Sunday, November 11, 2012

Small on Shearer

Vernon Small has been around the political traps for a long time. If we remember correctly, he was once a press secretary for a Labour minister; possibly Mike Moore. So it's fair to say that Small has a pretty good grasp of the political landscape.

And he has a wide net of connections, all of whom are telling him the same thing as he explains in his Dom-Post piece yesterday:

Just short of his first anniversary as leader, David Shearer delivers his first speech to a Labour Party conference next week.
But as storm clouds gather over his leadership, it is shaping as possibly his last.
Members, activists and unionists contacted for this article said over and over that the speech at the Ellerslie racecourse conference centre next Sunday was crucial to Shearer's grip on the leadership.
His first priority is to convince the party rank and file that "he has what it takes" - and those grassroots members will be looking for a hard-hitting address taking the fight to the Government while outlining a clear and personal view of where he intends to take Labour.
Unless he can carry that off, the groundswell in the party is set to break into the open with a push for a leadership challenge, most likely when the caucus meets in February - or even sooner, according to one business lobbyist in close contact with the party.
While no heir apparent has emerged - the same issue that kept his predecessor Phil Goff safe through Labour's dark days from 2008 to 2011 - the party would look again at David Cunliffe, deputy Grant Robertson and potentially others if Shearer continued to disappoint.
For his part, Shearer is upbeat, rejecting talk of a challenge and describing his upcoming speech as "a huge opportunity".
It would be the first time he has been able to have the party membership in one place, and put forward his view of where the party and the country needed to go.
"Up to now when I have made speeches it's been sometimes reported on, sometimes not. This is a real opportunity to have it watched, people pick up on it and people will be able to report on it and communicate that to New Zealanders at large." 

David Shearer's biggest problem is that although he was the Labour caucus' choice as leader, he pretty much got the role by default. The party rank and file made it clear that the other David was its choice, but caucus had no appetite for David Cunliffe.

We have no doubt that David Shearer is a good bloke, and that he is in politics for the right reasons; because he cares, and because he wants to make a difference. But is he a natural leader? We think not.

And therein lies the problem. Labour desperately needs a clean-out. In Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard they have politicians who first entered Parliament 31, 28 and 28 years ago respectively. They are yesterday's people, but more to the point, they and others are preventing the likes of Kelvin Davis, Stuart Nash and others from coming through and rejuvenating Labour. There appears to be no succession planning.

David Shearer has had abundant opportunities to land a decent blow on John Key in the House but to date he has failed. But worse than that; a number of his attempts to embarrass the Prime Minister have been clumsy and cack-handed, such as he allegations about the GCSB lunch room tape which simply did not exist. It's not Shearer's fault alone of course; we reckon he's received some dreadful advice from those responsible for Labour's strategic direction. And all the while, he's being out-shadowed by the likes of Russel Norman and Winston Peters.

David Shearer will be keen for his speech to the party's conference next week to be the first of many. Unfortunately for him though, with so many of those he will address campaigning against him, he faces a near insurmountable obstacle. And all the while David Cunliffe sits on the sideline, quietly smiling...


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