Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: December 14

New Labour leader David Shearer and deputy leader Grant Robertson. Photo / NZ Herald
New Labour leader David Shearer and deputy leader Grant Robertson. Photo / NZ Herald

Can David Shearer make the changes Labour needs? John Armstrong in the Herald is positive about Shearer's chances and he lists the new leader's strengths in today's column, New leader for long journey out of the wilderness.

According to Armstrong 'Shearer will bring change by making the party less hostage to the political correctness that still plagues its image', and he'll transform the problematic relationship between the 'party's various groups - union affiliates, Labour women, Labour youth, Maori, Pasifika, gays and so on' so that the 'seriously flabby political institution' becomes 'a slick political machine'.

The Dominion Post editorial agrees - see: Fresh-faced Shearer has to sharpen axe - arguing that Labour 'has lost its way and it has lost touch with the voters who cluster about the political middle. It is they, not the interest groups that Labour has been talking to, who determine election outcomes'.

Tim Watkin also takes this line, suggesting that 'Labour's image is too closely tied to identity politics and a "thou shalt" attitude to governing. Shearer and Roberston together have talked about "reconnecting" and that means bread and butter issues and a focus on their normality rather than their exceptionalism' - see: David Shearer's fresh start - 1) Keep it real. Watkins also thinks that Shearer needs to define the new-look party with 'a big idea sooner rather than later which represents his values and identity and says something about this "fresh" Labour party'.

Many are speculating on just how long Shearer has to turn things around before he is dumped if he doesn't achieve results. Watkin says 'He has to rattle this government and have some success within the first year, or else the party will look again at Cunliffe or move on to Grant Robertson. Shearer doesn't have long'. Vernon Small says he has two years (Hard work's ahead for Shearer). I'm also quoted about this in Paul Harper's article, Shearer has two years, Robertson in wings.

Not everyone is so positive though. Gordon Campbell (On the Labour leadership change) has some doubts that Labour has made the right decision: 'ideologically, neither Shearer or Cunliffe mark much of a break from Phil Goff's worldview'. He makes the point that 'both New Zealand's main political parties are now being lead by politicians who are running, essentially, as anti-politicians. Both project themselves as ordinary bloke outsiders to what Parliament has come to represent'.

The Standard blogsite, having clearly backed the defeated Cunliffe, offers congratulations and advice (Countering the Tories' bait & switch) but some bitterness seeps through in the continued line that Shearer is the unwitting tool of the rightwing (and their 'useful idiots' - namely Chris Trotter and myself). With 'friends' like that, David Shearer clearly has an uphill battle uniting an unhappy activist base.

So how easily did Shearer win the contest? According to TV3, the Shearer camp claims 'that he got around 22 votes and Mr Cunliffe, just 12' (Shearer routs Cunliffe for Labour leadership).

In other political analysis Brian Rudman (Don't sweat over waka-jumping or party lists) looks at National's flip flopping over possible MMP reforms, and Peter Lyons (Big fish-hooks in educational vision) has an excellent summary of the pitfalls of the Charter Schools policy. And finally, Colin James thoughtfully surveys some of the other important political issues of the day in MMP at work: concession or convenience?.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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