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Row over Cunliffe's absence on TV show

Monday 14 May 2012 6:41 p.m.

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By Duncan Garner

A row over the non-appearance of Labour MP David Cunliffe on a TV3 political programme this past weekend has escalated, with claims Mr Cunliffe has been gagged by his own party.

And party leader David Shearer and Mr Cunliffe have not yet cleared things up.

TV3's The Nation programme tried to get Mr Cunliffe, Labour's economic development spokesman, on to be interviewed this past weekend about the economy.

But his own party blocked him from appearing.

We asked his leader why that happened.

“What we were looking at was a broad discussion on economic policy so we put forward David Parker who is our finance spokesman,” says Mr Shearer.

It all started last Tuesday with The Nation approaching Mr Cunliffe to come on the programme.

On Wednesday Mr Cunliffe says he is interested but says it must stay on economic issues.

The Nation agrees in writing to that deal.

But Mr Cunliffe says he has to run it by the "Labour's media and top team".

He did and by Thursday last week - they stopped him appearing, saying David Parker was the man to speak to about Budget and economic issues.

But Mr Cunliffe says it was a team decision and Mr Shearer says it was Cunliffe's.

“I consulted - we reached a team decision we offered our finance spokesman to talk about Budget issues - it appeared to be a broader interview than economic development," says Mr Cunliffe.

“I didn't stop David Cunliffe appearing, it was his own decision," says Mr Shearer.

The fuss around Mr Cunliffe started two weeks ago when he made a speech about the economy. It clashed with Mr Shearer's own series of speeches.

Mr Cunliffe was hauled into line by Mr Shearer in front of the caucus and it has been tense ever since.

“It was a speech to his electorate .. and we've discussed it and there's nothing further to say,” says Mr Shearer.

Other Labour MPs have also told us that Cunliffe has been "hammered" for making the speech two weeks ago.

But he has pockets of support.

And this shows Mr Cunliffe has not given up his leadership aspirations.

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