It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot of speculation flowing from all sides of the political spectrum on whether or not Labour leader David Shearer is facing a leadership challenge.
Let’s look at what we do know…
This post began as a response to questions that Rosie, a regular commenter on TDB put to Martyn on his post: Labour Party Coup Watch – The twitter coup.
My response is probably better here as a post.
In my view, what’s happening here is a destabilisation campaign. The question is who is behind it. The right is attempting to capitalise on it and claim itself as having the proof of Labour being rudderless. But the right wants this to bleed on and on, as that will benefit National in the polls, in the debating chamber, its relationship with the media and the public service. The right’s claim of proof is clearly nonsense.
But, the rumours have been emitting from Labour itself. That said, no caucus member is going to be caught out being a first-hand source of the rumours. Buffers are being used instead.
This makes it difficult if not near impossible for those outside the loop to get a handle on what’s really happening. But, the destabilisation tactic is often used as a prelude to achieving a goal of rolling a leader. Is that happening now?
Like we saw occur across the ditch in Australia a destabilisation campaign can go on for ages, breaking down a leader until the leader doesn’t know who to trust or really what to say.
It’s always ugly, and raw.
What is clear is, for NZ Labour, three things have come into alignment:
- David Shearer is being held accountable for a perceived inability to convince a satisfactory number of those polled to vote for him and Labour
- Julia Gillard’s removal from the ALP leadership in favour of Kevin Rudd has seen a surge in support for the ALP (elevating a view that it may not be too late to replace David Shearer with another who is match-fit)
- The gender selection issue exposed division within the party, and questioned David Shearer’s leadership style.
What seems to have occurred is these three elements have caused everyone who is interested to add up 1+2+3=?
That ‘?’ represents a multitude of questions including, why now, who, what faction, how, and when… Currently there are no clear answers to those Qs.
What we were all hearing was the Grant Robertson group, Andrew Little group and those who support David Cunliffe were talking about ‘a’ future. The rumours suggested a Robertson-Little leadership may form with Cunliffe being elevated into Finance. Was it true? No one can say. If anyone acquired confirmation from each of those three factions, then they would have run with it. But we didn’t. In fact, as Martyn said in his piece, Cunliffe’s people were not suggesting any letter had been signed and presented. And Cunliffe himself went on Twitter last night to say suggestions that a coup was on were “ridiculous”.
Some journalists and pundits who are attuned to the way these things roll have been seduced into running too early with a ‘the coup is on!’ call.
I know Duncan Garner and he will have judged he had enough info from inside Labour to make that call. Then, once he did, his source quickly distanced him/herself from it.
Because this is probably a destabilising campaign and it is not the time for signatures to be be applied to a piece of paper.
Will that time be soon? Only Labour’s caucus can answer that and at the moment it is unified in saying no his leadership is safe. Remember though, in politics timelines are very subjective.
From here, Labour can continue to pour cold water over this, Shearer can demonstrate his leadership style, and Labour can play for time until the voting public sees all this stuff as a tangent to the real issues and real political solutions to real problems.
Or, it can do what the ALP did and replace a leader who for whatever reason has not yet convinced a swinging constituency to support his and Labour’s policies.