Word is that Shearer’s team has taken a cue from the media response from Key’s reshuffle and is looking to bolster his new tough image by dropping some of the old hands in his own reshuffle (which will, of course, come after the caucus vote on his leadership). Almost without doubt the losers will be Maryan Street, Su’a William Sio, and Nanaia Mahuta.
Shearer will be hoping that serving up their heads will be enough to get him the kind of “ruthless steel” headlines Key got for dropping Wilkinson and Heatley.
His other move will be to give Hipkins education, bring Shane Jones back, and possibly promote someone he doesn’t like (perhaps Cunliffe) into health as it’s a portfolio labour’s strategists have given up on and now see as a poison chalice.
This change-up probably won’t be enough for the likes of Tracy Watkins, who has made it clear that the real old guard to see off is Trev, Annette, and Phil. But that’s just dreaming: there’s no way Shearer will cross the people that are keeping him in place and the recent hard yards he’s done for Trev’s aspirations for the Speaker’s chair shows just who holds sway in Shearer’s caucus. With those three unmoved, the path to promotion is blocked for younger MPs.
I expect Shearer’s team will try to make a big deal of the of the fact Street gets dropped. It’s well known she voted for Shearer in the 2011 leadership contest and she isn’t needed by him now so makes the perfect scalp to take to show he doesn’t play favorites. Dropping Mahuta will give the press gallery the result they’ve been hinting at for the last year, and giving Cunliffe health will allow them to claim they’re bringing him back up into a big portfolio while keeping him away from anything economic and setting him up to fail.
One thing is for sure though, the core team driving Labour’s centre-seeking small target strategy won’t be touched. Shearer’s new-found toughness can only stretch so far.