We blogged earlier about the three Standard posts over the weekend. Three has become four this morning, with Lprent agreeing with Eddie and Irish Bill. In a post entitled Shuffle the Caucus Deck, Lprent blogs:
With all due respect to the views of my fellow authors Mike Smith and r0b who are inclined to give David Shearer more time to develop, I tend to agree with Eddie and IrishBill. I don’t think that there appears to be enough sign of any attempted improvement. And the time for activists to decide how much commitment they are prepared to push into a victory in 2014 or earlier (a one seat majority in the house isn’t exactly stable) is around about now. Many of the activists will be heading to the conference now with exactly that question on their mind. Which is why the question arises now*
I know that I am. I was somewhat limited in how much effort I could have done last year because of a heart attack earlier in the year so I did a lot less than I have in any election for the last 20 years. I wound up doing very little apart from voter targeting for a number of electorates. But I have plenty of time over what should be a healthy next few years. I’ve even got the bulk of my current projects for work shipping.
Now I’m contemplating how much commitment I want to give to the party compared to the other things I do. The answer is coming up as being “not much”. In fact I’m finding that of all of the activities I might want to do in NZ politics, the most productive is probably spending more time working on this site. Which is why I’ll be attending the conference next week (if at all) as part of the media rather than my usual delegate role.
The reason is that I have lost confidence in the parliamentary caucus being capable of even trying to head towards a electoral victory. As a group they seem to spend more time posturing to each other and to the media in the beltway than doing the job they need to do across NZ.
Next on the list in Herald columnist Tapu Musa who comes straight to the point in her column this morning:
As the Labour Party heads into its annual conference this weekend, it has some big questions to ponder. But first it has to ask itself how long it can afford to persist with David Shearer as leader.
Some people grow into the role of party leader; others seem somehow diminished by it.
Phil Goff was an effective senior minister in the Clark Government - hard-working, smart, respected. But he was never entirely believable as Labour leader. He over-thought it, tried too hard, and seemed to lose sight of himself.
Freed from needing to be liked by everyone, he has since regained his mana.
Bill English was something of a wunderkind before he was thrust too soon into National's hot seat. His apprenticeship was short and brutal. Don Brash, who ousted him, earned respect as the brainy, gentlemanly, former Reserve Bank Governor before his tenure as National's leader. By the end of it, he was widely denigrated as racially divisive and out of touch.
And now there's David Shearer.
Shearer seems a decent man. Unwilling to engage in the unwholesome side of politics, he projected himself as the anti-politician politician - reasonable, pleasant, honourable. His made-for-television back story (brave, selfless aid worker saving the world's starving millions) looked like the perfect foil to John Key's.
But it's a punishing gig being Opposition leader, and Shearer is, sadly, out of his depth.
A year after taking over as leader, he's missing some essentials: experience, sound political instincts, the ability to persuade and inspire. Even more basic than having the gift of the gab is the critical ability to clearly articulate his party's thinking.
On that count, Shearer has been wholly unconvincing - seeming at times not only to lack a real understanding of the issues, but, more worryingly, the conviction of his words.
And then there's Brian Edwards; Labour Party candidate many years ago, Labour Party media trainer with his wife Judy Callingham and Helen Clark's biographer. Edwards blogs:
A quite remarkable thing happened this morning. Herald columnist Tapu Misa gave it as her view that David Shearer should stand down as leader of the Labour Party.
Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.
Her politics are to the liberal left.
For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to the Herald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.
Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.
What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.
It has been my view, expressed in numerous posts on this site, that the Labour caucus made a serious mistake in selecting Shearer as leader in preference to David Cunliffe. They are now paying the price for the infantile thinking of the ‘Anyone but Cunliffe’ brigade.
It has also been my expressed view that Shearer’s image as a nice but bumbling and inarticulate political leader, could not be repaired. That would require a rewiring of his brain, in effect a personality transplant, a feat beyond the most skilled media trainer. Even the redoubtable Ian Fraser could apparently not pull it off.
As it approaches its annual conference, the Labour caucus will be comforting itself with the thought that they don’t need to concern themselves with Shearer’s deficiencies as leader; National will lose the 2014 election to a left-wing coalition. They can sleep-walk their way to victory.
That strikes me as a very dangerous non-strategy. It fails to take into account that Shearer’s leadership is losing the party support now, that it will continue to lose the party support and, most importantly, that Shearer has no chance of besting Key either on the hustings or in the live television debates that play an important role in influencing (in particular) undecided and swinging voters in an election. Key will crucify Shearer in those debates.
Now doubtless, the usual suspects will soon be along to accuse us of David Shearer Derangement Syndrome. How foolish they are. The words we are recounting here are not our words; they are what Labour Party people are saying about the party and its leadership.
Political tides are all but unstoppable. The tide went out on Helen Clark in 2008. At some time in the future, the tide will also go out on John Key, and there will be very little that he can do about it; it's just the nature of the body politic.
In David Shearer's case however, the tide has never even come in, and one has to wonder whether sandbags were employed to ever stop that happening. Brian Edwards hints not too subtly about a deeply divided Labour Party, describing the ABC (Anyone But Cunliffe) revelations as "infantile thinking".
Labour has real problems, many of which can be traced back to the Clark era. Helen Clark prided herself on being a micro-manager and a control freak, and there was clearly no succession planning for the day when the tide would inevitably go out on Clark and on Labour. The Labour caucus v2011 is now having to deal with that, and it's a messy old business.
With all the questions being posed over his leadership from those within or close to the Labour Party, it seems barely comprehensible that David Shearer can continue in Labour's top job. But it needn't have ever been like this; the chickens have well and truly come home to roost.