David Cunliffe says his Queenstown ski holiday has left
him "recharged" and ready to take the battle to Prime Minister
John Key in the two-month countdown to election day.
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
Mr Cunliffe spent three days last week on holiday in
Queenstown then two days campaigning in other parts of the
One of his MPs broke ranks to condemn the holiday anonymously
in the Sunday Star Times.
The holiday issue was also raised when the Labour front bench
met in Auckland yesterday - a long-planned meeting, Mr
Cunliffe said - "but it wasn't a key feature of discussion".
However, he was clearly upset by the remarks. "I think it is
very sad whoever has talked to a newspaper without the
integrity to put their name to it, and if anybody has any
concerns, my clear expectation is they will come to me
privately rather than talk to the media," Mr Cunliffe said.
"We are a collective and we owe it to the party and to New
Zealanders to operate collectively, to bring Kiwis the
opportunity that they deserve for a better start, more
opportunities for them and their families."
Mr Cunliffe said the claim he had a week off was wrong
"The facts are I had two days in bed with flu. I had three
days at a skifield with my children and wife.
"I was encouraged to do so to recharge the batteries before
the campaign and crucial debates and acknowledging that my
family won't be seeing much of me for the next nine weeks.
"That was a decision that was made in good faith at the time.
It has left me with batteries recharged and ready to run. I
am very, very keen to run."
Mr Cunliffe said no colleague had suggested to him he should
step down and he had no plans to do so.
Mr Key emerged in public yesterday, defending his own 10-day
break in his Hawaii holiday home and pointing to Labour's
He said he worked 19-hour days and election campaigns
required a different type of intensity.
He said the outburst by the Labour MP in the Sunday paper
delivered a pretty simple message.
"If you can't manage yourself, you can't manage the country."
Commenting on the polls, which consistently show Labour
falling to around the mid-20s, Mr Key said Labour was not the
risk to National; the combination of Labour, Greens, Internet
Mana and potentially New Zealand First was.
He believed it would still be a close election.
The weekend's Herald-DigiPoll results showed Labour falling
by four points to 26.5 per cent, the lowest the party has
polled in any DigiPoll survey since 1999.
The weekend poll has National on 54.9 per cent (up 4.5 points
since June) and the Greens on 9.9 (down 0.8).
The poll of 750 decided voters was taken between July 10 and
17. Undecided voters were 11.5 per cent. The poll has a
margin of error of 3.6 per cent.