The end is nigh. Except it is the beginning. Whoever takes over the helm of Labour will need a steady hand and nerves of steel.

If Grant defies the pundits and sneaks through he has a serious challenge ahead of engaging with the party – especially given that conference is not far away.

If David steps up the operation has to lift its game in a visible and concrete way, from Parliament through to party liason.

Either way it is the party and the members who deserve to be the winners.

What happens next?

It’s not long to go. Robertson will be hoping that the re-emergence of King will help boost his lobbying power. That she is of the old guard that has set so many in the party’s back up will not stop them wheeling her out. I hope that MPs will realise that her honey words will put the caucus off side with the membership – and the public after the overwhelming support behind Cunliffe has become apparent. And the fact that those old guard backed the failed Shearer must give good cause to question her advice.

And according to Colin Espiner:

…if Labour’s MPs manage to put aside their dislike of their new leader and realise that their enemy is actually sitting across the forecourt of Parliament in the Beehive, and if they get behind Cunliffe and let him do what he does so well, which is sell Labour’s message to voters, then the Opposition could pose a very real threat to the Government by this time next year.

If Robertson wins, things will be more straightforward, though he will still need to find a place for Cunliffe back on the front bench. Fewer wounds will need bandaging – up until Labour loses the next election, anyway.

The leadership race is a tight one, and neither Robertson nor Cunliffe is prepared to call it, even privately. But if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Cunliffe – by a nose.

Counting down

Time is counting down. So when former Labour party president Mike Williams, offers his musings on the candidates it’s worth paying attention:

Grant’s major advantage in my book is the block of support he has in the caucus. These people tend to know the contenders best, and I would normally give that great weight if the same people had not given us David Shearer, and then changed their minds.

His disadvantages are his lack of experience in government and a pretty thin CV.  His lack of recognition by the voting public is also a concern at this point in the cycle. All three sections of the college that will select the leader will take cognisance of a fourth audience – the electorate, as expressed by the polls. Every poll has put Grant in third place. This is not necessarily fatal, but it does mean that the Labour Party will have a much harder selling job if Grant is the choice, and only a year to do it.

Shane Jones brought the contest to life. If you’d been a visitor from Mars at the meeting I attended, your vote would have gone to Shane. He spoke without notes, but laced a substantial speech with colour, imagery and humour.

His major disadvantage is that, with a narrow base in the powerful caucus vote, he almost certainly can’t win. Alongside some baggage, about which Shane makes sport, this puts him into a second preference situation as far as I’m concerned; however the process has revealed a campaign treasure which any sensible planner will exploit in the battle ahead.

David’s advantages include another Ivy League education, a broad grounding in both private enterprise and the bureaucracy, and ministerial experience.  He is perhaps the only contender who, through his courageous deregulation of telecommunications, has benefitted vast numbers of kiwis.

His disadvantages are his former inability to suffer fools gladly, a perceived vanity and an inexplicable capacity to polarise. I’ve never been personally exposed to any of these supposed negative traits; however that may be because MPs tend to treat their party presidents with the deference due to someone whose vote you may just need one day…

Yesterday I gave my tick to David Cunliffe. David has much to learn, just like Helen Clark and John Key when they assumed the leadership of their parties, but he has demonstrated the ability to do so.

This is more momentuum behind Cunliffe’s campaign. But he still has some hard work ahead of him in the next few days, convincing his MP colleagues that they have no choice but to vote his way if Labour has any hope of being viable in he publics perception. And if I was Grant, I would be asking myself exactly how much I want a future in politics. With supporters like Clare Curran, and the strong build of endorsments of Cunliffe, even if Grant were to win, he will still lose. He is struggling to be viable in the public eye. If he is wise, he will recognise that before it’s too late.

Robertson’s camp pushed the button

An interesting piece by ONE News Political Editor Corin Dann on Grant Robertson:

I think he’s been a little bit disappointing with his campaigning…

and why might Corin have had higher expections?

