It’s Shearer


Great news that David Shearer has been made Labour leader.

Here’s my earlier post (and I’m pleased to be told Mr Shearer did read it at the time)

It’s bizarre watching Labour continue to commit suicide.

Unless the party chooses Mt Albert MP David Shearer as leader and Jacinda Ardern as deputy, they’ll be relegated to be a minor opposition party behind the Greens and potentially NZ First.

Even then there is no guarantee they have a future.

It’s extraordinary to see potential self-obsessed leaders scrambling around trying to crunch the numbers to become the leader, while it is only Shearer who is making speeches warning the core of the party is rotten and doomed unless they wake up.

Read the speech that Shearer made yesterday about a vision for NZ and admitting Labour needs to change - when have you ever heard any of the other hopefuls express such a wordly grasp of the issues?

“The Labour Party needs to be articulating a vision and narrative that inspires New Zealanders.

The party, as I said before, should be the voice of the dreams and aspirations of New Zealanders.

We need seriously think how we do that….

In my view we need to re-think our economy. This requires us to rethink the way we harness our science and innovation, and the way we unleash for people new opportunities in education and training….

We will be travelling through some difficult economic times in the coming months.

It will require some bold thinking…

The government’s current ‘strategy’ goes something like this: as China and Asia grows richer they will demand a higher protein diet. We grow protein, therefore we’re ideally positioned.

That’s a hope, not a strategy. We hope that it changes out there, so we won’t have to change here – so we can continue doing more or less the same thing as we’ve done the 1960s.

We need to shape our own future, not simply rely on the prosperity of others. We are an inventive people but we have relied on a number 8 wire mentality to see us through.

Great ideas, but too often we fail to commercialise them.”

Labour MP David Shearer on a train station

Labour’s basic fault is that they so underestimated John Key during the previous campaign, they went into shock and denial when Helen Clark was defeated and for the past three years blamed it on everyone but themselves, arrogantly thinking people made a mistake in voting them out when their policies were sure to have been right.

They have never fronted up to the public in a mea culpa moment to say they went too far with what become widely perceived as too extreme social liberal and controlling nanny state policies. That perception, enforced by exaggerated media coverage about regulations controlling hot water pressure in the last stages of the campaign, helped topple Clark’s government.

They had three years to come through with a fresh face and a vision but left everything to the last minute - and instead of a change at the top when it obvious Goff couldn’t compete with the popular Key, still fronted with a well meaning and good man but one from yesterday and tainted with all that had gone before including Labour’s asset sales Rogernomics era. There was never time to understand the reformed Goff who now did not believe in asset sales.

Ironically Chris Carter’s failed coup predictions about a massive Goff failure came back to bite them where it hurts.

They left it too late to announce policy even though they knew media would be obsessed with the RWC for 2 months and they had to make an impression before then.

In the short timeframe after the RWC, the public was weary, too weary to take in new complex policies with lots of fine print and and wanted the campaign over with and delivered simply. There was never going to be enough time to warm to Goff.

During the election they seemed to be making it up on the spot - a fact admitted by MPs when challenged why they opposed raising the super age a few months ago and then suddenly endorsed it. They admitted that policy was decided only a fortnight before its release. Remind me what the campaign strategy was suppose to be or is it that there wasn’t one? The latter seemed likely.

The party made mistake after mistake during the campaign including talking up more taxes including a Capital Gains Tax that was too complex to grasp.

Then it alienated its elderly base.

By raising the spectre of a super age raise, it sent nervous old people back into the hands of Winston Peters even though if they had read the fine print to see they’d be dead by the time it happens. Winston is that nice man who had given them free public transport and wouldn’t do such horrible things to them.

For a while Goff was kept hidden, then he pushed in front trying to smile and wave and kiss babies like Mr Popular. Just who did the media masters think they were fooling?

