Decapitating Dear Leader

It seems Dear Leader’s days may be numbered – at least if you believe erstwhile left-wing commentator Chris Trotter. Trotter, whose controversial appearance (due to his Ruatoki raid comments) at Labour’s last conference in Takapuna cemented him firmly back onside with Labour, has posted calling for minister Phil Goff to oust PM Helen Clark.

While I agree with Trotter’s analysis, especially:

A worryingly large chunk of Labour’s core constituency has become alienated from the Helen Clark-led government, and it is to be seriously doubted whether they can be persuaded back while she remains Labour’s leader.

This vital chunk of culturally conservative, economically stressed voters, a great many of them married men in their thirties with young children, large mortgages and high aspirations (both for themselves and their kids) could represent as much as 5 per cent of the electorate.

I’m less inclined to agree that John Key “has got ’em”, nor that Labour’s solution is to behead Clark. David Farrar’s post about Trotter’s article has a fun selection of comments, including this about Trotter from ‘Brownie’:

I wonder what happened to him? He used to be a thorn in the side of the right. Now he’s merely a pimple on the bottom of the left.

and Bryce Edwards notes the very astute analysis from another Trotter article:

Only a prime minister who had lost the plot both strategically and tactically could have come up with something as extravagantly self-defeating as the Electoral Finance Act.

Labour’s trouble stems from Clark and Finance minister Cullen being the only in Cabinet who appear to have a pulse above the shoulders. Supposedly strong ministers like Annette King, Lianne Dalziel, Trevor Mallard and even up-and-comer David Parker have demonstrated mostly stubborn defense of the indefensible (aka civil servant blunders) that translates to electoral suicide.

Meanwhile, ministerial handbag Judith Tizard annoys anyone within a 5km radius, while thankfully the puerile Tim Barnett and George Beyer are on the outer (kinda literally).

Clark and Labour’s probable solution lies with forced promotion of the capable Chris Carter (to more portfolios) and David Cunliffe (to portfolios that matter – say health), and rapid and forced induction of new ministerial talent. Having a Cabinet who have to focus most of their cranial capacity on the intricate task of breathing rather detracts from their ability to sate the electorate’s outrage over unaffordable housing, rising violent crime and climate change that so far has only had solutions in name.

Unhindered by the ‘new ethical way of doing politics’ the Greens espouse, Labour may even want to contemplate forced retirement of dross to bring their predicted next-term talent (Kate Sutton, Jordan Carter, etc) in now, to blood them and possibly drop a few in Cabinet on minor portfolios for some good news. The mooted replacement of Ann Hartley by Sua William Sio will not help – Labour have the Pacific vote wrapped up; it is the Gen X pakeha vote they are losing, and to which they must appeal with talented Gen Xers.

Question is, do Labour have them, and the bollocks to usher in such talent in time to save this government? That is Clark’s true test of leadership.

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