May 18, 2008

Prime Minister Cunliffe?

It isn't 1 April so we can only interpret an article by Ruth Laugesen in the Sunday Star Times (page 2 Labour listing as candidates look for a lifeline) as serious when it says

Labour leader Helen Clark's position is seen as unassailable but interest is building in a successor if she is defeated in the end of year election.

New frontbencher David Cunliffe, who is seen to have taken a firm grip of the health portfolio [but what did he know about Mary Anne Ruth???], is now strongly in the running alongside Phil Goff.

Clearly Cunliffe thinks this but we challenge Laugesen to tell us the name of one other MP who supports Cunliffe for Leader.

But this detracts from the point of this post. And this is to report on a conversation we had with a Ministerial office staffer yesterday. We had both just read the DomPost front page and were talking about what it would mean. I relayed the conversation I had with a Labour candidate who some months ago told me that Clark was unassailable so long as she did not have a disastrous poll result. When asked what "disastrous" meant the candidate told me that less than 30%would be a disaster. The staffer said that he agreed that the result was a disaster, but he could not see who would have the courage or inclination to stand for the job. He thought that Cullen was too closely associated with recent disasters such as the railways and Auckland Airport balls ups. And Goff was too smart to do a Mike Moore. I said well what about Cunliffe? He has more ambition than the whole caucus put together. This assessment on ambition was not disputed, but we agreed that Cunliffe would only get one vote should he stand for leader. But what if we are wrong? If Laugesen actually has evidence of large numbers of Labour MPs supporting Cunliffe as future leader, could Cunliffe resist the chance to be PM is it was there for the taking? Rt Hon David Cunliffe, Prime Minister of New Zealand. It would look pretty good on the CV wouldn't it?