Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Threat of a Labour leadership coup

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David Shearer, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. Photo / APN
David Shearer, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. Photo / APN

David Shearer may soon find himself a victim of the same poll-driven concerns that saw the Australian Labor Party replace Julia Gillard with her nemesis Kevin Rudd. That's the suggestion from a number of columns published this week by key commentators who say that Shearer's time might be almost up. Last night the two main television political editors both presented ominous reports for Labour's leadership - see Patrick Gower's Shearer put on notice by Labour MPs and Corin Dann's Crucial two months for David Shearer.

On top of these, leftwing Labour sympathiser, Chris Trotter has deserted the Shearer ship (for the second time) - read his explanation in Okay! Okay! I'm Un-Surrendering. Replace Shearer. And last week, Toby Manhire mused about Labour's various performance problems and their urgent need for David Cunliffe - see: Off boil Labour checking all wrong boxes.

But the most recent doubts about Shearer's leadership started with John Armstrong's column on Tuesday this week, which declared it Time for the unthinkable for Labour. Armstrong has always been fairly sympathetic towards Shearer, so his raising questions about a possible coup against Shearer indicates the seriousness of the situation. And, of course, Armstrong's negative prognosis was written on the back of an opinion poll which showed both Labour and Shearer slumping six percentage points - covered in detail by Audrey Young in Poll shock: Labour, Shearer take dive as Nats roll on.

Narratives about the parallels between the Australian Labor Party's leadership and Shearer are starting to gain traction. Today the Dominion Post draws on the Gillard loss and says that the 'lesson for New Zealand's Labour Party is that if it is going to change its leader ahead of the election, it should do so sooner rather than later' - see: Ousting about 'saving the furniture'. Furthermore, it says that Labour's investment in Shearer 'has proved a dud', as the leader is 'no more assured a performer now than he was' when he took up the position.

Similarly, today's Taranaki Daily News says that like its Australian counterpart, Shearer's Labour Party can also be said to have 'become a "story of competing personalities", and that the politicians involved had "forgotten about the policy"' - see: Personalities pip politics as a child dies. After posing the questions 'Mired in personality conflicts? Lost in the fog of political spin? Lacking direction?' the editorial suggests that Labour needs to properly take up the serious issue of poverty.

But by and large the debate about Labour does revolve around personalities. Cameron Slater asks When will Grant Robertson move?, pointing out the difficulties for the deputy leader. Mana blogger Martyn Bradbury has been one of the biggest proponents of getting rid of Shearer, and once again promotes a Robertson/Cunliffe team - see: The Good news/bad news. See also, Bradbury's latest Labour Party Coup Watch warning upgrade. But Bradbury is taken to task by another leftwing blogger who says that Labour's problems go deeper than just Shearer, and that Bradbury's analysis is too superficial - see Steven Cowan's He's having a laugh, right?.

Shearer's leadership could be dealt another blow by this weekend's by-election - see Hamish Rutherford's Poll win seen as crucial for David Shearer. TV3 is already advertising its Sunday post-election coverage on The Nation by asking 'Can David Shearer survive the Ikaroa- Rawhiti By-election?'

The upcoming by-election in Christchurch East will also be challenging for Labour. For an insight into the internal politics of Labour's candidate selection, see The Standard's Christchurch East maneuvering. Vernon Small also covers the supposed battle for the nomination between James Caygill and Clayton Cosgrove - see: Caygill offers 'renewal' for Chch East. Meanwhile, Colin Espiner has a salute for Labour's outgoing MP and wannabe mayor - see: Thank God for Dalziel, champion of the underdog.

For a satirical take on Shearer's leadership woes see Scott Yorke's Shearer blamed for advert that upset All Blacks fans and Ben Uffindell's Civilian blogpost written in the name of Shearer: Opinion: I feel like I should write this while I'm still a public figure. And the Herald has two relevant cartoons: Next in the chair? and Falling from grace.

Other recent items of interest include:

The Government can monitor the movements of political journalists throughout the parliamentary complex. That's the latest finding in the long running GCSB-Dotcom-Dunne saga - see Tracy Watkins' Journalist's movements tracked by leak inquiry.

