Labour’s “C” word has come up again.
In an NZ Herald column Toby Manhire details some of Labour’s bad “optics”. Rugby tests:
For the decision by a quartet of Labour MPs to accept the invitation from SkyCity to enjoy their generous hospitality and a sweet view of the first France test was staggering in its myopia.
On its own, the SkyCity box thing does not a Labour party crisis make. But it fits a pattern.
Shearer’s bank account:
David Shearer’s admission in March that he had overlooked and failed to declare several thousand dollars in a New York bank account was a nightmare for Labour, skewering two of the attacks levelled at the prime minister: that his wealth distances him from normal people, and those forgetfulness issues.
Shearer in Parliament:
In his contribution to the urgent parliamentary debate on the Peter Dunne resignation the other day – a debate Shearer personally demanded – the Labour leader appeared to be reading from a script that had been torn up and sellotaped together at random.
All examples of a wider problem.
While a handful of Labour front-benchers have creditably countered the ministers they shadow, rarely has it been knitted into a wider, cohesive argument. The Labour argument has looked as unswerving as the windsock at Wellington airport.
Like just about everyone but Labour’s caucus management the Green’s can see the problem:
On TV3’s The Nation last weekend, Russel Norman said that voters “don’t want us to carp on all the time, but they do want us to speak strongly where it’s important”. He might easily have been critiquing the Labour party. The approach is all tactics, and no strategy.
And Labour keep repeating the same tactics that have been failing, over and over.
Then Manhire mentioned the ‘C” word. That “C” word.
They need a shake. An adrenaline shot. A risk, even. It’s now seven months since David Cunliffe was sent to the naughty step – expelled from the front bench for failing to squash talk of an insurrection.
Clearly he continues to be seen as a divisive figure, but he’s also shown, even from the backwater of the tax spokesmanship, that he remains a formidable politician.
There’s little doubt that Labour’s most capable politician has been neutered – by his own caucus.
As for the – ahem – optics, the promotion of an MP who had served his time would project strength, evidence of the leader’s vaunted experience in conciliation. To those MPs who continue to feel aggrieved on Cunliffe’s part it would send a message that the infighting must end.
A risk, yes. But a necessary one. Shearer’s elevation to and retention of the leadership has been enabled, so we’re told, by the weight of the Anyone-but-Cunliffe sentiment in the Labour caucus.
Cunliffe’s capabilities should have been used straight after the leadership contest that Shearer won. But Shearer semi banished him.
Then the leadership rumours swirling around last October’s Labour conference led to further banishment of Cunliffe. Shearer’s strategists seemed to think it showed strong leadership, and in the short to some that’s how it looked.
But it further weakened Labour.
And Labour will be furtheer weakened when Liane Dalziel resigns later this year. A caucus struggling for credibility will be less one of it’s most credible MPs.
Less than 18 months out from the election, that Anyone-but-Cunliffe needs rethinking. Anything but carry on like this.
That’s how it probably looks to everyone outside the Labour caucus. But on past evidence Cunliffe will remain neutered. And Labopur will keep repeating the same failed strategies.
Shearer has re-employed Fran Mold – party communications may have been worse since she left a few months ago but they were hardly good when she was last in control. Labour are repeating the same old.
Labour wasted their first post Clark term under Phil Goff.
They have pretty much wasted half of this term under Shearer. And that looks like continuing.
It may take another election loss to jolt them into genuine rebuilding. If they’re lucky.
Labour may blunder into Government after the next election – and as weak as they are now holding together a coalition with Greens and Winston Peters when they can’t work together themselves looks likely to be a disater waiting to happen.
Not just a disaster for the coalition.
Not just a disaster for Parliament.
But also a disaster for Labour. It could be enough to bury the party. Labour’s “C” word may be “carked”.