US Consul-General on Cunliffe

An interesting cable on Wikileaks from the then US Consul-General in Auckland after he met with . Some extracts:

Summary. Up-and-coming Labour Party Minister David Cunliffe is confident about his party’s reelection chances despite poor recent poll numbers.

That was in June 2007.

Pointing out that elections are as far as 18 months away, Cunliffe said Labour had plenty of time to make up the lost ground and would do so.

They’re saying the same thing now, and only 77 days to go.

Cunliffe said there was last year debate within Labour regarding how to respond to the then-National Party leader, the intellectually respected but politically awkward Don Brash. Many in the Labour caucus, Cunliffe said, believed that Brash’s clumsiness was a gift to Labour, and that Labour should do all it could to ensure Brash remained leader of the opposition. Most Labour MPs, however, argued that Key would certainly unseat Brash before the next election. If it was inevitable that Key rather than Brash would lead National into the next election, the argument went, it was in Labour’s interest to have Key in the opposition leader’s seat as soon as possible so that the friction of politics could rub away some of his glow. Better to run against Key when he’s been opposition leader for 18 months rather than only 4-6 months. Therefore Labour kept the heat on Brash, doing whatever they could to speed his downfall.

That strategy worked well!

While emphasizing that New Zealand Muslims are loyal to their adopted country and inclined to leave the conflicts of their homelands behind them, Cunliffe expressed some concern that more radical imams are trying to enter the country and stir up trouble. Asked what tools he had to exclude those who have committed no crimes but still might be considered a threat, Cunliffe turned coy. “Some people simply find their visas don’t get renewed,” he said.

Excellent judgement.

Cunliffe is a former diplomat and is widely touted as one of Labour’s future leaders.

That was right.

Asked why he left the diplomatic service, he said he was more tempermentally suited to politics than to diplomacy. Another reason he cited for leaving was so that his spouse, whom he described as the family’s breadwinner, could return to her law practice. Cunliffe, who spent six years studying and working in the U.S., comes across as genuinely pro-American.

Don’t tell The Standard and The Daily Blog!

While a student, he worked on Senator Kennedy’s re-election campaign against Governor Romney. Cunliffe has a mixed reputation among his colleagues, some of whom have complained to Emboffs that he is arrogant and (ironically) undiplomatic.


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