Irishbill has joined the Standard chorus calling for David Shearer to relinquish Labour Party leadership. It’s looking grim.
It’s time to go
I think Eddie is right. David Shearer needs to go if Labour is to stand a chance in 2014 and he needs to go as soon as possible.
And I think for me it is that hamfistedness that has finally been the deal breaker for me. I just can’t imagine how David Shearer could survive an election campaign with his meagre polling gains intact when, in a honeymoon media environment, he has fallen to pieces repeatedly. Watching him on the Nation a few weeks ago and seeing how he got flummoxed and angry over a patsy question from Alex Tarrant made me realise just how bad he will be when he comes under the pressure of an election campaign.
And that’s something neither Labour or the left can afford right now. There have been minor poll gains (which now look like they’re reversing) but it’s neck and neck stuff. With Shearer at the helm I’m almost certain we’d see a sudden collapse of the vote as we did when National was led by English in 2002. And I don’t want another term of National.
So I’m going to fall in with Eddie on this one. And with Brian Edwards, and Gordon Campbell, andChris Trotter, and Danyl McLachlan, and Martyn Bradbury, and Scott Yorke, and with the countless other commentators, and commenters, and labour supporters, and supporters of the left that realised this before I did.
David Shearer needs to step down.
Apart from about three plaintive supporters the calls from The Standard community are overwhelmingly against Shearer now. I agree with most of the arguments against Shearer, a nice guy who has failed to show he is up to the Labour leadership role.
Not just on the blogs
The Standard is just a blog. It is the most popular blog on the left, but political blogs cover only a small segment of social media let alone the wider public. Most people have never heard of any of the political blogs.
But the disillusionment with Shearer (or lack of any illusionment in the first place) is wider than the blogs.
Vernon Small yesterday laid it on the line in the Dom Post in Shearer’s last chance to impress.
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.
Small has sought opinions much wider then the blogs…
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.
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.
So it’s looking grim for Shearer, especially if he fails to impress at the Labour conference. But it’s also looking grim for Labour, who have difficult options to deal with.
An awkward conference
Standing down just before the party conference would put it into disarray. If Labour were to use the consultation approach to choosing a new leader again (as they did last year when Shearer replaced Goff) it would take weeks, meaning the conference would be leaderless.
But increasing leadership doubts hanging over the party will make it a very awkward conference as well.
Instead of being a ra-ra opportunity to promote Labour the conference analysis is more likely going to be dominated by “did Shearer do enough to win party confidence”.
When should Labour change leader?
If Shearer was to stand down when would be the ‘best’ time?
The scheduled leadership review in February would mean another wasted three months of Labour limping towards the inevitable.
Standing down immediately after the conference would have rendered the conference meaningless.
A leader consultation period in December amongst the Christmas buildup or in a holiday dominated January would be difficult to do well.
The only relatively easy option would be if there was only one new contender, so it could be done quickly. That would have to happen before the end of November. But that would mean the Labour caucus would have had to have decided prior to that who would step up. That leads to another major problem.
Who should lead Labour?
David Cunliffe is an obvious contender. He is smart and he is ambitious. He has strong support in some parts of the party, particularly on the activist left.
But he has strong opposition within caucus. And I doubt that he has wide public acceptance either. He is often described as arrogant and ‘smarmy’, but I think he has a bigger image problem. He comes across as calculating and shifty, playing to whatever audience he thinks is required to achieve hisn objectives. It’s easy to get an impression that doubts his motives and integrity.
It is unlikely Labour would return to Phil Goff – even if Goff would considr another shot. It would be a backward step, unless Goff could completely reinvent himself.
It is said that deputy leader Grant Robertson has his own leadership ambitions carefully planned and it is too soon for him to step up, even if he could get popular support. Shearer is seen as little more than a Robertson stop-gap, run by Robertson staffers and strategists – and the Labour strategies since Goff took over in 2008 have been repeat failures.
David Parker stood down from the last leadership race, if he stood up again it would be seen as another stop-gap of the same kind as Goff and Shearer.
Andrew Little has been talked about as aimed at leadership but the party would be nuts to appoint someone with even less parliamentary than Shearer.
There are no other obvious contenders. The Labour caucus is not dripping with obvious talent.
What does Labour need the most?
Labour has virtually wasted the last four years, failing to rebuild and revitalise. They need a major shakeup. They need a leader who is different, someone who is prepared to shake the party up, bang heads in caucus, and reinvent a 21st century centre left party.
They need something radical, which means making a bold and radical choice of leader. It doesn’t need to be someone who makes out they are mates with just over half the caucus.
They desperately need a leader who will lead.
The only MP I can think of who might be able to do the business is Shane Jones. It would be a major punt but that’s what Labour needs to do. They need to be noticeably different.
Jones may not have been a great team player. He may have been tapping his feet on the sidelines. He may have been speaking on policy areas he is not supposed to.
But he is the only Labour MP with sufficient parliamentary experience that I can see who could possibly make enough of a difference.
Do I expect Labour to consider Shane Jones?
I think it’s very unlikely. They are far too stuck on repeating the same old mistakes. They don’t look capable of doing anything bold.