Audrey Young outlines Labour dreadful choices…they all know David Shearer is hopeless and essentially a political corpse. Almost every political journalist and most commentators except the rabid mouth breathers of the left know that he is a goner.
When rumours of a leadership coup in Labour broke on Tuesday night, I bumped into a Green MP as I was racing back to the office.
The first question we asked ourselves is “who is it?”
We speculated about David Cunliffe and deputy Grant Robertson.
Grant’s not ready, I said. Grant is definitely ready, the MP said.
I also thought about Andrew Little. He had a boost from the last Herald-DigiPoll survey which had him almost matching Grant Robertson in terms of a suitable replacement for Shearer were he to suddenly depart politics.
It was the same poll that began this round of jitters because Shearer’s popularity fell six points and the party’s by almost the same amount to 30.9 per cent.
Anyway, by the end of Tuesday night, it was clear there was no coup under way by Robertson or anyone else. But Shearer’s chances of being replaced before the next election had increased. Â
No immediate coup…but certainly a coupÂ destabilisationÂ Personally I don;t think Grant Robertson has the stones to conduct a coup. Andrew Little does though, and he would be one to cut a deal with David Cunliffe.
At the start of the week, I would have put his chances of surviving at 80/20. Now they would be closer to 50/50.
I think more like 40/60. Roy Morgan next week may tweak it back up to 50/50, or it could trip the spill.
That’s for two reasons: first the party has not united behind him since the leadership contest with Cunliffe in 2011, and the “man-ban” issue has reinforced the disrespect the party has of him; and secondly because public talk about a coup can help to make it happen.
Colin Espiner’s words were damning…”a shambolic, equivocal, spineless ditherer with the political nous of a first-term MP.”
The Labour MPs who took to Twitter were angered because they knew that even having to deny it makes the possibility that much more plausible.
There may not have been a letter of no-confidence circulating on Tuesday, but it is drafted in some people’s minds, if not their bottom draws.
A letter of no-confidence would need 50 per cent of the signatures plus one to trigger a wider vote, so 18 signatures from a caucus of 34, or 17 were a vote to be held between the time Lianne Dalziel resigns for a tilt at the Christchurch mayoralty and is replaced.
The caucus would comprise 40 per cent of the final vote, the party 40 per cent and the affiliates 20 per cent.
Interesting that Audrey mentions Lianne Dalziel. The final vote from membership could easily be avoided by presenting a single name on the ballot. Something most commentators miss.
The coverage of the whole “man-ban” issue has exposed the party’s fundamental flaws: its factions, the tensions between the caucus and the party, and the perception that the party is overly concerned with issues of identity.
Amid the leadership issues, there has been a serious debate internally in Labour this week about the wisdom of Maryan Street promoting her euthanasia private members’ bill.
Labour is terrified it will be drawn out of the ballot.
Snigger. This is what happens when you party is focussed on single issues and identity politics.
Despite the talk of a no-confidence letter, in the event that things got very bad for Labour, it is unlikely that Shearer would need a letter.
The more likely scenario is that party seniors and faction brokers Phil Goff and Annette King, would tell him: it’s time, David.
He would resign and a new leadership contest would begin.
How bad would it have to get? There are two reputable polls set to be published in the next few weeks: TV One’s and TV3’s.
May’s TV One and TV3’s polls both had Labour on 33 per cent, and Fairfax’s had it on 31.9 per cent. Including DigiPoll, three of the four polls have Labour heading south.
It is hard to imagine that the “man-ban” issue (allowing some electorates to have women-only selection contests) and subsequent coup talk has done anything but damage.
Shearer looked decisive for half a news cycle. The lasting image is not of a strong leader but one being kicked by one side of his party for not acting sooner and kicked by the other side of the party for acting at all.
The man-ban issue has surely hurt, cemented in people’s minds that Labour is about identity politics, spite and not focussed on the things that matter.
The question is whether that downward spin has begun from which there is no recovery.
If Labour were to drop into the 20s in all three polls, that would be understandable given recent events.
If it were to stay there for three months, it would be fatal to Shearer – Goff and King would come knocking. Then the battle would get interesting.
Labour’s own internal polling shows them in the 20s, mired there for at least a month already. they know that un-probed voter intentions are even lower, akin to Bill English type scenarios, where some numbers start with a one.
I think Labour has to look to a third candidate, someone like Andrew Little, his deputy would be likely to be Jacinda Ardern and David Cunliffe as Finance. Only then could Labour look like they have rid themselves of the old guard and the Clarkists. Goff, King and mallard will all be told to sling their hooks.
One can;t dismiss a proper split in Labour either. The factions are implacable, a split might be the only way to go.