David Cunliffe makes Grant Robertson’s homosexuality a primary issue

He hasn’t even formally stood down for the leadership, and the first major bloodletting has started.  Hot on the heels of offering Grant Robertson the deputy leadership, Cunliffe is pushing the message that a gay party leader will do major damage.

Cunliffe reluctantly quit at the weekend. Deputy David Parker is most likely to step in as interim leader at a caucus meeting this morning.

On Thursday the party’s council decides when to hold a primary-style contest for the top job.

There are two contenders – New Lynn MP Cunliffe and Wellington Central MP Robertson, though former leader David Shearer may yet declare his candidacy.

Robertson has strong caucus support. But Cunliffe loyalists point to the backing he has from the Pacific Island community in South Auckland. Labour held the Mangere, Manukau East and Manurewa electorates at the election, although its share dropped by around 5 percentage points.

One community leader, who did not want to be named, said many in the community were uneasy about tactics used in the last week to force Cunliffe out. And Robertson’s homosexuality clashed with socially conservative attitudes of voters, who would turn instead to NZ First, he said.

‘‘If Labour want to go from 24 [per cent] to 14 and put NZ First from 10 to 19, that’s the way to go. He won’t unify the party. He will destroy the South Auckland power base

Awesome.  So the choice is between someone who led the party to its biggest defeat in almost a century and the guy capable of delivering an even bigger one.  

Many Pasifika Labour voters did not blame Cunliffe for the election defeat, and were prepared to give him a second chance, the community leader said.

‘‘People know the brand was already damaged before he took over. [The] bickering inside is from the beltway and the Wellington bubble, and when you move out of that, and in Auckland, people want to give him a second chance and it’s pretty unfair to put the whole thing on him.’’

He criticised Robertson’s emphasis on a ‘‘new generation’’ and said Pasifika and Maori valued experience.

‘‘He’s not relevant here. He might be relevant with the young tertiary education students, at Victoria University or Auckland University, but … it’s about us being relevant and connected and [being] their working class party.’’

The knives are out, and Cunliffe want everyone to think of Robertson as someone too inexperienced who is bent like a cork screw.

Great start.  Let’s see the counter punch from Grant.


– Andrea Vance, Stuff

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