I had an email from someone close to David Shearer, who was “saddened” by my recent column on the Labour leader. She wrote that I had allowed myself “to become part of a carefully constructed smear campaign against David”.
I don’t blame her for feeling that way, but if Shearer supporters have really convinced themselves that the recent criticism of their man is all the work of dark and sinister forces conspiring against him, they’re in danger of missing the message.
Besides, as far as I can tell, the smearing and whispering campaigns (so vague as to be impossible to defend) have all been targeted at that other David.
I can’t speak for anyone else. I’m not in the beltway, where politics is lived and breathed. I don’t schmooze with party activists or politicians. So if there was a coup attempt, I missed it. It was an invitation to the Labour conference that prompted my reflection on the party’s strengths and weaknesses. My view – that Shearer’s leadership was a weak link – was hardly remarkable.
If his leadership was any good there wouldn’t be talk of rolling him.
No independent observer of Shearer’s media performances could have failed to notice his potentially fatal deficiencies.
Whatever his strengths, however nice a human being he is, he hadn’t lived up to the hype. If National was losing some of its gloss in the polls, it was no thanks to Shearer’s stumbling leadership.
That the dissatisfaction reached a crescendo the week before the party’s conference was precisely because it was the week before the conference, when anyone who cared was more likely to be thinking about Labour’s fortunes and the impact of its weak leadership.
If the criticism seemed harsh and overly impatient, it has to be seen in the context of the past four years.
The party had been conspicuously united behind Phil Goff despite widely held reservations almost from the moment he assumed the leadership.
Much good that show of unity did them.
Now they were being asked to extend that faith to a political neophyte who, if anything, had fewer weapons in his arsenal.
Now for the interesting part:
If politics is a contest of ideas, it needs well-armed champions. If there was a coup attempt brewing, right then, it was the most publicly signalled coup in the history of coups; the stirrers may as well have posted it on Facebook.
And guess what has been annouced today? That’s right a Facebook campaign for a leadership challenge.