Just be yourself, Mr Cunliffe

David Cunliffe
David Cunliffe

FAIRFAX/IPSOS poll results this week have provided more grist for the mills of political pundits while quieting at least some Labour supporters. For starters, Prime Minister John Key is streets ahead of Labour's David Cunliffe as preferred prime minister.

Political analyst and Labour Party adviser Rob Salmond set out several reasons why this wasn't necessarily the thrashing it seems. For example, Green voters prefer one of their party co-leaders, Metiria Turei or Russel Norman, despite neither of them looking likely ever to be the PM. Dr Salmond expects almost all Greens would prefer Mr Cunliffe over Mr Key.

But responses to other poll questions should trouble Labour too. They show 59.3 per cent of people like Mr Key and 58.7 per cent trust him. Cunliffe trails far behind on those scores and he has slipped a few lead weights under his saddle bags to further slow him down.

First, he became involved in the matter of Maori broadcaster Shane Taurima's resignation from TVNZ.

Mr Taurima was the author of his undoing by holding a Labour Party meeting on TVNZ premises. But he had also facilitated a party meeting last month on a marae to discuss winning the Maori vote. Mr Cunliffe attended, although he claims to strongly support the state broadcaster being politically neutral. When he holds that position in principle, but participates in a party strategy meeting run by a state broadcaster, it is apparent his political antennae are seriously impaired.

This would explain, too, why he presumed he might score points by mentioning Mr Key lives in a $9 million mansion. This triggered what TV3 characterised as "a battle of the million-dollar houses". His own home is worth $2.5m, although he tried to downplay this awkward fact by saying it wasn't a great house, it was just "a do up".

Mr Key accused him of trying to hide it. "I live in Parnell and I am proud of it," Mr Key told Parliament. Mr Cunliffe lived in Herne Bay but "he just does not want his supporters to know".

Mr Key is liked for reasons unrelated to his wealth. He is comfortable with himself and does not pretend to be somebody else.

Mr Cunliffe should do likewise. Trying to project himself as somebody he is not is folly.

To be fair to him, he was careful when in Taranaki this week not to make promises which could not be kept.

Mr Cunliffe, quizzed on the roading infrastructure which makes a journey impossible several times a year as a consequence of slips or road crashes, acknowledged fixing the problem was not as simple as bringing some of the royalties earned from the region's oil and gas industry back to Taranaki.

As he noted, an underlying problem for the region is that despite its importance to the rest of the country, none of its roads is officially designated as being of "national significance".

That is an issue, perhaps, both sides of the House should be encouraged to reconsider this year.

Parts of this editorial also appear in the Waikato Times.

Taranaki Daily News