21 Jul 2014

Cunliffe defends time off decision

5:47 pm on 21 July 2014

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe is defending his decision to take three days off work to go skiing - nine weeks before the general election and with his party languishing in the polls.

David Cunliffe speaking to the media after his speech.

David Cunliffe speaking to the media earlier this month. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Mr Cunliffe will be telling his caucus colleagues this week that there is no room for anyone who puts themselves ahead of the party after a senior Labour Party source reportedly told a weekend newspaper MPs were incredulous he had taken time off to go skiing.

But Mr Cunliffe said he was sick with the flu for two days last week, and then took three days' holiday.

"I was urged to do so to recharge the batteries before the crucial part of the campaign, the major debates and so on," he said.

"I work pretty long hours - probably about 18 a day - and the advice I was getting was that I was a bit tired and needed a refresh."

Prime Minister John Key was also off last week, taking a break at his place in Hawaii. He said his holiday was booked in January and had nothing to do with National's strong polling.

"We did the same thing in 2011. I take the view that I work pretty hard, take my job seriously," Mr Key said.

"I work 19 hours a day and I work six-and-a-half days a week but when you come into an election campaign, it's a different type of intensity, it's a different type of thing, and it's reasonably important that I'm fresh for that."

Whether Mr Cunliffe took a break was up to him but that Labour was doing itself no favours, he said.

"You've got them talking about moas and all sorts of other sort of pretty strange stuff. They don't really look like an alternative government-in-waiting to me, and I think that's really what the voters actually look at."

Prime Minister John Key.

Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Key said it was not a good look when senior Labour Party people were attacking their own leader.

"You know if you can't manage yourself, you can't manage the country. That's a pretty simple message."

Mr Cunliffe said he, and the rest of the party, would not put up with anyone who put themselves before the party.

"There's been a great deal of disappointment by Labour people about whoever made those comments and who hasn't had the integrity to stand up and put their name to them."

He would be telling his caucus everyone needed to be focussed and disciplined about staying on message, he said.