Both Key and Shearer have been under pressure from various media commentary of late.
Duncan Garner has given Key a telling off on his government’s dismal economic performance:
National must surely know its target to reach a surplus in the 2014/15 financial year is in tatters. When will it admit it? It can’t be far off.
Today Treasury confirmed the country’s accounts are $449m worse off in the three months to September 30. $449,000,000! That’s almost half a billion dollars less in the kitty than was forecast in just 3 months. The economy went tits up over winter. And remember what the surplus target is? Just $197m dollars in 2014/15. This result is a bad. The numbers look awful. The economy has flatlined.
Are the latest unemployment numbers a winter blip or a sign of something much more serious? I think it’s the latter. Unemployment is at 7.3 percent – that’s a whopping 175,000 people unemployed which is an additional 13,000 more than just three months ago. That means $449 million less tax revenue in just three months. Companies aren’t hiring. People aren’t getting pay rises. We’ve got the wobbles and it’s not because we were speeding. Why?
… The Prime Minister’s optimism and ambition is to be applauded but it simply hasn’t happened. A reality check is needed and he got it yesterday.
He should not have been so “surprised” at yesterday’s numbers. To be surprised is simply not good enough. It doesn’t fit his political script or his sunny outlook.
Even the sycophantic Fran O’Sullivan is starting to sound a little panicked:
Optimism and shock over dire jobs news no excuse for Govt inaction.
John Key was personally shocked by news that unemployment has ratcheted up to 7.3 per cent. It was writ large on the Prime Minister’s face when he stopped for an informal chat at a conference in Auckland on Thursday. The dreadful news was clearly counter to the advice the Government has received from the Treasury.
But instead of galvanising Key into action – through orchestrating a real Jobs Summit and incentivising employers to take on more workers – the Prime Minister waffled. … For Key to simply shrug his shoulders on this score doesn’t cut it.
Note the reference to a “real” jobs summit this time, not like the pretend one that Fran and others cheered for in 2009.
Key is on the defensive not only for his abysmal record, but also for his sloppy management and personal blunders. He sounds extraordinarily defensive in today’s piece from Audrey Young:
Critics say John Key’s relaxed style is becoming a liability as he approaches the first anniversary of his re-election. But the Prime Minister tells political editor Audrey Young he’d feel like a fraud if he tried to change.
… Critics have suggested that he has become so comfortable in his role in his second term, he has let his guard down, forgetful of sensitivities (“I can ignore the Waitangi Tribunal”), forgetful about what he has heard (“I knew nothing about the GCSB being involved with Dotcom”) and lets his mouth run away with him when he is away from the prying microphones of the Press Gallery (that “gay shirt” he ribbed a DJ about, and describing David Beckham as being thick as bat/pig/goat/sheep shit).
… He is a little regretful at the latest couple of incidents over the shirt and the Beckham conversation. “From time to time I might push a little bit too hard and I have got to be a bit more careful.” But essentially he sees it as the media’s problem, not one that comes between him and the public. He hasn’t changed the way he behaves.
… “I came in as John Key and I’m going out as John Key. The media or our opponents will try and portray that as being too casual. I don’t agree with that.
Cue Ole’ Blue Eyes for a rousing chorous of “My way”. Young finishes with a helpful list of Key’s “Second-term blues”
• Foreign Affairs restructuring
• SkyCity Convention Centre-pokies deal
• John Banks’ election donations
• ACC/Bronwyn Pullar/Nick Smith’s resignation
• Retreat on class sizes budget
• Crafar farms sale approved
• Maori challenge to SOE sales
• Dotcom raids
• GCSB unlawful surveillance
• MSD kiosks privacy breach
David Shearer isn’t busy trashing the country, so he is less in the media spotlight, but still attracting his share of criticism on leadership style. Here’s another Duncan Garner stream of consciousness:
Labour promised an exciting back story that would impress and a new front man to rival the Prime Minister. Sadly for Labour – they’re still looking for that person. David Shearer has failed. Labour’s lucky it’s not getting done under the law for false advertising.
Let’s be honest, Labour leader David Shearer doesn’t have it. He’s a nice, mild mannered, likeable, warm but a stuttering, incoherent mess that is the opposite of what an alternative Prime Minister should look like. And before you say ‘give him some time’, he’s had a year and I think he’s gone backwards – not forwards.
The well-informed Vernon Small reckons that a lot is riding on Shearer’s performance at Conference next week.
Just short of his first anniversary as leader, David Shearer delivers his first speech to a Labour Party conference next week. But as storm clouds gather over his leadership, it is shaping as possibly his last. Members, activists and unionists contacted for this article said over and over that the speech at the Ellerslie racecourse conference centre next Sunday was crucial to Shearer’s grip on the leadership.
His first priority is to convince the party rank and file that “he has what it takes” – and those grassroots members will be looking for a hard-hitting address taking the fight to the Government while outlining a clear and personal view of where he intends to take Labour
Unless he can carry that off, the groundswell in the party is set to break into the open with a push for a leadership challenge, most likely when the caucus meets in February – or even sooner, according to one business lobbyist in close contact with the party.
… Posts on the Labour-leaning Standard blog and pressure from commentators like Chris Trotter – fuelled by speeches and interviews by Cunliffe – have bagged Shearer and backed his main rival.
With respect Vernon, posts on the Standard have (and always will) expressed a range of views – I for one am backing Shearer!
A highly placed party source said: “He needs to deliver a gutsy speech. We just want to see him lead. Discipline someone [such as MP Shane Jones] without being too cautious. Take a position on JT [former Cabinet minister John Tamihere] coming back. Make a leadership speech not just a policy speech.”
… Shearer’s main problem is not that he is divisive or that he has made enemies in the caucus. In fact he is universally liked and respected. But he has failed badly as a communicator during a year when National has faced huge head-winds and when the gloss has come off Prime Minister John Key’s image.
And so on and so on.
Both Key and Shearer under under pressure. But Shearer’s problems are solvable (he can lift his game), Key’s are not (he’s locked in to the mess he’s made). Shearer’s recent speeches have been bang on target policy wise. I’m still in the camp that says give him time to get the communication skills right. I know that most of our active readers and commenters are frustrated and impatient – I am too! – but this has to be balanced by expectations that are realistic. Sudden shifts in popular opinion (like the Orewa speech) are very rare. It’s a slow, grinding process, and Labour under Shearer is making progress. My suggestion to impatient Lefties is to take a leaf from Nate Silver’s book. Never mid the irrelevant sideshows and opinions. Watch the numbers (thanks Rob Salmond):
Our poll of polls continues to show a slow drop in National’s fortunes, and an increasingly positive outlook for Labour and the left more broadly.
Patience Lefties, with luck and hard work, Shearer’s leadership will outlast Key’s…