Dunedene on Shearer

ODT’s Dene Mackenzie interviewed David Shearer when he was in Dunedin in the weekend.

Shearer confident in his role

If Labour leader David Shearer feels insecure about his job after four months of leading the party, he was not showing it during a visit to Dunedin yesterday.

Mr Shearer said he and deputy Grant Robertson brought a new look to the leadership.

No doubt about that.

The Labour MPs were getting to grips with their new portfolios and were bringing enthusiasm to their roles.

Very mixed performances.

Asked about the ongoing criticism in the media about his leadership, Mr Shearer said that most articles were written without talking to him.

The most recent rumour was that his new chief of staff, Alistair Cameron, had been brought into support Mr Robertson in his push to replace Mr Shearer. With Mr Cameron sitting next to Mr Shearer at a Dunedin cafe, the Labour leader said he would have been “pretty dumb” to hire someone who was going to work to have him replaced.

And it would be “pretty dumb” of Cameron to not fully support the leader he is working for.

On Friday, Mr Shearer gave a speech in which he acknowledged that contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (Cullen Fund) were unlikely to be reinstated by a Labour-led Government until the country’s economic woes were well behind it.

That was part of the party being honest to its supporters and voters throughout New Zealand, he said.

His visit to the regional conference was about talking to members about the party review, making sure they felt the party was moving in the right direction and to remind supporters there was a three-year “end-game” in process.

That’s all sensible.

“There is a degree of instant gratification in politics but everything doesn’t turn around 100% overnight. We have to earn the respect of people and that doesn’t happen by itself.”

He has to have the confidence to stick with his three year plan and not get too worried about and reactive to the media and blog pressure for “instant gratification”.

The Labour Party was a party of ideas and often people wanted to talk to him about their idea.

All parties and political people have ideas, so that’s not surprising.

Not all associated with or supporting Labour are interested in other ideas though, I often get abuse and personal attacks when trying to discuss Labour orientated ideas – happening more than usual yesterday.

Because he was not part of the Helen Clark governments, Mr Shearer found he did not have to defend everything that had been done in the past.

The “not Helen” gambit – but it is a definite advantage he has. Last term Labour failed to put forward a fresh post-Helen face and wasted a term of recovery.

He was prepared to push fresh ideas in the knowledge that the party’s policies would not be brought out in force until 2014, in time for the next election.

I hope this is done better and more successfully than last year.

However, the party had done a lot of work laying solid policy platforms before the last election – some of which it had not been sold well to voters.

I  wouldn’t describe them all as “solid policy platforms” and the voters seemed to think similarly. But he’s right about the poor selling job.

He said he led a united caucus and one of the best things about last year’s leadership contest was that it was open and conducted throughout the country.

That’s a claim I wonder about. While Shearer is busy getting aroundn then country meeting as many people as possible (good idea) there seems to be a few MPs doing their own thing, or at least trying to.

Just over a week ago David Cunliffe gave a speech that could be seen as a leadership type dabble. It was said he had another speech coming but he seems tonhave been quiet since then.

Trevor Mallard has been running his gotcha campaign – he was still promoting it in the weekend. This seems at odds with Shearer’s stated mode of politics, and it also seems at odds with Labour recovering credibility with the wider public.

Shearer is doing some good work at this stage of his leadership (although his major speeches have been underwhelming), making himself known and slowly building support and credibility.

That will count for little if the rest of his Labour caucus don’t get behind him and support both him and his leadership style ideals.

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