David Shearer heavy hitter for opposition

by Jake Quinn

The decision by the Mt Albert Labour members and Labour HQ to nominate David Shearer to contest the upcoming by-election is likely to bring to Parliaments ranks a serious contender for high profile opposition spokespersonships.

His election to Parliament would bring a man who intellectually, in public appeal and in relevant life experience, matches or exceeds many of his more senior colleagues. Like his good friend Phil Twyford, David won’t have quit his high ranking and lucrative international role to twiddle his thumbs on the backbench.

Given the opportunity, Shearer will be putting his hands up in the very near future for the opposition portfolios of Defence (held by Pete Hodgson) and Foreign Affairs (the associate portfolios are held by two other respected and up-and-coming members; Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford. Helen Clark was Labour’s spokesperson, and I’m not sure if they’ve filled it yet). [Update: Foreign Affairs is now held by Chris Carter.]

So who will be moving aside for the new man on campus? For someone must – Goff cannot bring in a guy like this and not use him up the front. The media would punish that, deservedly, as bad management.

David Shearer is, on balance, probably the front runner to win the seat and it is his, and Labours, to lose as National’s Melissa Lee is a strong contender and her National Party are still enjoying an extended honeymoon.

The Green’s Russel Norman doesn’t have a shitshow of winning it, but his presence will draw a few votes, possibly (although not likely) enough to split the left vote. The media coverage of this contest coupled with the political awareness of Mt Albert voters (who rather enjoyed having the PM as their MP for so many years) will lead to a high awareness of the ‘vote split’ possibility, which in turn will minimise its effect.

This garbage about Norman being the only progressive candidate will not wash. Shearer fronted the United Nations (yes that ‘darling of the Left’ progressive international organisation so derided by much of the right the world over) humanitarian efforts in Iraq for goodness sake.

And being ‘Goff’s Man’ surely can’t be used as further fuel for this fire. Goff and his staff are not right wing. Goff might be less left wing on some policy areas than Helen Clark, but so what? The Left is a broad church just as the Right is – and as they should be.

In opting for David Shearer (52) over Meg Bates (24) Labour has played the shorter term game rather than the longer term one; choosing a ‘hit the ground running’ MP over young blood for the future.

Should Bates have been selected then elected she would have gone straight to far backbenches, picked up an associate spokespersonship and got to work learning the intricacies of Caucus, the House and its Select Committees all while coming to grips with being a local MP in a busy electorate at the age of only 24.

She would have managed these tasks well and gone on, in 6 or more year’s time, to be a contender for serious portfolio delegation, all still at the tender age of around 30 years old.

Ms Bates missed out this time but she will have her chance sooner rather than later. Well known to be the second choice candidate in a strong field, perhaps even initially favoured by many Labour locals, she impressed many during this short nomination campaign and that will not have gone unnoticed. Meg may well be given a winnable position on the 2011 Labour party list, who knows.

[Update: some suggestions Meg Bates won the floor vote? Interesting.]