Yet Goff was out of the race early on,  the moment John Key challenged him on his policy numbers - and media replayed endlessly the “Show me the Numbers” line from the Christchurch Press online debate.

Yet Goff still bumbled along unable to deliver the figures when given the opportunity in two subsequent TV appearances a week or so later. This just enabled the “Show me the Numbers” soundbite to be repeated again ad nauseam to accompany the new shambles.

I can’t see how either finance spokespeople Cunliffe or Parker have the nerve to say they were not responsible for making sure Goff had those numbers and despite their denials one can only speculate whether it was part of a motive to make Goff look bad so they could soon get to jockey to satisfy their own hunger for the position.

Labour MP David Cunliffe has always shown leadership ambitions

In the final fatal blow, on election day, thousands of the Labour faithful either couldn’t vote for Goff and hated the alternatives so stayed away.

A taxi driver I had on the night before the election told me he had always voted Labour and hated National but could not bring himself to vote for Goff who had no credibility in his eyes and no sound policy so he was not going to vote. As a Mt Albert electorate voter, he was very impressed with Shearer and wished he was leader.

A sign of how low the coffers have got for Labour was seen when the once strongholds of West Auckland and Christchurch vanished from Labour’s strong grasp this election. Their remaining lonely supporters seem to be in South Auckland or staunch members of unions.

Urban liberals have flocked to the Greens, a party that feels young, energetic, honest and relevant. It has a bloody good public transport policy. It’s about the future and a smart intelligent looking Russell Norman and Metiria Turei have shed the party’s hippie overtones.

With more MPs to make a noise in this incoming parliament, the Greens will increase their visibility and popularity.

Yet under MMP, Greens will need more friendly partners like Labour to be able to form the numbers to be a voice in government.

For Labour’s pending leadership decision, Labour should not let the self-serving MPs  in caucus make their decision from the slim pickings - slim thanks to the party’s (again self-serving) union-driven choice of list MPs which prevented new fresh blood entering parliament.

However much it rankles, like it or not, a largely apathetic population, happy with their lot under president Key,  and celebrity-driven media, thriving on scandal for ratings,  have reduced politics to being all about personalities.

An independent  marketing team  should be brought in for Labour to pick someone to match Brand Key, a brand many women admit they find sexy. In Election Idol, Cunliffe and Parker would be eliminated from the survivor island immediately.

Here’s my take on how the hopefuls look on TV alone - not knowing any of them. This is how they come across on screen to me - not how they are in person. I am sure they are lovely people. These days, TV image is everything as we know from smiling and wave happy chappy Key.

Cunliffe does not have the looks and appears conceited, arrogant and aloof. He doesn’t smile and looks like a head prefect bully. His offsider Nanaia Mahuta looks scruffy and angry, a poor woman’s Tariana Turia.

Parker with his timid voice looks like an ineffective accountant who would run for miles in a crisis and - yes a sad indictment on society - Grant Robertson, as an openly gay person, will encounter some prejudice including from the Labourites who voted back in Damian O’Connor on the West Coast after his much-applauded attack on Labour having become a gaggle of gays.

By contrast Shearer comes across as a natural and honest, a kind of Kiwi blokey-er Key. Someone with an amazing backstory about leading teams in war-torn Iraq for humanitarian work for the UN.

I had several conversations with him during the Mt Albert by election (when he was on rail stations) and he came across as intelligent, upfront and in tune with people’s emotions. He can relate easily to people. There were lovely shots of him hanging out with primary kids in a low-decile school during a pre-election TV profile on The Saturday morning Nation programme. I can’t imagine Cunliffe and Parker doing hi fives down with the kids.

And that’s, pardon the pun, the key. New Zealand has become closer to a laid back Pacific nation of late where people are more relaxed. Shearer, like Key, has that air about him in his public appearances. Voters don’t do scary stern and grimace any more after too many years of the Clark era.

