Over the last few weeks, Labour MP's and their friendly bloggers at The Standard have been trying to paint the National Party caucus as hopelessly divided. If you believe what you read and hear from those sources, John Key's time is almost over, and there's a civil war going on between the Judith Collins factor and the Steven Joyce factor.
Now leaving aside the fact thet John Key is still the preferred Prime Minister by so much that it isn't funny, and leaving aside the fact that National's share of the vote in 2011 was the largest achieved by any party under MMP we don't see any civil war going on in the National Party
So why would the Labour Party be beating this up? Well; it seems that not all is well on their side either; Robert Winter blogs:
Stuff tells us that Stuart Nash is about to leave his position as chief aide to Mr Shearer after only a few months in the post. Mr Nash is a very ambitious young(ish) man, and would have seen the position as a boost for his prospects. The argument that he wants to return to Napier to cultivate a seat would have to be seen as a judgement about his personal prospects as much as a difference on political principles. The "wanting to be with his family" argument will also be in part true, yet the decision would stoke the fire of debate around Mr Shearer's leadership.
It is an open secret that the rank-and-file of the party are grumpy about the constitutional issues raised by his accession to power. Mr Cunliffe was clearly the r and f choice (at least, as I read it) and that same r and f is openly contrasting the Greens energy with the pedestrian LP progress since the election. Only yesterday over Countdown's frozen peas section, a stalwart of the LP bearded me to note that, when she attended one of the recent meetings on the constitution, there were in attendance the old stalwarts, some young members, but the "middle" of the membership was missing. Mr Shearer has indeed left it up to his colleagues to carry the fight to National, and some have scrubbed up well. Others are missing in action, presumably developing positions to use against National in the coming months. Yet, for Mr Shearer, with no natural constituency in the wider party and no faction in the caucus, visibility and impact are everything. The loss of Mr Nash would be seen in the LP as a sign that his ship was leaking quite badly, and he would have to respond with a level of action and purpose that has so far been missing. The summer break at the end of the year will be, I think, when the wisdom of his selection will be assessed carefully by caucus, which is aware of r and f concerns and the challenge from the Greens. As I've noted before, this is potentially one of the most important periods in LP history for many years. It faces the loss of its status as one of the two major parties in NZ, a prospect that should, one would think, galvanise both leadership and r and f.
Oh dear. Has Labour been caught in the old classic of having a finger pointing at National, whilst they have three fingers pointing back at themselves? Are the two poll results last week which showed Labour making no headway at all starting to ring alarm bells? Are some members of Labour's smallest-ever MMP caucus starting to have second thoughts about the decision that they made in December?