He's no Obama, it's true, but his speech was the best I've seen from him, and it's as good as any other speech I've seen from a Labour leader in recent years.
I've been critical of David Shearer, but I liked what I saw today, and if we could see more of that sort of Shearer then I think much of the angst about his leadership would dissipate.
I accept that it's only one performance, and what Shearer really needs to do is speak confidently and with clarity whenever he is interviewed. Nailing a set speech is one thing, but being able to think on one's feet is critical.
Shearer's detractors tend to focus on a perceived inability to articulate clearly what he is on about, and what to them appears to be a failure on his part to move the party in a leftward direction. Shearer did all he could usefully do in one speech to address those concerns. His speech was solid and he made his points clearly, and there was little or none of the stumbling and stuttering we have seen from him in the past. He talked clearly about Labour's policies and values, and denounced the current hands-off economic model in a way that should have satisfied most party members.
It's possible that Shearer has finally found his groove. It's just as possible, I suppose, that nothing has really changed. I don't claim to have the answers, unlike so many of the pundits.
Shearer is now under immense pressure, with a leadership challenge seemingly under way, and with continuous calls for his head from various factions.
Any leadership battle will be messy, and Labour's enemies will be drooling over the bloody mess created by a caucus stoush, but perhaps the party just has to have this fight and get it over with. What won't help Labour, though, is three months of turmoil. There's speculation that Shearer may call for a caucus vote on his leadership in the next couple of days. Any such vote would (as I understand it) be conducted on a simple majority vote. There will also be a leadership vote in February, in which the leader will require at least 60% of the caucus to vote for him if he is to avoid a contest under the new 40-40-20 electoral college system being introduced. So there is potential for this to go on for months.
I suspect Shearer has a majority of the caucus on his side, but it is unclear whether he would have the 60% plus needed to win a vote in February. If Shearer calls for an early caucus vote and gets more than 60% of the caucus behind him, my hope is that any challenger will get the message and won't try their luck again in February. That vote would then become a formality.
I'm not inclined to take sides in any battle at this time, if there is to be one, and I'm beginning to find some of the cheerleading for one candidate over another in some sections of the media and blogosphere a bit wearying, if not tedious. "Fixing" the leadership is one of many things Labour has to do to be regarded as a credible opposition, and even if we get a new leader I see many problems still ahead.