Back to the Shearer problem

It’s hard to escape what the big problem for Labour is right now, still. David Shearer simply isn’t measuring up. In fact he seems to be getting worse.

Sure he got a great reception at the Labour conference with his much anticipated speech. Obviously extenstively written and rehearsed, it exceeded low expectations. But it did little to allay fears that Shearer simply wasn’t political leader material, and neither did his reprimand and demotion of David Cunliffe.

Shearer had TV interviews in the weekend just past, on The Nation on Saturday and on Q&A on Sunday. He would have had time to prepare for these, and came across as mediocre, especially on Q&A when he was followed by a far more assertive, at ease and fluent John Key which was a stark contrast in communication skills.

And today Shearer has had more exposure, and it has again exposed his inadequacies.

He photo-opped in Auckland on his KiwiBuild housing policy and was very hesitant on TV3 news coverage, seeming to be unaware of basic facts and obvious flaws. When the average section  price in Auckland is $300,000 there are simply not going to be 6,000 available at anything like $50-70,000.

See 3 News: Labour ‘dreaming’ with housing plan – property developer

And he had what should have been a cruisy interview on student radio 95bFM and seems to have invoked feelings of embarassment and bewilderment – take your pick if that applies to Shearer or the audience. It is described on the website:

Ethan tries to get Labour party leader David Shearer to explain his recent actions towards MP David Cunliffe, how KiwiBuild could ever possibly work and whether or not his bold plan is unrealistic.

Here’s a link to audio:

MP3 Labour Party Leader David Shearer

On collecting signatures for the asset sale petition…

We just need that extra margin of safety to make sure we’ve got more than we need so if there’s any ones that come back that are not quite right we’ve got a margin of safety there.

“Not quite right”? Either they are valid signatures or they aren’t. This is an example of the levels of uncertainty in his phrases.

I’ve got to say the number of people who have already signed is remarkable, the number of people I ask, who say “I’m really sorry, would you like me to sign again” and I say no no no no we don’t want you to do that.

This reflects on others – do people not understand the principle of a petition? But again Shearer doesn’t think of saying “no, each person can only sign once”.

On Kiwibuild…

Kiwibuild is a great policy, it gets first home buyers back into their own homes.

Even great policy couldn’t do that.

A comment at The Standard (thanks karol) has a transcript of his comments on bloggers.

Ah yes, but at the end of the day, the bloggers are not the voters.  In fact they’re a long, long way away from the voters, to be  perfectly frank.  

When you go round the country and I talk to people, I have a better sense, I believe, than bloggers sitting there in front of a computer, quite frankly. Especially when they are sort of blogging anonymously.  I don’t have a, um.  I don’t listen to them.  I don’t read them. I do what I believe is right.

Not surprisingly that had a few ‘anonymous bloggers’ at the Standard spitting tacks as they typed in response.

Yes, you should be skeptical about some posts and comments by pseudonymous ghosts. But if you follow blogs you get to know who and how many are disguises for the devious (not many) and how many are genuine people expressing genuine opinions (most).

You get to know who lprent is and what his angles are  – I’ve met him in real life and what he says about himself on blogs matches – and you learn to respect the authority of Irish Bill’s views. There are also the Eddies whose authenticity can be questioned, and you get to know that some people use multiple indentities to hide the origin and connections of the source. But these are a distinct minority.

Most people on blogs may use pseudonyms, but they are still voters. They are voters with an interest in politics, they follow politics and share ideas – and they share impressions of politicians. They don’t just discuss this online, they talk to family, friends and workmates. They talk to strangers they meet. At least this is what I do, so I presume others do, it’s a normal process.

David Shearer is stupid to dismiss and sneer at the blog community. Apart from them being real people who are voters that may influence other voters, they are a useful indication of politcial sentiments and an often accurate measure of the success or failure of politicians and policies. They are also noticed and reported on by traditional media.

Blogs may be the little boy of the media realm but they are clearly and correctly pointing out that the emporer-in-waiting’s clothes aren’t fitting.

All this adds up to a major unresolved Shearer problem

These are yet more examples that David Shearer is out of touch and out of depth.

He is not the only problem, his leadership team and the Labour caucus have serious failings too. But they will not be resolved without strong and competent leadership.

The Shearer problem had to compete for attention with the Cunliffe problem, but now the Labour leadership spotlight is on Shearer alone. And it keeps highlighting glaring deficiencies that are being defended or denied, not improved. If anything Shearer’s leadership image is deteriorating.

If Shearer stood down now it would add to the chaos, launching the party into a contest at an awkward time.

The best thing Shearer could do is openly support the party leadership process that’s due in February, and put the decision over to the party, as many are requesting. Then the best person for the job can be chosen, openly and sort of democratically.

If there’s a Christmas miracle and Shearer finds his feet enough to convince that he can compete competently then he would be endorsed, and that should squash any ongoing doubt.

There is a risk that no one better would put their hand up, or worse, that no one would stand against Shearer. But that’s a risk the Labour Party has to take if it wants to try and repair the damage it has inflicted on itself.

It’s four years since Helen Clark lost an election and stood down. Since then Labour has squandered an opportunity to regroup and rebuild. If the party doesn’t looked unblinkered at it’s dire predicament and take postive action to remedy it’s problems it will waste another two years. At least.

A Labour led left may still win

The way our MMP works Labour could still end up cobbling together a coalition with Greens and any or all of the Maori Marty, NZ First and Mana. If that happens and Labour hasn’t resolved it’s leadership and caucus problems it may have serious repecussions not just for the party but for it’s coalition partners as well.

Labour’s train wreck may derail not just the next Government but it could seriously impact on the Green Party in their first time in Government. A Labour led disaster could severely taint the Green in Government image.

There’s a real risk of a one term government that may struggle to last the three years.


There’s a lot at stake, and all of this is being pointed out on blogs, earnestly and often intelligently.

If David Shearer pretends that things are fine and he’s the man to lead (he doesn’t look like he’s convinced himself yet), and if he convinces or coerces enough of the Labour caucus to ignore the problems and leave the leadership unchallenged in February, then Labour will be left at serious risk.

And Shearer will be at grave risk of becoming less relevant than the bloggers.

1 Comment

  1. Darryl

     /  November 27, 2012

    David Shearer is not only ignorant and a Dreamer, he is a complete bumbling Idiot. A good percentage of the Bloggers are his core voters.