The election is over, so the work begins. Labour has its new face in David Shearer, but now has a mountain to climb to win 5-10% of National's voters over to its side (and a few back from the Greens). So how does it do that?
Labour's choice of David Shearer as the party's new leader represents a fair bit of gauntlet and a hell of a gamble. The gamble is obvious – you have to go back to founder Harry Holland in 1919 to find Labour choosing a leader with less parliamentary experience. The gauntlet the party is laying down is not just to the National-led government, but also to the public, challenging voters to look at them anew – and to allow them time to reform.
Shearer's selection may be as much about relationships within caucus as it is politics, but to the country it represents change, which will be welcomed. Voters are ready to put the Clark years behind them. But it's step one on a long journey.
Where to next? Well, let's think about that.
With Christmas almost upon us, Labour has a little time. But Shearer will want to put holiday plans to one side, for he has an immense amount of work to do and he needs to get out and about. And in these troubled times he can't afford to assume the public will be particularly forgiving.
First impressions count in every walk of life and politics is no different. His impression thus fas has been likeable and dedicated, a little tongue-tied and uncertain; plus there's been the suggestion he's being run by Labour's old guard.
He needs to overcome each of those perceptions rapidly. Even the likeability. Looking at John Key, voters saw a dorky guy they could relate, but also knew that no-one could be such a senior currency trader, especially one who made $50 million, without a spine of steel. Shearer can't allow himself to be pigeon-holed as a bleeding heart with no backbone.
He needs an immense amount of media training, he needs to find the words to express what he – and his Labour party – stand for, and he needs to shake off anything that suggests he is the puppet of the Clark, or even Lange, era Labour party.
And, of course, he needs to unify his caucus. His first meeting should be (or already should have been) with David Cunliffe.
Looking towards National, he's best to start graciously. Shearer's appeal is largely post-political. Given his striking lack of experience, it has to be! Voters will want him to be someone they can like and admire, not bitterly partisan or negative.
He wants to be seen as a reluctant politician, driven by service and hope not ego or ideology. He needs to be someone people want to vote for, so that they're willing to consider him when they start not wanting to vote for the other guy.
Having said that, elections are almost always lost in this country, not won. And that comes in part from Opposition pressure. He has to rattle this government and have some success within the first year, or else the party will look again at Cunliffe or move on to Grant Robertson. Shearer doesn't have long.
It'll be interesting to see how Shearer tackles his battle with Key. It's often said that you have to attack an opponent's weakness. But in truth you have to beat them at their strength well. So while Shearer will want to establish a sense of purpose and credibility in contrast to the "muddle through" and "smile and wave" image Labour wants to pin on Key, he will have to "out-likeable" the PM as well.
Looking outward, the defining issues of the next few years will be economic. Labour has just elected itself its first openly gay deputy leader in Robertson, but while that's something the party can take pride in, it should not be making a big deal of it. Voters need to know it's about them and their money worries.
Labour's image is too closely tied to identity politics and a "thou shalt" attitude to governing. Shearer and Roberston together have talked about "reconnecting" and that means bread and butter issues and a focus on their normality rather than their exceptionalism.
Let others talk about his efforts to save the world. Shearer must let his work speak for itself; people are already impressed. He needs to focus on the ordinary, on others and talk of that in order to connect. Cunliffe's suggestion back in the Mt Albert by-election that Shearer was "a cross between Mother Theresa and Indiana Jones" is not one to play up. Labour's problem is that it has seemed too removed, too smugly suburban; that it knows better and is better.
Shearer needs to play against that. The risk with David Cunliffe was the impression of intellectual superiority; Shearer must call a spade a bloody tool from day one.
The new leader says he wants Labour to be "a party of ideas", and so he should. He will need a big idea sooner rather than later which represents his values and identity and says something about this "fresh" Labour party – as JFK introduced the Peace Corp, given Shearer's background he should be looking for something representative of practical service and generosity.
But big airy fairy ideas would be poison. Labour's job now is to keep it real. And to grab a few ideas from National, to show it can reconnect with the centre.
That's an immense list of expectations for any new leader, let alone one who hasn't even seen a term in parliament. And none of it works if it's not genuine.
Oh, and did I mention he's only got a year? Eighteen months tops. Can he do it? We'll watch and see. If he's not close in the polls by early 2013, he's mincemeat.
But if the MP for Mt Albert does that... if the economy continues to struggle... if people's patience runs out and some of the blame can be pinned on National rather than Europe or "the global economy"... then Labour has a chance. And if National stumbles this term, it becomes a decent chance and 2014 is in play.