The case for David

Next week the 34 surviving members of the Labour Party caucus will vote for a new leader. Once that is done they will also need to vote for a new deputy leader, senior whip and junior whip.

This means that David Cunliffe and David Shearer need at least 18 MPs to vote for them to become the 13th leader of the Labour Party.

According to one report David Shearer has 14 votes locked in (including his own) and David Cunliffe has nine pledged to him. That leaves 11 MPs who will decide the leadership. Shearer needs just four of them and Cunliffe needs nine of the 11 - a challenging task if the numbers are correct.

I think Labour is fortunate to have two very credible candidates. Often a party has little choice about who the next leader will be, as was the case for Labour in 2008.

I suspect that whichever David wins the leadership will  get to contest only one election, unless Labour wins in 2014 (which is very possible). If Labour loses in 2014 then I would expect to see Grant Robertson and Andrew Little battle it out for the leadership.

But in 2011 it is a choice between David Shearer and David Cunliffe. Only Labour MPs get to vote, but the undecided MPs may listen to feedback from activists, supporters and potential supporters. With that in mind, I thought I would blog on the respective strengths of each candidate.

David Cunliffe

  • Would have the strongest business background of any Labour leader.
  • Economic credibility during a period when economic issues will be at the fore.
  • Strong performance record as a minister.
  • Has shown ability to master detail.
  • Strong debater.
  • Has promised his rival a seat on the front bench, so caucus does not split.
  • Ready to go head to head againgst Key now.
  • Nanaia Mahuta as running mate would potentially see first female Maori deputy PM.


David Shearer

  • Inspiring back story.
  • Not associated with the previous Labour government.
  • Has support of Labour big hitters such as Goff, King, Mallard.
  • Very likeable.
  • More likely to reform Labour.
  • Less ideological on policy.
  • Wide appeal - endorsements from far left to the right of the political spectrum.
  • Like Key, seen more as an ordinary guy doing some time in Parliament, rather than a professional politician.


I think both Davids would perform well as  leader, certainly better than Phil Goff did. I don't mean that as a personal criticism of Goff, who put up a string showing in the campaign. I never thought that someone who had been in Parliament for 30 years would be able to be seen as a leader with new ideas and policies they sincerely believe in. Both Cunliffe and Shearer will be seen as credibly offering an alternative to not just National but also to the Labour government that got thrown out in 2008.

Shearer has been regarded as the frontrunner (and is my pick as the best for Labour) but Cunliffe put up a much stronger performance on the weekend news shows.

So which David do you think Labour MPs should elect as leader?

David Farrar is a centre-right blogger affiliated to the National Party. His disclosure statement is here.

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