The enemy within

Labour Party leader David Shearer probably doesn’t look to Margaret Thatcher for advice, but he would do well to mark her words: . . . We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty.”

Shearer is facing an onslaught from the enemies within – his party, the left leaning commentariat in blogs and the media.

Thatcher was talking about unions and given the power they wield in Labour it’s probable that they too are working to undermine Shearer’s leadership.

That isn’t a difficult job because after nearly a year in the position he’s failed to gain traction in the party or in opposition.

As Tapu Misa says:

Some people grow into the role of party leader; others seem somehow diminished by it. . .

Shearer seems a decent man. Unwilling to engage in the unwholesome side of politics, he projected himself as the anti-politician politician – reasonable, pleasant, honourable. His made-for-television back story (brave, selfless aid worker saving the world’s starving millions) looked like the perfect foil to John Key’s.

But it’s a punishing gig being Opposition leader, and Shearer is, sadly, out of his depth. . .

Helen Clark handed Phil Goff a poisoned chalice when she resigned on election night in 2008.


Shearer won the leadership at least partly by default – because he wasn’t the other candidate David Cunliffe.

That meant he didn’t start with a huge vote of confidence. His first job was to get that and he hasn’t.

He also needed to unite his caucus, get the slackers working, ease the deadwood out, revitalise the volunteer base and be an effective opposition leader and he hasn’t done that either.

His caucus is still divided, the slackers are still slacking, the deadwood is still comfortably ensconced, volunteers are disillusioned, and both Winston Peters and Russel Norman are far more effective at attacking the government and getting public attention than he is.

He’ll have to work miracles at the party conference this weekend, but even if he does, it’s possible few will notice. There’s a royal visit, the All Blacks are playing Italy, it’s Show and Cup weekend in Canterbury, heritage celebrations in North Otago and all sorts of other events around the country that will be competing for public attention and media space.

This weekend will be Shearer’s big chance to really shine but even if he does the strength of the enemy within means it is almost certainly too late.


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