Shearer wins – for now

Labour leader David Shearer called David Cunliffe’s bluff and has won – for now.

Shearer said he would call for a vote of confidence in the next couple of weeks rather than waiting until February.

Cunliffe has said he’d vote for Shearer in that first vote but won’t confirm his intentions for February.

That means he hasn’t got the numbers now but is not giving up on his leadership ambitions.

However, Shearer has come out of this looking strong and Cunliffe has come out of it looking stupid.

His assessment of his own ability is obviously several steps ahead of that of his caucus colleagues. He might have had support from unions and other Labour members for a coup, but that isn’t enough if Shearer calls for a vote of confidence soon.

Cunliffe might still win a challenge in February but he’ll be trying from a much weaker position after his antics at the weekend.

There are few good times to show you’re disloyal to your leader and the party conference certainly isn’t one of them. It shows you’re putting yourself before the party.

That could well be enough for  waverers in caucus and the wider party to turn their backs on him.

Shearer has signalled a reshuffle of caucus responsibilities. Whether or not this is the time to send a message to non-performers, he has no choice but to demote Cunliffe.

That still won’t  take the heat out of speculation on the party’s leadership, the rule change at the weekend will keep it bubbling until February.

That speculation won’t just be over whether Cunliffe will give up his leadership ambitions but whether he can stay in the party.



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