A lot has been written about Cunliffe’s campaign trust, and how it’s almost a deal-breaker for him. It’s definitely a bad look, but I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone seems to think, especially for those working people who aren’t really into politics (ie a good chunk of those voters that Labour’s ‘missing million’). Here’s why:
Any political damage stemming from the issue is premised on a basic knowledge of trusts. As someone who worked manual jobs for the best part of a decade, it has been my experience that a lot of working people don’t really know that much about trusts. Unless you’ve somehow learnt about them, they are not immediately comprehensible. A lot of working people simply don’t have enough money for a trust. They’re something that rich people put their money in, and David Cunliffe is a rich person. It’s hard to get upset about something when you’re not clear on what it is, or why it’s a big deal.
I’m definitely not saying that all workers lacks knowledge of trusts, but from my experience a lot of people who struggle to make ends meet don’t have the money or the inclination to learn about them. They might read about them in the paper, but smoko is short, and you can only read so many articles in the paper. The issue may annoy the Labour base, but they’re almost impossible to please and aren’t going to vote for the Nats, are they?
However, regardless of one’s knowledge of trusts, this whole story plays into National’s narrative of ‘tricky’ Cunliffe. You don’t need to understand trusts to understand that he’s done something, and been caught out. That damage is important, especially when Labour is effectively forced into running a presidential style campaign against optimism and the smiling John Key. In my view, ‘Labour still haven’t got their shit together’ affects the missing million more than ‘Cunliffe’s campaign trust fund scandal’.
This is why I think the ICT leak is as/more damaging amongst a good chunk of the missing million. It’s immediately comprehensible. And severely undermines the idea that Labour are a possible government.
UPDATE: Another trust discovered. Point still holds, trusts are complex and not universally understood. People generally find it harder to care about things they don’t really understand