Being Leader of the Opposition may be the worst job in politics but it is also the job with the best prospects. Do the job well and you are rewarded with the politics top job. So it is rather important to discover who David Cunliffe is.
Commentators are not sure where to place David Cunliffe on the political spectrum. So let us try.
Where would place a person who is an Anglican Minister’s son, was educated at the prestigious United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, got a BA with first class honours from Otago, a Fulbright scholar to Harvard, spent seven years as a diplomat, is married to a prominent lawyer, has two sons and lives in Herne Bay?
But then if I tell you his degree was in politics, that he did a diploma in Social Sciences at Massey, at Harvard attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government doing a Masters of Public Administration and is now a Labour MP. You begin to suspect he might be a “Private school Marxist”.
But then I tell you he left the diplomatic service to go and work for that symbol of capitalism the Boston Consulting Group.
So now you are as confused as the commentators. (To add to your confusion with a CV like that why would you bother to make claims that are not true)?
The party membership as always been far to the left of the average Labour voter and the members believe they have finally got a leader who shares their views.
In the primary and in his two major speeches since then Mr. Cunnliffe has gone out of his way to state his left wing credentials. He promised the Trade Union Annual Conference a “red Labour Party” rather than a “pale blue” one. At the party conference he gave a speech of the politics of envy.
A real lurch to the left would have been for Labour to abandon its three decade long support for free trade. The media reports Mr. Cunliffe supported the Dairy Workers Union motion that Labour “withholds support for the TPP until full details are made available and there is clear evidence that the agreement is in the best interests of New Zealand.” These are weasel words. Labour is signaling its support for the TPP as even Labour does not expect National to sign an agreement that was not “in the best interests of New Zealand”.
There are other indications of Mr. Cunliffe’s moderation. Immediately after his blood red speech to the unionists he told reporters “but we don't know exactly what the state of the books is going to be yet and we're having to balance that with the need to be fiscally responsible which we will be.” They are weasel words to escape from any spending promise.
So now you do not know what to believe. You are in the same position as his caucus colleagues who now voted twice not to support him. His fellow MPs do not trust him. They see a person with no core set of values except to say and do whatever he thinks will make him popular.
David Cunliffe does not believe he needs to tell his supporters unpalatable truths such as there are limits to what any government can do. The electoral wisdom is that to win an election it is necessary to “win the middle ground”. David Cunliffe does not believe he needs to win over a single vote and Labour can win by going to the left.
David Cunliffe calls on the party to reach the "missing million" who did not vote at the last election. He says “I think with good organisation and with clarity of purpose a lot of the people that couldn't be bothered voting last time will sure as heck be bothered next time.” Hence the string of promises like a “living wage” and the class rhetoric.
“We are confronted by a government clearly ruling in the interests of a few at the expense of the many, and creating two New Zealands.
One for the rich and powerful, who don’t pay their fair share of tax because they have smart accountants to ensure they avoid it.
And there’s the other New Zealand. Where people struggle to put food on the table for their families.
Where children go to school hungry, and senior citizens shiver in their homes.
Families who pay tax on every dollar they earn, pick up the slack for the mega-rich and the foreign corporations who don’t.”
David Cunliffe knows what he is saying is not true. The Finance Minister reveals;
- Households earning less than $60,000 a year, which total around half of all households, are generally expected to pay less in percentage terms towards total net tax in 2013/14 than they were paying in 2008/09.
- And only 6 per cent of individual taxpayers earn over $100,000 a year, yet they pay 37 per cent of total income tax. This has increased from the 2010/11 tax year, when those taxpayers paid 29 per cent of total income tax.