Losing His Voice: When Will People Start Listening to David Cunliffe?

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DAVID CUNLIFFE’s biggest problem is his voice. Not his actual voice, which is fine, but his political voice: the way he is heard by the voting public. It’s a problem because the one he’s using at the moment isn’t working. It doesn’t ring true. And until it does he’s not going to be able to engage with the people he needs to make him Prime Minister.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Cunliffe is a fake. One-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball, in small groups, he can be utterly transfixing. In the discussions I’ve had recently about the Labour leader’s “voice” problem, this ability to inspire has been attested to over and over again. And I know it’s true because I’ve felt it myself. When Cunliffe fixes his eyes on you and speaks about the things that matter – both to him and to you – he can be utterly compelling.

Unfortunately, all that communicative power and authority is lost whenever Cunliffe is required to address a hostile and/or sceptical audience – most particularly the news media. At these moments he becomes the political equivalent of Iron Man. In the blink of an eye the high-tech suit of armour snaps shut around the vulnerable person inside and his communication, while factual and fluent, loses all colour, all life. It becomes, in a word, robotic.

Consider this example from last week’s headlines. It’s Cunliffe’s response to a reporter’s question concerning the future funding of the Kohanga Reo movement:

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REPORTER: Is it the funding structure that needs to change or the entire way the board is run?

CUNLIFFE: The whole thing needs a thorough review. A thorough review – including at the subsidiary level – and we’ll make decisions from there.

REPORTER: So Labour’s not ruling out cutting $92 million of funding as well as the National Trust?

CUNLIFFE: We’re not ruling out any structural option. There needs to be a full review and we’re not ruling out any option.

REPORTER: If the funding was cut – what does that mean for Kohanga Reo?

CUNLIFFE: The function is a valid and important one. The way it is delivered is under serious doubt.

Now, bear in mind that this is a discussion about the future of Te Kohanga Reo – a contemporary taonga of Maoridom. So why on earth didn’t the Labour leader (who is presumably very keen to win back the support of Maori voters) say something like this?

REPORTER: So Labour’s not ruling out cutting $92 million of funding as well as the National Trust?

THE IDEAL CUNLIFFE: Good Lord, no! The Kohanga Reo movement is one of the crowning glories of the Maori Renaissance. It plays a vital role in both nurturing and preserving Te Reo. No, no. The movement will continue to receive all the support it needs. The administration of the Kohanga Reo movement, on the other hand. Well, that obviously needs a lot of attention.

I have no reason to doubt that this is exactly how Cunliffe feels about Te Kohanga Reo. That he wasn’t able toexpress his feelings, or give voice to the positive contribution of the Maori language nests as he answered the reporter’s questions goes to the heart of his problem. It explains why he also failed to distinguish clearly the achievements of the movement from the failures of the administration – reverting instead to the bloodless and noncommittal language of administration and management.

Cunliffe has got to let go of his caution and learn to trust his better self – the self that so transfixes, inspires and compels the men and women who work closely with him. If a leader does not believe his true self is good enough for the people whose votes he is seeking then he should stand aside and let someone else have a go.

Having watched him pursue the leadership of the Labour Party with the sort of relentless energy that reassured the rank-and-file that he was a much better person than his enemies said he was, I’m confident that the power to convince New Zealand of the same proposition still lies within.

But, in the end, releasing that power is about Cunliffe believing he is not alone in wanting social justice and equality. That these are, in fact, the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of his fellow New Zealanders – who are longing for someone to put the inchoate promptings of their hearts into words and make their dreams real.

The great failing of Cunliffe’s colleagues, and of a press gallery for whom cynicism has become the indispensable armour against the anger and outrage all good journalists should feel, is that they have stopped believing that a better world is even possible. Cunliffe has to steel himself against this corrosive beltway cynicism by constantly reminding himself that politics – especially labour politics – has changed the world for the better before, and can do so again.

Cunliffe must also learn to stop worrying about his caucus colleagues misgivings and pitch his comments over the heads of the media pack to the voters listening beyond. That confidence he feels when surrounded by people who share his values; the confidence that permits him to transfix, inspire and compel; has its source in the deep-seated human need to believe. The moment Cunliffe learns to put his faith in that need – forcing himself to speak to it directly and without equivocation – then his power to transfix, inspire and compel will be immeasurably expanded.

It is said that the those who seek to become great orators, must first find themselves great causes.

