The Dim-Post

November 12, 2012

How David Shearer can shore up his leadership

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:01 am

DPF points to a spate of anti-Shearer posts on the Standard and concludes:

While each is by a different author, I have been around politics far too long to think for a second that this is not part of a co-ordinated strategy to destabilise Shearer in the leadup to the Labour conference.

Well, maybe. If there’s a blog-based anti-Shearer putsch then nobody told me. It could just be that loads of people on the left don’t think Shearer is a very good leader, and the week before his conference is a salient time to point that out.

Anyway, team Shearer has been talking up his up-coming speech at the conference as a make-or-break moment for him. If Shearer’s speech does bomb it won’t be the first time his team over-promised and under-delivered on a speech by this leader. But even if he exceeds expectations, all it’ll prove is that as opposition leader he has the luxury to get a week of media coaching and outsource his speech-writing to a professional. Being Prime Minister is a more improvisational and reactive job.

That’s why I think the best thing Shearer could do for his leadership is perform well on the week leading up to his conference. This means coherent, articulate interviews on Morning Report that set the news agenda for the day. That means getting into the top stories on TVNZ and TV3 news and delivering strong quotes that hurt the government and advocate for Labour policy and values. It means moving on from his pointless ‘gotcha’ questions in the House and holding the PM to account. Shearer needs to show he can ‘win the day’ consistently, not just win one speech a year.


  1. Maybe what Shearer needs is a committed Media Minder that believes in the labour philosophy and not just some mindless PR hack sourced from the Journalist field.
    The stories are out there somehow they just seem to miss getting to the Leader, one wonders why?

    Comment by Ron — November 12, 2012 @ 8:23 am

  2. I would have thought the week before conference is the time to say he has to do very well at conference, rather than be the time to say he has to go regardless of how well he does at conference.

    Comment by dpf — November 12, 2012 @ 10:09 am

  3. I’m already beyond believing Shearer has what it takes, or can get it in the next few days. It is time for him to go so that someone more capable can start preparing for the election

    National’s performance is dismal and getting worse yet Labour are paralysed by the fact that, with the exception of a few, their caucus is lame, conflicted and lacking a leader.

    I don’t think this is Shearer’s fault: Helen Clark completely failed to plan for succession and left a horrible void behind her for the party to fall into. But Shearer should go so someone more capable can lead the climb out.

    Comment by nommopilot — November 12, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  4. Helen Clark completely failed to plan for succession and left a horrible void behind her for the party to fall into.

    I get the feeling it was more deliberate.

    You don’t run party long term with an iron resolve, stack the upper echelons of a party with venal, squabbling, sycophantic yes-men, then bail (along with your deputy) and anoint a bland replacement devoid of charisma and not expect the knives to come out.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 12, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  5. >part of a co-ordinated strategy to destabilise Shearer in the leadup to the Labour conference.

    Heh, well I guess it’s a good strike back at the idea that the centre-right support for Shearer is a coordinated strategy to destabilize the entire left. The difference is that the Left’s coordinated strategy doesn’t work, and the Right’s does.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 12, 2012 @ 11:16 am

  6. Also, in the long term, destabilizing the opposition might be a foolish idea. An unstable opposition could actually be more dangerous, because it has the potential to overthrow its own weakness.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 12, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  7. Labour are paralysed by the fact that, with the exception of a few, their caucus is lame, conflicted and lacking a leader.

    So, your answer to this is…have those same lame, conflicted, lacking individuals annoint a new leader from their ranks?

    Comment by Phil — November 12, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  8. Or for some objective analysis of the Government, why not try here:

    Comment by max — November 12, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  9. I understand that Helen saw Cunliffe as her successor if they got a 4th term. She was very much in the Anyone but Goff faction 🙂

    But the magnitude of the loss, and the fact Cunliffe was still relatively untested, meant that it had to be Goff.

    Prior to Cunliffe, I think Maharey was seen as a successor. But he bailed out.

    Comment by dpf — November 12, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  10. >I understand that Helen saw Cunliffe as her successor if they got a 4th term. She was very much in the Anyone but Goff faction 🙂

    Both she and Goff pulled off dick-moves when they resigned with short notice, straight after elections, forcing that party to choose a new leader quickly, right at an emotional nadir point. With the absolute maximum possible time to prepare for the next election, a reasonable amount of time could be put into selecting leadership, and the process could have been something to admire, consulting the public extensively, rather than resembling the election of a pope.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 12, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

  11. “rather than resembling the election of a pope”

    Wouldn’t that be something? They all huddle into Union HQ and belch out Red Smoke to indicate they’ve chosen the next sucker. More pomp!

    Comment by David C — November 12, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  12. “completely failed to plan for succession”

    Nature of the political beast. A, like vampires, most politicians with an urge for power don’t want to nurture potential rivals. B, even if they do, anointed successors frequently have rather less success with the public. If a leader was unpopular at handover, their anointed successor is hurt by that, and if the leader is popular, why would they hand over?

