The party needs to accept that the Clark and Goff era is over.
The sad and terrible truth of the Labour Party campaign was that no one gave a stuff about what they were saying. The campaign failed to connect with any but the Labour diehards. The campaign, as the vote showed, was a disaster. Capital Gains Tax? Oh please. As I've written before, things are so tight at the moment that people are pleased to make a bit of capital gain. Compulsory super? Who can afford it right now?
But it wasn't just the policies. The campaign had an air of panic. Proposing to raise the age of super in the last fortnight before the campaign started was desperate stuff. Insisting that the policy demonstrated the Labour leader's far sightedness was hopeful, to say the least.
In the end, the Labour leader himself had been round too long uttering too many different positions. The people weren't listening to him, no matter how brave his face. I don't mean to insult Phil Goff. It's just the way it was.
So which of the two Davids should take over? Well, I believe that the time has gone for anyone who was prominent under Clark and Goff. That era is over. Labour has got to throw the old out. It's got to skip a generation. If the party goes with David Cunliffe as leader they'll be in opposition for a very long time. If they go with Cunliffe they might as well keep Phil Goff as leader. David Cunliffe cannot match John Key's charming cheekiness which has worked so far and will work for years yet and despite what some of my colleagues predict, John Key isn't going anywhere fast.
David Cunliffe is a good politician. He is seriously brainy and has become very good on television, very warm, very competent indeed. But it's not enough. He's been round too long. And there's a suspicion that he's too fond of himself by half.
The leader Labour should appoint is someone who can give the party a real sense of the new, of rebirth and refreshment. And he or she has got to be someone the people like, not just the people of the party's own caucus. Obvious really, you would think. That person is David Shearer.
I've got to know David Shearer a little bit since his election to Mt Albert. He's special. He has a little of the man apart. He's someone you notice when he walks into a room. He creates a buzz. You can have great late night talks with him and he will later write you a letter about how much he enjoyed the talk. He asserts no phoniness. He is down to earth. Above all, he carries none of the baggage of previous eras.
But there's something else about him. He is the coming man. You sense it. And you cannot stop the coming man any more than you can stop time itself.
Opponents will say he's only been in the House five minutes. He simply doesn't have the experience to lead a party, to withstand the pressure the Government would apply to him on the floor of the house or, for that matter, Winston Peters. Well, what of it? It might take him a while. But at least we'll watch. You get it? He'll be someone new to watch and get us interested in the Labour Party again. I'm sorry but David Cunliffe won't.
It worked for John Key. He was raw and new as hell and you felt for him every time he went up against the dark force of Helen Clark. Yet he beat her. We liked his freshness and we liked how normal and like the rest of us he seemed. David Shearer has that normality.
And like John Key, Shearer has what they call a great back story. In a speech to tertiary educators last Monday after the election he showed his passion for education.
He spoke of travelling the world as a young man and a journey he took up the Nile to Uganda. That trip had him decide that he had to try and do something about hunger and deprivation. He came home, nagged at a few relief agencies, was hired by Save the Children and ended up living very dangerously in Sri Lanka at the height of the civil war. One day, he says, he was asked to take some exam papers to kids in schools across the lines. He walked down a road mined on both sides and delivered the papers to various schools. He asked the people why they wanted exam papers before they wanted food and medicine and he was told that while food and medicine would be helpful education was their children's future. Education was what really mattered.
So he has shown bravery. He also ended up as the number two man for the United Nations in Iraq.
So that's my five cents worth. Labour have got to throw out the old. It should be David Cunliffe's time but it suddenly isn't. Life can be cruel and timing is everything. David Cunliffe's time is over. Labour's got to take a chance with the new. If they don't, then they're going nowhere. Same old, same old isn't going to do it. The Nats went with the new with roaring success. People have loved watching John Key grow. It could be the same with David Shearer.