My understanding of the strategy in play, is that those in Labour wanting a change do not want an actual leadership challenge to Shearer. They are deliberately piling pressure on to force him to quit, so no one has blood on their hands.
I find it baffling that Labour gave Phil Goff three years as Leader, when it was obvious he could never be elected (not due to any personal qualities, but the fact he had been in Parliament since Muldoon was PM). Goff saw Labour consistently poll under the result he inherited in 2008.
Shearer has not even been leader for one year. Labour is polling on average 4% higher than at the 2011 election. Yet people are determined not to give him a fair chance. Why the unseemly rush to kneecap him before he even gets to to his first conference as leader?
Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.
Her politics are to the liberal left.
For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to theHerald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.
So why now?
Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.
And I think the strategy is to force him to quit, because he is a decent man.
What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.
It has been my view, expressed in numerous posts on this site, that the Labour caucus made a serious mistake in selecting Shearer as leader in preference to David Cunliffe. They are now paying the price for the infantile thinking of the ‘Anyone but Cunliffe’ brigade.
But if Shearer goes, will it be Cunliffe who succeeds him?
As an advisor to Helen Clark during the 2008 election I learnt to my cost the danger of underestimating Key as a debater. My view and the view of Helen’s other advisors was that Key would be no match for the Prime Minister. He was a new boy and she was a seasoned practitioner. She was ’Minister for Everything’ and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of every portfolio. She would make mincemeat of this upstart. Key, it turned out, had been hiding his light under a bushel. He was aggressive, interruptive and in his element. Helen lost the first debate and we had to regroup.
Why is this relevant? Because David Shearer could not hold a candle to Helen Clark as a debater. That is why I say Key will crucify him in any face to face debate. It’s already happening in Parliament.
So here’s what I think should happen: Shearer should announce at the Labour Party Conference that he has told caucus he wishes to step down as leader and will do so as soon as a replacement has been chosen. To avoid the inevitable chaos (and possible collapse of the Labour Party) which will result from the implementation of their proposed new rules for choosing a leader (which could be tested as early as February of next year), caucus should quickly select David Cunliffe to take them through the next election. Cunliffe is the only person for the job. There is no-one else.
I’d be interested to know why Brian thinks it couldn’t be Grant Robertson or even Andrew Little?
UPDATE: Lynn Prentice has also called for Shearer to go.
I should clarify something relating to my earlier post. I never suggested The Standard has a group view on Shearer. I know each author is independent. What I focused on is the fact that two (now three) of the most longest serving and prolific authors have all called for Shearer to go – BEFORE he even gets to the first party conference. The fact a couple of other authors have disagreed does not change the significance of this.
My statement that this was no coincidence was not referring to a co-ordinated effort between The Standard authors as a bloc. I meant that it was being co-ordinated by one or more MPs who have chosen to try and force the issue before conference.