The Labour leadership meltdown continues

Over the weekend, I road tripped it down to Wellington, where I had a beer with a pollster, briefly checked on what announcement Cunliffe had made mid-Saturday afternoon, and then proceeded to ignore politics. Fine wine and convivial company was far superior… But of course, although one can ignore politics, politics has a habit of keeping on happening.

So Cunliffe resigned. Or he announced that he will resign at the next caucus meeting, which is tomorrow. Although he still wants the job. He’s triggered a leadership ballot, hoping to avoid the death by a thousand cuts of waiting for his colleagues to destroy him, leak by insidious leak.

Unfortunately, there’s no timeframe yet on when the leadership ballot will occur. Will the party wait for its campaign review to be completed before the ballot? Cunliffe will be hoping not – it’s what he resigned in order to avoid. His opponents want a review first, hoping that his leadership gets put through the wringer ahead of a vote. Cunliffe would far prefer a quick vote, to strike while the iron is hot and before the membership lose its collective sympathy for him.

The problem is that waiting for the completion of the review leaves the party in limbo. Once Cunliffe resigns tomorrow, there’s nothing but disfunction. It’ll be week after week of Cunliffe and Robertson twisting the knife on each other.

It’s already begun. On The Nation, there was Grant Robertson happily reminding viewers about Cunliffe’s infamous apology for being a man, his failure to recall policy detail and, of course, like a broken record, that Labour got 24% (never mind that with rounding it should be 25%). Meanwhile, David Cunliffe is busy swiping at “beltway politicians“, a not-so-subtle slap at Robertson.

And it’s not just the leadership contenders reverting to attacking their own party, rather than going for National. Chief Whip Chris Hipkins confirmed to The Nation that he’d placed a ban on MPs speaking about the leadership contest, only to have someone leak an email from Trevor Mallard, which reportedly told Hipkins that he wouldn’t stay silent. Another day, another leak…

In the meantime, National makes hay. John Key certainly seems to be enjoying his role as commentator on Labour Party difficulties. As Stuff reports:

Today, Key said Cunliffe’s announcement was not a move he’d make.

“[I’d] probably not put my name forward again, but that’s entirely a matter for him. Not that he performed badly on the campaign trail, I’m not arguing that.”

The problem was Labour’s system for electing new leaders, which could see the caucus lumped with an unpopular figure, Key said on Breakfast.

“Under our system, it’s the caucus that determines whether you’re the leader. They have a different system, their affiliates vote and the unions and party membership vote, but I really don’t agree with that.

“I think if you can’t carry your caucus, it’s very difficult to be an effective leader and it’s pretty clear he doesn’t have the support of his caucus,” Key said.


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