. “What I am clear about is that we wouldn’t have to get to 40 per cent to change the Government.”
He said he was certain Labour would get above 30 per cent – higher than its 2011 result of 27 per cent
So why such a modest target? Well, survival. If he does even worse than Goff, then the caucus will have no choice but to roll him. But if he can do even say 2% better than Goff and get say 29%, this allows him to declare he will stay on as leader, and tell his caucus if they roll him – he will not resign – and win the union and activists vote.
Maybe his tweet wasn’t a typo, and he is saying he will stay on as leader until 2041, if that is what it takes to finally win!