The Dim-Post

May 1, 2012

Why the Shearer backlash?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:04 am

Rob Salmond wonders why people are turning against David Shearer when the aggregated polls show virtually no movement during Shearer’s tenure as leader (and a new Herald poll out today shows Labour gaining, albeit mostly at the expense of its coalition partners).

My take on the anti-Shearer cult and my fanatical adherence to it:

1. Shearer is a poor communicator. Maybe he’ll get better, but he seems to be getting worse. One gallery journalist told me that he really rated Shearer before he became leader but even since then he’d been unable to get a word of sense out of him about his goals as leader: it was all ‘what we’ve got to do now is figure out what to do’. Four months and two leaders’ speeches in and we still have no idea what he stands for, other than the apple pie pablum that all politicians stand for (investment, growth, education etc).

2. The government has had a terrible four months. They’re beset by scandals and the public is overwhelmingly opposed to almost every single position they’ve taken. Yet even in the latest Herald poll they’re still polling higher than they did during the election.

3. Shearer’s deliberately low-profile strategy during this critical period was patently absurd. Labour might be doing better in the polls – we’ll have to wait for more data to see if the Herald’s result is meaningful – but he hasn’t damaged the government during a time of great vulnerability.

Turning the polls around takes time. Sure. But Labour spent the 2008-2011 parliament doing things that were obviouslydaft, with a leader who was obviously inadequate and dismissing their dire poll results because ‘turning the polls around takes time’. If Shearer had a coherent strategy and articulate vision and the polls were still static, that’d be one thing, but static polls and a complete absence of vision and strategy is a really bad sign. And the fact that senior members of Shearer’s team are leaking to David Farrar and Cameron Slater? Also a really bad sign.


  1. It’s very difficult to ‘have a coherent strategy and to articulate a vision’ when your deputy leader and half of your shadow front bench are furiously and openly working to undermine you. This is the Labour way, you see. Just as they think National has no mandate for the sale of minority shareholdings in a few power companies (Election? What election? Naaah never happened.) they conveniently forget their own caucus elected Mr Shearer leader only a few weeks ago.

    Is it any wonder the voting public does not trust this grubby little rabble?

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — May 1, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  2. The other reason I don’t like Shearer (which is kind of linked to the critique about him not knowing what he stands for) is that he has taken such a weak position on various crucial issues over the last few months. For example, Ports of Auckland, where he refused to take a position either way for just way, way too long.

    Comment by Amy — May 1, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  3. It seems to me Danylmc that you have taken an stand and it has become entrenched that any deviation in your stand is less likely. (Whats the word for that?) Maybe you have tried to measure David against other Leaders without considering that a fresh way of leading could become appealing to the electorate. Remember Key’s style was rubbished in the early days then he became hot stuff.
    And yes the polls 2 and a half years out from election have not been a disaster for Labour at all. Watch this space!

    Comment by xianmac — May 1, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  4. I saw Shearer on Breakfast this morning, and he was pretty strong. Still a long way to go, but maybe shaking up the Chief of Staff might be working.

    Comment by max — May 1, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  5. “Labour’s poll popularity has taken a big leap, rising almost seven points in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey.” – Audrey Young. Labour has jumped to 34.8 per cent from 28 per cent in the last poll, taken just before the election . Wonder what that means?

    Comment by xianmac — May 1, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  6. Is it a fact that senior MPs are leaking, or supposition?

    Comment by stephenj — May 1, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  7. “Is it a fact that senior MPs are leaking, or supposition?”

    If you are trying to distinguish between the two, stephen, you don’t get how politics works.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 1, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  8. I saw a survey on public concerns a week or so ago. Can’t remember all the detail but the economy topped the list at 48% and all the rest were nothing big.. IIRC the Crafer Farms was at 12% and the casino Convention centre/pokie machines under 5%.

    So Shearer need not waste too much time on the minor issues.. he can let his attack dogs do that and let natural attrition happen to the Govt. His biggest mistake so far is to involve himself in the economically illiterate arguments about the Crafer farms and also ties him to Michael Fay.

    Phil Goff ended up looking stupid because he let this sort of crap push him into extreme and flaky positions.. DS is better off letting Cunliffe and co marginalise themselves doing that sort of thing. In short, he needs to stall until his own idiots expose themselves and make him look like the sane one.


    Comment by JC — May 1, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  9. ” If you are trying to distinguish between the two, stephen, you don’t get how politics works. ”

    How cynical.

    Comment by ihstewart — May 1, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  10. It’s more that if people (as in the political cogniscenti) are prepared to believe that your senior MPs are leaking against you, then that indicates your leadership status is widely regarded as being in so much trouble that it invites a challenge.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 1, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  11. Crikey! @ 10 “….prepared to believe that your senior MPs are leaking against you,….”
    I would certainly object to the leaking against me – unless I had a change of pants on hand.