In the final analysis, the power of David Cunliffe’s political voice will depend entirely on how widely his vision is shared and how highly his programme is valued.

105 COMMENTS

  1. Losing his voice, more like you are trying to steal the man’s thunder. Can you stop with your anti-Cunliffe tirades! You are micro-analysing every word he says, yet when John Key was questioned by Patrick Gower over the Judith Collins Orivida affair, his responses of feigned apathy were as offensive as if he had spat in the reporters face. There was no direct eye contact, constant shoulder shrugging, and he continuously repeated himself, barely pronouncing each word correctly. It was an endless stream of I dunno’s and no one in the media or on any blog site evaluated his performance in this same way. If you want to adhere to true journalistic integrity then give John Key the same treatment as Cunliffe has been subject to of late.

    • It’s not an “anti-Cunliffe tirade”. How on earth did you read that into the post? Trotter is merely pointing out what is bleeding obvious…. that Labour has a communication problem. The post is very supportive of Cunliffe and expresses great confidence in his ability to inspire.

      • So the impact of a extremely biased msm, including political commentators like Chris Trotter et al who tears apart every little thing David Cunliffe says and does flies right over your head then Kingi?

        • I think you might be losing your perspective a little bit here. You don’t need to apply the blowtorch of your righteous indignation to anybody who honestly questions Labour’s ability to sell its message. Of course the MSM are biased. That is Labour’s and Cunliffe’s, particular challenge. Ranting about it here won’t change that. Chris Trotter is not part of the MSM. Read it again and take a few deep breaths, for goodness sake.

          • Well that was a rather condescending response with an air of self importance Kingi. Chris Trotter is a political commentator and has been for a number of years, is he not? and has appeared on TV etc on a number of occasions, has he not? Would say Christ Trotter is part of MSM. But as you think not, it appears to be just a matter of opinion then. Just because you agree with Christ Trotter, it is not a prerequisite that I have to, and an opinion that differs from your own is not necessarily a rant, then again that is just your opinion. Not sure if you noticed, but there are some others on here who dont agree with Chris Trotter either.

            • True, I do enjoy much of what Chris writes…. but I would stop short of referring to him as “Christ” Trotter….. (just a wee bit of humour there….)

        • What planet do you live on? Chris has been around the labour movement all his adult life. He was one of Cunliffe’s earliest and most vocal supporters.

          He is saying this to help Cunliffe and to win the election for labour.

          There is no room for bruised egos in such an endeavour.

  2. I wonder, Chris, if you have any advice for John Key – it seems to be that he is more in need of your attention.

  3. It may well be good advice but I doubt I could be totally at ease in front of a bunch of reporters when the media is taking every chance they can to twist your words around

  4. The thing is, Chris Trotter is doing everything in his power to ensure David Cunliffe’s vision and political voice is eroded and sabotaged. Its not the Labour caucus that is the problem that Chris Trotter and others like him constantly throw about to undermine, given that even Shane Jones has just recently said the whole caucus is behind David Cuniffe, its media commentators like Mr Trotter et al. David Cunliffe is damned if he does and is damned if he doesn’t to the likes of Chris Trotter. Meanwhile Mr john “perfect” key (sarcasm intended)) is left completely untouched.

    • “…even Shane Jones has just recently said the whole caucus is behind David Cuniffe ”

      Before you write anything like that again can you please issue a public health warning. I nearly split my sides laughing. Labour is a hopelessly divided party, with factional infighting at a vicious level as the many disparate groups within the party fight for control. My sincere hope is that the far left faction gain control, because it will make Labour unelectable for years to come.

      • Understandably the truth hurts you Intrinsicvalue, labour is hell of a lot more united than national, who are in the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons, self interest corruption being one out of many. And who says labour is divided? biased media and right wingers like you !!!!

        • Do you really believe that??? National has factions it is true but they don’t usually engage in behaviour which undermines the leadership of the party like Labour’s do.

          • Just because the media are not allowed to report on national’s infighting Gosman doesn’t mean its not happening. And it appears the only ones undermining Cunliffe’s leadership, is biased political commentators, msm and right wingers.

        • Poem you really are hilarious. If you think Labour are even the slightest bit united, then you’re living in a parallel universe.

          • Labour is hell of lot more united in their cause than national, just look at national’s greed and corruption hitting the headlines.

            • What headlines? Even if that were true, what does that have to do with being united? Labour is a factional grouping with no leadership and no defined direction. They have a leader who is despised by the caucus and who, as a result, is being whiteanted at every pass. This will not end well for them.

