By Adam Ray
Labour Party leader David Shearer has been forced to answer questions over his leadership just days out from Labour's annual conference.
He’s under huge pressure to deliver a headline-grabbing speech at the conference.
Mr Shearer arrived at caucus this morning facing growing talk over his leadership, but he says he’s not listening to it.
“It's not a challenge, there is no challenge, so it’s not an issue,” he says. “[It's] rumour and talk”.
The latest talk has been on pro-Labour website The Standard, calling for Mr Shearer to go. His sometimes stumbling performances have raised doubts, but today he was confident.
“Well, I am doing a good job as a leader because Labour have come up and National have come down.”
He is right, but only to a point. National trounced Labour by nearly 20 points last November. Mr Shearer took over in December, and by February Labour was about 18 points behind. Last month, a 3 News-Reid Research poll had Labour nearly 16 behind.
Labour MPs say the blogosphere's worried about Mr Shearer, but they're not.
“Blogs? Who cares about blogs?” says Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove.
He was echoed by fellow MP Andrew Little.
“The blogs don't get a vote in the Labour Party, so we don’t pay much consideration to it,” he says.
Mr Shearer, unsurprisingly, doesn't get a vote of support from the Prime Minister.
“I have seen tougher leaders. Helen Clark was much tougher, even Phil Goff was,” says John Key.
While Labour MPs say there's no talk of leadership change, there will be changes to the way it elects a leader. Currently only MPs have a vote.
“The focus for the party has been the organisation review," says Mr Little. "That'll change things for everybody. That's a good thing.”
Labour's annual conference is expected to endorse a proposal to take away the monopoly MPs have in electing a new leader. Under the changes, MPs will get 40 percent of the vote, party members will also get 40 percent, with the remaining 20 percent going to affiliated unions.
So if Mr Shearer is replaced, sooner or later, it won't be just MPs who make the call on his replacement.