Even Vernon Small puts his kicking boots on to nail Cunliffe

Vernon Small lives life looking through pink tinted glasses. He is at least honest about that.

He sets about providing his, rather low, opinion of David Cunliffe:

So what to make of David Cunliffe?

There is no doubt he is bright – perhaps one of the highest IQs in the Labour caucus in recent years. Former PM Helen Clark could see it, and maybe hoped it would help him rise above his unpopularity with colleagues. But in the end it didn’t.

Because as stellar as his IQ was, his emotional quotient was low. His colleagues – and not just those who became known as the ABCs, “the Anyone but Cunliffe” brigade – came to see him as divisive, ambitious, self-absorbed and self-confident to a messianic level – all the time not picking up on how that was playing with those he had to work with mostly closely.

The famously waspish Sir Michael Cullen quipped at the NZ Post Book Awards he expected future entries to include Cunliffe’s “The Dummies Guide to Walking on Water: How I learned from Jesus’ Mistakes”.

Trawl through his media coverage over the years and a number of words and themes repeatedly jump out. “Vainglorious” is one. “Self promoting”, “clever” and “inauthentic” are others.

The last was his fatal flaw.

As I’ve have said before, there was a reason why the nickname ‘Silent T’ stuck.  

Voters could somehow see it; that he was doing, and saying, what he thought they thought they wanted him to be.

His most celebrated gaffe illustrated it perfectly. Faced with a women’s refuge symposium he blurted out he was “sorry to be a man”.

I think everyone but Labour sychophants were sick in their mouth that day.

At other times he would play the tough guy, narrowing his eyes like a gunslinger squinting through the smoke at the saloon.

I made a video of that once.

Sometimes it fringed on self-parody, such as when he told his opposite number in the House, Tony Ryall, to “get back in the box, I’m running the show now” after being appointed Health Minister.

During a speech from the back of a truck in Avondale in 2011, the wealthy Herne Bay resident seemed to adopt a stage-Polynesian accent to lambast John Key and other “rich fellas”.

It was worse than that.

But he could also be a highly effective minister, and never so much as when he was busting Telecom’s local network monopoly or taking a hard line with DHBs.

Given his business-savvy many believed he was a natural right-winger, though for many years he was somewhat isolated from any of the factions.

But he re-invented himself as a champion of the unions and the Left and they delivered him the leadership in 2013 – the same alliance that eventually installed Andrew Little as leader after Cunliffe crashed and burned in the 2014 election.

To his credit, many of those activists remain devoted to him to this day.

Yeah, because he was such a great orator.

But when Little demoted him earlier this year, giving him the job of reporting to the leader on superannuation policy, there was no route back into Cabinet

It was, in more ways than one, an invitation to contemplate retirement.

And on Tuesday, Cunliffe finally took the hint.

Good riddance.


– Fairfax


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