Labour did it’s best to make the 2008 election about trust.
They thought they could convince voters they wouldn’t be able to trust John Key.
Their plan didn’t work.
Whatever the party tries to campaign on this year it can’t be about trust because one of David Cunliffe’s big weaknesses is a reputation for talking out both sides of his mouth.
Fran O’Sullivan points to the problems this causes:
. . . Cunliffe also uses an essential duality – which has been accurately pin-pointed as “talking out of both sides of his mouth” – to try to assuage middle-class and politically adept New Zealanders that he doesn’t really mean all the tosh he threw as bait to Labour’s bedrock base to garner voting support during his leadership campaign.
What fascinates and frustrates is that it is difficult to work out which side of Cunliffe’s mouth will triumph if he ends up this time next year as Prime Minister.
Will it be the crusading politician who wants to bring down bloated plutocrats, raise the underclass up and cut the ground out from under particular corporates through legislative intervention?
Or will it be the more considered politician – an experienced former cabinet minister who is prepared to take advice and feedback from affected players instead of ramming decisions down their throats with a damn the consequences mentality? . . .
If Cunliffe can’t give the same, straight message to different audiences, he’s going to have a very big job convincing voters he can be trusted.
The tosh he gave supporters while campaigning to be leader might work for the die-hard party faithful but it’s no substitute for trust.
And that tosh will be a much harder sell for the wider public when so many indicators are showing the policies Cunliffe and his party have fought tooth and nail against are turning the economy around.
If swinging or undecided voters ask themselves who they trust it’s unlikely to be Cunliffe.
If they ask which party is most likely to deliver better economic conditions, the answer isn’t going to be Labour, especially when it would be in coalition with the Green party whose economic credentials are even more questionable.