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The writing’s on the wall for David Shearer – and it’s in Tapu Misa’s hand

The writing’s on the wall for David Shearer – and it’s in Tapu Misa’s hand.

A quite remarkable thing happened this morning. Herald columnist Tapu Misa gave it as her view that David Shearer should stand down as leader of the Labour Party.

Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.

Her politics are to the liberal left.

For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to the Herald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.

Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.

What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.  

It has been my view, expressed in numerous posts on this site, that the Labour caucus made a serious mistake in selecting Shearer as leader in preference to David Cunliffe. They are now paying the price for the infantile thinking of the ‘Anyone but Cunliffe’ brigade.

It has also been my expressed view that Shearer’s image as a nice but bumbling and inarticulate political leader, could not be repaired. That would require a rewiring of his brain, in effect a personality transplant, a feat beyond the most skilled media trainer. Even the redoubtable Ian Fraser could apparently not pull it off.

As it approaches its annual conference, the Labour caucus will be comforting itself with the thought that they don’t need to concern themselves with Shearer’s deficiencies as leader; National will lose the 2014 election to a left-wing coalition. They can sleep-walk their way to victory.

That strikes me as a very dangerous non-strategy. It fails to take into account that Shearer’s leadership is losing the party support now, that it will continue to lose the party support and, most importantly, that Shearer has no chance of besting Key either on the hustings or in the live television debates that play an important role in influencing (in particular) undecided and swinging voters in an election.  Key will crucify Shearer in those debates.

As an advisor to Helen Clark during the 2008 election I learnt to my cost the danger of underestimating Key as a debater. My view and the view of Helen’s other advisors was that Key would be no match for the Prime Minister. He was a new boy and she was a seasoned practitioner. She was ’Minister for Everything’ and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of every portfolio. She would make mincemeat of this upstart. Key, it turned out, had been hiding his light under a bushel. He was aggressive, interruptive and in his element. Helen lost the first debate and we had to regroup.

Why is this relevant? Because David Shearer could not hold a candle to Helen Clark as a debater. That is why I say Key will crucify him in any face to face debate. It’s already happening in Parliament.

So here’s what I think should happen: Shearer should announce at the Labour Party Conference that he has told caucus he wishes to step down as leader and will do so as soon as a replacement has been chosen.  To avoid the inevitable chaos (and possible collapse of the Labour Party) which will  result from the implementation of their proposed new rules for choosing a leader (which could be tested as early as February of next year), caucus should quickly select David Cunliffe to take them through the next election. Cunliffe is the only person for the job. There is no-one else.

Yes, I know, there’s a squadron of pigs flying over the Beehive as I write these words. But I really would prefer not to have to say ‘told you so’ again late some night in November 2014.

Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media

More by Brian Edwards

Comments and questions

Maybe Shearer isn't popular, but at least he's not hated by the public. I wouldn't say that about Cunliffe.

The reason the public doesn't hate (or really like) Shearer is because no one knows who he is! That is the key problem!

I absolutely agree with your comments about Tapu Misa. I am a follower of hers and she is always on the ball. I am not a labour fan but I agree with your thoughts on shearer. He needs to have the balls, intelligence and quick wit like winston peters who is the only effective opposition at the moment...apart from the greens from time to time. the greens however benefti from more media coverage.

Cunliffe may be disliked by the rank and file. But he IS THE ONLY PERSON CAPABLE. So get over your pettiness and support him.

You know what they say Cunliffe's nickname is?

"Silent T"

I cannot agree that Tapu Misa is the finest columnist in the country. Apart from her hard left politics - surely any firm political view is a bad thing for a columnist - she is far too opinionated.

columnists should not have opinions, afterall. it is not their job

If columnists didn't have options what would they write?

They could write facts - perhaps with an opinion that is well balanced detailing pro's and con's from both left and right side of politics...

...but that would require investigative journalism prowess and an ability to stop being a shriller for union/Labour Party propaganda.

Remember - the 4th estate don't "make" the news - they report it - in a balanced way - or at least they're supposed to....

They could try writing 'FACTS', and leave us, the reading public, to form our own opinions.
Much more preferable than the current practice of telling us what we are/should be thinking.

Analysis of columns, most likely.

Whether they be Greco-Roman, Egyptian, or the comparatively more boring Khoisan penchant for tall sticks stuck in dirt.

Tapu Misa is an apologist for all that is bad in NZ....cant belive Brian would make such a comment about her prowess ! One of teh main reasons I cancelled my sub to the herald !

The real reason for this opposition within against David Shearer is because he's too right wing. It's tragic that the Labour party is tearing itself apart and then it's supporters/members rationalizing the motives for it.

"The writing's on the wall", Edwards reckons? More like a headstone.

I've never heard of Tapu Misa. Unfortunately it seems yesterday man Brian Edwards had.Pay no attention; just find an alternative if you really feel the need - one who's not Cunliffe. There isn't one - just like there's no alternative to Key.

i suppose you don't read the new zealand herald?

Why should anyone take any notice of Misa, she's a far Left wing visitor to NZ?

