John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: David Shearer's inevitable exit


If it had not happened now, it would have happened within the next few weeks.

If Labour was going to have a new leader - and David Shearer's exit from that post was inevitable - that person had to be well ensconced in that role before Labour's annual conference in early November and the Christchurch East byelection expected to be scheduled for later that month.

With the election of the new leader expected to take at least four weeks, time was becoming very much of the essence.

Shearer's resignation was inevitable because the great bulk of voters had typecast him as a weak leader.

Such a categorisation might have been unfair. But for all his positive attributes - intelligence, a fundamental decency, enthusiasm and ability to laugh at his own expense - the public only saw someone who sounded hesitant and uncertain.

When he tried to sound assertive, he sounded like he was trying to sound assertive. He only succeeded in sounding fake.

The public determined those failings as weakness. He could not convince even Labour voters to back him in the preferred prime minister ratings. There was no sign after 20 months as leader that Shearer could turn that perception of himself around.

The public had filed him alongside other Labour leaders who failed to cut it. He was another Bill Rowling, another Sir Geoffrey Palmer, another Phil Goff, another Arnold Nordmeyer rather than a David Lange, a Norm Kirk, a Helen Clark or a Michael Joseph Savage.

Once classified as being in the company of the former, Shearer was finished.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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