    Perhaps other old hands in the party could have groomed a new leader, but expecting a current PM to prepare their own replacement is just wishful thinking, in any party.

    Comment by Stephen J — November 12, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  13. Agree with #1. Shearer is stiffled by his minders. He’s so busy trying to remember what they advised him to say it trips his tounge up.

    At this point he might as well just do his own thing. It can’t be any worse.

    Comment by Aztec — November 12, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

  14. “Shearer is stifled by his minders.”

    Odds on his resignation speech will be inspired, human, and engaging, like Shipley’s, Clarks and Romney’s were when they were finally free of the PR directors- and could finally say what they wanted, how they wanted to.

    Comment by gn35 — November 12, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

  15. The Dim-Post staff reporters should be investigating the VRWC.

    Why did Melissa Lee, an experienced TV professional, suddenly self-destruct in Mt Albert? Why did she hand the by-election to David Shearer? It’s like they wanted him to win

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — November 12, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

  16. I don’t think Shearer made it into a single story on either of tonight’s news shows.

    Comment by danylmc — November 12, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

  17. Jesus Christ. Sammy 2.0 is onto us.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — November 12, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

  18. Not sure if DPF follows the Standard well, but they been in the Antt Shearer camp right from the start. You would think Labour would of been a bit suspicious that Shearer’s biggest supporters from the start have been from the right…. gee I wonder why.

    Comment by K2 — November 12, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  19. More seriously, I think that Shearer’s plight provides a revealing insight into the power of the “Dolchstosslegende” (sp?).

    Almost nobody is saying he’s doing a good job, but quite a few (a minority?) don’t want a leadership change because of some misplaced sympathy (“give him a chance” etc).

    That’s why he had to have at least a year in a job he’s clearly unsuited for … the knife-wielder (Robertson, Cunliffe, whoever) can’t be seen to have acted in haste.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — November 12, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  20. It seems like everyone wants this guy to leave politics. Maybe some people sense that it doesn’t fit with his personality. He’s a doer, not a thinker. And Robertson, Cunliffe, Parker would all be too eager to take over.

    Personally I’m going with an all female team. Moroney, Woods, Ardern.

    Shearer’s appointment as Leader is one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but really isn’t.

    I think very highly of him as a person, as a family man, and as someone who has achieved a lot and wants to do even more, but that’s just my outdated observations and won’t cut it with the voting public.

    As Helen Clark said, if he wants to be Prime Minister then he needs to be prepared to walk over hot coals to get there. And given what she represented and what she achieved and the huge discrepancies and smokescreens connected there, I don’t take her statement lightly at all.

    Comment by Dan — November 12, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

  21. Regarding Shearer, ‘you can lead a horse to water,but you can’t make it drink’
    No matter how much ‘schooling’ no matter how much ‘coaching’ Shearer will never make the strong
    leadership that Labour needs, nor will he ever be able to speak with aloquance,effectively and
    without stuttering and stamering his way through questions and answers,this man just is not
    a leader,in fact if he is stood aside,it will probably be a relief for him,the best thing he can do
    is resign as leader himself and keep his dignity intact.

    Comment by anne — November 12, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

  22. He will resign as Leader. I do not know who will replace him but the smart money seems to be on either Cunliffe or Robertson. There is also a chance that a surprise leader will step in, probably Parker. Labour will go for a man, no doubt. I expect the resignation to happen soon.

    Comment by Dan — November 12, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

  23. So long as a slow but steady inroad is made into the Nat majority, talk of leadership coups and resignations are premature. Currently, there’s a possible coalition that doesn’t involve National, which is an improvement for Labour on last year. I don’t have to think Shearer is the right guy to see that he could well stick it out until the next election. Mostly, National support just needs to erode, which it can do all by itself. If Labour, the Maori, and Mana hold and the Greens build a little, and National erodes some, even bleeding to NZF, there’s a perfectly viable left-wing coalition under Shearer. The further left is actually somewhat foolish to be crying so hard for a Labour swing to the left, which can only take votes from coalition partners. Instead, they should just be aiming to hoover up the support that falls from Labour as it repositions to the center. In this scenario, the left is considerably more powerful, both because it has the government, and because the biggest party isn’t so big.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 13, 2012 @ 1:19 am

  24. had to laugh when Mr Edwards said the criticisms of Shearer weren’t just coming from the right- the criticisms have seemingly never come from the right! They’ve all loved him and the posts he lists all sayin he should stay- Armstrong, Claire Trevett, DPF and Richard Long are from the right.

    This is good though- I think Labour is strongest when it has to face up to a strong critique from the left. When it ignores the left (and relies on say Peters and Dunne) that’s when you should start to have some concerns.

    Comment by sheesh — November 13, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  25. David Shearer has hit back splendidly at critics saying there is likely to be a leadership coup soon. A good robust defence is exactly what many of us have been waiting to see.

