A Higher Standard

The political story currently making the rounds is the Ruminator blog post by David Cunliffe, in which he calls Judith Collins a trout in a string of fish related puns. This wouldn’t be the first time the two have crossed swords over a similar issue, as in 2011 Cunliffe controversially said that if Judith Collins was the last woman on earth then the human race would go extinct. Collins has replied, calling Cunliffe a “recidivist sexist”, and noted that were a National MP to make similar comments about a female Labour MP, then Labour would be absolutely incensed.

To be honest, she’s right on that second one.

The Labour Party is the party of equality and progression. We have passed constitutional reforms that directly benefit women and women’s representation, and suffered for it. This is a value of the party that the MPs and members passionately believe him.  Not only does David Cunliffe represent this party, but he leads it. Because of this, comments like the ones he made to Judith Collins are not acceptable.

I don’t believe that Cunliffe is a sexist. I think he saw a chance to make some funny jokes and get a crack in at a senior National minister. However, he’s been a politician, and a good one too, for a long time, and so he should know what comments are publishable, and which ones he should let slide.

In addition to this, it is so beneath Cunliffe, and so beneath Labour. He’s been forcing the government into little corners on so many issues, most recently Pike River compensation, asset sales and dodgy Chorus things. As I said before, he’s a good politician and can land hits whenever he wants to, so I don’t understand why we need to resort to unconstructive, and counter-productive personal commentary.

Protests from the left that Judith Collins herself is prone to sexism every now and again don’t cut it. We are the Labour Party and we need to collectively hold ourselves to a higher standard. If National want to pursue that line of strategy then that’s their prerogative. We need to show the country why we are better than the government, politically, economically, strategically and morally.

This sort of flippant, smug attitude is exactly why Cunliffe was so disliked by New Zealand and his party. Since he has become leader it seems to have vanished completely. Here’s hoping that this was a one off, and the lesson has been learned.


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