The stern-faced Cunliffe and Parker come across with the Labour disease highlighted by Clark and Cullen of academic aloofness and looking ill at ease out of their comfort zone. Remember Clark looking like a duck out of water when she swapped the opera for a Warriors game.

Jacinda Ardern does have sex appeal - a good look for the TV cameras- and is young fresh and also not tainted. She may be inexperienced in politics but will soon learn.

Again image is everything. She would help bring the needed generational change to the Labour leadership.

I have no personal stake in what happens to Labour.

But in the interests of democracy we need a strong opposition, not one party that will continue to dominate decision-making. And the energised Greens need some energy around them.









  1. Jordan Selwyn says:

    So the only reason Jacinda Ardern should be vaulted up the party ranks is because she is sexy?
    That is utter sexist drivel.
    Do some actual research and you will find Jacinda Ardern is a savvy politico with fantastic policies, AS WELL AS being attractive and presentable.
    And also to suggest Grant Robertson will fail the party because he is gay is wrong. Just because bigotry has been popular in politics in the past does not mean it should be rewarded by disallowing a gay man to rise the ranks, or a ‘scruffy looking maori woman’ for that matter too.

  2. Dave Normal says:

    Sadly, this election was reduced to a popularity contest. People voted for the person they’d rather have a beer with than the policy that will seriously affect them, their children and their grandchildren.

    I knew many people who voted National despite being exactly the demographic that would come out worse should all their policies go through.

    And here we go again. Jacinda Arden should be leader because she has ‘sex appeal’? David Shearer seems ‘laid-back’ so the Pacific voters will like him?

    Those aren’t good enough reasons to choose leaders. Yes they have to have some sort of mass appeal, but reducing the issue so crudely puts us right back to square one.

    What New Zealand needs is a better media. One with real teeth. I’ve never seen such fawning over a political party as most of the One News team display.

    Until the media take their role as the fourth estate seriously, the voting public in New Zealand will remain largely ignorant to the policies that threaten the way of life they claim to cherish so much.

  3. AKT says:

    @Jordan You missed my point.
    Of course she is intelligent, with a sound knowledge of policies as displayed in her Backbenchers TVNZ7 appearance.
    Sadly TV has reduced elections and day to day political coverage to a personality contest mixed with conflict which makes for lively news story telling; Labour needs to counter. Those who dismiss Jacinda’s chances as being too young and inexperienced miss the fact she is great in front of a TV camera and that would help Labour up against fresh looking lively Greens candidates and Brand Key.

  4. Matt L says:

    It’s not just Jon saying that Shearer and Jacinda should be picked. Most political commentators agree that Shearer is the best pick for Labour it if is serious about competing at the next election. The fact they are all saying it means that Labour is bound to ignore them and suffer for it.

  5. Mark says:

    the labour party problems are many. Firstly they have a very poor bunch of MP’s - no real quality - and have just protected the old hacks on the list. they didn’t do the cleanout they needed - partly as they didn’t think they did anything wrong….

    While they still attract the media and “luvvies” out there, they don’t relate to their core voting base. they are all very comfortable/academic/union - and at a TV and personal level don’t have the life experience to relate to poor NZ. They are much more of the middle class. And the middle class has left them. They realise in hindsight that they wasted the greatest economic boom since the 50′s, and achieved no real structural change. Just doubled govt spending.

    While many don’t follow economics that closely, they did understand the basic Key arguements re debt etc. They deep down know people,on 100k a year shouldn’t be getting WFF etc.

    I like David Shearer - and he is a counter to their “normal” MP’s - he’s done something other than being a pollie (just as Key is liked for that) - and he’s smart enough to see Key doesn’t have a real strategy - but can he come up with a betetr one? Is it a step too far for Labour.

    My personal view is that the average Kiwi is economically conservative/sensible if things are explained eg high youth unemployment hurt by min wage - but socially liberal. I worked through 1984 onwards, and people now foregt that the average voter understood the Muldoon mess, and labour went up in 1987 - and almost nothing has been reversed…so Shearer doesn’t have to go against sensible economic policies - in fact he could take back the middel class from Key with good policy.

