When a party loses badly, the public expects a bit of sorrowful wailing and beating of breasts. To say “This is what we did wrong, and this is how we’ll fix it” is an important part of restoring trust with the electorate. David Cunliffe didn’t appear to appreciate that, which contributed to the demise of his leadership aspirations. The remaining candidates certainly have accepted the need for a show of party penitence. There have been promises of full-scale policy review, and greater listening to the public (whatever that may mean).
David Parker has taken the penitence to a new level, saying that Labour occasionally “almost feels like a cult” and that it must look at its branding, including its use of the colour red.
Quite what Mr Parker was intending with his comments is a mystery. It’s all very well to get the public on side with a show of remorse for the electoral beating Labour has just suffered, but describing your party as “like a cult” hardly seems likely to foster a feeling of public affection.
Further, Mr Parker is still engaged in a contest in which the membership will vote. And publicly describing the party as “like a cult” seems rather like a direct attack on the membership. Likening the activist base and general party hierarchy to a collection of close-minded, intolerant fundamentalists strikes me as a terrible way to endear oneself to a group that will make up 40% of the votes in the leadership contest.
Mr Parker has certainly never been the front-runner in the leadership race, but his comments will likely have made the road ahead even harder for him.