It was his camp that pushed the button on Shearer, not Cunliffe’s camp…so they were the ones who had it all mapped out and planned out. And they then would go out and run this campaign of telling their supporters to basically back Robertson, that he’s the man. He [Robertson] would play the more statesman like campaigner…

The implication is that Robertson has had longer to plan. And Robertson has been running the loyal Deputy line. Something’s not quite adding up.

Poll puts the pressure on

From TVOne yesterday David Cunliffe was the clear favourite in a poll asking which of the Labour leadership candidates was most likely to win next year’s election over John Key. Mr Cunliffe came out ahead of his running mates, with 39% of the vote in the latest ONE News Colmar Brunton poll. Thats up since the week before. He’ll be pleased.

Shane will be pleased at his second spot (18%) while Grant received just 15% of the vote.

Grant and his supporters keep saying that these aren’t the people who matter- they are not the ones voting. But they are the ones who will be voting – and who Labour want ticking their box next year. So their opinion does matter. And imagine the senario if the caucus use their superior voting power to trump the membership and the affiliates – John Key and National will have a field day poking fun at the third ranked contender being elected. And those first impressions matter. For example:

The poll of 510 eligible voters also asked who was most likely to win a television debate with Mr Key, with 36% opting for Mr Cunliffe, 27% for Mr Jones and just 11% for Mr Robertson.

Over at The Daily Blog Tim Selwyn has examined the range of options (and coverage).

For all these faults Cunliffe is still a more savy communicator than the rest and is ahead on TV presentation at the very least. He looks the most prime ministerial – he already looks like an Australian state premier, if that’s a look (and if you’ve seen Phil Goff’s mate Mike Rann, the former South Australian premier, it is a look and Cunliffe has it).

In the TV stakes, and on which monkey can take it to the gorilla in the house, it’s got to be Cunliffe over Robertson and Jones.

Cunliffe and Jones ride high on unions

Significant news tonight in terms of union backing. TV3 reports:

The Rail and Maritime Transport Union, which has about 4500 members and will account for about 1.2 percent of the final vote…has come out and recommended Mr Cunliffe as the first choice. As an upset, its second choice is Shane Jones. Grant Robertson is back in third place.

The Dairy Workers Union, which has about 7000 members and 53 delegates and will control about 2.5 percent of the final vote, it too has come out and said Mr Cunliffe is number one and Mr Jones as number two and Mr Robertson as number three.

The Rail and Maritime Union says it made its choice because it thinks Mr Cunliffe “has the best chance of beating John Key in 2014”.

For Mr Robertson, this is another blow, although he has a lot of MP support. Many are waiting for the rest of the party, to see where the votes fall, so they do not appear out of step with the rest of the party….

Momentuum tonight with these unions, again, with David Cunliffe.

Winners out of this? Cunliffe – and Shane Jones. Between the two of them they are leaving Grant behind. Important to note that at least some MPs are becoming alert to the danger they are placing themselves in by being seen to be in disagreement against the party membership and the affiliates.

Next question what is happening in the EPMU? Seems impossible that they will be very different in terms of where their support lies. Those from within the EMPU and MPs who have been telling the media that the overwhelming vote is to Robertson must surely be worried that their credibility will called into question about now.

Who in caucus will abandon Robertson?

If I was a Labour MP who had declared for Robertson I’d be rethinking my strategy after the TV3 News poll tonight:

There’s one week of campaigning left before the next Labour Party leader is chosen.

David Cunliffe is in charge – as preferred labour leader, he is up on 39.6 percent.

But Shane Jones is in line for a bit of an upset. Considered an outsider, he currently sits in second place on 31.6 percent.

That’s pushed Grant Robertson back into third – he was supposed to be joint favourite, but he’s only polling 28.8 percent.

That will be a real shock for him and his supporters.

It is the Labour membership who will all vote on the leader – but looking at just Labour voters – Cunliffe is even stronger, sitting at 45.6 percent.

As an MP you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Party – especially with candidate selections coming up. So will anyone move their vote? I’d watch Phil Twyford, Darien Fenton, David Clark, and Clare Curren.
Shane will be feeling very pleased – and so he should. He’s made a great run and must be treated with respect by whoever wins.


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