Shearer's Three Strikes: National Government Not the Only Thing that Must Go in 2017

Sometimes the broad church is simply too broad. On three significant occasions, David Shearer has shown himself to be disturbingly out of step with, and even disdainful of, the Labour Party's more progressive thinkers.

First there was Shearer's protracted rant on Facebook on the eve of Jeremy Corbyn taking the helm of the British Labour Party, then there was his embarrassing stance on the Kiwi/Saudi relationship, and now today we have the news that he has broken ranks with the caucus to support the TPPA.

On September 11, Shearer predicted that a win by Corbyn would likely "guarantee Labour stays in 'glorious' opposition as it did during the 1980s and 1990s - until finally it reached out to voters in the centre". He declared that "being in government is the objective. Anything else is just academic discussion."

With these words, Shearer made it clear that for him, compromising principles to attain power is acceptable. Like many naysayers in Britain, he moaned that "many joined the Labour Party... just so they could vote for Corbyn", failing to see that this enthusiastic new blood, in the form of thousands of new members, could be just what the doctor ordered. He also fails to appreciate, like those in the US who dismiss the burgeoning Sanders campaign, just how much the average person is hurting after three decades of neoliberalist capitalism wrought by both major parties. His Facebook post concludes: "Sadly, the stakes are heavily titled against a positive outcome for Labour - and with it the majority of hardworking, decent Brits."

Then we had the more recent and more public embarrassment of Shearer, an alleged human rights hero, equivocating about Saudi Arabia in the wake of the news it had executed 47 people in one day. While Winston Peters seized the moral high ground on Radio New Zealand by accusing the government of ignoring Saudi human rights violations to secure a dubious trade deal, Shearer opined that shunning the repressive regime would "lose an opportunity to sit with Saudi representatives and actually express your dissatisfaction about their policies." Note that to Shearer, beheading dissidents equates to mere policy. Today we have the news that the government is forging ahead with its gift of a $3 million abattoir to the Saudis. What an innovative way to express dissatisfaction!

When he was leader, Shearer complained of being undermined and subverted by some in the Labour caucus. Certainly the instability and disunity of our front bench have been major factors in Labour's defeats in the post-Clark years. At November's conference, the rank-and-file were assured that differences among caucus members had been put aside for the greater good. We breathed a sigh of relief. Many of us have also been waiting for our party to take a stronger stand against the TPPA than the weak checklist approach Labour had been promulgating. Hence it was a sweet victory today when Andrew Little finally and simply stated: "I don't support it, we don't support it," yet it was a victory we couldn't savour for as long as a news cycle thanks to Shearer, who was happy to inform the media his views are unchanged and he still supports the TPPA.

Even Hillary Clinton with the poll- and focus group-driven, pragmatic, middle-of-the-road "leadership" style Shearer must salute, has sensibly changed her mind on this one, as she's grasped the damage it will do to American workers and to efforts to protect the environment.

Shearer, on the other hand, is clearly one who can't be swayed, whether by increased participation in the political process when bold policy is embraced and articulated, whether by a supposed ally's acceleration of barbaric acts, or by the judgment of his colleagues, backed up by hundreds of concerned party members, academics, and economists.

David Shearer and his ilk are the ones who pose a danger to the well-being of hardworking, decent people. We have to hope that the Mt Albert Electoral Committee, rather than rubber-stamping his selection, will seek an alternative candidate to stand, one who is able to provide the strong moral leadership the country desperately needs from all of its elected officials.


An American expat living in Auckland since 2000, Julia Schiller is a graduate of Washington University in St Louis, a former ESOL teacher, a Labour Party volunteer, and a self-employed entrepreneur.