David Cunliffe hasn't done much in the past week to show he should be the man trusted to lead the country.
Fresh from making weird statements about the calibre of his party's candidate for Palmerston North, his next move was to give a strange apology for being male.
Anything worthwhile to come out of Labour's congress will be overshadowed by Cunliffe making a show of being pathetic.
His apology related to family violence is unlikely to empower anybody to move from being abusive to being a real man.
Deborah Morris-Travers of children's lobby group Every Child Counts gave a telling critique: "One of the solutions to family violence is having all men healthy, educated, feeling good about being parents, feeling supported and engaged in their community and having a strong identity - not apologising for being male."
Labour already had an uneasy relationship with its men. The twisting of its party list to make sure not too many of them are elected is just one example of the party's confused culture.
It has become more distant from the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders, with its leader now pretty near an embarrassment.
Pressure often has the unfortunate effect of producing a feeling that the stakes have been raised, which can lead to a loss of perspective. This was in evidence when Phil Goff declared the 2011 Budget the worst he had seen in 27 years.
New Zealanders didn't take such hyperbole seriously and a few months later Goff was gone as Labour leader. Time will tell if history is repeating with Cunliffe.
His comments in Palmerston North indicate he is not at the top of his game.
Cunliffe's pronouncement that Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway will win the city seat by "a country mile" is likely at the delusional end of optimism.
More worrying was his comment that nobody in their right mind would toss out Lees-Galloway for National's candidate, Jono Naylor.
The reality is there will be plenty of people of a sound mind who will vote for Naylor, perhaps enough for him to win.
Insulting multiple thousands of people is an odd and arrogant way for Cunliffe to attempt to keep votes. He ought to show the city's citizens more respect.
Being gung-ho and condescending is not an endearing mix for a political leader. This would be something worth apologising for.
The pity is that there may well be merit in Labour's education policies, for example. If there is to be complaining about lack of public attention on this, the leader has only himself to blame.
- Manawatu Standard
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