              • Challenging one another on ideas is a good thing. You won’t get that kind of fleshing out of an issue from the National party lemmings who tow the ideological party line, don’t have any vision for NZ, simply for their wallets and their job security in the beehive. It’s an easy position to be in when you don’t actually have to have principle or your own opinion. Clearly National MPs don’t care either way.

                Intrinsicvalue, if you’re going to critique the Labour Party, I’d pick an area where National themselves aren’t glaringly weak.

                • “It’s an easy position to be in when you don’t actually have to have principle or your own opinion.”

                  What bs. All political parties have principles, some just have more agreement on what those are and how to implement them. National has vigorous debate around a range of issues, as do Labour, but the difference is that labour are ideologically divided, whereas National seem to be able to suck up their differences and move on. That comes from leadership, and a keen sense of the right battles to fight. Labour have neither.

                  • I can just see the vigorous debate within National – an absolute den of infighting over how much to cut from the welfare budget.

                    Bennett says she can put 10,000 people on the street.
                    “Pathetic” Collins shoots back “I could put 20,000 on the street.

                    John Key grins his cheery grin; “Amateurs all of you. By the time I’m finished there’ll be 100,000 on the street and I could do it without even taking the Wellfare portfolio!”

                    The rest of caucus laughs uproariously as Collins stifles her rage at being shown up once again by the PM.

                    • First of all it’s ‘welfare’ not ‘wellfare’. And secondly I’m sure there IS debate within national about welfare, as there should be given the contribution it makes to the countries budget.

            • Considering many left wingers think the National party’s cause is to feather their own nest why is that evidence that they aren’t united?

              • No silly, that’s the reason they ARE united. It’s much easier to unite a bunch of unprincipled people – as each and every right wing government the world has ever seen has proven.

                If only the left could be more pragmatic and abandon their principals they’d find it much easier to get into power too

                    • But in agreement we are essentially making Poem’s case against the media not reporting National’s factional issue completely redundant. Why should the media report factionalism in National when it doesn’t exist?

  5. @ Chris Trotter . I completely understand your misgivings about cunliffe and I concur .

    There’s a disquieting level of disingenuous plasti-babble being espoused by him .

    Talking shit , springs to mind .

    I feel he’s trying hard to be different while trying even harder to not be so .

    Shall I mention the Great New Zealand Institutionalized Lie about now ?

    No ?

    Ok .

    …… how about now ?

    No ?

    Ok .

    Now ?

    No ?

    Ok .

    One day , sooner rather than later , someone is going to start asking very , very uncomfortable questions about the blindingly obvious .

    • I agree Phil…
      There’s a big difference between critiquing Cunliffe & Labour, and being anti-Cunliffe.
      Trotter backslapping Cunliffe after 6 months of stagnation isn’t going to help. Something is wrong and it’s time for some navel-gazing.
      Also, slagging off Key is predictable, pointless and ineffective. I think there is something wrong with the way Cunliffe presents himself on TV, Trotter seems correct in saying that Cunliffe seems unassured. Aaron (above) sums it up well in one sentence:

      “I doubt I could be totally at ease in front of a bunch of reporters when the media is taking every chance they can to twist your words around”

      Cunliffe will not be given a fair shot through the media so long as Gower’s ignorant reporting exists. It’s time for policy that NZ needs. We can’t attack Key unless Labour is offering a reasonable alternative. That’s why we need to keep Cunliffe honest. If Labour are going to have Shearer MKII offering another third-way, then bagging Key is ineffective.

  6. Of course, we are not sure exactly what David Cunliffe says to the Press Gallery as they are very fond of cutting and splicing to show him saying what they want him to have said! Like the interview on “The Nation” a few weeks back with Patrick Gower – watching the entire interview created a completely different impression than the cut and spliced job shown on the TV3 news!

    • Exactly right Hami, TV 3 and the BSA received alot of complaints over Patrick Gower, who has has been treading rather carefully of late.

      • Sure. Patrick Gower is treading carefully because a bunch of precious left wingers whined about his interview of David Cunliffe. And Richie McCaw stops pilfering balls in the ruck because the Saffers call him a cheat.

        • By all means, show us the evidence that these complaints were from leftwingers.

          Bonus points if you can prove they were precious as well.

