Shearer stuck in the blocks

23:58, Apr 26 2012

Ask any seasoned politician and they'll tell you that winning a general election is a marathon, not a sprint.

That may be the case, but it appears Labour leader David Shearer has pulled a hamstring moments after the starting gun went off.

His party was always going to struggle against National at last year's election.

In Phil Goff, it had a competent but uncharismatic leader who failed to connect with voters. It had a popular incumbent prime minister to take down and also shot itself in the foot with its campaign strategy.

There was more focus on what Labour wouldn't do if it got into power – not sell state assets – than there was on what they would do.

Voters seem to prefer parties and policies that are aspirational; whether that is always in the best interests of the country is another matter.


Labour also had no succession plan in place.

The three Davids (Cunliffe, Parker and Shearer) all put their hands up and it was the one with the least experience and least name recognition that got the numbers.

Shearer was probably the right choice for Labour, but his honeymoon is well and truly over and he has failed to make any significant gains or score any big hits on National.

At this point in time, National is something of a juggernaut in the polls. You feel they could bring back the death penalty, ban abortion and decriminalise cannabis and the polls wouldn't budge.

But that popularity is not all their own doing. They have a leader that most people seem comfortable with, but Labour isn't offering much of an alternative.

Shearer's subterranean profile may be a deliberate tactic on his and his advisers' part, but it's not working.

He is obviously a talented and respected operator, but his start as leader of the opposition is one that needed more oomph, more visibility, anything to raise his profile.

It may still be early days in the marathon, but the race can be over before it even begins – and there are others who are willing to take his place.


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