It's the last day of campaigning in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election. The most interesting single item on this campaign has been Claire Trevett's Labour has most to lose in byelection for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, which prompted David Farrar to declare the candidates are All as bad as each other. The televised candidate debates are reviewed by Morgan Godfery in Native Affairs Review: Ikaroa-Rawhiti debate and Rob Crawford in The Ikaroa-Rawhiti Debate - Native Affairs.

Drug use and laws have been a surprising feature of the campaign debates - see Tova O'Brien's Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidates split on cannabis use and Erin Kavanagh-Hall's Party rejects claim of 'proud' stand on drug.

The Mana candidate Te Hamua Nikora is profiled in Yvonne Tahana's Pot-taking past 'no barrier', and the Green Party candidate, Marama Davidson is profiled in Claire Trevett's Mother of six sees future with Greens.

Could the Maori seats die a natural death? - see Michael Fox's Maori seats at risk - commentator. The Dominion Post thinks so, and also says it's 'a positive sign that more and more Maori are identifying themselves, for political purposes, as New Zealanders first' - see: Tide may be going on Maori seats. And Claire Trevett has some of the detail about the number of Maori transferring between the Maori and general rolls - see: Byelection draws first-time voters.

The surprise U-turn by the Government on the Auckland train loop is A win for Auckland and National according to Vernon Small, who sees the decision as a highly pragmatic one that will win votes. Tim Watkin essentially agrees, and explains how difficult the decision was for the party of the right - see: National gets on track - and lands decisive political blow. The Herald also looks at the history of the issue, and declares Rail victory a triumph for dogged Mayor Brown.

Support for the controversial SkyCity Convention Centre deal is plummeting according to one opinion poll - see Adam Bennett's Support disappears for convention deal. But have the anti-gambling opponents been using dodgy arguments? See Tony Cooper's What came first: the pokie or the gambler?.

Is politics too political? Economist Gareth Morgan thinks so - especially when it comes to tax issues such as a capital gains tax - see: Gareth Morgan wants to take the setting of tax policy away from politicians and give it to experts.

Should New Zealand have a cyber army? See Tom Pullar-Strecker's Defence earmarks $600m for cyber army.

Is New Zealand vulnerable to 'cash for questions' lobbying? Sue Kedgley thinks so, and argues the case for the Greens' proposed reforms in Let's prevent our own lobbying scandal. But Andrew Geddis isn't convinced - see: How much is that MP in the window?.

The Green Party U-turn of last week received criticism from a number of commentators - myself included. But not everyone agreed - see Josie Pagani's The Greens have done the right thing, No Right Turn's Losing their soul?, Will de Cleene's Groundhog Interrupted, and the Herald editorial Greens right to dump money policy. But the best commentary on the state of the Greens was Tracy Watkins' Green U-turn a peek at Leftist power plays.

The best Peter Dunne stories of the week have been Colin Espiner's The Great Peter Dunne Beat-Up, No Right Turn's No case to answer, Claire Trevett's United Future party shouldn't get second chance, says opposition, Jane Clifton's Why I'm feeling for Peter Dunne, and Ben Uffindell's Peter Dunne's house still without power.

GCSB legislation and spying issues are still the most substantive topics in New Zealand politics, with hundreds of reports, columns and blogs published this week. If you want to read the most interesting, insightful or amusing of these, try: Audrey Young's Spying on NZ: More power to watch us, Most voters want inquiry into spying, and Law Society slams spy agency bill, Matt Robson's The Not So National Interest, Tracy Watkins and Michael Fox's Security tops 'point scoring' - PM, David Fisher's Another spy bungle exposed, Scott Yorke's An apology from the Law Society to John Key, No Right Turn's The last resort of scoundrels, the Herald's Oversight paramount in security legislation, and Ben Uffindell's Golden statue of Winston Peters 'just a part of compromise,' says Key.

Finally, the Christchurch East by-election could be a fascinating contest if disgraced former National MP Aaron Gilmore follows through on his hints that he might stand - see his blogpost: Christchurch East By Election. This is parodied by Scott Yorke in I am risen, and for more interesting details see Rebecca Wright's Want more of Aaron Gilmore?.

- 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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