Under ordinary circumstances the revelation that David Cunliffe wrote a letter of advocacy for Donghua Liu wouldn’t amount to much. Cunliffe didn’t do anything wrong and he wrote the letter eleven years ago.
These aren’t ordinary circumstances though. The unfolding story of Liu’s donation has almost certainly been managed by the PM’s office and they’ve earned their paychecks this week and set David Cunliffe up something awful. He was given the opportunity to deny ever having contact with Liu and stupidly took it, at which point a document proving that he did was immediately released.
We’re going to hear a lot about how this proves Cunliffe is ‘tricky’ because that’s National’s talking point. I think it’s a bit worse than that: it proves Cunliffe is a gullible sucker. He blundered his way into a classic media trap in which he denies a small story and the denial is then proved false which becomes a major story because it directly attacks the politician’s credibility. Aspiring Prime Ministers are supposed to be a bit more savvy.
Back when Shane Jones resigned as an MP I wrote that St Jonesy was likely to leak as much damaging information about Labour as he could to his new employers, the New Zealand National Party. My guess is that this is partly his handiwork. Previous highly damaging leaks from within Labour were attributed to a ‘Labour caucus source’, but the Herald’s first story about Liu and Labour was attributed to a ‘Labour Party source’ suggesting a change in status. All the PM’s office needed to know was that Liu had dealings with Labour, then they could go digging and they hit gold.
Will Cunliffe resign or get rolled by his caucus? I’m guessing no. Do I want him to? Honestly I don’t really care. Labour has seemed like a broken, dying party for almost as long as I’ve been interested in politics, so the fluctuating identity of the leader just doesn’t seem that important.