Word around the traps is that David Shearer is going to use his state of the nation speech next weekend to announce that he will put his leadership to full membership vote in February. If it’s true, and it’s a big if, it’s a ballsy but smart move politically and a welcome sign that Labour’s leadership is embracing democracy.
It’s no secret that Labour’s membership is pretty pissed off with the way that the old guard launched a decapitation strike on Cunliffe the moment that the membership decided on a democratic leadership election process.
Honouring the membership’s desire to have a genuine say will go a long way to bringing Labour and its base back together. Refusing to have a vote could only be taken as a tacit acknowledgement that the old guard thinks Shearer would lose a race, and the legitimacy question of a leader who appears afraid of his own members would remain. Taking the initiative would put that to rest and earn praise from even his staunchest critics.
In fact, by taking the front foot, Shearer will probably ensure that he wins the race, possibly even without serious opposition. Winning that vote would put to rest the murmurings that would otherwise follow him indefinitely.
When Shearer has taken the bulls by the horn, he has looked good. Fronting up and showing the membership that he respects them and their right to choose their leader should be another such moment.