The theme building around David Cunliffe’s departure is that he was a disaster as a leader, unpopular with caucus and colleagues, a fake and a phony – all true – but despite that, say the eulogists, he was still a brilliant man who did wonders for telecommunications*.
His knowledge of history, economics and much else was bunk. (See here, here, here, and here for instances.) And it was always his set-piece speeches that bore the least connection to either reality or humility. (Here, here and here.)
And what he did to telecommunications and property rights was disastrous. (Q: How do you get a nice small business? A: Take a large one, and make Obergruppenfuhrer Cunliffe the minister in charge.). What he did was neither brilliant nor remarkable; it was simply dismemberment of NZ’s largest company. And after distributing its parts and services to vultures like Annette Presley, rather than the dismemberment encouraging the investment in high-speed telecommunications he’d promised, instead we saw a slow-speed govt takeover. Because as I said over and over and over again at the time, "No one but an idiot or a cabinet minister would expect to see businessmen or women making a long-term investment in infrastructure when theft of such an investment is imminent, or the breakup of that investment is on the cards." And so they didn’t.
He did not “do wonders” at all. He created disasters. He was the sort of fellow who when fact checking his sentences you’d begin to doubt even the words “and” and “the” – and who after shaking his hand you’d check to make sure all your fingers were still there.
The fact the only people he ever managed to sell himself to were geeks who hated Telecom and the trade unionists who elected him to leader tells you everything about how gullible they both are. Good and effective? Only at flushing out wankers who rate him.
* Rob Hosking at NBR for example: “One of Helen Clark’s more effective ministers during the last Labour government and his role in regulatory reform of telecommunications should not be forgotten. He did a good job there.” Vernon Small at Stuff: “But he could also be a highly effective minister, and never so much as when he was busting Telecom’s local network monopoly or taking a hard line with DHBs.” And National’s pollster David Farrar, who understands how much Silent T did to make National’s last victory possible: “He was also a very good Comms and ICT Minister in the Clark Government… Always enjoyed working with him when he was a Minister…”
These men and others like them all need to look in the mirror and examine what they find there.