          • Yeah because right wingers would have had a problem with the interview. However they may have been swing voters it is true. In which case that would mean they are more sympathetic to Mr Cunliffe as a result of the interview so why should hard core lefties like you concern yourself with the supposed bias?

            • Some people are more concerned about notions of fair play, especially in situations like that. I take it from your comments that so long as a bias is in your favor you would think there’s no need to worry about it.

              I hope you can understand that there are people in this world who have principles and don’t think that any tactic is fine unless it’s a winning tactic.

              • No, you should take it from my comments that I don’t think bias in the media is a concern from the left or the right. I have highlighted potential bias in the media from the left. Finlay MacDonald’s Sunday morning show on Radio NZ National is full of it. However I don’t get in a tizz over it as opposed to lefties against Patrick Gower.

  7. The only people who agree with Chris Trotter’s blogs are right wingers Lol that shows the obvious about Chris Trotter doesn’t it, Trojan horse comes to mind.

  8. People will start listening to David Cunliffe when:

    1. He stops talking about other peoples wealth while trying to deny his own.
    2. When he consistently speaks with one accent, rather than the weird habit he seems to have of putting on a different voice (literally) for different audiences.
    3. When he establishes he has something to say that is constructive, rather than just attack the Govt. or promise to take and spend more of our money.
    4. When he stops telling porkies.

    • When and where did David Cunliffe ever deny the wealth he and his wife worked hard for or where he lived Intrinsicvalue? David Cunliffe never did. And every speech that David Cunliffe has done thus far, has been with the one voice, even to the most ardent right wing bunch, the NZ institute, it took guts to say what he said that lot. David Cunliffe has alot to say that is constructive, its just that you and others like you, including Chris Trotter, dont want to know or listen, and when did David Cunliffe actually lie? The one bold faced liar that NZ knows all to well, is named john key.

      • Unfortunately for you people like Fran O’Sullivan disagree with you. She is on record as stating that what Mr Cunliffe tells business leaders is different to what he preaches to Labour party faithful.

          • There were quite a few people at the meetings where Mr Cunliffe spoke. If she has lied she loses credibility amongst the business community. This is a major issue for a Business journalist wouldn’t you say?

        • That’s hilarious that you cite Fran O’Sullivan as a legitimate source. The words ‘political incompetent’ spring to mind when one makes a mistake like that.

      • Perhaps it is his wealth itself that is the problem, not the question of whether he admits or denies it. Successful Labour party leaders of the past, Savage, Kirk, Lange, Clark etc have not been notably wealthy.

  9. Whats the latest count of national mps not returning after the next election 12? 13? or is that 14? Even Bill English knows he doesn’t have the support and is coming back as a list mp. Act is a desiccated corpse, and is in shambles, Dunne, and the Maori party are basically finished. the only parties who are united in their cause is Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana.

    • @ Poem – right on there.

      In usual biased form, msm keeps portraying a contrary picture, putting a powerful negative media slant on the strong unity between Labour/Greens/Mana and possibly NZ First. It’s a ploy to try to discredit and destroy the united Opposition before the election, while at the same time continuing promoting a false perception of Key and his disintegrating National government!

      Thank goodness most of us are aware of this.

      • Exactly right Mary. With national, its all about perception, regardless that its all wind with no substance. national = smoke and mirrors.

          • “Trumped up polls”? What? Opinion polls are a scientific survey of opinion. Frankly I wouldn’t bet my house on them, but calling them biased is just plain sour grapes.

            • Any polling company that only calls landlines will inevitably produce biased results. I shouldn’t have to explain why.

            • Rubbish, polls are dodgy and fickle at best, and you are being contradictory, you said yourself quote “Frankly I wouldn’t bet my house on them”

    • It’s called rejuvenation. Labour are quite content to go to the election with same tired old faces, and as a result they will be pummelled.

      • its not a good look for national in election year Intrinsicvalue. Bill English coming back as a list says it all.

        • Actually it looks very good. People see that the party is using election year to refresh it’s ranks, something Helen Clark failed to do, which is to a large degree responsible for Labour’s current malaise. The same thing happens in sport, in business, etc etc. New blood mixed with experienced heads makes for a winning team.

          “One of former Labour prime minister Helen Clark’s biggest mistakes in Government was seen as her failure to rejuvenate Labour’s ranks.

          The party list was at one stage a blatant tool for buying caucus discipline and unity, in that it reserved all the winnable slots for sitting MPs.

