On his 3News blog, Patrick Gower has listed who he thinks the members of Camp Cunliffe are. This is an open letter to caucus, and specifically to those 12 (possibly 14) MP’s, asking them to follow this simple request from David Shearer this weekend.

I’m not here to cross something off my bucket list. Or to indulge in some sense of celebrity. I went out into the world to help improve people’s lives and I’ve chosen to enter politics for the same reason.

It’s why I want to lead this country and it’s why I need your support to get there.

Together we can make a difference. A big difference.

I will be up front from the start. Back in December I was a Shearer supporter. The reasons I preferred Shearer for the leadership were many, but it was never because he wasn’t David Cunliffe.

On the eve of labour’s 2011 congress I spent an hour or so (and a couple of beers) in the company of Stuart Nash, David Shearer and David Cunliffe at the Backbencher.

I had met Cunliffe before, and on a few occasions since, and still rate him as a highly capable and intelligent politician who is in it for all the right reasons. I was less taken with Shearer, but there was something honest and human about him. I suppose I felt that, where Cunliffe could come across as too polished, too political (and even sleazy at times), Shearer, despite his faults and deficiencies, was more in touch with the kiwi appetite for politics – which, lets face it, is not a very big appetite (that’s why bloKey John does so well in the popularity stakes – he doesn’t taste or feel like a political hack).

David Shearer

I saw more of Shearer between that first meeting and the election, and my opinion didn’t change too much. What did change was my opinion of Shearer’s potential. With the right team behind him, the right coaching, the right front bench, he could change not only the fortunes of Labour, but the fortunes of the country as a whole. In short, my preference for the 2011 leadership race was based on Shearers potential for greatness.

The past year has not gone to plan and has led, inevitably, to what can only be described as an orchestrated week and a bit of the long knives from aspects of the media and blogosphere  This has culminated in talk of a leadership challenge from Camp Cunliffe in February under the new rules passed at conference this weekend.

Whilst changing the leader may appear to you to be the answer to all our woes, while it may be the tilt to the left you think the party needs, I am here to tell you that, despite all your combined years of political experience, you’ve got this one wrong.

What you propose is a short term fix to a problem that can be remedied in other ways, and fails to take into account two important things.

First is the actual views of our members and supporters. One of David Cunliffe’s strongest supporters in caucus is based in an electorate with two branches. I know for a fact that BOTH those branches supported David Shearer for the leadership back in December. I don’t know if that MP voted according to their electorates wishes or with Cunliffe, but it seems to me that those who claim that Cunliffe has the overwhelming support of grass-roots labour members may well be over-reaching with rhetoric rather than substance.

More importantly, as we look to 2014, a leadership challenge and switch to David Cunliffe fails to account for the views of those people who MAY support and vote for us at the next election.

Whilst it may be difficult to hear (and I say this with no malice to David Cunliffe), he is not well liked. I have spoken to a number of people (left leaning but not Labour) about this, and while they see the flaws with Shearer, they have all commented that they could not vote for a Labour party with Cunliffe at the helm. They see him as untrustworthy. In short, if Cunliffe were to become the leader, we could well be taking votes from National with one hand and passing them straight to the Greens with the other.

Even if you choose to ignore this sentiment within the Kiwi voting public, you must realise that we need to get on with the task of holding National to account, not fighting amongst ourselves about the leadership from now until February.

If we are to start making the movements we need in the polls, we need to be unified as a party. I know that there are many different sectors and pressure groups within the Labour party, but none of them are bigger than the whole. We, the members, lead by you, the caucus need to put aside our silo sector thinking and ask, not what the party will do for us and our particular agendas, but what we can do for the party and for New Zealand.

It’s not all down to us. David Shearer needs to make some changes too. One speech does not make a leader, and many of the issues that were there in December last year are still present. The blame is not solely his, but he now needs to take responsibility and surround himself with a team of staff and advisers that are loyal to him alone and that he can trust and respect. I am not convinced he has that setup right now, and the recent GCSB tapes confusion and the fact that we are currently in this mess back up that opinion. The last thing Shearer needs is a bunch of ‘yes’ men and women.

Shearer must also resist the urge to punish those he perceives are backing Cunliffe. You need to lead for the whole party, not just the ones who voted for you. Again, if that’s the advice your staff are giving you, maybe its time to find a new team.

It doesn’t stop there. All our MP’s need to up their game. Yes, some of you are working hard, and some of you are coasting. Some of you are taking the fight to National, and some of you are being handed smoking guns and somehow managing to shoot yourselves in the foot.

Now is the time to focus on what matters – winning in 2014 and making New Zealand a more prosperous and fairer society for all (it really is that simple guys).

If there was a recipe for success as a political party, it would have three ingredients  Strategy discipline and unity! That is where our focus needs to be from this point on.

As a party we need cease the infighting and start laying out our vision for the future. As the policy announcements about homes this weekend show, we have the values and ideology, what we need to do now is implement it. We need to show the rest of New Zealand what we will do, how we will do it and what it will cost. We need to be honest. Yes, some people will be worse off in short term. They will be the ones most able to cope with that. Crucially though, we need to show that everyone will  better off in the long term.

It’s time for Labour to take a leaf out of the All Blacks play-book and start acting like a team with a vision for the future. It means that all of us, from member to office holders to MP’s to the leaders office need to up our game. Specifically to those MP’s identified as members of Camp Cunliffe, and to those members, bloggers and ne’er-do-wells who seek to undermine David Shearer – we have a leader, lets all work together to make him the best leader he can be, and take Labour to victory in 2014.

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  • Antony Cotton

    I think Shearer is improving all the time needs to bring fresh faces to the Frontbench and dominate some non performs like Mahuta Street Dyson and Fenton. KIng Goff Mallard are not bad but you need younger ones like Curran in Health Moroney in Education and Louisa Wall as Whip. Mr Shearer keep up the good work but dominate the poor Performs.

    • http://www.recessmonkey.org.nz/ Chris Richardson

      As one who has some knowledge of the abilities of certain MP’s, I wouldn’t agree 100% with your specific choices for certain roles, but Shearer is slightly hamstrung by the lack of numbers in caucus. However, I agree in principle with what you are saying. There is no way we can win in 2014 with the same old faces fronting the campaign.

  • James

    Well put. I was never in camp Shearer but completely agree. I just think he should never have been selected in the first place, but now that he has been we should work with him, not against him.