    So before I retreat back to supporting David one hundred percent, I have to point out that if Labour’s Deputy ever does get the chance to run the country, the Mardis Gras photos will be a lot more authentic than those of our current Prime Minister. And they probably won’t get lost.

    Comment by Dan — November 13, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  26. DPF is mistaking a spontaneous chorus of disatisfaction with Shearer as a conspiracy. It isn’t. People just aren’t happy with Shearer. When interviewed, he speaks haltingly and what he actually says sometimes doesn’t actually make sense unless one already knows all the detail related to the subject….which would be very rare among the wider public.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — November 13, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  27. I think Shearer has something up his sleeve at the moment. This conference is going to be very interesting.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 13, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  28. That bbq must have been a doozy the night before he decided to go for the leadership of labour,when he was amongst many blue polies and a couple of reds, ps (not the wine)

    Comment by anne — November 13, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

  29. Do people really not get it? Maybe my comment @19 was too subtle.

    I’ll make it clearer. There is NO “Shearer-ite” majority. He has no faction. No base. Maybe Goff, Twyford and one or two others have personal friendship, but that’s all he’s got.

    The Labour caucus can only change the leader once (more) before the election. Otherwise it just looks like a terrible mess (see Palmer/Moore, late 80’s).

    So … if Shearer is dumped now, Cunliffe could get the job – and keep it till the election. The ABC faction can’t let that happen. So the “placeholder” must stay for a while longer. Until Grant can step up, but – crucially, get this – in the role of saviour, not backstabber.

    David Shearer is not there to lead Labour for the next two years, and then a term in government, and beyond. Anyone who thinks he is must have the same grasp of political reality as Donald Trump.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — November 13, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

  30. Maybe he will be PM for one term and then Grant Robertson will take over.

    Comment by Dan — November 13, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

  31. @30 ha! no, seriously? I can never tell if you’re joking…

    Comment by nommopilot — November 13, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

  32. I reckon so. One term and then Robertson’s in.

    Comment by Dan — November 13, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

  33. To clarify: Clark, the most manipulative and controlling politician ever to set foot in Parliament, set a benchmark. Three terms. That’s it.

    So by giving Shearer one term and then putting Robertson in and hoping for three terms, they can potentially have twelve years of power.

    If Robertson only manages two, then there will still be enough fringe support for him in 2023 that will mean that the National Government elected that year (led by Simon Bridges) has to form a coalition with two other parties.

    I’m talking large parties (Green and New Zealand First), which means large concessions, which means another two terms for National at best.

    Purely coincidentally, wasn’t Labour’s original mascot a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

    Comment by Dan — November 13, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

  34. Aw, c’mon, you mean being noticed and having something to say?
    Do not blame Shearer..

    That whole caucus is to blame.

    I sincerely hope this conference reduces that bunch of egotistic mutual wankers to 20% in leadership stakes.

    Maybe real people might return to voting for a real political party that has something genuine to say to them.

    Labour’s azure blue is at the same end of the spectrum as as National’s true blue. The NZLP are a bunch of losers too scared to take on the Nats.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — November 13, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

  35. Watching the news last night and the press pack interview Shearer was illuminating. Either he hasn’t been schooled properly in handling media or he just doesn’t have it. Standing there and simply saying in a passive, fed up looking way that there is no challenge just doesn’t cut it. He has to set the agenda!

    “Challenge? I’ll tell you what the challenge is. There are kids going to school without breakfast, schools being closed unnecessarily in Christchurch, a pending educational disaster in Charter Schools, mismanagement of MSD, skyrocketing unemployment and John Key holding the portfolio of Minister of Emigration. That’s the challenge. That’s the challenge that we face and that I and my team are focusing on.”

    He has to lead the conversation. Dare I say it, watching some Winston Peters interviews could be instructive.

    Comment by e-clectic — November 14, 2012 @ 6:49 am

  36. Just act like Sue Bradford in her curly years trying to charge through picket lines pent full of outrage and emotion, Mr Shearer, and you’ll be fine.

    Comment by Dan — November 16, 2012 @ 1:16 am

  37. It’s amusing that there is a strong MSM attack on Shearer, which they’re trying to blame on the blogs (many of which have not liked him, sure, but many also do). In this: Trevett manages to make a story in which there is not a single skerrik of evidence of any leadership coup in the offing, into something that sounds like Shearer is being attacked by Cunliffe and if he doesn’t discipline him, he’s weak. The only facts in the story are that Labour has changed it’s internal policy to enable a leadership challenge to be forced by a smaller number than before, something that the membership wants, it would seem.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — November 17, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

  38. This is all a ploy to draw attention to Labour, so the election is only there’s for the taking in 2014. Cunliffe would be stupid to challenge Shearer when he knows that no-one wants him to be leader apart from himself.

    Comment by Dan — November 17, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: