Maryan Street's role in David Shearer's downfall
Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street was silent this morning on reports that she was the prime mover in David Shearer's downfall - but said she continued to admire him.
Ms Street, a three-term MP and former party president, pulled out of a pre-arranged interview on the leadership changes with the Nelson Mail, emailing that "the reasons will be obvious".
But in a short statement she said that Mr Shearer was "an honourable and decent man" who recognised he had lost the support of most of his caucus, and had done "a difficult but honourable thing".
He did the best for Labour's prospects, Ms Street said.
"I feel sad that he could not galvanise people as he needed to, and I remain admiring of him as a person. He has allowed us to move on to an historic leadership selection process without a messy fight or the need for a motion of no confidence."
The New Zealand Herald reported today that Ms Street had been preparing a motion of no confidence in Mr Shearer ahead of next Tuesday's caucus meeting.
Plans were also being made to send a delegation to him before that to ask him to stand down rather than force the confidence vote, it said.
The MPs involved were certain the motion would have succeeded if it had been required.
A Herald source said there had been discussions for months, but nobody was willing to force the issue until Ms Street stepped up.
West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor told the Mail Mr Shearer's departure was "another victory of style over substance".
"That's the reality of modern politics. It's the small detail around presentation that often people make their judgments on. He's accepted the reality of that and made the decision."
Mr O'Connor said he had not been involved in any move against Mr Shearer. He looked on him as a friend.
Asked if he felt sad for him, he replied: "Sad? I think there'd be a huge sense of relief for him this morning.
"It's one of the worst jobs in the country and he's given it his best. He's moved on with dignity.
"I think he can hold his head up high. The challenge is for the party now, not David Shearer."
Mr Shearer was an astute and committed person who had made the call to go in the hope that someone else could lift Labour's polling, Mr O'Connor said.
"It's a strange world when the public seems to want someone who's a money trader, who has consistently been inconsistent with his facts, and is determined to sell off the country, and they prefer him as prime minister. Perhaps it's the perception and the desires of the people of the country that need to be looked at carefully."
He had not made any decision on who he would support for the leadership, he said.
The resignation will trigger Labour's new leadership selection rules for the first time, giving votes to party members and affiliated unions, as well as MPs.
Fairfax political reporters say leadership favourite Grant Robertson's strongest challenge is likely to come from David Cunliffe.
Mr Robertson has emerged as the frontrunner, though picking him could be a big punt for Labour. He would be its first gay leader and is seen as a Wellington "insider".
But Mr Cunliffe cannot be ruled out after one senior MP said last night the race could be "close".
Labour would be taking a gamble on either man with a Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll showing neither has huge recognition among the general public.
The poll, taken before Mr Shearer stepped down, asked who would be the best Labour leader. A whopping 47.7 per cent did not know, while 29.7 per cent backed Mr Shearer. Only 7.9 per cent picked Mr Cunliffe, and former leader Phil Goff was next with 7.3 per cent. Shane Jones was on 3 per cent support while Mr Robertson was on just 2.5 per cent.
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