Labour – more than a lost leader

Last week’s Roy Morgan poll that showed Labour slipping back to 29% precipitated a lot of discussion about Labour’s lack of progress and leader David Shearer’s lack of impact. But Labour’s recovery problems go back nearly four years.

Last term Labour perservered with Phil Goff as leader despite him failing to impress. This resulted in a record low in the election, and a widely criticised party list resulted in a caucus without some of it’s more promising MPs who didn’t make the cut.

After the election Goff fell on his sword. After the resulting leadership contest where apparently David Cunliffe was the popular party choice the caucus ended up choosing David Shearer, who had only been an MP for two years and had been placed at 31 on Labour’s list.

Shearer’s selection was seen as a possibly brave and inspired choice to inject a new type of leadership that would take a fresh approach to politics. And that’s what Shearer promised.

But it’s now apparent that the promise for something different was a typical political promise. It’s impossible to know whether it was bullshit from the start, or if an inexperienced Shearer was taken over by party strategists who had been failing for three years.

The result has been the same old, done worse. Shearer has failed to impress as a leader, and Labour have failed to look like recovering from their 2008 election defeat. Labour after Helen Clark is not yet looking credible as an alternative leader of government, and rebuilding and recovering just doesn’t seem to be happening.

The past week has seen a resurgence in criticial comments – many from the left and from those who would be expected to support Labour.

From The Standard:


Written By: – Date published: 10:00 am, October 27th, 2012 – 170 comments

arrow-red-pddn-lge The latest Roy Morgan poll has Labour down 4.5% to 29%. There’s no way to varnish it, this is a very bad poll for Labour, particularly for David Shearer

The job ahead

Written By: – Date published: 10:36 am, October 28th, 2012 – 179 comments

Labour logo square

The latest Roy Morgan poll bodes badly for Labour.

Unfortunately I don’t think the latest Roy Morgan is a rogue poll. But I also don’t think that it’s the result of David Shearer’s GCSB fiasco as the electorate doesn’t tend to make up its mind on single issues.

Rather, I think that the electorate has simply run out of patience with Labour.

Is anyone ABC any more?

Written By: – Date published: 11:05 am, October 30th, 2012 – 133 comments

abc fallingIt’s fine not to agree with someone’s politics. It’s fine to weigh up the attributes of one prospective leader against another and decide that one is the better choice. But the Anyone But Cunliffe clique didn’t do that. They literally wanted anyone who wasn’t Cunliffe. When Parker wasn’t going to win, they went to Shearer. It was a childish way to play with Labour’s future.

Gordon Campbell on Labour

Written By: – Date published: 8:57 am, November 1st, 2012 – 138 comments

Labour logo squareIt looks like Gordon Campbell has picked up on Irish’s piece on what Labour needs to do and added a few thoughts of his own. I think Campbell has a point here and it troubles me deeply. The last thing we need is for Labour’s vote to collapse in election year the same way Bill English’s did in 2002, or for the campaign to be derailed by faux pas like Brash in 2005.

The posts are scathing enough, but the comments are a litany of Labour lambasting and lament – very few are supporting Shearer or Labour’s direction.

And this is what Gordon Campbell wrote (in the Dominion):

Grim news for Labour leader

More than anything, the latest Morgan poll is bad news for Labour, and its leader.

All year, David Shearer’s strategists have been claiming that as New Zealanders gradually get to know him, they will come to like what they see.

Instead, what seems to be happening is that voters are going through periodic fits of disenchantment with the government and then looking more closely at the alternative, only to rebound in alarm.

So far, Shearer has simply failed to make the case that he could lead a credible alternative government.

Shearer has failed that for sure, not just with the voting public but also within his party.

Another blog from the left, Imperator Fish:

And On The Forty-Fourth Day

When David Shearer was chosen as Labour Party leader I told a few people that we needed to give him a year to settle into the job.

I’ve been critical of Shearer at times, but I have not called for him to be replaced. I have always said “let’s give the man 12 months as leader, and then we’ll see.”

David Shearer has 43 days to go.

From the opposite Kiwiblog and Whale Oil keep up their criticisms, but that’s to be expected.

Duncan Garner has also blogged:

Opinion: David Shearer has failed

Labour promised an exciting back story that would impress and a new front man to rival the Prime Minister.

Sadly for Labour – they’re still looking for that person. David Shearer has failed. Labour’s lucky it’s not getting done under the law for false advertising.

Let’s be honest, Labour leader David Shearer doesn’t have it. He’s a nice, mild mannered, likeable, warm but a stuttering, incoherent mess that is the opposite of what an alternative Prime Minister should look like.

And before you say ‘give him some time’, he’s had a year and I think he’s gone backwards – not forwards.

Put simply, Shearer does not look, act or sound like a man ready to take over the Treasury benches and drive New Zealand out of this recession. The voters see it.

They see a Labour Party unconvinced and confused by their own choice. Until that changes, Labour will stay in opposition.

So what now for Labour? Will they hang on and on with Shearer as leader and hope that National destroys it’s own chances of success in 2014? That might work, but it will not address the bigger problem.

It’s a Labour caucus problem

The caucus retained the Goff leadership for three years, and failed.
The caucus retained uninspiring and underperforming MPs though it’s list.
The caucus strategy led to an embarrassing 2011 election result.
The caucus installed Shearer prematurely.
The caucus is performing poorly.

The caucus is repeating the same failures. Over and over and over.

But is there anyone amongst the current MPs capable of making a real difference, grabbing an opportunity and a party by the scruff of the neck, giving it a damn good shake up, inspiring loyalty, insisting on discipline, and actually leading the bloody party into the future?

There’s no sign of that.

Hence Shearer keeps bumbling along under poor advice. It’s not his fault there’s no one better to lead the party.

David Shearer is just a symptom of much bigger problems in Labour.

Shearer has failed. But like any leader he’s replacable.

But Labour has failed more, for longer. Parties are harder to replace.

Leave a comment


  1. Careful Pete; you’ll be accused of suffering from David Shearer Derangement Syndrome. Typical of the Left; they can’t even come up with an original insult!!

    • I thought Shearer was an interesting choice and was prepared to give him a go. For a while I was his biggest supporter at The Standard.

      But he has failed to lead the Labour caucus. He has been taken over by the same old party machine, and has executed poorly.

      But he’s still there because there is no one up to taking over.

  2. Limp leadership and limp politics – not a good way to end the year. People will remember this time come 2014. Perhaps a long holiday needs to take place – perhaps everyone is really tired this year? I don’t think 2012 has been kind to politics in New Zealand this year anyway, some very hard reform plans have caused sparks, back-tracking, blatant lying to cover one’s arse – and visionary leadership is just not there; and that I believe, is the problem we need Visionary Leadership who will inspire.


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