Smarmy and fake is hard to shake

I’m posting this reluctantly but I think it needs to be said.

David Cunliffe has a major image problem. I’ve heard that in private he comes across very well, but his public persona (or personas) are crippling him politically. Especially amongst women.

Unfortunately this comment from ‘bmk’ at Public Address is a common impression of David Cunliffe.

The most depressing this about this whole episode was only tangentially related. My partner only follows politics very casually until close to the election when she decides (last couple of times for Labour). Anyway as we don’t normally watch much tv we were for once watching tv and she saw Cunliffe on late-night tv being interviewed about the Jones departure; she was highly unimpressed.

She asked me who this ‘smarmy prick’ was and why on earth they made him leader. She said he continually had a fake smile and sounded smug, fake and smarmy.

She also commented on his dress (something I never really notice) – saying that he was probably trying for casual since it was late night tv but instead it came across as 70s sleaze. She says she still hates Key but couldn’t vote for such a smarmy fake.

While this is simply one person’s opinion I have heard similar from others. Particularly the smarmy and fake thing. My concern is that he makes this impression on those who only have a passing interest in politics. At the time the Labour leadership was being contested I supported Cunliffe; I now wish I hadn’t. But I really don’t know who would have done a better job – certainly not Jones.

I have heard Cunliffe talk intelligently before but I think he needs some good media training to drop the smarmy, fake look he projects. Possibly smile less and sounding less convinced of his own cleverness (even if he is that clever).

Will Cunliffe or his advisers listen to this? Can they do anything about it? Or do they think what they are doing is the right approach?

Polls show Labour is shedding support – particularly amongst women.

The latest Herald/Digipoll has Cunliffe polling lower than Shearer ever was in ‘preferred PM’.

Party poll results for Labour (compared to December 2013):

  • Total 29.5% (down 5.9)
  • Male 27.2% (down 5.5)
  • Female 31.5% (down 6.6)
  • Auckland 26.7% (down 9.9)
  • Rest of NZ 31% (down 3.7)

Labour usually gets more female support but that is coming down significantly.

Preferred PM for Cunliffe:

  • Total 11.1% (down 5.4)
  • Male 12.3% (down 5.3)
  • Female 10.1% (down 4.8)

Female support for Labour is higher than male support (31.5 to 26.7), but females rate Cunliffe lower as preferred PM than males (10.1 to 12.3) – Source.

First impressions matter a lot in politics, many people see little beyond first impressions until they take more of an interest during an election campaign.

‘Smarmy’ and ‘fake’ are impressions that are gaining ground and won’t be easy to shake off, but if Cunliffe wants to reverse Labour’s failing fortunes it’s something he has to address. If he can.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes, indeed. That first impression thing which is so lasting. I think the Cunliffe mold is set, and attempts to change the public image would only provide more fake. The fact is he is smarmy, its not just an impression .
    I see I-predict have National at 73% chance of winning election. Chris Trotter who so wanted rid of Shearer in favour of Cunliffe called the election for the Nats a few weeks ago.

    A patch up Government made of Labour/ Greeen/ NZ First would be utterly unacceptable, .
    I agree with your posts about NZ First in your other columns .
    I would like Winston to state that he will probably have to remain on the cross benches and vote according to NZ First listed policy.
    I am not voting for a party that may become a Labour Government support.
    I understand he wants to hard deal for his policies like retaining NZ ownership, and the asset program.


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