The Labour leadership vote

February 4th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Today the Labour Caucus will vote unanimously to retain as Leader. It’s the right decision, and my expectation is he will continue to lead Labour into the 2014 election. It is too early for Robertson and Little, and a Cunliffe leadership would probably see half the shadow cabinet resign. Shearer is the only logical answer for Labour and they need to unite behind him.

Amusingly there is a thinly disguised last minute plea from Waitakere News (well known to be the Auckland Regional Chair of the Labour Party) to vote for a conviction politician (ie David Cunliffe), as the UK Labour Party has. And on The Standard they continue their amusing hobby of posting David Shearer’s regular newsletter just so they can rip it to shreds.

So does winning this confidence vote, mean Shearer is absolutely safe until after the election, when there is another scheduled vote? Not entirely.

If at anytime the majority of caucus thought it necessary to make a change, then they could push Shearer out. Shearer has no real factional support in his caucus. If at some stage Grant Robertson went to him and said “I’m sorry David, but it isn’t working” he would probably go without a fight. Robertson has significant support in the caucus, the party organisation and in the leader’s office.

But Grant is relatively young, and in no great hurry. He knows a hostile takeover would be divisive, and absolutely the sensible thing to do is support Shearer, and hopefully become Deputy Prime Minister. He is 14 years younger than Shearer.

So what could trigger a change between now and the election. Basically just two things – the polls, or very poor performance.

I think a poll driven panic forced change is unlikely. While some in Labour are smart enough to know they really need to be polling in the high 30s to have a strong Labour-Green government, many are happy with any government that has them in it – even a Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana Government. And if you look at the polls, that combination is going to stay theoretically possible for the next two years. Labour would have to drop below 28% for them to panic. Remember Labour/Greens/NZ First/Mana have 57 seats already, so  the way they see it they need just four more seats to be able to govern. So even if there is significant discontent within Labour (which is clearly the case amongst some activists), I just can’t see Labour polling badly enough to force a leadership change.

So what is the other possible catalyst? It would be if Labour is still polling okay, but Shearer has a series of terrible performances and the caucus goes into a funk at the though of how he’ll cope with the election campaign. But again I think this is relatively unlikely. While he has had some shockers, such as the stand up after sacking Cunliffe, he is generally getting better. Also performance is linked to confidence. With Cunliffe out of the way, and Labour polling okay (compared to 2011) he will gain in confidence and I expect performance.

So today’s vote isn’t the final word on his leadership. All leaders lead only with the support of their caucus, and can be removed by their caucus (except Winston). Even with Labour’s new rules, any leader who lost a caucus vote would inevitably not contest the membership ballot. However as I said my expectation is that he leads Labour into the election, and on current polls has a more than reasonable chance of becoming Prime Minister.

Of course a path to becoming Prime Minister that is dependent on what Winston may decide is a rather perilous one. The ideal for Labour is to be able to form a Government just with the Greens. But to do that they need to be polling very high 30s.

UPDATE: Stuff reports Shearer has of course been re-elected. Sounds like the vote was not unanimous, but “overwhelming”.

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35 Responses to “The Labour leadership vote”

  1. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    All leaders lead only with the support of their caucus, and can be removed by their caucus (except Winston).

    And the Greens, whose Co-Leaders can be removed only by a General Meeting of the Green Party.

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  2. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    Shearer will stay on but there is a major trainwreck on the horizon in the form of ther election campaign and I am predicting he will be torn to shreds during it. Why can they not see this happening? He has been in the job for long enough to show he just doesn’t have what it takes. Imagine the televised debate. He gets figures wrong, his speaking is average and he lacks conviction. National is more then a good chance to govern next time with him at the helm of Labour. As long as they don’t make to many errors then its game on.

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  3. Pete George (23,560 comments) says:

    And on The Standard they continue their amusing hobby of posting David Shearer’s regular newsletter just so they can rip it to shreds.

    Actuall Anthony Robins remains dedicated to loyally promoting Shearer and the party, there just happens to be ovewhelming fed upness over the repeated cringes.

    It does appear as if Shearer has the numbers despite claiming he hasn’t bothered checking who will support him (yeah right). Notably his reshuffle is waiting until loyalty (self interest) can be rewarded.

    But the level of widespread discontent will remain in the party. It’s already being pointed out that Shearer’s expected endorsement will solve nothing.

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  4. Pete George (23,560 comments) says:

    I am predicting he will be torn to shreds during it. Why can they not see this happening?

    Most can, there is widespread dread of the campaign outside the leader’s bubble.

    Labour activists were largely resigned to Goff losing, but they bitterly resent and standing by and watching another long drawn out defeat. Hence expect a continuation of moaning and undermining from the inside.

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  5. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    I had to laugh when Brent Edwards (how does this guy keep his job?) said on National radio this morning that Shearer had had a
    strong’ start to the year!
    Really? I’d hate to see a feeble one.

    I still say you should not appoint a leader who is older than the incumbent – unless s/he is outstanding and a real star. But Shearer looks and sounds tired and past it.

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  6. pq (728 comments) says:

    Shearer re elected,

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  7. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    The ideal for Labour is to be able to form a Government just with the Greens. But to do that they need to be polling very high 30s.

