19 June 2014
Amidst all the drama surrounding David Cunliffe’s recollections or not of his dealing with Donghua Liu, it is worth remembering that one of the most important roles an electorate Member of Parliament has is to advocate on behalf of constituents when they have an issue with the government or one of its agencies. Such advocacy often leads to the mounting of the strongest of cases on behalf of the constituent one feels able to, even if there are times when one’s personal sympathies for the case, or confidence about its outcome are not great. The point is that as that person’s representative one is obliged to ensure their case is at least fairly, properly, and fully considered before a decision is reached upon it.
Matters relating to immigration are amongst the most sensitive of cases MPs deal with for understandable reasons. In my own case, as an electorate MP of nearly 30 years standing, immigration matters have consistently accounted for about two-thirds of the individual cases I have handled. In that time, I have seen many harrowing situations, and written probably thousands of support letters to successive Ministers of Immigration. I have won cases I expected to lose, and lost cases I had expected to win.
However, I have always followed two firm rules for immigration – and actually all constituency – cases, aside from the obvious point of keeping clear and full records. Any letters of advocacy I write on behalf of a constituent have been drafted personally by me, rather than a member of my staff, as I am more likely to remember something I have written myself, rather than just affixed a signature to. Second and more important, I have never accepted a donation or gift in return for pursuing an immigration case. Where there have been occasions – usually after the event – where someone offered to make a donation, I have always referred them directly to the Party Treasurer. So I actually never know whether any of these offers have ever been followed up, which is as it should be.
I say this not to be sanctimonious, but because it strikes me that David Cunliffe has done neither. I do not think he had full oversight of Mr Liu’s approach to him regarding his immigration status, but I do think he – and his colleagues it would appear – had way too much involvement, more than they are letting on now, in respect of Mr Liu’s financial support. It is that ambiguity and shadiness that is doing the damage now.
Add to that Mr Cunliffe’s strident flaying of Maurice Williamson over his dealings with Donghua Liu and the firestorm of hypocrisy now engulfing him is both obvious and utterly predictable.
Coming so close to an election it is a loss either way for the Labour Party. Change the leader now and Labour is surely doomed – there is no Messiah in the wings to surge through and sweep them to victory like Bob Hake’s takeover in Australia a month before the 1983 election. Keeping the leader simply reinforces the perception of slipperiness and lack of trust. Little wonder then that for some 2017 is now not looking too far away after all.