The man they elected to lead them, David Cunliffe, offered the most to members and affiliates fed up with a factional and underperforming caucus. In his many speeches over the last two years, both before and during the leadership contest, Cunliffe appeared to display an understanding of the problems facing New Zealand. He convinced most within the party that he was the best person to deliver the next Labour government.
And so when David Cunliffe was announced yesterday as the new leader of the Labour Party, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation. We finally had a bold and smart leader who could bring about the transformation we so longed for.
On Sunday afternoon we were in raptures, because the party had delivered an emphatic victory to one candidate, and the size of his win meant any caucus disloyalty towards him would be tantamount to political suicide. So we had unity at last.
Ah, but that day seems so long ago now.
Hoping against all hope, we dared to believe that the election of a new leader would change everything. We dared to think that our new leader could take it to the National government. But all our hopes were soon dashed. Deluded with a show of the forbidden tree springing up before us, we greedily reached to take of the fruit, only to chew dust and bitter ashes.
Where is the change you promised, Mr Cunliffe?
I have not seen you win a single debate against John Key in the House since you became leader. Not one. Nor have I seen any upwards movement in the polls since you took charge.
But then that’s not surprising. What exactly have you done? You’ve given a few speeches and media interviews since your victory was announced, but how many communities have you engaged with since then? How many towns have you visited? You haven’t even settled on a deputy leader or front bench!
I know you made it clear that you couldn’t achieve everything overnight, and I never said you should. But it’s now mid-morning, and we still have a National government, and John Key is still prime minister.
To say I am disappointed in you would be an understatement. I’m willing to give you more time, but my patience is wearing thin. If you can’t deliver a Labour government by the end of today then you will have let a lot of people down.
And that’s something none of us who supported you will ever forget.