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

Bryce Edwards: Labour's doldrums

Labour's David Shearer. File photo / APN
Labour's David Shearer. File photo / APN

The 'Shearer project has failed'. That's the message on the Labour-aligned blog, The Standard.

In a must-read blogpost, On the Labour leadership, one Labour-insider writes in detail about the mood inside the Labour caucus and the wider party. It's a severe description of desperation and demoralisation. The account paints a picture in which there is 'a level of disquiet in the party not seen since the Moore-Clark battle of the early 1990s'.

The writer says there's been an 'emergence of leaks from unusual sources, a fragmentation of the already loose factions in caucus and a spike in feverish late night phone calls as people try to position themselves for a post-Shearer Labour Party'. Furthermore, 'It is now almost impossible to find anyone in Labour who, when speaking on condition of trust, will admit to supporting David Shearer staying in the job'.

Of course, there's always a need to read such blogposts with cynicism. As is usual on The Standard, the identity of the writer is unknown, although the pen name used ('Eddie') is one with a long history on the site, and usually has some spot-on analysis.

But 'Eddie' could simply be part of the internal plot to destabilise David Shearer. Either way, it shows that all is not well inside the party.

Unfortunately for Shearer, the latest opinion poll also suggests he might be up against the wall - see Patrick Gower's TV3 article, Poll shows Labour drop again. This poll comes after another relatively poor poll for Labour, and David Farrar details these and provides a useful average of recent polls in: Two more polls. Based on these, I've also provided my commentary on TV3 this morning - see Dan Satherley's report, Shearer a 'lame duck' - Edwards.

Of course, it's far from certain that Shearer is about to be toppled - especially due to the absence of a convincing alternative - as explained last week by Tim Watkin in David Shearer's last round. Ding, ding. It's always useful to see what the 'political market' is saying - and at the moment, the iPredict bet on David Shearer to depart as Leader of the Labour Party in 2013 is still only at 63%, although it is still trending steadily upwards.

The Labour caucus was due to meet today in Napier, but this has been cancelled due to fog delaying flights. Two rightwing bloggers have used this as metaphor: 'isn't it kind of appropriate that Labour's caucus meeting has had to be delayed because of fog? After all, Labour's policy vision is hardly clear at the moment, and if the polls are to be believed, few people can actually see what Labour stands for any more' (We can't help but wonder); 'Given the internal focus of the party and its poll ratings, fog-bound is an appropriate description of Labour in both the figurative and literal sense' (Labour fog-bound).

Last week I wrote about how Labour's 2014 chances of winning government might depend on doing a deal with Mana in which the two left parties agree not to fight each other in the Maori seats, perhaps leading to Labour winning five seats, and Mana two - thereby killing off the Maori Party. But in the weekend, Labour's Rino Tirikatene discounted the chances of this happening, saying 'I think he's way off' and that 'Labour has a really good shot at winning them all' - see Philip Matthews' very good profile on the MP as well Labour and Maori politics: It's a family affair.

Finally, on David Shearer and Labour, Scott Yorke has written two very good satirical, yet pointed blogposts on the leadership issue - see: The path to popularity: an action list for David Shearer and A short statement from David Shearer.

Other recent important or interesting items include the following:

It's too soon to discuss the impact of Wellington's earthquake on electoral politics, but the Herald's Audrey Young has given an interesting account of the earthquake from inside the Press Gallery building - see: At least the office didn't drop into the pool. As well as pointing out political journalists 'hunt as a pack, we panic as a pack', Young also speculates on whether John Key will cancel his scheduled trip to Korea. And for the latest from the Prime Minister's Office, see Hamish Rutherford's Beehive clean-up underway, and Andrea Vance's NZ can afford another quake - Key.

'School is out for politicians who are travelling overseas during the parliamentary recess' according to Newswire's article, Travel on the taxpayer, which also details the international itineraries of seven Cabinet ministers.

A sobering forecast of long-term government spending in an array of areas is detailed in Maria Slade's Hiding not an effective pension policy - which is based on the latest Treasury report. Welfare spending is due to drop significantly, education costs too. But Superannuation and healthcare spending will rocket up. Matthew Hooton says he's got the answer: more austerity, including 'no pay rises for teachers and nurses for seven years' and a general continuation of National's current prudent fiscal strategy - see: The economic case for kissing babies [paywalled].

The CTU has launched a campaign today against the Government's proposed industrial relations reform - see Dan Satherley's Tea breaks under threat - CTU. Meanwhile, the concerning number of deaths in the forestry sector isn't going to be the subject of a government inquiry - see Harry Pearl's Minister rules out inquiry. And in a similar situation but different industry, Matt McCarten criticises the status quo regarding mining safety - see: Save your tears, Prime Minister.

The GCSB issue will come to a head this week. And Audrey Young has written two very good pieces on the issue - see: Ball in Key's court to get GCSB bill passed and Fears Big Brother will spy on every one of us. Also of interest is James Veitch's proposal for more radical reform of the intelligence sector - see: Time to merge agencies under one director. There will also be protests at the end of the week against the Government's reforms. But blogger Pete George asks who's running them - see: GCSB bill protests - a secret agenda?.

For the best of the latest SkyCity convention centre commentary, see Deborah Hill Cone's Govt's event-veto powers in SkyCity deal bizarre, Fran O'Sullivan's Too soon to say if SkyCity deal is buy of the century, and Hamish Rutherford's One tower to rule them all. For a counter to all the criticism of the deal, SkyCity's Nigel Morrison has written a defence: SkyCity deal good for Auckland and nation.

Who runs New Zealand and Australia? The rightwing Australian author of a book that attempts to argue that a new middle class is in control has been touring the country. Chris Trotter has blogged a response in Who Rules Ya, Baby? Thoughts on Nick Cater's "New Ruling Class".

There are 128,430 Maori (or 'Mozzies') living in Australia, and according to the latest research they are doing significantly better economically than Maori in New Zealand - see Nicole Pryor's Maori in Oz: Living the good life. Interestingly, there is even a Maori warden system operating in Queensland, but not without problems - see Radio NZ's Maori wardens in Queensland under fire.

Cameron Slater continues to delve into the strange operations of New Zealand's fledging new ethnic-based party - see: Pakeha Party: For a limited time only.

What recession? Some sort of economic growth is definitely suggested by Hamish McNicol's Luxury car sales leave rest behind and Christopher Adams' Banks' profit jumps 12.9pc, nears $1b.

The current Race Relations Commissioner has come in for a lot of criticism, but the public isn't giving up on her - see Nick Walsh's Devoy deserves chance, says poll.

Finally, is electoral democracy really that different to television shows like X Factor? Martin van Beynen suggests not in Essence of democracy in X Factor. He says, 'Our national elections often seem to boil down to selections akin to choosing a can of soup in a supermarket. Likeableness and coming across well on television are often perceived as more winning qualities, than a deep commitment to a set of values and well-conceived policies. The sort of voting you see on X Factor is also increasingly touted as the direction in which democracy should go. With the right equipment installed in our homes, we could in theory vote directly on set proposals about things like welfare entitlements and drug dealing penalties. This is called direct democracy and in X Factor it is exhibited in perhaps its purest form'.

- NZ Herald

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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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