#2 Anonymous is absolutely right. Tapu Misa is an out and out left wing socialist commentator. She is nothing like the finest columnist in the country. Only a fellow leftie like Brian Edwards could call her that. But then the Herald is becoming a hotbed of left wing socialist commentators in its new (appropriately) tabloid format - Tapu Misa, Bryan Gould, Toby Manhire, Brian Rudman, Petyer Lyons. Try submitting anything that takes a different point of view to these columnists and see if you can it published. No chance!

Well said Lindsay ! The only lefty air bag missing from your list would be Penny "not -so" Bright !!!!! Imagine the herald with her rantings......

Sorry Tim, but there is worse to come. Bill English is being groomed as Key's successor.

With the Herald being a left wing news center it must be hard seeing the main party slumbering.

You obviously do not read the herald on a regular basis, because if you had you would have noticed that most of its writer's including the editor is a national supporters.

You must be reading a different NZ Herald to the rest of us.

When the chips are down you need to raise to the occasion. Shearer should grow some spine and distance himself from ABC and make his own decisions. Now they are setting his agenda. He need to tell the public what he stands for. Party is been driven to the ground by Grant's ambition to become next Prime Minister. Goff's revenge against Cunliffe for letting him down during the election. If Shearer is man enough he will send Grant to backbenches and put his stamp on the party. Do you think Grant will have the guts to stage a coup. I doubt it. It will be interesting how Shearer comes out as the leader this weekend.

>When the chips are down you need to rise to the occasion.

That's the trouble. No one has the guts to challenge Shearer – they want him to jump. And that is why Shearer should stay.

I agree - Tapu Misa is pretty good. I don't agree with everything she says, but still....since The Herald is little more than a women's magazine these days, she about the best they've got.
As for Labour - they lost touch with the 'working classes' years ago....I can't see them getting with it anytime soon. They may as well pack up and move out, and leave it to The Greens....

I dont know why anyone should have concerns about a Shearer led labour party when we effectively have a John Key labour led one.

The man doesn't know how to be natural, his smile and facial contortions are too Romney-esque ... insincere ... if that is all the labour party can conjure up they are supremely screwed ... there are better people ... there is no way that dorky man is going to win an election in NZ.

Wow !! You absolutely nailed it ! If Cunliffe is their only hope, then they have none.

Smarmy is the word that always comes to mind for me.

How about self serving and arrogant. Still, let's not forget, anything is possible with Labour..

Or Labour could do a deal with NZF and have Winnie as PM, that would woik.



John Tamihere will lead Labour into the next election

Not experienced enough - yet, we need a wise old hand who knows it backwards to begin the change to a more pragmatic all hands to the export pump re invention of ourselves. Either way New Zealand's first Maori Prime Minister has a great ring to it.

Tapu Misa columns are biased -which is fine. But ".. informed, rational, considered in her judgements"? - Utter nonsense.

If Cunliffe had picked the right deputy in his quest for the leadership he probably would easily have beaten Shearer to the post

Dream on Brian -----but you have the intellect to do better than let your extreme ideology blind your professional judgement. Tapu Misa is not a great journalist and will have no effect on the parliamentary scene
She is a p,easing hard leftie writing utter garbage for a left wing rag the could well be renamed The Standard.
The great plus for Mr Shearer is that he has the intellect to be balanced and agree with National policies if they make sense rather than the standard hippo critical bashing of every policy announcement regardless of its merit.
May I suggest you should be rather ashamed of yourself for being so complicit in your engagement with Helen's. Labour Party that created a nation of folk that only think they need government help and cannot manage on their own and thus must vote Labour We like to think we are an innovative country but weare a welfare economy as a consequence of 10 years of that government.
Brian pleae put your excellent abilities to much better use and effect

Graeme you sound like someone form the Republican Party banging on about the so called left and look what just happened to them. The welfare date has been here since the 30s BTW.

Short of a stunning bravura performance -- which I can't see happening -- Shearer's attendance at this weekend's Labour Party Conference, is going to be a re-enactment of Custer's Last Stand or Napoleon's Waterloo. And he's having to cross the Rubicon to get there.

I thought Brian Edwards had been pensioned off years ago after his hagiography of Helen Clark. Anyone he recommends, in the eyes of many, would be someone to be avoided.
He has also completely missed the point that John Key has apparently always wanted to be someone important - from the age of 12 when he aimed to be Prime Minister.
Being wealthy with a large yacht is not the same thing, not when there is a large ego that needs feeding, and send some of the deplorable decisions he has made and inflicted on his Cabinet seem very much to be with his eye on the main chance on the world stage after New Zealand. What the basically anti-the West United Nations has pushed for - Key has endorsed- even against the wishes of the majority of New Zealanders. And I wonder why one of his first acts was to reintroduce the knighthoods - which of course had gone to so many of the wrong people. Key thinks a long way ahead... And he's a great self promoter. Go figure.

And I wonder why Edwards is now pushing hard a columnist most people have never heard of- she is liberal of course? Again, go figure.