          But when the mood for change set in Labour was unable to turn that around by putting a fresh face on fresh ideas.
          John Key watched and learned.”

          http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/9379220/Many-reasons-behind-Nationals-purge

          • Well maybe to an ardent national supporter it may seem like that, but to everyone else its saying “rats leaving a sinking ship” Intrinsicvalue.

            • ‘Everyone else’? Who is this everyone else? Certainly not anyone with an ounce of experience in managing organisational rejuvenation. Looking at Labour’s line up, they could well do with refreshing.

              • Thought that was quite clear, everyone else who are NOT ardent nat supporters. And again, that is just your opinion Intrinsicvalue.

  10. He’s been 15 years in parliament. Hard to muster real conviction after that. Too many nagging doubts about oppositional ideas… but still just enough energy to play to idealism.

  11. Losing his relevance: when will Trotter start critiquing Nationals lack of policy or direction?

  12. Chris, if I were David Cunliffe reading this, I would stop and pause, and consider that you had a valid point.

    To me, there was a marked difference between this blogpost and a previous one. This was was constructive criticism, and with valuable advice (excuse me if I sound condescending – that is not my intention) offered after an insightful analysis of a problem (I refuse to refer to such matters as “issues”).

    And let’s be quite frank (*ahem*) here; no one is beyond help with a bit of constructive criticism. (Which is one reason why the brilliant Matt McCarten’s appointment to Cunliffe’s office was lauded by most on the Left – and feared on the Right.)

    I heard that interview myself, and whilst I kinda ‘got’ what Cunliffe was getting at – it was too technocratic to be inspirational to the John and Jane Public.

    Perhaps Cunliffe should look to past Prime Ministers; Norman Kirk and David Lange, for inspiration?

    Or, more important, perhaps he should spend time with families who are at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder (without cynical journos present!) to reinvigorate his sense of purpose.

    The brief period of time I spent in Bowen House in ’95/’96 was enough to reveal how isolating Parliamentary life can be. I likened it to being in a spaceship in deep space; hermetically sealed from the Real World outside; and with minimal contact with my fellow human beings. (And that was only after about ten months!)

    There is food for thought in your blogpost, Chris. I hope David takes nourishment from it.

    • FRANK – What my impression is, is that David Cunliffe has felt seriously betrayed by many media reporters and moderators, as over the last 2 months, they have too often only picked words or sentences out of speeches or anything else he said, to quote them somewhat out of context, and to challenge, rubbish and undermine Cunliffe.

      Hence he no longer trusts the MSM media mob anymore, and thus talks very mindfully and carefully, avoiding traps.

      It is a FACT that the media are mostly very forgiving when Key makes a faux pas, but they jump on Cunliffe and trample on him if he gets caught out. With the MSM acting like that, treating Key like the sun shines out of his abdomen, while Cunliffe has been labeled “tricky”, we must accept that Cunliffe has a very difficult job to deal with journalists. He may yet get a way of handling the mob of bulldogs better, but that needs to be achieved soon, and we must wait and see how he does manage.

      • Marc, there is more than an element of truth to your comment. The electronic media does indeed take “sound bites”, and a political figure needs to bear that in mind at all times. It is an unfortunate reality that, as “gate keepers”, journalists will often focus on the irrelevent or the dramatic, in the pursuit of a sensationalised “angle” for a story.

        At the same time, last year, Russell Norman was highly sucessful in managing to make use of the media with incisive comments, geared to the 5 or 10 second “sound bite”.

        I’m no media expert on such matters, but Cunliffe has professionals employed by the Labour Party who can instruct him on such matters. At the same time, without the passion, all the media training in the world is pointless.

        Cunliffe has to give a reason for people to sit up and take notice. When he sez something in the media, the listener should be nodding and saying “Yeah, that’s right!” to him/herself.

        That’s how he gets “cut through”.

        • FRANK – Also we should perhaps accept, that it is one thing winning a Labour leadership contest, and being voted in largely by supportive members, and quite another thing facing a challenging wider public, that has been influenced by a somewhat biased mainstream media.

          Cunliffe could convince and appeal more easily during the contest for the Leader job, and the crowds cheered him on, same as also the other contenders to varying degrees.

          The MSM are a totally different “party” to deal with, and the public simply want to compare Cunliffe with Key, who has been pampered and let off lightly by the MSM.

