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State Of It - Shearer's Choice And The Tuesday Showdown

State Of It - Shearer's Choice And The Tuesday Showdown

Analysis – By Selwyn Manning
Video – By Glenn Williams and Selwyn Manning.

Syndicated by On Monday when Labour leader David Shearer announces his front-line team to take on the National-led Government, the Beehive strategists will swing into action.

National's henchmen will eye Shearer's appointments, sketch their strengths and weaknesses, and prepare attack and retaliatory lines designed to strike a pre-emptive blow once Parliament sits on Tuesday.

State Of It Video with Glenn Williams & Selwyn Manning.

Likewise with Labour, Shearer, bolstered by key members of his yet to be announced front-bench, will have been going through the same process. The only difference is Shearer's team will have been evaluating National's weaknesses for over a week.

It is all about destabilisation.

National's tactics will be designed to unpick Labour's new-found ability to dominate the media in this early post-election period.

Significant among these tactics will be a destabilisation plan to arrest the rise of David Shearer's confidence.

Parliament on Tuesday will be the arena and Prime Minister John Key will be the gladiator. And all eyes will be on how David Shearer fronts up to this challenge.

Few public can be bothered to watch Parliament. That's understandable, but this great-New Zealand-turnoff will not matter, as the purpose of both parties is to impress the Press Gallery, to spike venom into the inevitable hushed tones of Parliament's conversations, to exsanguinate the last drop of self-respect a political opponent may possess.

Those with little Parliamentary experience are vulnerable to this awful convention. They can still wrongly assume their right to respect and dignity. Sub-consciously you can see this self-belief being drained from them, sometimes we have been witness to the slow undoing of even the greatest that have been amongst us. Sometimes it feels for even an independent observer that the sun goes behind a cloud just when the sun was promising to shine.

Underlying all this, National wants to impress upon the Press Gallery and Labour's rank and file MPs that John Key is still supreme. It wants to unsettle them, put the fear of God into them as they contemplate the days, weeks, months, and years ahead of them.

It's a miserable act of theatre that offers the greatest of challenges while exposing one's inner-self to the most destructive of experiences.

Labour needs to establish credibility for its new leader, its presence in the Parliament debate and process, and send a signal that this team of parties and MPs will command respect and hold this National-led Government to account – that John Key's golden years are about to become a looming winter of discontent.

It seems we can all see David Shearer is the kind of leader Labour needs right now. No other within its caucus can pull the team together and drive ahead with a rejuvenation plan with a sincerity that this party certainly needs.

As has been pointed out, Shearer's strengths are his works outside of politics. But he also possesses an ability to speak with people rather than at them. Perhaps his most impressive strengths are connected to his core values.

For those seasoned politicians preparing Shearer for Tuesday, they should be reminded that this man speaks most commandingly when speaking from the heart, when he reflects crude political attacks back at his opponents through upholding the dignity of values, representing the interests of those the Government has written-off as politically insignificant, and presenting pragmatic solutions to this country's challenges.

As National moves back to a post-millennium version of its neoliberal roots, Shearer's Labour must retake the centre ground from National and speak directly to middle-New Zealand. Shearer's pragmatism, his ability to think outside the sphere, his 'let's get the job done for people no matter what' attitude, will probably be Labour's biggest asset this Parliamentary term.

To achieve this Labour needs to reconnect with Kiwis wherever they live. It needs to honour the loyalty south Aucklanders have shown the party with an eventual line up of impressive new candidates especially in the southern Auckland electorates of Maungakiekie, Manukau East, Papakura.

Labour needs to attract into the party a new generation of actively progressive Kiwis who share a common goal of wishing to contribute to the redevelopment of this nation, who believe in the courageousness of its independence, who possess a shared desire to establish this country as a true independent Pacific islands state, and subscribe to the view that New Zealand punches above its weight on the world stage only when it speaks to the morality of its argument.

The party needs to attract Labour Party versions of Simon Bridges, Nikki Kaye, Holly Walker, and Mojo Mathers. And most important, once it attracts the best and brightest of those with an 'I can do' attitude, Labour needs to move to ensure it can hold them. The ridiculousness of Labour being solely responsible for losing Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis from its caucus due to a party list that was struck by those with self-interest - those who represent fights from past generations – must be addressed.

Labour needs to respect the investment this new generation of MPs made and insure they can be assured they will not be dumped on again.

To achieve this Shearer needs to impress on Tuesday.

He needs to cement in the minds of his party faithful that they have a new leader who will deliver in the debating chamber, that he can marshall and engineer both pre-emptive and retaliatory responses from his Labour and opposition party teams. It is vital that he has David Cunliffe right at his side being his numbers man or positioned to take on National's Steven Joyce in a shadow MED portfolio role. Shearer needs to respect the role in opposition that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will make, along with the Green Party team, and to ensure Mana's leader Hone Harawira's term is not wasted by being left estranged and alone. These people have much to offer a potentially dynamic opposition. Shearer is key to making sure this happens.

Shearer needs to restore the confidence of members at Labour Electorate Committee (LEC) level, will connect with real people prior to them being let down by National, and ultimately develop 21st century solutions to the ideologically-created injustices that are developing as a consequence of the National-led Government's plan.

But Labour needs to realise, National is not a complacent opponent. While it was in opposition National was rebuilding while Labour sat content. National is even now rebuilding, work is ongoing in Auckland where recruitment is underway for the next wave of new National MPs. Maurice Williamson knows this will be his last term, as does Dr Paul Hutchison. Candidates that share talent qualities seen in Bridges and Kaye are being groomed for their replacement. Among these are people who felt jilted by Labour but valued by National. Shearer's Labour needs to right the wrongs of the past 12 years.

Also in development is an exit plan for John Key and an ascendancy plan for his replacement. At this juncture, Steven Joyce is National's Mr Fix-it and John Key's replacement.

This is why.

Joyce, as Gordon Campbell has pointed out, has been the most significant beneficiary of the post-Election Cabinet shuffle. Also, as the Prime Minister's point-man, Joyce is the one whom many in National's caucus owe their loyalty to. As such, Joyce now holds considerable power as National's most influential member, aside from the PM. And, it goes as read that as this phase in National's governance plan is actioned, Joyce as Minister of Economic Development is the one who will direct the show, scale the pace, and front for the ideologues when moving to keep National's stakeholder groups happy.

Only time will tell if David Shearer will restore Labour as a political force in New Zealand – any leader needs a team to achieve goals. But everyone can tell, he is the right man for this time. Shearer has a job to do now. Should he be replaced in the future through his own choice or not, people who know him say this job will have been done and it will have been done well.

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