A political crisis is threatening to end the leadership of David Shearer, after the Labour leader reportedly played Stairway to Heaven while trying out a guitar.
Witnesses say that the incident happened during a visit by Mr Shearer to Goldbeard Guitars in Owhiro Bay, Wellington.
Dave Gilberd, the owner of Goldbeard Guitars, said Mr Shearer had been “mucking around” with a hand-crafted Goldbeard guitar, when the incident occurred.
“He started to play Classical Gas, that old Mason Williams classic, as we were talking, and he seemed to know his way around the instrument,” said Mr Gilberd.
“He seemed like a nice guy at first, very cool and laid back. Then he played Stairway.”
Video footage on YouTube shows Mr Shearer playing the guitar moments before the alleged incident, but the footage does not show Mr Shearer playing the infamous Led Zeppelin tune.
“When I realised what he was doing I panicked,” said Mr Gilberd. “I tried to take the guitar off him, but then his minders piled in and I ended up with a bloody nose. I think maybe they thought I was trying to hurt him.
“I was just trying to get my guitar back, although if I had hurt the guy it would have been more than he deserved. Stairway? On one of my instruments? Oh man!
“There is no way I am ever voting Labour again,” said Mr Gilberd.
Mr Shearer’s behaviour has already been condemned by the leaders of other political parties.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Shearer’s actions demonstrated “an astounding lapse of judgement”, while New Zealand First leader Winston Peters questioned why the Labour leader was so intent on playing overseas songs on New Zealand-made instruments.
Conservative Party leader Colin Craig said Stairway to Heaven was “devil’s music”, and counselled Mr Shearer to devote himself to good works and following the teachings of The Eternal Saviour Our Lord Jesus Christ Through Whom We Shall All Be Saved.
The incident has put further pressure on an already embattled Labour leader. A source within the Labour Party said a leadership challenge was now more likely than ever, and that Shearer playing Stairway was a “last straw” for many of his exasperated supporters.
However, Mr Shearer has said he did nothing wrong.
“It’s just a song, and I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” Mr Shearer said.
“The people of New Zealand have told us loud and clear that they’re not interested in partisan bickering over Led Zeppelin numbers. I didn’t become Labour leader just to conform to the old musical rules.”
Mr Shearer said his critics were displaying crude musical prejudices, and had lost sight of the pleasure that music could bring to the soul.
“When I play my guitar I feel a sense of wonder and happiness, and I am filled with joy and the desire for laughter,” said Mr Shearer.
“Does anyone remember laughter?”