Rob Hosking on Labour’s extremely shallow talent pool


Usually when politicians quit people lie through their teeth and wax lyrical about their abilities.

That isn’t happening with Silent T…because he really was a C U Next Tuesday.

Rob Hosking puts the boot in at NBR:

Former Labour leader David Cunliffe?s decision to quit politics represents a kind of bowing to the inevitable by the New Lynn MP.

Mr Cunliffe was going precisely nowhere under Andrew Little. Giving Mr Cunliffe the superannuation and retirement portfolio in the last reshuffle was a not-so-subtle hint.

The fact Mr Cunliffe was also given the tertiary education portfolio ? and wearing that hat he has scored some veritable hits on the government ? should have helped his long-term political prospects, but it didn’t.

The 53-year-old MP was a grandiloquent, grandiose disaster as Labour Party leader in the 2014 election?but before that was one of Helen Clark’s more effective ministers during the last Labour government and his role in regulatory reform of telecommunications should not be forgotten. He did a good job there.

As party leader, he had an authenticity problem he never quite got over: Here was a wealthy, Herne Bay-domiciled economically literate and, by all accounts, extremely bright man posing as a tribune of the New Zealand left and spouting the most arrant economic moonshine.

He forgot cheater, wanker and general all around tosspot. There was a reason Silent T stuck as a nickname.

His departure is, in part, a surprise: Although Mr Little had made it clear Mr Cunliffe would not be exactly ranked high in any government he led, the New Lynn MP has been behaving in an energetic fashion?as if he expected to be around in politics for some time yet.

Career calculations have no doubt been the deciding factor here: On current polling, the Labour Party is only going to be able to form a government next year with many of the cabinet seats going to New Zealand First and Green Party MPs and that would leave the likes of Mr Cunliffe even further on the outer.

And in any case, the prospects of such political hybrid being cobbled together appear small. That leaves Mr Cunliffe’s prospects for any senior cabinet position being moved back to 2020 at the earliest, or 2023 by which time he will be 60.

Plenty of other Labour MPs will be weighing up their prospects. I expect David Shearer to jack it in shortly.

But for New Zealand the concern is there won’t be, it seems, many economically knowledgeable Labour MPs after the next election. Clayton Cosgrove, who might not be a powerhouse of economic analysis but who at least has a feel for business issues, is going.

Former finance spokesman and Blis Technology executive David Parker is, at the moment, staying ? but whether he can hang on is going to depend very much on where he gets on the party list rankings.

His chances are not high: There seems to be a move within the Labour Party to drive out anyone who actually knows stuff about business or the economy.

Rumours abound about Parker’s future as well. His decision to stay will not be given lightly.

Few people have regarded senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard as a voice of economic literacy over the years but, in fact, he is reasonably clued up?at least by the Labour Party’s parliamentary standards.? Mr Mallard has a commerce degree and was an associate minister of finance as well as minister in charge of state-owned enterprises for a time.

But Mr Mallard, who?holds the Hutt South electorate, is not contesting that seat next time and plans to go on the party list. Like Mr Parker, that could mean he does not make it back at the next year’s election.? And in any case, Mr Mallard wants to be Speaker ? and judging from his performance as assistant speaker over this Parliamentary term, would probably be a good one.

Which is one reason he is staying out of policy battles, economic or otherwise.

Mallard’s chances of becoming Speaker are all but gone…kind of like his entire career.

All of which means that in any Labour-led government, there are going to be some large gaps in knowledge and expertise around the economy and business.

Unless that is, Labour brings in some new, business savvy and economically literate MPs into winnable positions for the 2017 general election.

Labour’s talent pool is as shallow as a car park puddle in the middle of summer.