Labour's front bench report card

OPENING SALVO If he holds on as Labour leader, David Shearer, may need to form a government in just two years. How each of his dysfunctional crew rates out of 10:


As David Shearer prepares to dust off Labour’s front bench, David Cunliffe plots his dust up with Mr Shearer.  Here’s a report card for the last 10 months:

David Shearer, Leader – 5/10
Hapless and ever-less-confident media performer, except on TV3 comedy showsFailed to build cohesive team.  Caught inventing stories about painters.  Lost control of his own office, now staffed by Grant Robertson loyalists.  Faces leadership challenge before Christmas.  Only KPI, though, is becoming prime minister.  If he holds on as leader, recent polls suggest that’s what he’ll be in two years.  Five points for that alone.

Grant Robertson, Deputy Leader, Environment – 3/10
Allowed Tim Groser to defang the ETS without political cost, making Labour cheerleader Rod Oram the lone campaigner against the changes.  Has provided no public support for his leader, fuelling destabilising leadership speculation.  Points for achieving more control over the party apparatus than Helen Clark in her prime.

David Parker, Finance

His plans to intervene in currency markets to drive up the Australian and US dollars are nuts, but are at least bold and have people talking, even if he will ultimately lose the intellectual debate.  Needs to package his ideas more coherently and learn to distil difficult concepts into fewer words.

Jacinda Ardern, Welfare

Failed utterly to confront Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms, despite the beneficiaries burdened with new obligations being a key Labour voting bloc.  Wins a point for leadership on gay adoption, targeting her Grey Lynn constituency.

David Cunliffe, Economic Development

Should be sacked for disloyalty.  Gives cliché-ridden think-speeches, with excruciatingly laboured analogies.  Panders to Labour’s left by advocating 19th century mercantilism, which he can’t possibly believe.  However, he’s the only Labour MP whose speeches anyone bothers to read and can articulate complex ideas.

Clayton Cosgrove, SOEs

Like Lianne Dalziel, manages to get under Gerry Brownlee’s skin occasionally, but can’t take any credit for Mr Key’s difficulties with the SOE floats.  Is meant to be Labour’s attack dog but has been over-shadowed by the Greens’ Russel Norman.  If he wants to be the tough guy, needs to fix the first name.

Shane Jones, On Gardening Leave

So much hype, for so many years.  So little to show for it.  Pro-business attitudes not a good fit with his party. Walking advertisement for political mercy killing.

Nanaia Mahuta, Education

Has done nothing.  Will be sacked.  Mr Shearer should demonstrate importance of education to Labour by taking portfolio himself, a la Peter Fraser and David Lange.

Maryan Street, Health

Wins a point for promoting euthanasia law reform, but voters probably expect potential health ministers to focus more on curing people than killing them.

Su'a William Sio, Employment

Unemployment is touching 7%.   High profile job losses at Solid Energy, Tiwai Point and Kawerau.  Ever heard of William Sio?

*     *     *

What does Mr Shearer do? 

Only Mr Robertson, by virtue of election, Mr Parker, Mr Cosgrove and, if he will be loyal, perhaps Mr Cunliffe deserve to stay in their current roles.  Ms Ardern, Ms Mahuta, Ms Street and Mr Sio need to be told the experiment has failed.

  What’s more, Mr Shearer must face the growing possibility he may need to form a government in just two years.  Experience is needed.

  His best performer is Phil Goff, who severely damaged National’s master strategist Murray McCully over restructuring at the foreign ministry.  He and Annette King deserve to be returned to the front bench.

  A more constructive role for Trevor Mallard should be found.

  Even bolder, Mr Shearer should announce that John Tamihere will be his social welfare minister.  It is nothing more than has already been mused privately.

  It is also time to move up new talent like Andrew Little – although strangely he has been overshadowed in ACC by the Greens’ Kevin Hague.

  The Reverend Dr David Clark is targeting an economic role and there is more to him than being one of the world’s leading experts on Christian existentialism.

  Chris Hipkins has done well tackling Hekia Parata.

  Along with the Green ministers Mr Shearer would have to appoint, a government leadership team of himself, Mr Robertson, Mr Parker, Mr Cunliffe, Mr Goff, Ms King, Mr Mallard and Mr Tamihere would at least have a degree of credibility compared with the current dysfunctional crew.

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