Rather than slam the Government over paid parental leave, he talked compromise. Labour would look at phasing it in or lowering the costs in “a sincere effort to move something forward”.
Consensus, he said, was his first instinct.
It is a style Mr Shearer is making his brand; a reasonable man talking in a measured tone that rejects the politics of charisma.
This is one reason I like Shearer. I do think he is a reasonable man.
To the political media present – and in a warning to Labour, only three reporters made the short hop from Wellington – it was about as dull as a leader’s speech can get.
With the Government on the ropes over issues from the pokies deal with SkyCity to Crafar farm sales and asset sales, the soft-shoe approach is not without its critics.
There is no crisis yet, but there has been some internal arm-wrestling.
Chief of staff Stuart Nash has quit after just a few months in the pivotal role, mostly for personal reasons – a new baby and the commute from Napier. But insiders say he was ill-suited and clashed with chief press secretary Fran Mold over strategy. She pushed for a (relatively) higher profile, arguing the Greens and NZ First leader Winston Peters would fill the vacuum if Mr Shearer left one.
Finding the right replacement for Mr Nash is crucial, especially with the key party secretary job expected to be vacant soon when Chris Flatt leaves.
Both are closer to deputy leader Grant Robertson than Mr Shearer.
And arguably also closer to Cunliife.
It is too early to say Shearer will be rolled, but it is obvious from reading around the left-wing blogs that there is significant discontent amongst the activist base – especially in Auckland.
What is interesting is that the Auckland activists are trying to lump Robertson in with Shearer, so that if Shearer falls, Cunliffe will be able to win a leadership battle against Robertson.
Cunliffe has come back from his leadership loss revitalised and has been impressing many in Labour. I think Robertson would still beat Cunliffe in a contest, but the “Anyone but Cunliffe” faction has diminished in recent months.
If there is any change, I would expect it to occur either late 2012 or at the latest February 2013. If Shearer makes it past that, then I think it would be too late for a change.