  6. Matt says:

    “While many don’t follow economics that closely, they did understand the basic Key arguements re debt etc”

    As far as I can see though the debt goes up under the lefties argument is a big heaping pile of poo.

    Debt went up under National higher and faster than anytime ever before. And with the RoNS it is going to go up higher and faster than ever before again.

    On economic management grounds you simply wouldn’t vote for National under Key, English and Joyce, cause they did really badly in their first term and they are going to do really badly again.

    And if you argue it’s all external factors and not National’s mismanagement how come they haven’t cancelled the RoNS programme yet?

  7. Rob says:

    The Labour Party in its current incarnation are unfortunately like many NZers - to blind to see who really needs to be their leader. I agree that David Shearer should get the job as he has that David Lange-style affability and has intelligence without arrogance but he will be passed over this time round (mores the pity). It will only be after Labour loses at the 2014 election that he will be looked to for leading the party thereafter.

  8. Jon R says:

    David Shearer has what it takes to lead the Labour party forward. The others, if they are successful, will be rolled before the 2014 elections. They have nothing NZ can relate to.

  9. ChrisW says:

    @Dave You’re missing the point too. It might be true that “What New Zealand needs is a better media” but that is not a factor Labour can control. And it’s not going to happen - if anything the media will become more trivial, more personality focussed. Labour has to accept this and work within this constraint.

    @Matt “On economic management grounds you simply wouldn’t vote for National under Key” But the reality is most NZ did exactly this! Labour needs to accept logic is not enough to win elections.

    As stupid, distasteful, unfair as it is - you have to win the personality competition to be elected. Refuse to play and you WILL lose unless the electorate is desperate.

    Will they be desperate enough by 2014?

  10. Jon C says:

    @ChrisW Exactly. Labour released policy about improving the media or imposing some controls over it but the horse has bolted.

    Like it or not, as attracting eyeballs get more difficult, TV news has become full of trivial conflict stories about political divisions not worthy discussions about a vision for NZ.
    Labour needs to catch up but they still think they can change that situation rather than use it to their advantage.

  11. Mark says:

    @Matt - I was referring to the Europe/US situation. People understood the huge issues out there.

    Re the commenst on the media - I suspect a lot of people get their real info much more personally. Most of us know people in the UK etc - hear about the dangers - and understand the Europe/US is looking at 10 yrs + of stagnation. hence a more “conservative” pay down debt approach. Which is what a lot of households are doing.

    Locally 90% of people work for firms less than 5 employees. This is where the big union approach falls down for labour. Go to your local mechanic, and the owner/staff will have good relations / and the workers understand when the cars stop coming in - they understand when the owner spends tim eon OSH/GST returns etc etc.

    With our smaller workplaces, a lot of people are getting first hand info on economy - probably far more aware than the media - and hence they stayed more “conservative”.

  12. Wasp says:

    Doom and gloom stuff.

    To be fair Key would have been unable to show anyone the numbers. Nationals claims of creating 170000 jobs, debt reduction, growth, etc are pie in the sky stuff and absolute grasping at straws. I don’t believe it for a moment.

    He and his party are also extremely questionable on what is fact and what is not, claiming there was no tax rise in response to the GST rise, 10 years of deficit under Labour when they had been years of surpluses, credit rating agencies claiming under Labour a downgrade would have been more inevitable and on it goes.

    National was almost obliterated in 2002 but came back from nowhere.

    Further the media have not questioned anything Key or his government have done, they have been under a spell.

    Key is seen as understanding economics owing to his banking background and yet it is his ilk who almost brought the western world to its knees with dodgy dealings. I don’t think he knows anymore than other politicians, possibly less.

