ALP No Roadmap For NZ Labour

With the inevitable switch around of Australian Prime Ministers in June, the movement to oust NZ Labour leader David Shearer before the 2014 election, may to some extent face renewal. The reasons are obvious, the latest poll results show a dismally flattened Labour caucus looking forward to another term in the airy cold of political irrelevance. Further, the Australian Labor Party under Kevin Rudd (who looks exactly the same as if the Julia interregnum never happened) is enjoying a period in the sun. The election date has been set for September 7 and it looks likely that the government will claw its way back to the cabinet table.
However it is vitally important to sustain in the mind the following crucial differences. The pressure on an under-performing government to shed its dead weight in order to keep itself in office, is unequivocally greater than the pressure on an opposition party to change its face and snatch the government benches. From atop the mountain the risk and fear of falling is fundamentally stronger than similar fears at base camp.
Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are not the same fruit as David Shearer and David Cunliffe. The relationship between Rudd and Gillard was close, perhaps not in terms of trust, but close nonetheless. They took Labor to victory in 2007 and were in government as leader and deputy until Brutus’s blade appeared in Julia’s hand. Both have been elected Prime Minister in their own right, in 2007 and 2010 respectively. Shearer and Cunliffe have never enjoyed a close working relationship, their political positions have clear differences, and neither have led Labour to a general election. This diminishes the effectiveness of taking an Australian example to predict developments in New Zealand politics.
Where does this leave us? Here is my prediction as it stands at the present point. David Shearer will not be toppled this year, he remains a greater force than Cunliffe (who’s supporters I predict will abandon him soon after he takes the job), and needs to face the test of an election. Labour will loose. It remains half smarmy inexperience, half the sour dregs from the last government. The stars of the Clark era played themselves out of parliament, because they were smarter than the pilot fish left behind. This incarnation of Labour can not, and should not govern. The Key government will scrape through along with their support parties to a slim majority, the cracks appearing now will open into fissures and there will be plenty to make fun of in the next term. I don’t count on John Key remaining for the whole term, and I expect a mess of political corpses at the end. In the meantime Labour’s ghosts (Mallard, Goff, King, O’Conner, Jones, Dyson, Cunliffe) should be exorcised, their brand renewed, and a proper leader elected. Then they will truly be a government-in-waiting.

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