Brian Edwards endorses Cunliffe, appeals to ABCs to give up

My good friend Brian Edwards has come out in support of David Cunliffe. He has been particularly blunt for the old codger who is normally the epitome of politeness.

A good mate pointed out to me that it wasn’t very smart to heap abuse on the heads of people whose opinion you hoped to change. He was referring to my most recent post On the extremely rare danger of overestimating Labour Party Stupidity, in which I called the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ brigade ‘numbskulls’.

My good mate is right. It wasn’t very smart and you aren’t all numbskulls. But I was angry with you. Very angry.

I’m still angry with you because, though I’m not a member of the Labour Party, that’s where my political sympathies lie – left of left. Like you, I want Labour to win the next election. I want to see the back of a government that rewards the rich and powerful and punishes the poor and powerless. So I’m unlikely to have time or sympathy for anyone whose words or actions make that Labour win unlikely.  That is what you are doing by supporting either Grant Robertson’s or Shane Jones’ bid for the leadership. Robertson can’t win for Labour and Jones is a harmful distraction.   

Pretty emphatic. He provides an interesting insight into the 2008 campaign in his analysis of Grant Robertson.

I like Grant Robertson. He’s hugely intelligent, is a brilliant debater in the House, has a good sense of humour and seems to be a really nice bloke.

There are sadly several reasons to discount the ‘really nice bloke’ bit. The history of New Zealand politics for starters, a more or less even distribution of really nice losers and not-so-nice winners. Think Rowling, Goff, Shearer; think Kirk, Muldoon, Clark. Common factor in group two – ruthlessness. The pattern reflects our national psyche: given the choice, we’d rather have a bully than a wimp.

Still, it can’t hurt to be a brilliant debater in the House. No it can’t. But the mistake is in thinking that brilliance in the parliamentary debating chamber automatically translates into brilliance in the radio or television studio. It doesn’t. As Helen Clark’s media advisors, we were guilty of making that mistake before the first Leaders Debate in 2008. We’d written off Key as inconsequential, a lightweight in the House and no match for Helen in experience, intellect or mastery of the issues.

The Prime Minister lost that first debate and we had to regroup. Despite his inexperience and his mangling of the English language, Key connected with the radio and television audience, listening and watching at home in their ones and twos. Although they have a huge reach, television and radio are both intimate media. Parliament could not be more different. The debating techniques that are admired there – playing to the gallery, not listening to your opponent,  interrupting them, shouting them down, laughing at and abusing them  – are the precise opposite to what works on radio or television.

After outlining his opinion of the many flaws of Grant Robertson he then appeals to the ABCs.

Those of you who support or intend to support Grant’s nomination for the leadership are swimming  against this stream. Your dislike of Cunliffe is stronger than your determination to win the election.

This seems to me to be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. So I withdraw my ill-considered and abusive comments about you and invite you to take another look at what you are doing.

You are in a very powerful position. There is a degree of uncertainly as to where the party vote will go in a month’s time; there is an even greater degree of uncertainty as to where the union vote will go. Your vote can be crucial. In backing Robertson to keep Cunliffe out, you may well be keeping Labour out of government in 2014 as well.

That seems to me a grave responsibility, not least because Cunliffe ticks all the boxes as the candidate most likely to defeat John Key.

Have another think. Three more years in opposition doesn’t seem terribly attractive.

I wonder what happens when Cunliffe loses in 2014?


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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