          Hence Cunliffe is fighting uphill, and has to overcome lack of knowledge and trust that exist, and be so much more convincing than Key. So we must give him time. Shearer got lots of time, and still disappointed, I feel, whether we like him or not, Cunliffe can and will eventually gain confidence and perform better.

          • I don’t disagree with anything you write, Marc.

            Without adding a “but”, I would add that any criticism of any of our elected representatives must be tempered with constructive solutions and positive alternatives (no, not alternative leaders!).

            We need to be confident in our policies and vision for our society; supportive of our elected representatives; and up-beat at all times.

            If we can do that within our ranks, that will flow through (hopefully) into public perception.

            To be honest, I’m not terribly fussed who the leader of the Labour Party is. But once we elect someone (whether it be Shearer, Cunliffe, whoever), then by the gods we should support them 100% to do the job we want them to do.

            Cunliffe can’t do the job himself. He needs the loyalty of his caucus colleagues and support of the rank and file. (I may not be a Labour Party supporter/member, but if Labour wants leaflets delivered in my area or any other assistance, I’ll happily give it.)

            There is only one aim, and one aim only; to get rid of this self-serving, corrupt National government.

  13. When asked if he would buy back assets he siad he would, but then added the qualification “but only if we can afford it”. I think he should have omotted that qualification. If he believes in buying back assets he should leave the electorate in no about his intentions. If after the election it turns out he can’t, so be it. But the qualification only makes him sound though he is trying to give himself a pretext, in advance, for not ding so.

    • And if David Cunliffe hadn’t of said that then the likes of you, Chris Trotter and others like him and the media would have torn him apart for not being fiscally responsible, like I said, David Cunliffe is damned if he does, and damned if he doesnt in such biased eyes.

      • “David Cunliffe is damned if he does, and damned if he doesnt in such biased eyes.”

        If he is “damned” anyway then it’s better he doesn’t equivocate.

  14. This I agree with: “Cunliffe must also learn to stop worrying about his caucus colleagues misgivings and pitch his comments over the heads of the media pack to the voters listening beyond.” If he is not going to be neutered by the media and the more cautious caucus members, he needs to bypass them, and draw strength from where his support actually lies. I like to think that there is a plan, and that once Cunliffe has established himself on the economic front we will see more of the Cunliffe that we voted for to lead the Labour Party.

    There are two things of which Labour need to be particularly mindful. People who are hurting know it, because hurting actually hurts – it is not just conceptual for them. They will not be won over by policies aimed solely at the middle class. They will not be won over by crocodile tears or equivocations either. They need to know that you have their back, and you need their votes. We are not going to get the non-voters out unless their concerns are taken seriously, in concrete, no bullshit terms.

  15. “But, in the end, releasing that power is about Cunliffe believing he is not alone in wanting social justice and equality. That these are, in fact, the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of his fellow New Zealanders – who are longing for someone to put the inchoate promptings of their hearts into words and make their dreams real.”

    Yes Chris, that may be true, but on the other hand, New Zealand is now a very diverse society, made up of many ethnic and cultural groups, and of many people with a wide range of education, qualifications, skills, professions, business involvements and so forth.

    It is very difficult for anyone to come across sufficiently inclusive these days, and Key does seem to have that special gift of being a smiling man under control, while he holds a dagger behind his back, but appears to be trustworthy, the nice guy and even appealing. He does appeal to both born and bred New Zealanders, and also a fair number of migrants and new Kiwis, having learned through his business and banking career, how to “negotiate”, to pull people over the table and to win partners and opponents over to seal deals.

    Cunliffe still has to get the right grip of things, I think, and yes, he needs to learn and adjust his way of talking to the media, as so far he looks “hedging” thoughts and ideas, or not wanting to be up front, which some would think make him a bit “tricky”.

    If he would have answered a journalist on kohanga reo as you suggested, with:

    “THE IDEAL CUNLIFFE: Good Lord, no! The Kohanga Reo movement is one of the crowning glories of the Maori Renaissance. It plays a vital role in both nurturing and preserving Te Reo. No, no. The movement will continue to receive all the support it needs. The administration of the Kohanga Reo movement, on the other hand. Well, that obviously needs a lot of attention.”

    Then you would have some right leaning journalists twist it around as sounding, Cunliffe will throw money at Kohanga Reo as Labour has done in the past, and he “celebrates” “Maori Renaissance”. That would ring in the ears of the sadly too many “treaty gravy train” followers as a pro Maori, pro “free loading” potential PM, who they would rather not want to have. Even some migrants I met, have in private, discrete circles expressed a rather “dim” view of Maori and Polynesians in general, seeing rather their “failings” in social and economic terms.

