Vernon Small is tribal Labour. So tribal he even attends concerts in the vineyards of Martinborough with his friends in the Labour party.
So, when he criticises Labour for being upset about being busted for entertaining drug lobbyists, at about the same time as they start attacking the government over drug provisions with Pharmac, then you know they have an optics problem.
Early in the year it hit the mark with its tertiary education policy, a modest $256m new spend for the next term that had multi-generational appeal and helped dispel claims it had cleared the policy decks and left them bare.
But it has also become mired in issues it has judged are populist but which come with a big downside.
The most obvious was leader Andrew Little’s “captain’s call” to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership in line with activists’ views but to the great discomfort of many in his caucus.
More recently there has been its nuanced stance on funding melanoma drug Keytruda, which substitutes politicians’ judgement for experts in an arms-length agency.
Opening that door merely invites in the lobbyists.
Not surprisingly, that sat uneasily with some longstanding Labour insiders who expressed that privately to the media.