Q+A Discussion - In response Cunliffe & Parker Interview
Q + A
PANEL DISCUSSION 2
Hosted by SUSAN WOOD
In response to David Cunliffe and David Parker Interview
SUSAN We’re with the panel – Dr Claire Robinson, Matt McCarten and Fran O’Sullivan. And we have all got obsessed with the fact that again David Cunliffe has confused caucus and Chorus. Fran, you think he did it three times. Matt, you think he did it once.
FRAN O’SULLIVAN – NZ Herald
Well, he pulled back. He pulled back.
MATT McCARTEN – National Secretary, Unite
He did it once. The second time, he made a joke, and the third one I don’t see.
FRAN He started to and corrected himself.
DR CLAIRE ROBINSON – Political
He didn’t even know—
MATT And if that’s the biggest thing we need to state… I think that the first policy the party’s got to do is have Chorus change the name to Australian Multinational.
SUSAN The interesting thing is it’s exactly what he did in Parliament this week. And why it actually matters – we’re laughing about it – because performance is so important, isn’t it?
CLAIRE Oh yeah, unfortunate— It is. And I think the really pivotal thing for David is that he’s got to pull something new out of the bag that we haven’t seen before. He’s got to pull something out that results in media commentators like us saying, ‘Oh, that was really surprising. We didn’t expect that. That’s something new.’ And so that’s going to be very difficult for him, because he has been around for a while and it’s hard to see what he is going to pull out of his pocket, so and at that time— when we’re looking for something extraordinary and he keeps tripping up on the words caucus and Chorus, then the focus goes on that, rather than the new.
SUSAN 42 for Key, Matt, up a point. You know, Labour has been—
MATT The same.
SUSAN …everywhere on the news for the past three weeks. Has he gone, sort of, from Teflon to untouchable?
MATT No, his support would stay there.
SUSAN You would say that.
MATT No, no, no, of course I would say it, but it’s been consistent. It’s that I don’t— you know, that Labour has been about itself; it’s not been about National, and they’re going to stay there. Well, Labour’s got to earn the right. I think that the poll is good for Cunliffe. It’s come out, you know. He’s 12 per cent. It took quite some time for Key when he got elected to get that, you know, and Clark, you know, and Lange, in fact, going back there. So he’ll be comfortable with that, but he’s got to earn the right. And that’s going to be— It’s not going to be the one-off stuff which sort of breaks through, as you said, right, because he’s a known quality, he’s not new, and, you know, it’s just going to pick up.
SUSAN Claire, Key’s breakthrough was about three incidents, wasn’t it?
CLAIRE It was. It was between February and May 2007. It was Waitangi Day, the compromise on the anti-smacking legislation and the 2007 Budget speech in the House, so he had three really pivotal media moments that suddenly made people think, ‘Oh.’
SUSAN ‘You look like a leader.’
CLAIRE Yeah. ‘They look like a leader.’ Turned public opinion just about overnight in favour of him, so it was— those were the moments.
MATT And also Clark— And also Clark was in her third term.
CLAIRE And, yeah.
MATT Got to keep that in mind.
CLAIRE But Helen Clark—
FRAN He was fresh. He was—
CLAIRE But Helen Clark had that moment too.
FRAN He was fresh. He was half a click down in terms of generation and quite a sunny, open person compared— who was seen as quite a controlling prime minister at the time. So I think it’s very different—
MATT Seen as controlling.
FRAN Seen as a controlling— was a controlling prime minister.
SUSAN But the—
MATT We’re just getting our language through.
SUSAN The point you’re making there, Fran, is a real contrast and a real difference. Wondering here and what did he call them? ‘Pale, male but not stale.’
FRAN Not stale.
SUSAN Pale, male, not stale – what’s the difference between the two men in grey suits and the two men in grey suits, Claire, from a public perception?
CLAIRE Well, I think their main difficulty is that, and we saw it this morning, they presented themselves as being an economically competent team, and that is obviously in order to be able to present themselves as an alternative government, and they know that National is very strong in that area. But it’s at quite significant odds with the message that David was preaching on the campaign trail in his primary, which is much more about moving back to Labour’s heartland and the social democratic message. So on the one hand, you know, they’re trying to appeal to the soft Labour voter that’s moved to National, but on the other hand, the people that they really have to shore up are the core Labour voters who are floating around, many of whom are sitting with the Greens.
MATT Yes, but—
FRAN They want to win the centre, and that centre shifts around, so in that sense, I think what they’re also doing at the very start is trying to assure the business community and a whole pile of people who do have some reservations around corporate welfare that, you know, they’re taking what is actually, really, probably a centre-right position on corporate welfare. And that is actually quite interesting – occupying the space that, arguably, National could be operating— occupying itself.
MATT Well, they’re doing both, and to be fair, it’s been internal. You know, this week’s been internal. Just one. They’re going to do the line-up tomorrow, and that will start to send some signals about what their front bench looks like, what their priorities are going to be.
SUSAN But in that line-up, we need to see Shane Jones; we need to see Jacinda Ardern, don’t we? We need to be seeing that sort of line-up.
MATT They will— They will be in the top five.
SUSAN Yeah. Mind you, there’s not that many of them to choose from, really, to be honest.
MATT Well, I think what’s changed is this – when Shearer was running the show, then everything was focused on him, and people sort of took the whole Labour Party – are they up to it? You know, the whole front bench were pulling back. What you’ve got now—
FRAN Well, they—
MATT No, no, no.
FRAN You’ve overshadowed.
MATT Well, you could say that. So what you’ve got now is three contenders. Everyone said, ‘Gee, they’re really good,’ and if they’re all on the front bench, I think it’s changed the dynamics like that in three weeks.
CLAIRE I don’t think people paid— Beyond the core Labour heartland—
MATT You’ve got to win them first.
CLAIRE Yeah, yeah.
MATT Got to win them first.
CLAIRE But I don’t think people will really remember this primary in a few months’ time.
MATT No, they will remember that the three contenders are all now competent players.
SUSAN Now, Claire, he’s got interesting job tomorrow with his reshuffle, because you’ve also got— I mean, you’ve got talent there – the older talent, if you like – Annette King and others like that which you wouldn’t want to lose, because she’s a very good performer.
CLAIRE Absolutely. Annette King, Trevor Mallard, Phil Goff – you know, they’re the soul of the Labour Party, and so it’ll be really interesting to see how they’re—
MATT They’re gone.
MATT They’re going.
CLAIRE They’ll go at the next election.
MATT Yeah, and so, therefore, why would he have them on the front bench?
CLAIRE Well, you can’t piss them off, though.
SUSAN Because they might get some hits from the Government.
MATT No, no, no, no. Well, Annette King, yes. I think that Mallard – his day has gone, you know? I think that that’s clear. I think Annette King— But if they’re going, what they’ve got to do is present the new team, and they’ve got to do it now. If they keep these oldies on, the signal is ‘we don’t really have confidence in the next team’, so I would be surprised if Cunliffe kept them around. I think the second bench but not the front bench.
FRAN Yeah, I agree with that, and they do need to bring forward some key people – new people – on to the front bench. But they’ve got to be people who could actually deliver on the front bench. They’ve got to be aggressive. They’ve got to be articulate. And, you know, Jacinda’s there, but she had an amazing elevation, but, arguably, was she really the best one to come forward?
SUSAN And has she actually got any hits on Paula Bennett that—?
FRAN No, she hasn’t.
SUSAN A whole lot of discussion. Panel, thank you.