The more I read about David Shearer the man, the more I am convinced that he is a genuinely nice guy. The more I read about David Shearer, the politician whom Labour elected to lead their flock the more I am convinced they will start imitating their Australian counterparts before too long with leadership rumbles. And it is not just their leadership that seems to be going backwards. So, what is wrong in the Labour Party of New Zealand and why does it seem so damn desperate to lose the next election, when the polls point to National possibly not having the numbers to have a third term?
I have already blogged on the subject of David Shearer’s leadership being less than stellar. But recently he has really struggled with some basic things that no politician should ever do. Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Shearer sought to mislead over the subject of his bank accounts and what is in them, it is somewhat hard to explain how he managed to have a brain fade over existence of a bank account in the United States, which holds $50,000 in it. Whatever the actual explanation and whatever Mr Shearer told the media and Parliament, it is most certainly not a good look for any politician to fail to declare their assets.
But it is what I mentioned earlier in the article (see link)that really makes me wonder if this Labour Party is any closer to being ready for a gruelling election campaign than when it elected David Shearer to replace Phil Goff? Admittedly Mr Goff is a vastly experienced Member of Parliament, an extremely hard worker and despite his at times angry appearances in Parliament well liked by many people as a politician and as a New Zealander. Whilst Labour has most of two years before the next election occurs, and effectively 18 months before Parliament is dissolved, the fact that it has backtracked on two major planks of its election policy and is considering removing a third, must raise some very alarming questions for its caucus and its membership along the lines of “what is going on here?”.
Now, it has occurred to me that Labour might have a totally revamp planned, which systemically overhauls the entire policy platform and lays out a 21st Century one in its place. If that is the case it should be applauded, though it is running out of time to get started. Some analysts say that this Government will not last it’s full term, which may catch Labour on the hop with the master plan only partially carried out. I have my own doubts about how long Prime Minister John Key’s National-led Government has before he or his Ministers do something sufficient outrageous that an early election is necessary. There are plenty of things going wrong: Christchurch is simmering; the economy is poor and getting worse, though Eurozone woes cannot be blamed on National; the rising costs of living; the mess in the education system are just a few.
But maybe the hour of one of the other parties on the Opposition benches is approaching. The Green Party is strong and has 14 members in Parliament. Whilst many people consider them to be from the far left, and their policies on defence and justice will not curry favour with moderate New Zealanders such as myself, no other party can match them on environmental and social justice issues. If they can shed some of their hard-left political correctness, they could govern. New Zealand First is a work in progress, but it is for the better. The party had to shed its image of old, white and predominantly male to get back into Parliament, and its current line up strongly suggests it is on the right road. The Party Manifesto has been partially overhauled. Its Members of Parliament do not get much air time, but several of them have had remits drawn from the ballot. A mate of mine who is a National supporter bet two beers at the last election that New Zealand First would not be back in Parliament…
If David Shearer cannot get his act together and the party does not come up with some bold, forward thinking policies to replace the ones they have ditched, it just might be symptomatic of long-term decline setting in. That would be sad for New Zealand, but given that Labour in the past 30 years has shed a lot of the traditional left-wing image one would expect the party to carry with its support for things like asset sales; its failure to deal with climate change more firmly and support for the War on Terrorism, maybe Labour is looking at the early stages of terminal decline.
I guess time will tell.