    And what Nanny state raised the driving age, changes long standing laws every 5 minutes to suit when something doesn’t go their way, not Labour. The Nanny state thing was a well run marketing exercise by National in opposition but I do agree Labour went way too far on some issues.

    In 3 years when we have gone nowhere and are missing a few state assets I am sure Key will blame the world economy and then Labour.

    Labour were woeful this time around in opposition but the warm fuzzies of the Greens is not going to make it either. I don’t think its the end of the world!

  13. Jeremy says:

    Shearer, yes, but Ardern?

  14. Geoff Houtman says:

    On the money 100%.

    Jacinda is smart and driven, which is what is needed. She works the camera well, which rightly or wrongly is what’s needed.

    Shearer does have that great history (everyone loves a good story) and he’s warm and smart and in short- someone you could vote for as PM.

    Carter was right all along and punished for it unfairly.

    If labour can stop all the internal union factional infighting bollocks that seem to bedevil them at present, get an electable leader (Shearer) and go hard at the Nats in opposition this term they will have a real actual chance next time.

    Any less than that and it’s “another 6 years”.

    Shearer all the way!

  15. Bryan says:

    Personality has dominated NZ politics since at least Big Norm in the ’70s. Would Labour have won in ’72 without him, or lost in ’75 with him? Would National have won in ’75 without Muldoon, or Labour in ’84 without Lange?

    David Shearer needs a makeover (like Helen Clark got) - in the photo above he looks like my (’70s) high school social studies teacher, or a small town rugby coach. On first appearances, I’d trust him as Head of Dept, but not to run the country.

    These days, sadlty, perception is everything.

    More importantly, Labour need to develop some well thought out policies that Kiwis want, then agree on them and understand them. Only then will a Labour leader have something to take to and sell to the populace.

  16. damian says:

    Labour lost the election because their policies were so out of wack and imo had little to do with the personalities.

  17. Giel says:

    First step for Labour - is ditch the word Labour - they need rebranding to be relevant to a wider group of the new progressive New Zealanders emerging.

    Labour is a carry over from a form of neo Marxism (Labour and the colour red - yuck - hammer and sickle anyone???) born out of the 1930′s depression and has it roots in unionism. It had its rightful place then but the world is more complex today. The old unionised Labour movement is less and less relevant to the wider community (as very insightful lefty commentator Chris Trotter correctly points out) and quite frankly turns lots people, that might otherwise vote more to the left, off big time. Hence part of the reason for the left leaning vote fragmenting in my view. What is needed in part is a new Centre Left more progressive party that is not hostage to the union movement and the red Marxists ghosts of the past - ah the Greens being a bit more mainstream perhaps…..

  18. Nicco says:

    Absolutely agree! Cunliffe and Parker both don’t seem to have the personality.

    +1 for Shearer + Ardern

  19. damian says:

    what about nu labour?

  20. James B says:

    My pick would be David Shearer and David Cunliffe. Shearer can play the good cop and Cunliffe the bad cop. Much as Clarke and Cullen used to do.

  21. Morisa says:

    What has happened to Labour!
    This debacle on who should be the new leader shows just how divided they really are.
    United we stand, divide we fall.
    I like Cunliffe. He is well educated and spoken. He scored points with me on the Q & A TV programme with Bill English.
    I like Shearer as he has a friendly welcoming personality. I agree with James B.

  22. Geoff Houtman says:

    James B- yeah, Double Team. David S- PM, David C- finance

    damian- Nu labour worked in the U.K. for a good long time. Could work here too..

  23. JJP Harwood says:

    Apart from your slightly hystrical issues with Clark / Cullen ( though you are right that they failed to put a succession path in place) i agree with you pick. I had a coffee in 2005 with Bob Harvey former mayor and president of the labour party. A man with the policical instincts second to none. And we talked about the next leader. I mentioned Cunnliffe and Parker but he was adamant that Shearer was the man. This was 2005. Maybe he was on to something?

