Labour leader David Cunliffe has taken a dig at the Prime
Minister John Key over the level of his involvement in the
Royal tour and said any visit to the White House in an
election year would be "pre-election PR from the Prime
Mr Cunliffe said Labour welcomed the royals and did not want
to play politics with the visit.
However, he said such visits should be as "even handed as
possible between the Government and Opposition, and also that
it is well enough spaced from the election."
He said he would leave it to the public to decide whether it
was even-handed, but when prompted further said it was not.
"I guess [John Key] likes the camera time. I think the public
will watch closely to see how the Prime Minister treats his
presence on the tour in an election year so close to the
election. Our position is to welcome the tour and I look
forward to meeting the Duke and Duchess."
Last month Mr Key also said he was hoping for an invite to
the White House this year because it was usual for a Prime
Minister to visit once in each electoral cycle.
Mr Cunliffe said that would effectively be a publicity stunt.
"I think he is stage managing the calendar of the year as it
Mr Cunliffe will travel to Blenheim on Thursday for a World
War 1 commemorative event as part of the royal visit and has
a formal meeting with Prince William on Thursday night before
attending the state reception with other MPs. Mr Key has a
pared down programme compared to previous visits by Prince
However, as well as the same events as Mr Cunliffe, he was at
their arrival yesterday, will have a private dinner with them
next Monday night and attend the opening of the new National
Cycling Centre of Excellence in Cambridge on Saturday, as
well as waving them off at the airport next Wednesday.
Mr Key said yesterday that he would have a limited role in
the royal tour and "will not be barnacle." He also said he
did not expect it to benefit the National Party's election
Mr Cunliffe said he would largely leave it to the Prince to
decide what he wanted to discuss at their formal meeting on
"I'd be happy to brief him on our general approach to the
election and the issues we think are important, about
building a fairer, more decent New Zealand, and including
everybody in the opportunities. I'm sure he would agree with
He also expected to discuss the economic issues facing New
Zealand, such as the balance of payments and current account.
Asked if that would be of any interest to the Prince, he said
Prince William was "a very well read and substantive person,
and a very charming person."
Mr Cunliffe has previously voiced concern about hosting the
royals in an election year, saying it allowed for photo
opportunities for the Prime Minister.
NZ First leader Winston Peters also voiced concern about the
timing of the royal visit, saying he believed the "misuse of
the royal family" was "disdainful".
"It's seriously unfortunate that such an important thing
should happen in an election year. We don't want to make a
controversy of it, but [Mr Key] could very quickly slide into
an abuse of the institution and I hope that doesn't happen."
He said most New Zealanders were pleased to see the royals,
but it would have been better if they had visited last year
or next year.
"They head the Commonwealth, they still head this country for
the meantime and mixing politics with that institution is
thoroughly bad. I find the misuse of this family slightly
Mr Key said he did not believe there was electoral advantage
to be gained from the visit. "I don't think it's particularly
a time for politics. I don't anyone is going to vote
National, Labour or or any other political party because
we're seen snapped next to the royals while they're in New
He said there were very few things he was doing that Mr
Cunliffe was not also attending.
"We spent a long time when Helen Clark was Prime Minister and
we didn't get the same access that the Prime Minister of the
day gets. That's the point."
He said the same point applied to a possible White House
"If it's just a matter of me wanting to have a photograph of
me wanting to have a photograph with Barack Obama well I can
show him the shots I've got off the golf course. It's not
like people don't know that I know the President of the
"But again, I just don't think anyone is going to vote for
National because they see a photo of me next to some other
famous world leader. They vote on the economy, law and order,
health and education. As soon as David Cunliffe starts
talking about that and not rubbish he might do a bit better."