    I would say n that for a Lab/Grn coilition to stand alone Lab would need to be in the early 40’s. For every 2 votes Lab gains at least one of those will be a 2011 Grn voter.

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  8. Colville (2,268 comments) says:

    Ha!
    I see on Stuff a poll…”Is David Shearer the right leader for Labour? ” 2 out of 3 say no!

    As every National voter would have said yes ( :-) ) that is a lot of Leftys saying no !

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  9. pq (728 comments) says:

    Colville (527) above immediately says:
    February 4th, 2013 at 9:34 am
    Ha!
    I see on Stuff a poll…”Is David Shearer the right leader for Labour? ” 2 out of 3 say no!
    As every National voter would have said yes ( ) that is a lot of Leftys saying no !

    Colville it is an interesting concept and well known within

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  10. RF (1,397 comments) says:

    Sorry but Shearer just does not inspire me with any confidence in his ability to be a future PM.

    He is out of his depth however as I am a right wing voter, long may he stay as the Labour leader.

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  11. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    Shearer will hold onto the leadership and the labour party will try to show some unity in the decision despite the fact that the infighting and factionalism will continue to bubble just under the surface.

    Hopefully National has a better year this year. Last year was not a good one, fortunately labour were in such disarray they were unable to capitalise but it is hard to see them getting away with it twice.

    National need to get the asset sales programme started with at least 1 successful listing completed. Another year of court challenges by Iwi interests and dithering by National opens the door to even a poor performing Labour party.

    Parata cannot have another mare of a year like last year. Already this year she has been of to a less than impressive start with the PM removing the Novopay issue from her ministry and giving it to Joyce and her flippant and stupid comment on ministry pay calling it karma that they had not been paid. Christ key must cringe every time she is let out in public.

    But another strong year from Joyce, Ryall and Findlayson makes them look like they have safe hands on the steering wheel and also leadership options post Key so lets hope they can get on top of education and if they can it should be a good one

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  12. Bob (497 comments) says:

    I agree with BeaB Shearer does look tired. He has no fire. He is not a Rob Muldoon or David Lange or Helen Clark. He seems to be a man who has had his career and is now filling in with a job until he retires. I do wonder if he will do any better than Goff in standing up to Key next election.

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  13. Keeping Stock (10,339 comments) says:

    Shearer will win today’s battle, but he will not win the war. As the election draws nearer and Labour’s poll ratings stay at around 30%, a growing number of Labour MP’s will vote with their wallets.

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  14. Liberty (267 comments) says:

    Lets hopping you are right about Shearer. Because labour is not going to win with Shearer as leader.
    Cunliffe might be a odious we man. But he also has fire in him that is totally lacking in Shearer.
    A smoldering Cunliffe spitting venom from the back of the chamber at a some nonentity in the front row. Should with a bit of luck keep Labour munted and out of harm’s way.

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  15. Pete George (23,560 comments) says:

    No surprise here then. Shearer has been confirmed.

    Shearer said he did not know the exact result of the secret ballot but the result was an overwhelming majority.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8257869/Shearer-confirmed-as-Labour-leader

    An overwhelming endorsement of an underwhelming leader.

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  16. Pete George (23,560 comments) says:

    The disappointment didn’t take long to show at The Standard.

    Earnest Anthony:

    OK, so that’s done. I know the outcome won’t please everyone here, but I ask those who aren’t DS fans to consider now what’s best for the Left (not just Labour, but the Left) over the months ahead.

    First response, from One Tane Huna:

    What’s best for the Left?

    The Green Party.

    Time will tell whether a dead man walking Labour leader is what’s best for the left. Many people don’t mind a bit of a Green voice but they will baulk at a big Green say in Government.

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  17. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    Just imagine two years of lame duck Shearer! The Greens must be beside themselves with excitement.

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  18. eszett (2,408 comments) says:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10863308

    Labour’s MPs have endorsed the leadership of David Shearer in a confidence vote today, but will not release the results of the vote.

    I can’t imagine that the result will not be leaked one way or the other.
    The must have been a significant number of no votes in order for Labour to want it to keep it secret.

    Silly, not to confront the results head on, hoping no one will find out.

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  19. David Garrett (7,272 comments) says:

    I am delighted that nice Mr Shearer has been endorsed so resoundingly by his colleagues…I think he will make a jolly good opponent for the centre right in 2014…I do hope the filthy socialists don’t switch horses at the last minute…but if they do, perhaps another lesbian would be a good choice? The blokes out here in the rural sector are anxious to see the rights of the LGBT community advanced some more…

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  20. Viking2 (11,470 comments) says:

    Garrett; Haven’t you got some gardening to do????

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  21. David Garrett (7,272 comments) says:

    Viking: So glad you are concerned about my physical and mental well being – gardening being very good for both…But no, today is an “office” day, where I get to charge outrageous amounts for very little real work…but one has to get some return from five years at Uni…the tomatoes are all now ripening nicely though…the beans have had a bit of thrashing from the mealy bugs…

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  22. Shazzadude (529 comments) says:

    The Maori Party will fall over themselves to be part of a Labour/Green government. Labour/Greens/Maori Party/Mana will be the government, should Labour/Greens fall short of the total themselves.

