Shearer needs to lead

By Ross Pringle


Fresh from a conference that should have cemented his place as a likely contender as New Zealand's next prime minister, David Shearer suffered the misfortune of lurching into a crisis as his leadership was undermined by one of his own.

It is doubtful David Cunliffe is the only one who questions Shearer's ability to drive Labour to success at the polls, regardless of the outcome of yesterday's caucus vote. But Cunliffe is the one most see as leading the push for change, in fact he has actively promoted himself as a likely replacement.

So, what to make of it all? It is unfortunate that Shearer's moment was ruined by the leadership sideshow. There have always been some doubts as to his ability to lead the party, given his relative political inexperience. That doesn't mean he doesn't have ideas, and many deserve serious consideration as he tries to reinvent his damaged party.

Shearer appears an extremely gifted, intelligent and caring man with considerable leadership qualities. Unfortunately politics requires a demonstrable ruthless streak as well as the ability to control and influence that many have not seen in the Labour boss - until now.

But will this show of power be enough come February, when a new leadership vote is due? Shearer will know his opponents with ambitions to the top job or those disenchanted with his vision and direction for the party will be manoeuvring and readying to pounce on any perceived weakness.

Cunliffe has laid his cards on the table. Only time will tell whether he can survive his new position and build from there to a position of strength by February.

While Shearer holds the reins right now, it will be interesting to see if, over summer, any other contenders emerge to convince that they can do better.

For now, Shearer needs to play his own game and concentrate on keeping the government honest and avoid getting caught up in in-fighting. That is the best way to gain the necessary traction to give him a shot at leading the country.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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