Cassandra, you're going to have to explain how John Key's ambition to be the PM bears any relation whatsoever to the question of David Shearer's role as leader of the Labour Party. Or anything else, for that matter.

If you've never heard of Tapu Misa that means you don't read the Herald. Nothing wrong with that, but don't mistake your own lack of awareness for someone else's problem.

Anti-the-west-UN? Ummm ... this is the same organisation currently waging war in Kosovo, the Congo, Afghanistan, Lebanon ... practically anywhere but America, or anywhere else remotely Western; whilst holding war criminals to account whilst America wrecks social, economic and military chaos in vast stretches of the globe on the basis of an ideological dispute!

Cassandra - I agree Key did give knighthoods to some wrong people.

Key / National and all of NZ Inc should demand that Cullen give back his baubbles - and then he should be made Chairman and CEO of NZ Rail and made to make it work - without any more tax payer largesse or involvement.

You got one thing right...

When will we see the person and not the PR image, and form an opinion on that? Shearer is a person of high moral fibre and integrity. Key is just a smiling face, a puppet for big business who conveniently forgets anything which shows him for what he is.

Extraordinary. Yes, the minute David Parker a) threw in the towel and b) endorsed Shearer, he effectively brought to an end the benefits Labour stood to reap from running an effective, policy-based campaign (Goff could never win, so they did well to focus on economic nettles).

If he'd run the length of the leadership challenge (or not entered it in the first place), then the policy debate they'd stirred up in the 2011 election campaign would have been continued through the leadership test, to their long term advantage. His withdrawal reverted it to a shallow, personality-based contest, which really amounted to who was friendlier and less challenging, just when they needed the opposite (an innovative go getter).

Labour dislike Cunliffe precisely because he is ambitious. Yet, unlike Robertson, he has the experience to justify it.

When National loses the next election as undoubtedly it will, then Russell Norman will be next Prime Minister leading a hotch potch MMP coalition. Shearer will be Trade and Winston Foreign Minister.

Jacinda ARDERN is the one and only savior, capable of beating John KEY, eh?

She may get a few votes for being eye candy ... but beyond that forget it

Makes you wonder how someone reasonably good-looking on the outside, could be so tainted and ethically corrupted to want to follow failed political ideologies that corrupt entire societies whilst attempting to pose as the cure?

At least she has a nice house she can afford though...

Your vote (together with your buddies) is important to get her to defeat John KEY, before you and other Labour Party supporters regret it.

Indeed, I'm particularly fond of 'Chompers', as they call her.

It is important to the effective working of our "democracy" that the Govt of whatever stripe has a robust opposition.
This has been lacking lately and the effect is showing in Key's arrogance.
Let's hope the left sort it out shortly.

John Tamihere will end up in the National party,his rightful home.
Perhaps he would make a good leader when Key goes?

The shipwreck, that was Helen Clark's Third Labour Government, left behind much flotsam and jetsam in the roiling surf; much of it is still to wash up on to the shore, to be gathered and burned in a bonfire. A bonfire of the vanities to incinerate all the bloated Labour caucus egos, is what's required.

New Zealand First stands for One country,ONE people,ALL equal.NO other party has the simple basic "gut" to stand for the issue of New Zealand.

..except the ACT Party...

At Least David Shearer is an honest man,unlike others found so so wanting in and for leadership values for NZ.

"Honest man" YEAH RIGHT!

Let's just ask Mr. Roofus Painter about the GCSB Tape Shearer was banging on about attempting to play "Gotcha Politics" - when it all backfired and left Shearer looking like an even bigger clown with even less credibility.

I wonder if the same person setting him front and centre in that fiasco will be anywhere near the imminent leadership coup? Time will tell...

I'm not a Labour supporter and I think whilst the Green ideologies are quite good, their leadership is sorely lacking. I was hugely relieved when Cunliffe didn't get the top Labour job, as he was the only person capable of taking on Key. He is a strong communicator and a smart cookie. I don't like him as he comes across as an arrogant a$$ and sometimes you just want to punch him in the face, but that's not the point. Labour were fools to vote against him, but it's indicative of the sort of Muppets that reside in that nanny state party. I'd be surprised if Shearer stood down before the next election. He could just turn around his misfortunes of late. He's had a baptism of fire and could swing back. Time will tell. And regarding the Bill English comment, ha ha funny, the guy is vacant and doesn't stand a chance at another leadership shot. As for singing the praises of the Herald columnist in such a way, have you lost your marbles, Brian? Aren't we all good and opinionated? Indeed. Politics does that to you.

The ABC faction have a lot to answer for. At least Cunliffe put (and continues to put) his hat in the ring. The rest of them prefer their own self interest to that of their constituents. Hypocrites.

Sounds like an Auckland conversation to me. Who TF is Tapu Misa? If the Labour party is doomed by the leadership of wotsisname, then long may he lead!

Labour need a White Knight to ride in as leader before the next election to save them.

Hmmm.....when does Steve Maharey's contract end with Massey University?