Jo Moir writes at Stuff:
Labour has a problem.
For the last week, Kelvin Davis has been acting prime minister and it’s been nothing short of a trainwreck.
It has been spectacular.
Every question Davis had thrown at him on Tuesday was answered first in muffled tones by ministers Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson. Davis then stood up and repeated the answers.
The first and second time could have been written off as them helping him get started but it was just absurd when it continued for the entire stretch of supplementary questions.
The ministers didn’t even try to hide the fact they were doing it and Davis blatantly looked to them every time before rising to his feet.
I have never ever known this to happen before. Maybe a very junior Minister might get helped once by a colleague. But this is the Deputy Leader of Labour and Acting Prime Minister who is unable to even answer questions in the House without another Minister literally telling him what to say.
Labour knew Kelvin isn’t really up to his current role. He was elected because of his appeal to certain demographics. They gave him an incredibly light workload for a Deputy Leader – just Corrections and Tourism. Compare that to the portfolios Bill English, Paula Bennett, Michael Cullen and Wyatt Creech had.
Labour needs Davis to remain the party’s deputy leader because his promotion to that role ahead of the election was a smart one and no doubt went a long way to helping it win all seven Māori seats.
But the party can’t sustain the cringeworthy chaos on display of late and it needs a new plan by the time Ardern and Peters jet out of the country again.
Appeal is part of it, but you also need to have basic competence.
Ardern can appoint Robertson in the acting role and keep Davis as deputy leader. It’s messy, but not as messy as what was on display last week.
Failing that, the Government can choose who answers questions in the House on behalf of the prime minister.
If Ardern is away, then Robertson needs to be nominated as acting leader for the purposes of the House at least. It doesn’t solve the issue of press conferences but it gets halfway there.
That would be an effective vote of no confidence in Davis, and Labour saying he’s not up to it no matter how much help we give him.