The bane of leading a major political party is the outcome in the Election. The price one pays is his or her office. In three years, Labour has lost two leaders- Helen Clark in 2008 and Phil Goff in 2011.
But while the leadership change in 2008 was smooth, it was rough this year. David Cunliffe, a senior leader and David Shearer, a newcomer (although more than five years older than Cunliffe) staked their claims and in a secret vote on December 13, the Labour caucus chose Shearer to the top post.
Although a novice in politics (he completed less than three years in Parliament), Shearer has experience in Government and international affairs, both of which would help him in his new role. However, he would be watched, commented upon and criticised over every move that he would make and every word that he would utter over the next three years.
Mr Goff was one of the most dedicated, successful and charismatic leaders that New Zealand has ever had in its history.
Although Mr Cunliffe had all the makings of a Party Leader, he was perhaps seen as ‘an old guard’ and that Labour was in need of a fresh face to rejuvenate and reorient its style of working and approach. He may have give his Party a strong and stable leadership but the mantle of responsibility has now fallen on Mr Shearer, who we hope would be able to live up to people’s expectations.
We are confident that Mr Shearer is by now well aware of the country’s political process as a parliamentarian. He would now need to take a macro view of issues, receive a strong orientation in public relations, how to handle the media and most important of all, how to keep his party in good shape and united.
Soon after his election as the Leader of the Party on November 11, 2008, Mr Goff said, “In government, Labour succeeded because it had a united, disciplined and motivated parliamentary and ministerial team.”
Mr Shearer would need to foster such a spirit to lead his Party towards better fortunes in the next Election in 2014.