Dear Mr Shearer,
It will come as no surprise to you that it was my view when you were first elected that, though you were a considerable asset to the Labour Party, you were the wrong person to be its leader. That is still my view and I have expressed it in numerous posts on this site.
But nowhere in those posts will you find any criticism of your moral compass. I have never suggested and, more importantly, never believed that you were dishonest. I now find it difficult to sustain that view.
Your decision to call for a caucus vote of confidence in your leadership later today is without political or moral justification.
It is, in the first instance, totally unnecessary:
You have just received a standing ovation at your party’s annual conference;
You already know that you have the numbers to defeat David Cunliffe in the now utterly improbably event that he would mount a challenge against you. You are not in any danger;
Cunliffe has publicly pledged to support you until the mandatory confidence spill in February. He cannot possibly go back on that pledge without losing all credibility.
Next, the reasons you have advanced for seeking this vote of confidence are patently spurious. You say want to end once and for all damaging speculation about your hold on the leadership – caucus endorsement this afternoon will give you that.
But that endorsement, almost certainly unanimous, will be as fake as your reasoning. Can anyone really believe that a caucus, at least a third of whose members appear not to want you as leader, could be genuinely unanimous in endorsing you as leader?
To advance this argument as incontrovertible evidence of unqualified caucus support will make you a laughing stock.
Finally, you will use this fake unanimity as justification to severely punish David Cunliffe for challenging your leadership. But nowhere can I find any credible evidence of such a challenge. And nor, my reading suggests, can anyone else. There has been no challenge.
What Cunliffe has done is refuse to say whether or not he will endorse your leadership at the mandatory vote in February. His refusal is absolutely proper.
On the other hand, as I argued yesterday, asking him to give such an assurance three months in advance of a secret ballot is entirely improper. It could be justified only by asking every member of caucus to give the same assurance now. And that without the benefit of a crystal ball.
Such arrangements are common in totalitarian regimes. Here we subscribe to the concept of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That standard has yet to be met in Cunliffe’s case. Far from it.
These are just some of my reasons for saying that your decision to call for a caucus vote of confidence in your leadership later today is without political or moral justification.
It’s the lack of moral justification that really bothers me, Mr Shearer. I thought you an honest man. But an honest man will take no comfort from fake support given under duress. And an honest man will not invent or exaggerate an opponent’s crimes for his own advantage.
Both are signs of weakness, not of strength.
Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media.
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