Shearer hints at reshuffle as few shine in front row

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 01/10/2012
David Shearer
Labour Leader David Shearer

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Labour leader David Shearer is eyeing a possible reshuffle of key portfolios before the end of the year, with his entire front bench subject to scrutiny.

Nanaia Mahuta may be under threat in the education portfolio, although she has insisted she is not going anywhere and appears to have redoubled her efforts.

In comments to The Nation at the weekend, Mr Shearer said there would "quite possibly" be changes to his front bench line-up.

"[I'm] certainly looking at where we can improve. Obviously you would want to do that," Mr Shearer said.

He declined to say when a reshuffle might happen, but on announcing his line-up before Christmas last year, he indicated there would be a review within 12 months.

"With 34 MPs I need all my team contributing fully," Mr Shearer said at the time.

"I have made clear that I will be looking closely at the performance of every MP and strong performers will be rewarded."

Mr Shearer has lately staked out education as the key battleground for Labour. National has been perceived by Labour as weak on education under the stewardship of Hekia Parata and Mr Shearer gave his strongest speech as leader on the subject last month.

In Parliament, chief whip and associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins has been one of the few Labour MPs to make a serious impact on a minister, landing some telling blows on Ms Parata. He could be in line to usurp Ms Mahuta completely in the education role, but that might require him to drop state services, where he has also been strong.

But Ms Mahuta appears in no mood to relinquish the portfolio. After a quiet beginning in the role, she has become more vocal in recent weeks.

Last month she said pregnancy with her second child, due in December, would not lead her to stand down from her front bench job.

The stand-out candidate for promotion elsewhere would appear to be first-term MP David Clark, who has had a strong run since taking over the Dunedin North seat from the retiring Pete Hodgson at last year's election.

Dr Clark is leading a bill to "Mondayise" public holidays and had a bill to lift the minimum wage to $15 an hour narrowly defeated last month.

Mr Shearer announced last month that Dr Clark had been awarded a seven-week Eisenhower Fellowship to study in the United States in March next year.

“In his first year as an MP, David has already marked himself out as one to watch," Mr Shearer said at the time.

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- The Dominion Post

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