  24. Henry Ronald says:

    I didn’t expect to find the most perceptive commentary on Labour’s post-election status on a site like this.

    It puts the establish political commentators including some other bloggers to shame and shows their lack of depth. Maybe they have been inside the beltway for too long.

    I am forwarding this link to all my Labour friends and associates.

    You should consider switching to commentaries on politics. With National back with such a majority, i doubt you will have many good news trains stories to discuss in the next three years if that is your blog’s Raison d’êtr.

  25. Jeff H says:

    Shearer/ Ardern - Rather Auckland centric

  26. damian says:

    @ Geoff H

    An now look at what mess the UK is in thanks to NU labour - utter fail….

  27. Geoff Houtman says:

    damian- I’m thinking using the name rather than the policies.

    Maybe they can’t be separated? Or maybe they can- how many kiwi voters know the negative connotations of NU labour? I bet more people remember “Cool Brittania”, Blur and Oasis rocking out with Tony B…

    Good point though, something to keep in mind.

    Anyone who’s still up for more of this could check out Bombers’ Citizen A on Triangle tonight at 7 and on Stratos- um maybe at 7?

  28. damian says:

    yep I know Geoff

    The labour governments have been quite clever really, as they get the population to rely on the state for handouts, and effectively tie them with golden hand cuffs.

    Look at why the strikes in the UK are happening

  29. Matt L says:

    David Parker has now pulled out of the race and is backing Shearer, will the labour party actually do the right thing for once?

  30. Jon R says:

    Damien, I think there are many other reasons than the one you paint for the UK issue. Global affairs are based on more than one biased statement you have made.

  31. Evan J says:

    The heading at the top of the page says AKT - Auckland Transport and Urban Design. I can’t see anything there that mentions the future of the Labour Party.

  32. Jon C says:

    @Evan J I was waiting for some smart arse to complain.
    Simple facts: It’s my blog, I pay all the bills.
    Under what terms and conditions of your subscription does it say I can not deviate once a year?
    Lighten up.

  33. Evan J says:

    Lighten up?
    It’s you guys who need to lighten up.
    You are taking politics far too seriously. To the major players it is like a football match - you play the game, shake hands at the end, and all end up in the winning team’s clubrooms with the losing team doing the dishes - okay, so I have had a bit more involvement than some others on this site. And then when the winning team takes office, its the same old team of civil servants surrounding them - “How’s your new boss?” “Great, we have just about knocked him into shape.”
    By the way, David Shearer is my pick at this stage for leader of the Labour Party - he has an X factor that the other contenders don’t seem to have.

  34. anthony says:

    Ummmmm. Evan? Politics has to be taken seriously if you want 18 year olds like me to have a good future in NZ. From many young people’s prespective, New Zealand is a country which is going downhill quickly.

    I just found out today that my 2 best friends are both moving to, yep, you guessed it, Australia. That makes 6 of my friends who lives overseas now. Only three remain.

  35. damage says:

    anthony, you should be please that your friends are heading to Australia.
    There will be less demand for housing and jobs because of it.

    Anyway, the fact that they are leaving probably suggests they unacheiving here anyway.

  36. Evan J says:

    Statistics New Zealand’s recent figures show that our perception of everyone moving to Aus isn’t quite right. In the year to August this year, 85,100 immigrated to NZ and 82,800 emigrated from NZ, a gain to NZ of 2300. Of the emigrants, 4900 were from Christchurch who moved across the ditch after the February earthquake.

  37. JC says:

    Labour is going to go through some hard times for the next 6 to 9 years to try and rebuild their party.
    The party is so out of touch with real kiwi’s,
    As a voter in my 30′s, I would never vote for people like King, Gough, etc etc, just too boring, old school with no spark, spunk or risk taking. The newbe’s are going to need time to develop their personaties of which they need to be themselves and not what the party wants them to be. John Key has done a great job of just being John Key, and good on him and all the power to him.


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