Cunliffe’s calamity

As soon as I heard a report of Cunliffe saying sorry for being a man I thought it would would be bad for him. And that’s how it is looking. While some have praised him for “speaking bravely” many many people, both men and women, have reacted negatively. Some very negatively.

Cunliffe has gaffed too much already, but this could be the gaffe to top all gaffes. It could be a calamity for his leadership. People don’t respect apologetic wimps.

He obviously doesn’t under stand the violence debate well. Neither do those who have advised him on this approach.

Sure some would have thought it was a great approach, especially for a women’s refuge audience. But his speech was also aimed at a much wider audience. It was a major policy launch.

But there was no way an apology like that, whether staged or authentic, was going to go down well with many people. Men and women.

One problem is that people want party leaders to be strong and confident. Saying you are sorry for being what you are portrays the opposite.

Another problem is that this feeds into the image of the Labour party being dominated by women. By targeting the opening of his speech very clearly at a very feminine (and feminist) audience reinforces this.

But the biggest problem by far is that stating he is sorry for being a man in general terms implies that he thinks he is to blame for male violence, and that he thinks all men are to blame for violence.

That implication really really gets up the nose of many men. Especially men who abhor violence and would do anything they can to confront and reduce the violence in our society. Men like me.

Men who are proud to be what they are and who they are.

And the reaction from some women has been very negative as well. From a fundamental level of not respecting apologetic theatrics. And on a more common sense and practical level.

Deborah Morris-Travers of children’s lobby group Every Child Counts said:

‘‘One of the solutions to family violence is having all men healthy, educated, feeling good about being parents, feeling supported and engaged in their community and having a strong identity – not apologising for being male.’’

We need strong leadership to address appalling violence in our society. We need strong male role models.

The Cunliffe of yesterdays speech is not someone many people can look up to. They don’t just see his comment as wrong, they feel insulted.

This isn’t superficial tribal politics. It goes much deeper and personal. It questions the decency of all men.

So far Cunliffe has stood by his comment. It’s difficult to see how he can repair the damage and recover any respect he may have had with many people.

This could be Cunliffe’s clinching calamity.

We may now see this excuse for a man limp to an election lashing.

Someone else will have to lead the campaign against violence. Someone who can stand tall and can be respected.

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