I agree with Brian Edwards that Shearer is straining to present himself as a tough leader…but I don’t think Brian’s analysis went deep enough.
I’d say there have been 3 key moments that have led to Labour being stuck with a leader who has failed time and time again.
The first moment was when he was chosen as the Labour leader, the second was his ‘tour’ of NZ where he strummed his way around the country with his guitar, the third moment was the Labour conference.
All 3 of these moments have led us to Shearers current problem, all were major mistakes, all are irreversible and the reason why Shearer will struggle in 2014.
1 – Shearer chosen as leader:
I think its fair to view Shearer as a victim, as much as he is a perpetrator, of a monumental political fuck up.
Shearer’s problems first began when people started to back him as a leader to keep out Cunliffe. Shearer is a puppet and I’m not sure if he even wanted to be leader…I’m sure he didn’t want to be leader so soon. Shearer was chosen to protect the career of *insert neolib rogernomic dinosaur here*.
However, beyond protecting paychecks, there was an underlying assumption held by those in the Labour Party – ‘Doesn’t matter who is leader, NZ will wake up and they will hate Key by 2014′ …it was this assumption that made Shearer an option as leader. It is becoming clearer by the day that this assumption was, and is wrong.
Although I see Shearer as a victim, I also balance that by what Rhinoviper stated above Shearer’s not just getting bad advice, he’s choosing to take it. So, although Shearer is a victim, he is also leader and possesses the opportunity and power to override his puppet masters.
2 – Shearer’s guitar strumming tour:
This is the moment we should look at as being when Shearer lost any chance of becoming PM. You only get one opportunity to make a first impression and Shearer fucked up.
Team Shearer had two options when he became leader…either present Shearer as a nice guy, or as a leader. They chose the nice guy. The reason for this was, again, was that they considered Key’s popularity as temporary, that NZ would see through him very soon, and that the NZ public would want another nice guy to take over.
The reason they misread the needs of voters was because Team Shearer ignored our past:
- post-depression, NZ needed a tough Labour leader with a coherent persuasive narrative – Savage 1935;
- post-1980s/1990s, NZ needed a tough Labour leader with a coherent persuasive narrative – Clark 1999;
- post-GFC, NZ needed a tough Labour leader with a coherent persuasive narrative – we got Shearer strumming his guitar and faffing about as a nice guy. That was a major blunder.
We wanted a leader who would show signs of a political vision, but instead Team Shearer thought they could replicate Key’s depoliticisation and the tide would turn. Shearer ‘did well’ to depoliticise himself as a leader, but it is this image that he is now desperately trying to reverse. The continued rise of the Greens is evidence of Shearer’s image failure.
Who would have guessed that NZ wanted a tough coherent leader during an economic crash?…anyone with a brain, that’s who.
3 – The conference and Shearer’s image makeover:
This is where I have a problem with Brian Edward’s analysis.
I don’t see the problem as being that Shearer is not a tough guy, but rather that Shearer is attempting the almost impossible task of reversing his first impression. Shearer should have presented himself as a tough Labour leader with a coherent persuasive narrative when he first became leader, not now.
To do so now, Shearer had to sacrifice Cunliffe. On the one hand, hacking Cunliffe has presented Shearer as tough to NZ voters, but it has failed to address his poorly planned first impression.
The outcome is that it has muddled his first impression and leaves Shearer looking incoherent and way out of his depth. Is Shearer the nice guy? Or is Shearer the tough leader NZ needs? …your guess is as good as mine.
Edwards claims Shearer’s nature is not suited to being a tough leader, but I am not convinced by this. A Prime Minister’s nature is irrelevant, what is important is how the public views them. After all, Key’s nature is to deceive and he has very selfish tendencies…but his image is one of a nice guy.
Shearer’s problems began with the career MPs thinking that it would be their turn in 2014. His guitar strumming, nice guy image left him in a lose-lose situation. At least he has realised his initial image was a mistake and he is trying to reverse it, unfortunately he does not possess the skills to reverse his image.
He will do well to rebrand himself to the NZ public without being viewed as a bumbling opportunist – Key avoids that by having a coherent image since he began.
[PG: Interesting points, but I think there is more to it than this.
Shearer had problems conveying the 'nice guy' image, he seemed to be better known for being missing in action. And some of the tough guy image has come across, like when he dumped and humiliated Cunliffe.
But Edwards is still correct. The Shearer act looks like an act, and it looks like a poorly acted act.
Unless Shearer can consistently appear to be him bloody self and let us judge how nice he is and how tough he is then he will always struggle to be seen as authentic - especially now he has established a reputation of being a very poorly painted chameleon.
Fool the public once, maybe he could have got away with it.
Fool the public twuce and he only seems to be fooling his image makers - because he sure as hell doesn't look convinced or convincing.]