Following the Herald-Digipoll result showing Labour dropping below 30% and David Cunliffe’s preferred PM rating dropping below David Shearer’s worst every Digipoll rating, there’s been much discussion on the inter-web about whether Cunliffe will last till the election. In my opinion, the speculation is ridiculous – Cunliffe’s going nowhere.
Now, if Labour had not changed the rules regarding the process of rolling a leader, I think Shane Jones would already be moving against Mr Cunliffe. With a defeatist attitude over Cunliffe’s leadership seemingly all-pervasive, Jones, with his currently-enlarged media presence, may very well have been in a position to persuade the majority of his colleagues that a circuit-breaker mach 2 (eg. Jones) was required.
However, the rule changes make Cunliffe safe. Firstly, even if the Labour caucus somehow found the numbers to trigger a ballot, Labour’s MPs will have no intention of declaring war on their party members and the unions, who installed Cunliffe against those MPs’ wishes. Secondly, Labour cannot spare the time or money to devote to a new leadership campaign and ballot. They’re already up against the wall in terms of fundraising and finalising policy. Leadership ructions would put funds at risk and severely compromise the roll-out of policy.
The only way Mr Cunliffe is disappearing as leader is if he walks of his own volition, and Cunlffe’s ego is far too big for that. Regardless of how many polls Labour gets that show the party in the late-20s, the party now has no choice but to tough it out and hope that National ministers such as Collins, Adams and Parata continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.