    Labour/Greens/New Zealand First is unlikely to be realistically considered.

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  23. Shazzadude (529 comments) says:

    “Shearer will win today’s battle, but he will not win the war. As the election draws nearer and Labour’s poll ratings stay at around 30%, a growing number of Labour MP’s will vote with their wallets.”

    Labour only need 35% for John Key to concede on election night, IMO.

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  24. Naturesong (23 comments) says:

    BeaB (1,453) Says:
    February 4th, 2013 at 11:34 am
    Just imagine two years of lame duck Shearer! The Greens must be beside themselves with excitement.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. If Labour is weak, the Greens lose.

    The Greens only chance to get a seat at the table is dependent on Labour getting 35% of the vote at the next election.

    The past year has shown the Greens willingness to produce policies which compliment Labour’s, and they seem to be the only ones asking questions of National. This indicates a growing pragmatism on the part of the Greens.

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  25. pq (728 comments) says:

    Farrar in leading article says:
    ” Of course a path to becoming Prime Minister that is dependent on what Winston may decide is a rather perilous one. The ideal for Labour is to be able to form a Government just with the Greens. But to do that they need to be polling very high 30s.”

    2014 could be likely NZ Nat = 42%, Labour = 35%, Green =09%
    NZ First =07%

    Farrar works for the NZ Nat party, but apppears not to be able to add sums,
    no demerit points at this stage Farrar warning only

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  26. pq (728 comments) says:

    Farrar as above actually can do sums and he already knows well the outcome prepared for, I think Winston as foreign Minister again or similar. No one knows yet

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  27. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (888 comments) says:

    Shearer need not do anything. He just needs to cruise around and ensure that Labour doesn’t go below 30%. So on election night, Labour will be 33%, Greens will be 10%, NZ First will be 6% and Mana 1 MP for sure. With this toxic combination, Shearer will be the Prime Minister in 2014 for sure. Come election time, I will be betting a huge sum for Shearer to be the PM. So easy…..It will be another 9 years before a National Government gets into power again….

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  28. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    If I was you pq, I’d want to remain anonymous.

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  29. Naturesong (23 comments) says:

    pq (545) Says:
    February 4th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
    Farrar as above actually can do sums and he already knows well the outcome prepared for, I think Winston as foreign Minister again or similar. No one knows yet

    That just sent shiver down my spine.
    Winston is great in opposition and is as wily a politician as you would expect from Muldoon’s apprentice, but he simply does not play well with others. If he is given any ministry by the next government he will be an easy target for National to discredit the coalition.

    Sir Cullen’s Sidekick (66) Says:
    February 4th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
    Shearer need not do anything. He just needs to cruise around and ensure that Labour doesn’t go below 30%. So on election night, Labour will be 33%, Greens will be 10%, NZ First will be 6% and Mana 1 MP for sure. With this toxic combination, Shearer will be the Prime Minister in 2014 for sure. Come election time, I will be betting a huge sum for Shearer to be the PM. So easy…..It will be another 9 years before a National Government gets into power again….

    Unless the Labour party sorts their shit out it’ll be in for one term and out for following three.

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  30. mickysavage (786 comments) says:

    Gee DPF it was not a last minute plea. It was an attempt to explore an interesting political phenomenon. There is nothing more important in politics than winning and I thought Miliband could give us a few clues.

    The last sentence suggested that it was something Shearer should consider rather than a reason for change.

    And I regret that I am not the chair of Auckland Labour and have not been for a while. I am but a rank and file member of a party that wants to make New Zealand into a better place.

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  31. Nookin (3,341 comments) says:

    “I am but a rank and file member of a party that wants to make New Zealand into a better place…”

    You joined the National Party?
    Oh well done!!

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  32. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Mickeysavage = a nony mouse on Brian Edwards blog on the Shearer debacle. Fact.

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  33. big bruv (13,887 comments) says:

    “I am but a rank and file member of a party that wants to make New Zealand into a better place.”

    If you are genuine in that desire Micky then vote for a National government. You and I both know that a Labour or Labour/Green government would be a disaster for NZ.

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  34. PhilP (163 comments) says:

    BeaB @ 11.34am – “The Greens must be beside themselves with excitement”

    Oh I do think you meant to say “beside themselves with EXCREMENT” lol

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  35. Bill (94 comments) says:

    The vote was not “overwhelming”. You know Trevor told similar porkies after the vote in 2011.
    From The Standard, they are having fun over there! http://thestandard.org.nz/shearer-confirmed/

    “Had the Leadership been confident of the numbers they would not have gone for secrecy on the vote.

    Had they lost by about 50/50 then Shearers position would have been untenable.
    If they were confident they would have asked the room to give a unanimous endorsement and avoid a vote. But they were afraid. Diddums!!

    They must have worked out that at least a third was willing to say FU to Trevor, Grant and Annette.

    That is a serious shot across Shearers bow. He must realise he has to unite the caucus very quickly or he and everyone else will be absolutely exhausted by Easter.”

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