Chris Trotter wonders whether Labour can put its troubles behind them and start to recover relevancy with the voting public.
THE CHAIRS in the final meeting venue have been stacked away. All that expensive signage, commissioned for the benefit of the television cameras, no longer has a purpose. For the second time in just 14 months, Labourâ€™s Leadership Contest is all over bar the voting.
The contrast between the road-show just concluded and what was, effectively, the David Cunliffe Coronation Tour of 2013 could hardly be starker. Then, it was the rank-and-filesâ€™ and the affiliatesâ€™ moment to deliver a very emphatic one-fingered message to a caucus it had grown to despise â€“ and they delivered it with both hands. This time, itâ€™s been the Labour Caucusâ€™s Victory Tour.
In both 2012 and 2013, Labourâ€™s MPs had warned the partyâ€™s members and affiliates that Cunliffe was unacceptable â€“ but they refused to listen. Now they know what happens when a leader lacks the fulsome support of his caucus colleagues. No oneâ€™s saying it out loud, but the most important single feature of this yearâ€™s leadership contest is David Cunliffeâ€™s absence. No matter which of the four grey eminences emerges from the complicated processes of preferential voting as Labourâ€™s new leader â€“ Caucus has won.
Yes, they will have slayed the Cunliffe dragon…sort of…for one of the contenders has cut a secret deal to help rehabilitate the man with the brain as big as a planet. Trotter thinks that had Cunliffe stood things may have been a bit different.
Had Cunliffeâ€™s name been on the ballot paper, he would, almost certainly, have triumphed again. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s stretching the truth to say that among Labourâ€™s staunchest supporters â€“ Maori and Pasifika â€“ the Member for New Lynn is loved. When informed that their champion had withdrawn from the race, a hall packed with Maori and Pasifika trade union delegates audibly groaned and tears flowed. Only when told that Nanaia Mahuta had entered the fray did their spirits noisily recover.
But, no matter how strong the loyalty shown to Cunliffe by the true believers who give Labour two ticks, it was made abundantly clear to the party membership just how ugly things would get if he insisted, once again, on soliciting their support.
The embittered David Shearer may have led the charge, but every political journalist in the country knew that his acidic tongue was just the poisoned point of a much larger spear. Shearerâ€™s mission was to demonstrate to the rank-and-file and affiliates that the longer Cunliffe persisted in his fantasy of continuing to lead the party the worse things would get. They had to know that Caucus was perfectly willing to destroy the Labour Party in order to save it.
Rather than unleash a no-holds-barred civil war at every level of his Party; one from which it would likely not recover; Cunliffe bowed to the inevitable and withdrew from the contest.
From that point on, the outcome of the 2014 Leadership Contest ceased to matter very much. Â Â Read more »