For the last few years Bryce Edwards has been aggregating media and blog writing about New Zealand politics into his NZ Politics Daily column. Turns out a lot of these are online at his blog, and if you get out of bed early enough you can read through the entries relevant to the 2011 Labour leadership race and see who predicted what.
Firstly, the conventional wisdom of the left-wing blogosphere has it that Shearer was the right’s candidate. But a lot of left-wing people supported Shearer. Here’s Matt McCarten, here’s Chris Trotter:
In David Shearer Labour has already found its Kevin Costner. If the caucus will only let him build Kiwi voters a new “field of dreams” – they will come.
I think both of the contenders in the Labour leadership will (probably) be strong leaders, so while I’m tepidly pro-Shearer, I’m not staunchly anti-Cunliffe. (I do think his choice of Deputy is daft – although obviously it makes tactical sense within the hermetically sealed world of the Labour caucus.)
Anyway, one of the criticisms leveled against Shearer is that he isn’t – or won’t be – ‘strong in the House’, meaning Question Time in Parliament. That may be true, but it ain’t a drawback. The Prime Minister is reliably awful in the House and he’s our most popular politician ever. The House doesn’t matter. Lack of experience or presence in it is not a deal-breaker.
It’s also entered into left-wing, online mythology that Shearer was endorsed by Matthew Hooton, Cathy Odgers and David Farrar. But Odgers actually endorsed Cunliffe. David Farrar vigorously promoted Shearer, and wrote in his December Herald column:
I think a David Shearer led Labour Party will pose more of a threat to National, than any alternative leader.
Wow, that sounds really familiar! I can’t find Hooton’s endorsement – I’m pretty sure there was one – but in a bonus ‘Matthew Hooton is wrong about everything’ link, here he is predicting that the Greens would be a ‘crucial’ component of the post 2011 National government, and that Key would entice Russel Norman with ‘policy sweeteners’ to sideline the ACT Party.
The worst prediction of all goes to Patrick Gower, who endorsed Shearer as the savior of the Labour party – he described Shearer as a fighter who had the common touch which, again, sounds really familiar – but confidently predicted Labour would never make him leader because he’d shake up the party too much. Second best prediction goes to Dr Brian Edwards who (famously) wrote:
Shearer has had nearly three years to demonstrate his skill as a debater and about a fortnight to provide some evidence of competence in handling the media. He has done neither. His television appearances have bordered on the embarrassing. He lacks fluency and fails to project confidence or authority. Watching him makes you feel nervous and uncomfortable – a fatal flaw.
My instinct is that the Labour Party is about to make a huge mistake. Their logic, I suspect, is that they must replace an unpopular leader with a popular leader. But it is shallow thinking. What the next Leader of the Opposition must be able to do is best and bring down John Key. That really isn’t a job for ‘a nice guy’.
Best prediction/commentary goes to someone called Jadis, who was writing stuff on DPF’s blog while he was on holiday in Africa:
My learned Labour contacts suggested to me before the vote even took place that it didn’t really matter all that much who was elected Leader of Labour. Their view was that the victor would never be the next Labour Prime Minister. We are seeing Labour lurch from Phil ‘fill-in’ Goff to another fill-in guy. Shearer’s going to find it tough. He’s backed more by Labour’s old guard but without the real depth of relationships (or indeed institutional knowledge of the Party) while needing to reach out to the more progressive members of the Party. Shearer has a timeline worse than English ever had. Shearer may not even see an election.
Let’s hear more from her.