Cunliffe genuine at home, disappointing in Q & A

We’ve been given a very good insight into the real person David Cunliffe, but the next day he is back to a trying-to-hard politician.

I had been dubious about the concept of Campbell Live’s ‘At Home with the Leaders’, especially the family intrusion aspect,  but especially with David Cunliffe and his wife Karen it has been worthwhile, providing an interesting insight into a side of Cunliffe I’ve heard of but I haven’t seen before.

Cunliffe at home

We got to see more of the real person than the politician.

John Campbell: Why do you polarise people?

David Cunliffe: I don’t know, you tell me. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

All politicians and people in politics polarise, particularly partisan polarisation, some people from the right will never like a Labour MP and especially not the leader of their main Opposition. But Cunliffe appears to also polarise on the left, and the polarisation over him in the current Labour Caucus is often talked about.

David Cunliffe: I hope that as people get to know me they will realise that I’m here to help, and that I’m in it for the right reasons. and I hope that they’ll forgive me a few learning curves and rough edges as I settle into this job. I’m learning all the time.

John Campbell: One last question for the man who wants to be Prime Minister. Why?

David Cunliffe: I’m a social democrat, I’m in it for people. I know we have to make lasting change, but we do it with people, not just for them. So you know, there’s a lot underneath that, but it’s about people first really, yeah.

I believe Cunliffe really wants to change things for people for the better. Like most politicians across the spectrum. Cunliffe seems at times to have a religious-like passion for this.

There’s obvious positives with that, but one way Cunliffe seems to polarise is when he looks like he is preaching from a priestly pedestal.

John Campbell: I want to ask Karen a question. Do you think he’s different in public than he is with you? I mean, is it hard to be authentic in a public way?

Karen: I think, um, his hardest thing is the TV and the Press Gallery. I think when he’s out with people he is really energetic with people, he loves people, it’s kind of like pastoral care for him. So he’s always loved doing his clinics. When you see him with his constituents it’s quite lovely.  But then I see the softer side. He’s a really lovely Dad. Um, he’s a lovely husband.

That sounds very good for an electorate MP. Stepping up to party leader, and potentially to Prime Minister, requires quite different personality and skills.

I don’t doubt his intent and he seems much more genuine and personable in this Campbell Live insight, but in public appearances there can be too much tendency towards “me the leader” and not enough “us the people”.

David Cunliffe: I’m actually just trying to learn to relax, be composed, just take it as it comes and not overthink it, so it’s like, you’ve gotta get over the hump and down the other side, if you know what I’m saying. 

I gotta say that this appearance aside Cunliffe still looks very much like he is on the hump. He is coming across as a preacher of doom and gloom under the current Government, and attempts to entice voters to his next government heaven.

Cunliffe in Parliament

The already converted may be convinced he offers them salvation from the evil Key, but religion is a hard sell in New Zealand these days.

Campbell Live’s ‘At  home with David Cunliffe’ was on Monday night. The following evening Cunliffe did a Q & A in David Cunliffe on The Standard.

This was disappointing. There was no pressure of journalists or cameras, but it seemed to be a series of cut and pastes from the same old practiced verses, political sermons.

The introduction looked like it could have come from his last speech or media release. It concluded:

We will be a progressive government. Kiwis have always believed in working hard, and in looking after each other, and we have always believed in equality and in freedom.

We’re a nation I am immensely proud to be have grown up in, to be a part of.

And we are a nation I will be immensely proud to lead.

The next Labour-led Government will end the politics of division, the politics of the privileged few versus the rest, and will work alongside all New Zealanders, in the interests of all New Zealanders.

Because I believe that we need to put people first if we are to build the prosperous and vital nation we all want to live in. I’m really keen to talk to you about how we get there, together.

So how did he “talk to you”? His first two questions:

shorts: How long do you think it will take for labour and your partners to address the issue inequality in our land?

By that I mean how long for the people to see real changes to their lives and standard of living – appreciate you can’t give an exact date but I’m interested in how long you feel it’ll take your polices be enacted, to bed in and start to have a meaningful effect.

David Cunliffe: As soon as possible is the short answer. We’ll be moving on the most urgent issues in our first 100 days, like raising the minimum wage and giving Kiwi workers their rights back.

But we’re trying to dig our way out 30 years of neoliberalism. It’s not going to happen overnight – case in point, John Key has racked up a crushing debt.

amirite: what are Labour policies concerning people on benefits, the raising of retirement age and the means testing for pensioners? Also, Labour stance on mining and deep sea oil drilling.

David Cunliffe: Our priority is to get kids out of poverty – that’s why our Best Start payment includes the children of beneficiaries; they shouldn’t bear the brunt of their parents’ misfortune.

But the real answers to benefits are secure jobs that pay decent wages.

Retirement age: Managing a long-term transition to a 67+ universal NZ Super – with a transition benefit for those cannot continue work in their normal occupation after 65 and they are in financial need, so they’re no worse off.

Short answer on deep sea drilling: Principled and pragmatic. We see it as only possible under world best practise environment standards, including full liability cover, clean-up capacity, local input, and a realistic level of public revenue – and all this within a clear plan for transition to a low carbon renewable energy future.

Same old sermons. More of the same poliparroting followed. And questions weren’t read carefully:

Liberal Realist: When will Labour provide public disclosure of the TPPA, should a Labour lead government be elected in September?

David Cunliffe: Yes.

Apart from John Campbell’s revelation Cunliffe is still ‘on the hump’. If he wants to connect with more people he has to come down the other side and actually listen, and to speak as himself, not as his speech writers and media trainers.


  1. Brown

     /  May 14, 2014

    I listened to him on the radio a few weeks ago and at the end of the hour I felt like I needed a shower to wash the stink off. It was like listening to a shop steward in the 60’s, all bullshit and bluster. I hate his increasingly leftie and progressive politics but that’s not the problem – its something about the slimey delivery, the rich prick telling me I shouldn’t be one, the relationships with the unions and life’s losers, more tax and handouts to people that won’t change their behaviour, and making everything my fault because I’m white middle class. I didn’t watch Campbell Live as I think he’s smarmy as well but in the shorts Cunners seemed quite normal and affable. If there’s another side Cunners hides that’s arguably even worse as that makes him disingenuous. His rating shows I’m not alone. Labour should have gone with the homosexual they would love to have in charge and been done with it. He would be better I suspect but the issue for the progressives is that, irrespective of his ability, they would have a gay leader.

  2. Goldie

     /  May 14, 2014

    “Liberal Realist: When will Labour provide public disclosure of the TPPA, should a Labour lead government be elected in September?
    David Cunliffe: Yes.”

    Cunliffe is ex-MFAT, and he knows that public disclosure of the TPPA would kill the agreement and get NZ kicked out of all future trade negotiations. Cunliffe is either dishonest in his answer, or else he is going along with the Hard Left which now runs Labour because he is weak.

    • Yes, Cunliffe will know (or should know) the conditions of negotiations so does appear to be either dishonestly pandering to anti-TPPA interests or not being open about effectively wanting to pull out of TPPA.