The secret diary of . . . David Cunliffe

17:00, Jul 19 2014


I said to Karen, "Let's go on holiday." She was up the ladder, fixing a new cut-glass crystal to the chandelier. We're forever chipping away at our do-up in Herne Bay.

She said, "Suits me, darling. Where to?" I said, "Small-town New Zealand. Someplace nice and quiet, with country values, where Labour's message resonates with middle-income Kiwis and more vulnerable Kiwis." I made a few bookings, packed, and we drove to the airport. It felt good to be getting away. I need a break. A lucky break, a break in the weather - any kind of break. Nothing seems to go right.

Karen said, "You did remember to bring the skis, didn't you?" I headed back, got the skis out of the garage, and we set off again. We just made it in time to catch our 2.15pm flight to Queenstown.


There was a five degree frost this morning, so I turned over and went back to sleep. I really needed the rest. It's been a stressful last few weeks. Months. But obviously, when you come in as leader there's a wave of enthusiasm before reality sets in and there's a lot of work to be done, and . . . wait on. That's what I said in an interview the other day with Paddy Gower.


After lunch we headed to Coronet Peak. It was teeming with Australians and Jafas. I found myself next to some kid on his school holidays. We got talking. He said he was from Parnell. "Race ya, Commie," he said.

"I must say I don't fancy your chances," I said. "I exude a confidence which some find off-putting, but the fact is that it's built on a foundation of proven excellence. What I'm trying to tell you is that I'm going to win this race, you rich little shit." We set off. I started well but then reality set in. He was a difficult opponent. Hopeless on the left corners, but strong on the right, and very fast going straight down the middle. I couldn't catch up, and fell further and further behind.


Back to Coronet Peak. I had unfinished business. I wrapped my red scarf around my neck and waited until the kid showed up again. "You and me," I said, pointing two fingers at my eyes and then in his direction. He said, "You sure about this?" I said, "I lead from the front, and I'm absolutely confident I have the policies and the plan to win."


There's a lot of work to be done.


One final race at Coronet Peak. A crowd had gathered. Word had got around. I spent the morning trying out a few practice runs with the support of the Labour caucus. David Parker had some good ideas but then Trevor Mallard started talking. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and we flew in my chief of staff Matt McCarten. He brought with him the left-wing blogger, Martyn Bradbury. I didn't realise things were that desperate.

But then Russell Norman arrived, and Winston Peters showed up. They brought initiative and experience. Someone in the crowd took a poll to see who they thought would win. I announced, "I have the support of my whole team, we're a united team, and we're going forward to win this race." The results of the poll suggested my team's chances would gain an immediate lift if someone else in the team was racing.

"Well," I said, "but what about the other team?" The kid had brought along Colin Craig. A murmur ran through the crowd. David Seymour arrived, and started talking. The temperature dropped.

I looked at the kid. A shadow fell over his face.

Dotcom had arrived.

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