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.
And it would be a very complicated Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana Government with the major party being weaker in electoral terms than in any other Government. This means diminished ability to impose or even negotiate an agenda.
Yet by the same token, every time the Key government has got itself into trouble this year, a few rogue elements in the Labour caucus (eg, Trevor Mallard, Shane Jones) have proceeded to score an own goal, and create doubt about Labour’s competence and coherence.
This would suggests that Shearer’s flaws go beyond his public failure to be forceful and articulate, and extend to an inability to devise a consistent opposition strategy and ensure that his team sticks to it.
Recently, the Labour-leaning website The Standard listed the year’s roll call of self-inflicted damage: from Mallard’s ticket scalping debacle, to Shearer’s speech about the beneficiary on the roof, to Jones’ recent attacks on the Greens on behalf of his campaign donor, Sealords.
It was an impressively long list.
Merely replacing Shearer with his deputy Grant Robertson would seem unlikely to improve matters.
Robertson and his electorate team are already well represented among Shearer’s advisers, and thus seem more part of the problem than the solution.
So Gordon Campbell seems to be in Camp Cunliffe.