Abysmal, diabolical, appalling. I actually quite liked David Shearer’s more plaintive ‘tragic’. The hurt will be profound, and the post-mortem is already underway. Seven hours in caucus. Seven! What the hell can you cover in seven hours?
Cunliffe: “I. Am. Still. The. Best. Man. To. Lead. This. Party.”
Most of the rest of the caucus: “No, you really aren’t.”
Cunliffe: “Am too!”
And so on ad infinitum.
Staggeringly, it could have been even worse for Labour. They could have plumbed National’s depths of 2002 and gone below 21%, but they didn’t.
The Greens could have capitalised on Labour’s woes and made inroads into their support base, but they didn’t.
Internet-Mana could have bumbled into the Beehive on Hone’s coattails, ending the career of a potential leader on Labour’s right (Kelvin Davis), and giving John Key a comically easy target of extreme left silliness which he could point to and sagely warn voters that “voting Labour lets in that lot”… but they didn’t, in what was the highlight of the night for, well, anyone remotely sane.
Which brings me on to the other clown in Saturday’s circus who doesn’t know the meaning of the word humility: the Right Honeable Harawira. Te Tai Tokerau could have been his personal fiefdom for many years. Selling out to a fat German fraudster is about the only thing that could have blotted his copybook, and oh look, that’s just what he did. The biggest cheer of the night for the Maori Party was seeing their erstwhile colleague humbled after he ratted on them three years ago. Utu is a dish best eaten cold, as they say. At least Dotcom had the decency, if that’s what you can call it, to admit the bleeding obvious and acknowledge that he had ‘poisoned’ the Mana brand. Hone was nowhere to be seen and has refused all contact with the media. AWOL. Pathetic. I’m not sure what his legions of young Maori fans will make of it, but his hapless colleagues have been left at the mercy of the media, who have gleefully pointed out that the $4.5m which Dotcom shoved his way translates to about $150 per vote! You cannot buy your way into power in NZ – just ask Colin Craig.
But back to the main story. Labour can crunch numbers and analyse trends and talk to pollsters all they like, but their fundamental problem starts with C, ends with E and contains a silent T. He reminds me of Gordon Brown of the UK: a man so obsessed with securing the top job, so visceral in his hatred of smiling Tony Blair, that when he finally briefed and manoeuvred and connived and just plain whinged Bliar into retirement, he was, er, underwhelming to say the least. As one insider put it sagely, “it was the job he always wanted, but when he got it, he just had no idea what to do”. And anyone following the Scottish referendum will appreciate that Brown is an immensely talented politician in many other ways, whose eleventh hour exhortations to his fellow Scots had far more gravitas than anything Cameron and Miliband could muster.
David Cunliffe is not even immensely talented at being David Cunliffe. There is no conviction and sincerity about him whatsoever, and voters can smell it. Voters are customers, and they are always right. I hate the way business jargon has infested every sphere of life, but in this instance it is spot on. To all those of a left persuasion who have been venting on Facebook and Twitter about the unfairness of the result, the brainwashed voters, the compliant media: give it a rest. If someone switched from Labour to National, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about child poverty, quality education, fair taxation, climate change. Many of them do. It’s just they took one look at Labour-Greens-Mana and said: “Yeah, nah.”
John Key is not a fascist, he doesn’t eat babies and he isn’t reading your emails. He really isn’t. It’s to Helen Clark’s credit that National had to elect a centrist leader to get back into power. After all, Key endorsed the ‘anti-smacking’ bill and gay marriage. He wants to change the flag. He used his last budget to increase paid parental leave. He just offered financial incentives for teachers to the tune of $359m for crying out loud. The guy is almost pink. But he refuses to do anything about our growing pension bill, housing affordability, protecting small businesses and tradies from larger coporates and so on. There is plenty to criticise.
But Cunliffe ain’t the answer. If he really does try to cling on in his bunker, the Labour caucus might have to do something drastic. Weedkiller in one option. Here’s my suggestion: tell him to resign and refuse to stand for the leadership, or they will refuse to take their seats in Parliament when it reconvenes on October 20th. Just imagine: Cunliffe sat alone with rows of empty seats behind him, while braying Nats pound him into the dust. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.