    That is, because NZ immigration favours strongly career minded and business minded migrants from mostly well enough middle class or higher back-grounds, who come here to “work hard”, save, earn money, make money, buy their way into NZ Inc, and who will expect others to “succeed” just as well.

    When they see their kids at school get a bit of a hard time for being migrants, but locals not performing as them, you have the very competitive society NZ Inc has become, with all its pros and cons.

    It is not easy to gain wider public appeal, but perhaps you should have a meeting and do some consulting with Cunliffe, dear Chris?

  16. David Cunliffe doesn’t have to change anything.

    It’s the media who are bending over backwards to get National elected who need to change.

    The good news is that when the campaign starts in earnest, they won’t be able to shut him down as effectively.

  17. To reiterate, Matt McCarten left labour in disgust during the times of Trojan horse and neoliberlist Roger Douglas. Was extremely critical of David Cunliffe, even though he had never met him. Then after working with David Cunliffe over a short period of time, Mat McCarten rejoined Labour after 25 years, to be David Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff.
    THAT in itself, is an amazing testimony to David Cunliffe’s character as a person AND a Labour party leader.

  18. Maybe, it would serve David Cunliffe best if he listened just to his own instincts (like others have posted) and to those he personally appointed, rather than the biased political commentators, who by all accounts, are so anti, no matter what David Cunliffe says and does anyway. And there is one huge group of people David Cunliffe is definitely listening to and they are the ones who really matter, the average New Zealanders that David Cunliffe is talking with on his travels up and down the country.

  19. The mass of NZ journalists have lately shown themselves to be distinctly inferior beasts even to such feral fictions as the protagonist of Annie Proulx’s The Old Ace In The Hole.

    The roles of journalist, and commentator, and dramatist, are not so elastic that a writer may skip freely from one to another without a significant loss of credibility, not to mention damage to the public good.

    It may be that David Cunliffe could communicate better – but the role of honest reporters is to accurately relay and explicate his positions, and those of other opposition politicians, not measure him against their sketchy personal standards of ‘leadership’ or economic orthodoxy.

    He cannot do their job for them, and it is somewhat risky to try. His first duty is to do his own job well – there is only so much he can do to try to redeem journalists so unprofessional as to exhibit their biases in public.

  20. I was allocated to look after a frail 98 year old lady at a wedding last week, and I asked her about her life. I asked her if she recalled Micky Savage, and her voice softened, and with the tone used for the gratefulness reserved for when you life is saved by strangers she said “He was a wonderful man, he took us out of the depression you know. Life was hard before then. Yes, he was a wonderful man”.

    Politics can be about positive change for people whose life is hard.

  21. When will Chris Trotter start analysing Johnnie Perfect like he analyses Cunliffe anyone would think he is in some kind of romantic relationship with Johnnie Perfect. The NZ Press are smitten with Johnnie Perfect who has riddled this country with debt 12 Billion to 70 Billion in 5 Years and is rapidly selling off NZ Real Estate to Asian and Foreign Buyers, remember he said it “we don’t want to be tenants in our own country”.

    Well Johnnie Perfect your prophecy is coming to fruition.

    The purchase of Auckland is well under way.

    • Have you any idea who Chris Trotter is? He’s been a left wing activist and commentator all his adult life. You couldn’t find someone who is more morally and ideologically opposed to the selfish and thoughtless agenda of the national party.

      The very reason Chris is hard on Cunliffe is that he wants him to perform well.

      If we really want to succeed and not be complacent we should praise our enemies and be mercilessly hard on ourselves.

  22. “It’s a problem because the [voice] he’s using at the moment isn’t working. It doesn’t ring true.”

    I agree. I had the opportunity to listen to Cunliffe at an event a few weeks ago and this was exactly my impression.

    He was enthusiastic and energetic as one would expect but somehow it did not sound or come across right.

  23. O.k. for all you arm chair critics, listen to DC interviewed by Simon Mercep this morning on National Radio.

    There are very few politicians in NZ who could perform so flawlessly.

    Chris, I used to like your writing. Surely as a left wing commentator you have better more important things to write about. Your on-going obsession with critiqing DC is starting to bore me. FGS, isn’t there enough material for you with Collins, Key and his “charity” work and Parata?

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