With all due respect to my friends and colleagues who are brave enough to put themselves forward for election, it is inevitable that a candidate will say something regrettable, or downright stupid, during the course of a campaign. A friend of mine with considerable campaign experience in the UK fondly tells us that they had a term that they used to refer to candidates: the legal requirement.
So as painful as it is to see two Labour candidates say downright stupid things in public, it is something that is so predictable that dealing with it should almost just be part of your campaign plan.
The saddest part about the current situation though, is it could easily be turned into a positive for Labour, but Cunliffe doesn’t seem so keen to take the advantage. As reported in Stuff, this is his current reaction…
Labour leader David Cunliffe is refusing to say whether supporters should vote for two of his candidates, after both had unusual outbursts.
Here we can see Cunliffe is trying to tread a very awkward middle ground. He isn’t prepared to cut them loose, but he’s also not outright supporting them.
For a strong leader, the decision should be nearly automatic: condemn them and cut them loose.
It is a simple cost/benefit decision. These are not candidates that Labour desperately needs to win marginal seats, so the potential loss of votes from hammering them is pretty low. On the other hand, by cutting them loose and acting like a decisive leader, Cunliffe could have turned this sorry little saga into a positive for him, and potentially picked up a few party votes elsewhere for acting like a leader.
At this stage in the game, Labour needs to be looking for all the advantages it can get. This story is probably now going to drag on for a couple more days, with Cunliffe looking indecisive. Which is never an attribute people will vote for.