Now Mr Shearer was a serious contender, but his new front-runner status came at a price. Like David Lange before him, he was no longer his own man. Labour’s spent forces, the MPs epitomised by the politically exhausted figure of Trevor Mallard, were now wrapped around Mr Shearer like supplejack around a totara. And they were clinging to him for only one reason: survival. Their arch-enemy, Mr Cunliffe, had long ago read their use-by dates. That’s why the ABCs couldn’t allow him to win.
But, if Mr Cunliffe cannot defeat Mr Shearer, he can, at least, defeat Mr Shearer’s backers. A rejuvenated, restructured, or, to borrow Labour stalwart Jordan Carter’s term, “refounded” Labour Party cannot be created by a glove-puppet.
Glove-puppet is too harsh a term, but Trotter is right that there is concern that Shearer with his relative inexperience and less alpha male personality could become the front guy for basically the same old group of MPs who entered Parliament under the 4th Labour Government and should have no part in the 6th Labour Government.
If Mr Cunliffe cannot beat Mr Shearer, then he should, over the next 72 hours, think very seriously about joining him. It’s not too late for the best qualified candidate to contact the most popular candidate; set up a meeting; and make a deal. Mr Key and Mr English did it – why not Mr Shearer and Mr Cunliffe?
Together, they’ve more than enough strength to tear off and make a bonfire of all that parasitic caucus supplejack. Together, they could bend the arc of history towards a Labour victory. Together, a new power curve could hurl their fighters skywards heading for the National fleet.
Cunliffe has gone out of his way to say that Shearer would be on his front bench, but Shearer won’t make the same commitment (on the basis he won’t commit to anyone). However media reports have made it pretty clear that the intention is if he wins, that Parker is Finance Spokesperson and Robertson Deputy, hence demoting Cunliffe. I think this would be a mistake.
I’m not saying that if Shearer wins that Cunliffe should be his Deputy. But I am saying he should at a minimum keep him on as Finance Spokesperson and have him part of the inner team. They would be a good combination.