Has your opinion of David Shearer changed since the election?
OPINION: It wasn't so many months ago that picking the wings off David Shearer was one of the favoured blood sports around Parliament.
Was he up to it? Would he survive? Who was going to train him out of his dithering speech habit? Would he ever land a damaging blow on John Key this side of the 2014 election?
It is probably a measure of how bad public relations have turned for the Government, since the petty Budget, that the focus has shifted; especially to the class-size backdown and the other woes of the prime minister and his colleagues.
But after sounding the depths of despondency last week, with the prime minister pleading for a break from all the bad news, things have been sunnier on the Government benches this week.
The asset sales law has now passed, and will move from a sharp headache to a thrumming hangover. Last Thursday's GDP figures, showing surprising growth in the first quarter of the year, have helped.
And there has been a run of "get tough" stories that serve to remind its voter base why – when they disliked asset sales – they still voted for Mr Key and his team last November; think bracelets on crims and a triumphant Police Minister Anne Tolley standing atop the first crushed boy-racer car.
But it is not just the focus on the Government's woes that has taken the heat off the Labour leader – for now.
He has also shown signs of getting to grips with the role, though there are still giant strides needed.
And he seems to have taken a tactical step back from the series of high-profile, but essentially unsuccessful, "vision speeches" earlier in the year.
It was a wise retreat.
Far from giving his popularity a boost, they turned into a sort of litmus test of his political positioning and abilities. Was he really red or a little blue? Would he slip up the second time and parrot Mr Key's "bright future" election catchline?
At times they morphed into a sporting contest, with the media holding up scorecards – for all the world like the Olympics' high diving or gymnastics judges.
It is not clear how many speeches he had planned, but one at least seems to have gone the way of all flesh; an outline of New Zealand's place in the world.
Given his background with the United Nations and aid it should have been his natural stomping ground, but discretion proved the better part of valour.
At the same time he has made progress in other areas.
On TV just being himself, in shows like Back Benches or Would I Lie to You, he has been a revelation; relaxed, funny and engaging.
In the House he is still far from electric, but far more fluent. Press conferences are still a challenge, though.
Some hesitancy has gone, and his briefing lines come to him more easily.
But when a question comes from left field I swear you can hear the cogs whirring as he seems to go through a sort of internal interrogation. What is our policy? Is this an elephant trap? Where does the caucus and the party stand? Am I sticking my neck out?
And his answers are often mushy and unconvincing on key economic and financial issues.
That in particular makes it difficult for him to outshine the Greens' Russel Norman – rapidly becoming a first among equals with co-leader Metiria Turei – who is experienced in the portfolio.
Mr Norman has the added advantage of established Green policy and always has a soundbite on the tip of his tongue.
No doubt the electoral mathematics have boosted Mr Shearer's morale.
The slow improvement in Labour's polling, combined with the strong showing by the Greens, has made a victory in 2014 at least an even bet. And with over two years to run there is plenty of time for Mr Key's popularity to wane further.
So it's true, some of the initial questions about Mr Shearer have been answered.
Yes, he is safe as leader. There is no obvious challenger within the party and unless there is a massive reversal in the polls the party will not risk a spill while victory is in prospect.
There has been an improvement in his speech-giving, and with former Radio NZ reporter Julian Robins joining his press team he will have one of the most direct broadcasting interviewers around to help hone his powers.
But he is yet to land that damaging blow on Mr Key.
That leaves a big question mark over how he will handle the all-important pre-election debates with John Key, especially on the economy.
If Phil Goff wasn't able to "show him the money" in 2011, Mr Shearer is yet to prove he even knows where the cash is stashed.
- © Fairfax NZ News