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Opinion: Little doing a poor job of telling Labour's story

There's something rotten in the state of Labour.

Andrea Vance ONE Voice Source: 1 NEWS

Why – when they started the week with a bump in the polls – is the party yet again facing whispers and recriminations about disunity?

It’s because Andrew Little waxes desperate with imagination.

When his firepower should have been concentrated on (housing minister) Nick Smith or bumbling (trade minister) Todd McClay, he was busy igniting internal divisions.

In an astonishing and undignified episode, he tongue-lashed Wellington mayoral candidate Nick Leggett and left-wing commentator Phil Quin, and humiliated his Napier MP Stuart Nash.

Little forced Nash to pull out of a speaking engagement and branded former Labour party member Leggett “right wing”.

Nash and Quin have never met. Leggett and Quin, who now lives in Vietnam, have been friends since the former was a 16-year-old Labour volunteer.

Little over-reacted and in doing so has ripped opened the debate about where he is taking the party.

Labour’s broad church is closing in on itself and a centrist or faction to the right no longer looks viable, with the exit of Phil Goff, Clayton Cosgrove and potentially David Shearer.

What’s worse is that Little and his office look intent on forcefully shutting down any internal debate or discussion.

Some months ago Nash was writing a book on politics, but insiders say he’s been told not to publish it.  Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis has also had his leash shortened.

And Quin has been the subject of a vicious whispering campaign since he quit the party over its "Chinese sounding names" debacle.

In assuming the leadership, Little stopped the party tearing itself apart.

But now it’s time to relax the discipline, because it’s poisoning the well of fresh ideas that Labour badly need.

It also makes Little and his office look thin-skinned, weak and paranoid. (His team has also been overly aggressive in spats with John Shewan and Earl Hagaman, which hints at a toxic culture.)

Little is no Jeremy Corbyn: his leadership is safe until the election.

But he’s doing a poor job of telling Labour’s story, particularly to those floating centre voters.

And some on the centre-right are daydreaming about what a new party would look like: a front bench with (electable) talent like Shane Jones, Josie Pagani, Leggett, Nash and Davis.

That it should come to this.