Christmas came early (sort of) for Labour's David Shearer. Beset by lacklustre polls and the threat of ongoing leadership wrangles, Shearer was all too likely to enter 2013 as nobody's real favourite.

But with the latest One News and 3 News polls showing public support for Labour edging upwards, as well as the prospect of a 2014 Labour-Green coalition government, Shearer could well have been given the breathing room he needs.

Whether this will be enough to hold Cunliffe et al at bay is yet to be seen, but the prospect of a return to the Treasury benches may be enough to ensure that at least a veneer of Party unity is maintained – for now.

The trouble for Shearer is that for all the last polls of the year give him a fillip, the gains remain on the margin. Continuing to trail Key by 24 points in the preferred Prime Minister rankings he still has a long way to go in convincing his Party that he can lead it into Government.

Also, for all the significance attached to developments by the media, the hype has more to do with the prospect of National being out of Government than Labour being in it.

Little if anything has been said about the realities of a Labour-Green coalition and there is the still open question about which of the two parties will assume the moral leadership of Parliament's left in the run up to - and aftermath of - 2014. The fact that the Greens managed a bigger gain in the same polls will not be lost on Cunliffe supporters and it certainly denies Labour's ABC (Anyone But Cunliffe) cabal the king hit they would wish for.

The expectations on Shearer, then, will amount a lot more than a simple 1.6% lift in Party rankings and these will continue to play in the weeks up to the formal leadership contest in February.

But on the upside, Shearer's tactical move on Cunliffe seems to have paid off - at least with the public. We love nothing more than a strong leader and it may have been because of Shearer's display of muscle, rather than despite it, that Labour has won the gains it has.

So, as the countdown runs on the Parliamentary term, Shearer goes into the Christmas hols with more than a lump of coal, but less than a full stocking.