Acting Labour Leader David Parker has reversed his decision from two weeks back and thrown his candidacy into the leadership race as the ‘reluctant revolutionary’. I myself was sceptical of his chances until I heard his brief press conference from earlier today (Sunday). In it he outlined his economic credibility in making sure Labour’s numbers were balanced heading into the election, while indicating that many of the proposals were not what the voters wanted and would change.
He is taking credit for the policy platform yet criticising it at the same time. He does this without a trace of irony or hypocrisy. I think we have at last found an actual politician. This is exactly the kind of double step that Shearer and Cunliffe lack, but John Key has so much of. I can’t say that I’m convinced by Parker’s long term promise, he is certainly showing a level of political acuity we haven’t seen in the Labour Party since Clark and Cullen bowed out in 2009.
Going ahead through the next few weeks I hope that Parker refrains from overplaying the reluctant card, it works in his announcement because it makes him look humble (another breath of the freshest oxygen after Cunliffe!). Push it too far and he appears weak, not knowing his own mind, lacking fire in his gut. But the ‘safe pair of hands’ gambit is something none of the other candidates can claim and will surely add to his electability among the wider membership.
Parliament opens on October 21. Parker will be the Acting Leader of the Opposition. He has a golden opportunity to tie up the leadership race if he makes an impact. None of the other candidates have the same ability to audition for leader as leader. If he does manage to make a good impression (exactly what that would be I don’t know, he doesn’t need to embarrass the govt, avoiding being an embarrassment is more important) then he becomes the instant frontrunner in the race. It would be in everyone’s interest for David Cunliffe to drop out after that, especially his own. If he remains committed to the race until the bitter end I will expect some manoeuvring to remove him from New Lynn at the next election.
Very soon a big batch of humble pie will be served again to Labour. This time it should be consumed.