    Comment by xianmac — May 1, 2012 @ 11:03 am

  12. Never had the problem of leaks against you when we had a woman in charge.

    Comment by insider — May 1, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  13. I wouldn’t be sure he is a poor communicator. He could be pushing a message to the reporter repeaterati until the cows come home but tif they go in with a pre-prepared angle it is hard to break through that. However that is no excuse for not being able to massage the public image that goes with the role. And the public want to know that he will fight for them. Goff didn’t appear to fight either. My guess is he is having a hard time placating the far left and you can smell the appeasement on him a mile away.

    Comment by Monique Angel (@Orcs2Elves) — May 1, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  14. @monique angel – Lets not pretend there is a far left element of Labour which needs to be placated.

    Comment by alex — May 1, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

  15. Andrew, I do indeed get that it’s all about perceptions. But there is a certain irritation for me in the way the political cognoscenti affect to report from the outside on a matter that in fact they are very much involved in. Danyl not so much, but political journalists who run rumours as established fact and then breathlessly report on the consequences of the rumour as though they weren’t themselves a major vector are annoying the fuck out of me right now.

    Comment by Stephen J — May 1, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

  16. “12.Never had the problem of leaks against you when we had a woman in charge.” I dunno, insider, according to Tena, one in three women suffer bladder weakness. Luckily our former PM had balls. (I make that observation in a respectful admiring way: Labour’s subsequent leaders look like, erm, pussies.)

    “If you are trying to distinguish between the two, stephen, you don’t get how politics works.” and a beer for that man, too.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 1, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  17. 4 months in and Danyl frets about polls? The only poll that counts is on election day. Rather more than 4 months away.

    Danyl is a troll working to offer comfort to to the Nats .

    Comment by peterlepaysan — May 1, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  18. I like Shearer. Either he is masterfully playing his own game at his own pace, or he really is a little lost in the headlights. Eitherway, I prefer him to the currency trader.

    Comment by duncano74 — May 1, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

  19. “It seems to me Danylmc that you have taken an stand and it has become entrenched that any deviation in your stand is less likely”

    Ironically, Danyl was very much in favour of Shearer when he was running against Cunliffe because Fresh Face, Real World Experience, Appeal Outside The Beltway, etc etc.

    Comment by Hugh — May 2, 2012 @ 6:55 am

  20. Yesterday Shearer stuffed up a quote in a question to the PM, and later apologised.

    Who gave him the quote? Trevor Mallard. What is Mallard fixated on? Right-wing bloggers. Where did the quote come from? A right-wing blogger. What do the public not give a toss about? Trevor Mallard and bike races and bloggers. How do we know this? 28%.

    Shearer as Fresh Face would be fine. Unpolished, in need of some time to get settled, but ultimately he could make it. As his own man.

    But Shearer as front man for Mallard/Pagani = disaster. It eliminates the Shearer advantage (likeable virgin) and replaces it with proven failure … only with a less articulate spokesman.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — May 2, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  21. Assets:
    Sell assets, get poorer. What poor people and poor countries do.
    Acquire assets, get richer. What rich people and rich countries do.

    Comment by Rua Kenana — May 4, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

  22. Rua, so if my pension fund/kiwisaver providr buys those shares, I’ll get richer? Woo-hoo!
    The US government doesn’t own any power companies or railways, yet they are richer than us. Strange, maybe it’s more complicated than you think?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 7, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  23. “The US government doesn’t own any power companies or railways, yet they are richer than us.”

    Ummm … Amtrack? The Hoover Dam?

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 7, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

  24. Oops, my bad on Amtrak, it was thinking of freight and totally forgot they have passenger trains there, too. “[Amtrak] operates passenger service on 21,200 miles (34,000 km) of track primarily owned by freight railroads.” I wonder who arbitrates on disputes over access charges! So although they don’t own any railways, they do own a passenger train service.

    I love this bit: “By 1930, the railroad companies had constructed, with private funding, a vast and relatively efficient transportation network, but when the federal government began to construct the National Highway System, the railroads found themselves faced with unprecedented competition for passengers and freight with automobiles, buses, trucks, and aircraft, all of which were heavily subsidized by the government road and airport building programs.” There goes the bloody gummint again, destroying private wealth and enterprise with money coerced from taxpayers. LOL.

    And EVERYONE knows the govt only owns the Hoover Dam because of what they hide under it.
    What I mean is: it is a legacy of public works undertaken during the great depression, is all. Perhaps they could privatise it now, to help pay down some of their debt? In terms of the % of US electrical generation, I’m sure it’s small beer.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — May 8, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  25. Shearer used to work for the UN, didn’t he? UN officials are not known for taking a stand and speaking clearly on potentially controversial or risky issues. Many UN officials work in a world of non-statements and non-papers, a world that focuses on process rather than action, on fiddling while Rwanda or Syria burns.

    Comment by HEAJones — May 16, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

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