Col Trotter has a column up at his site titled: Behind the Mask: Who’s Backing David Shearer and Why? in which he argues that Shearer is the front man for a neo-liberal cabal that has seized control of the Labour Party and plans to unleash a second Roger Douglas style policy era when they’re back in government:
Ideological mummery is also the key distinguishing feature of Shearer’s principal backers in the Labour Caucus. Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard all dipped their paper cups into the neoliberal Kool-Aid in the 80s and none of them have ever publicly recanted (let alone repented) their supporting roles in Roger Douglas’s Economic Salvation Show. They no longer defend (at least not publicly) Rogernomics’ legacy, but behind their hands they dismiss its critics as “paleosocialists” who simply don’t understand how the world works.
My first huge problem with Trotter’s thesis is that these people ran Labour during the 2011 election, in which their policy platform was really very left-wing. I don’t think they promised to extend Working For Families to beneficiaries or introduce industry standards for wages and conditions because they thought it would be wildly popular, I think they promised to do them because they wanted to do them, and I think it’s impossible to reconcile that with a neo-liberal agenda.
My second problem is that I don’t see how it’s possible to launch a Douglas-Lange style reform in an MMP government, especially if your largest coalition partner is the Greens, who will simply withdraw confidence and send the country back to the polls.
Maybe Trotter’s right, and Shearer is a secret neo-liberal; my counter-theory behind the stumbling train-wreck that was Shearer in 2012 is that he’s a very inexperienced politician who spent his first year as opposition leader being advised by an imbecile. The threat to his leadership seems to have galvanized him: he now rehearses his lines with his staff – like any other politician – instead of trying to seem ‘natural’ (‘Let them see the real David Shearer’) and coming across like a babbling fool.
My concern about a Shearer-led government is less dramatic than Trotters’. It’s that many of the senior Labour Ministers will be the usual gang of loyalist idiots, that Shearer would be unable to manage Winston Peters (assuming New Zealand First is a part of the coalition), that Labour will wage an unrelenting covert campaign against any Green Ministers, and that the whole thing will see National sail back into office three years later.