Frequent flyers are familiar with the safety talk cabin crew on airlines deliver.
They all say if an oxygen mask appears you should put your own on first then help others.
That’s a good metaphor for life.
If you don’t look after yourself you can’t look after other people and you might end up needing help from them.
Regular holidays are a sensible part of self-care which is why I won’t criticise politicians who took the opportunity parliamentary recess offered to have a break.
The first most people knew about holidaying leaders was a story in the Herald which devoted nine paragraphs to John Key spending 10 days in Hawaii and one sentence saying David Cunliffe would be taking a break.
That got the expected criticism of the PM from the usual suspects but there wasn’t much reaction at all to Cunliffe’s holiday until Sunday when someone in his party went seriously off message:
. . . However, Labour MPS are disgusted by Cunliffe’s skiing holiday just two months before the election and will question his work ethic at a caucus meeting on Tuesday, a senior party insider said.
Labour is trailing National by 30 percentage points, polling just 24.9 per cent in the latest Stuff-Ipsos poll.
“A lot of MPs are really f….. off about it,” the insider said.
“They are all working hard up and down the country, and f…… Cunliffe is on holiday. Guys like [Phil] Goff and [Annette] King and [David] Shearer, these guys really want it badly and they are working like their lives depend on it. And I think they are a little incredulous about what the guy is doing.”
Cunliffe’s camp saw very little value in the hypothetical poll on replacing the Labour leader.
“We take issue with the validity of the finding that a whole lot more people (including all of the National voters polled) would vote for Labour if someone else (unnamed) was leader. This is meaningless,” said Simon Cunliffe.
The insider said while the prime minister was also holidaying – John Key is in Hawaii – there was a “world of difference” between an incumbent prime minister enjoying 52 per cent support in the polls and an opposition leader trailing nearly 30 points behind.
“It sounds a little treasonous, but the guy doesn’t want it badly enough. If he did, he would be working. I think it is disgraceful behaviour, and not the sort of behaviour becoming of a guy who wants to be prime minister.
“We will be having a talk to David at caucus about his work ethic on Tuesday. We’ll be letting him know he’s got two months to turn this around, and we’re backing him and right behind him but he’s got to lift his game.”
The insider believed up to 20 of the 33 Labour MPs were deeply unhappy with Cunliffe’s leadership, but had accepted that an attempt to dump him this late in the term would backfire.
Instead, he said some, especially those whose places in Parliament were now at risk because they would not be returned on the Labour list on present numbers, would run increasingly individual campaigns focused solely on regaining their seats.
Clayton Cosgrove, eighth on the list, and Kelvin Davis, 18th, were deviating from party line, as seen by Davis’ public backing – against party policy – of the Puhoi-Wellsford SH1 “holiday highway” upgrade.
“Clayton knows …. he’s not back on the list, so if he doesn’t win his seat, it’s the end of his career. And he also knows his career is very closely tied to the political capital of David Cunliffe.”
The insider believed Cunliffe’s decision to go on holiday showed he didn’t have the qualities to become prime minister.
“David says family is really important to him, and I get that, but the thing is if you don’t like the rules, don’t play the game. Politics involves sacrifice, and it is hard on families. David knew this… he’s been a cabinet minister and an MP for 15 years.
“Six months out from the election he should have said to his wife and family, ‘sorry darling, you’ll see me Sunday evenings, the rest of the time I am up and down the country. That’s what his MPs are doing and Phil Goff’s wife hardly ever saw him for the three years he was leader, he worked like a demon, and so did Helen [Clark].
“He’s just not got the work ethic and the question is, does he want it that badly, it almost seems as if he wants the glory, but he hasn’t got the guts.”
There’s nothing wrong with taking a holiday but there’s something lacking in Cunliffe’s leadership and political management if it wasn’t discussed with caucus colleagues beforehand and done with their blessing.
Another incident which highlights poor management was his meeting a sex offender.
. . . But the Labour leader threatens to be distracted by internal ill-discipline and criticisms over his judgment, including the holiday itself and a meeting last week with a prominent New Zealander given name suppression on charges of performing an indecent act.
Mr Cunliffe confirmed to the Herald last night that he had arranged for the person – whose case has been the topic of media coverage – to meet a Labour candidate but said he had no idea about the controversial background until yesterday.
“If I had known of the suggestion, no such meeting would have taken place.” . . .
It is possible Cunliffe didn’t read the column and no-one is doubting his word that he didn’t know.
It’s not his honesty which is being question it’s political management – again.
If Labour was well managed someone in the party would have made it their business to find out who the offender was and let the leader know for several reasons, not least of which would have been to save him from what happened.
Cunliffe is being let down by insiders who are putting their personal ambitions ahead of the party’s and it is very difficult to counter that.
But he’s also being let down by poor management and at least some of that is his responsibility as leader.
Management matters in politics and parties which can’t manage themselves can’t be trusted to manage the country.