When the dust settles on the Shane Jones/David Cunliffe/Bill Liu affair, David Shearer might well regret having stuck his neck out for Jones. He'll certainly look back at his interview with Larry Williams just after 5pm tonight on Newstalk ZB, and wonder how the heck he got ambushed.
You can listen to the full interview here. We feel safe in saying though that it is David Shearer's worst interview since the Labour caucus elected him as leader.
You see, the whole interview is based around a falsehood. In the opening seconds of the interview, Shearer says "Well, when the allegations surfaced on Friday, I got in contact with Shane; I sat down with him over the weekend".
That is patently untrue. The allegations against Shane Jones were first made by Ian Wishart in October 2008. They have been repeated numerous times since then, in a wide range of media, around the blogs, and even in Parliament. In the General Debate on 18 February 2009, Jonathon Coleman said:
David Cunliffe is the man who now insists on asking the big questions in question time. He will not trust his leader to actually ask the questions. And then we have Shane Jones over there. Shane is in hibernation at the moment. He has got the Bill Liu stuff he wants to get out of the way. He is getting over the negative stuff about the shower-head stuff. But he will be back. He is biding his time. He is trying to decide whether he should leave Parliament now, but, no, things look bad enough with Phil. David Cunliffe will be so uncomfortable for the party that Shane Jones could well come to the fore. So it is a very uncomfortable time over there.
Now sure; David Shearer was not in Parliament in February 2009. But Shearer would have to have been either deaf and blind or incredibly badly advised to have not heard of the Bill Liu issue before Friday 18 May 2012. That "defence" is simply not credible.
Mr Shearer was light on detail tonight, but big on bluster. He again claimed that the Banks/Dotcom issue is more serious, apparently because Banks is being investigated by the Police and Jones isn't. That is simply a nonsense, and as John Key has said this afternoon, Shearer's stance on this is hypocritical, when he is personally calling for Banks' head. That Jones has since been revealed to have referred to Bill Liu as "Ching Chong Ming" merely aggravates his lack of judgment.
We wonder who prepared David Shearer for this evening's interview. Whoever it was, whether Chief Press Secretary Francesca Mold, one of the other media team., or one of his colleagues, Shearer went to Williams woefully underprepared and Williams, who is a skilled interviewer had a field day. We almost felt sorry for David Shearer by the end, such was the completeness of his dismantling.
Parliament resumes tomorrow. It's Budget Week, and it's a chance for the Opposition to attack the Government's economic direction. Unfortunately for Labour, David Shearer has ensured that Labour will be at the centre of proceedings this week, for all the wrong reasons.