Claire Trevett seems to have left her pink tinted glasses behind somewhere and gets into Labour’s missing in action leader:
The rumblings over the Australian Labor Party leadership involving Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her predecessor Kevin Rudd bear little resemblance to the earnest affair in New Zealand last year.
Among the many differences is that neither Gillard nor Rudd have so far promised such tantalising things as tents.
The nation is still waiting to see the tent Labour leader David Shearer promised back in December as part of his pitch for the leadership in which he said “I want Labour to be a big tent”.
It was enough of a promise to get him the leadership, and in February he continued with the theme when – perhaps with some envy – he revealed National already had its tent, describing John Key as “the pole that holds the rest of the National Party tent up”. It is about the only theme he has expanded on so far.
Some have begun scratching their heads about Labour’s new leader as the “few weeks” in which Shearer promised he would play show and tell stretches into almost two months.
Perhaps he is still “hooking up in bars, clubs and marae”…but apparently no tents.
His short tenure in politics means few have any idea of his political compass or even if he has one. People know he had an epiphany when watching starving children fight over mango skins he had thrown from the back of a truck in Sudan. What is not so clear is how exactly this translates to New Zealand.
Next week Labour will announce the first steps of the organisational review of the party. It will include outside consultants – among them Bryan Gould, a former British Labour MP. It has taken so long that Young Labour gave up waiting and launched its own submission process.
Next month Shearer will deliver keynote speeches – one aimed at sharing that political compass with the public and another giving the long-promised “broad brushstrokes” on policy direction. He is likely to signal where he will go on some existing Labour policies rather than set out new policies.
Those speeches had better be good.
For the beginning of the year should have been a veritable mardi gras for any Opposition leader, let alone a new one nestled into the honeymoon suite.
Every pinata had a treasure trove in it and was just begging to be hit with a big stick.
But, but, but the polls are moving I tell you:
It is astonishing then that Labour can see any kind of solace in the first few polls of the year, Roy Morgan and last week’s 3 News Reid Research poll, which showed National’s support has slipped only slightly and Shearer’s debut as preferred PM only just nudged double digits. If anything, it was vindication for Phil Goff that it was not his leadership that doomed Labour.
The biggest shifts were among Labour’s fellow Opposition parties – support increased for both the Greens and NZ First.
Shearer has been busy building relations with them. He had a dinner with Peters last week and Labour has given him some of its allocated parliamentary questions to Peters – the political equivalent of gifts of courting. And he publicly mended bridges with Mana leader Hone Harawira.
But Shearer needs to spend some time getting his own yurt in order before he goes looking for others to pitch their pup tents alongside.