Cunliffe: I work as hard as anyone

STEVE KILGALLON AND SIMON DAY
Last updated 11:42 20/07/2014
Cunliffe
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ

IT'S NO JOKE: Labour MPs are said to be upset that leader David Cunliffe has taken a South Island skiing holiday two months out from the election.

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Labour Leader David Cunliffe has hit back at criticism of his leadership saying he works as hard as anyone in politics.

Cunliffe was in Queenstown last week for a skiing holiday with his family, a decision questioned by Labour MPs according to a party source.

"David Cunliffe works 16 to 18-hour non-stop days, pretty much 7 days a week, with a few hours for family on one weekend day. I have been his media director since January; in that time he has had perhaps about 6 days leave from a highly demanding schedule that would have flattened most ordinary people," media director Simon Cunliffe said.


A previous version of this article mistakenly reported Labour's most recent polling at 23.5 per cent. It also incorrectly said Cunliffe had taken the week off when he was away for three days.


The three-day break was a well needed rest as the gruelling election campaign begins in earnest, his camp said.

"For the record, David Cunliffe spent three days, Monday to Wednesday, with his family skiing. He was back at work on Thursday doing regional visits and meetings with Labour Candidate Liz Craig in Queenstown, and then travelled to Timaru for a day of media... on Friday. So he was working," Simon Cunliffe said.

However, Labour MPS are disgusted by Cunliffe's skiing holiday just two months before the election and will question his work ethic at a caucus meeting on Tuesday, a senior party insider said.

Labour is trailing National by 30 percentage points, polling just 24.9 per cent in the latest Stuff-Ipsos poll.

"A lot of MPs are really f..... off about it," the insider said.

"They are all working hard up and down the country, and f...... Cunliffe is on holiday. Guys like [Phil] Goff and [Annette] King and [David] Shearer, these guys really want it badly and they are working like their lives depend on it. And I think they are a little incredulous about what the guy is doing."

Cunliffe's camp saw very little value in the hypothetical poll on replacing the Labour leader.

"We take issue with the validity of the finding that a whole lot more people (including all of the National voters polled) would vote for Labour if someone else (unnamed) was leader. This is meaningless," said Simon Cunliffe.

The insider said while the prime minister was also holidaying - John Key is in Hawaii - there was a "world of difference" between an incumbent prime minister enjoying 52 per cent support in the polls and an opposition leader trailing nearly 30 points behind.

"It sounds a little treasonous, but the guy doesn't want it badly enough. If he did, he would be working. I think it is disgraceful behaviour, and not the sort of behaviour becoming of a guy who wants to be prime minister.

"We will be having a talk to David at caucus about his work ethic on Tuesday. We'll be letting him know he's got two months to turn this around, and we're backing him and right behind him but he's got to lift his game."

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The insider believed up to 20 of the 33 Labour MPs were deeply unhappy with Cunliffe's leadership, but had accepted that an attempt to dump him this late in the term would backfire.

Instead, he said some, especially those whose places in Parliament were now at risk because they would not be returned on the Labour list on present numbers, would run increasingly individual campaigns focused solely on regaining their seats.

Clayton Cosgrove, eighth on the list, and Kelvin Davis, 18th, were deviating from party line, as seen by Davis' public backing - against party policy - of the Puhoi-Wellsford SH1 "holiday highway" upgrade.

"Clayton knows .... he's not back on the list, so if he doesn't win his seat, it's the end of his career. And he also knows his career is very closely tied to the political capital of David Cunliffe."

The insider believed Cunliffe's decision to go on holiday showed he didn't have the qualities to become prime minister.

"David says family is really important to him, and I get that, but the thing is if you don't like the rules, don't play the game. Politics involves sacrifice, and it is hard on families. David knew this... he's been a cabinet minister and an MP for 15 years.

"Six months out from the election he should have said to his wife and family, 'sorry darling, you'll see me Sunday evenings, the rest of the time I am up and down the country. That's what his MPs are doing and Phil Goff's wife hardly ever saw him for the three years he was leader, he worked like a demon, and so did Helen [Clark].

"He's just not got the work ethic and the question is, does he want it that badly, it almost seems as if he wants the glory, but he hasn't got the guts."

- Sunday Star Times

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