David James Shearer maiden speech

by Jake Quinn

The thing that strikes me about David Shearer is his decency.  His humility almost bowls you over when you speak to him. Unlike some of his parliamentary colleagues, he does not appear pompous, arrogant or self serving in any way, shape or form.

He encapsulates the attitude of someone who wouldn’t have committed a moments thought to how much the job paid, how much free air travel he’s entitled to, or what size his office would be.  The absolute commitment he has shown to helping others has been obvious throughout his entire impressive career (clink link for David Shearer’s bio/CV).

His maiden speech (above), examined on paper was excellent – it covered all the bases a Labour supporter would have wanted it to.

His oratory skills however lacked the inspiration to match his character.  From his first speeches and sound-bites on television, from the university rallies to the panel discussions and street corner stand-ups of the Mt Albert by-election campaign, his lack of oratory prowess was quite clear.

Does this matter? Many would suggest it does not.  John Key’s oratory skills are also lacking (his election night acceptance speech a fine example), yet in different ways,  and he became a prime minister who commands huge levels of public support.

In fact, some people would suggest that Key’s chewing and bumbling of his words and down-home kiwi accent actually increase his likability with the public. Tall poppies and all that.

So will David Shearer’s lackluster oratory hold him back in the long run, or will he improve with experience as he gains in confidence? After all, he is already been touted as a future Labour Prime Minister and according to iPredict has about a twenty percent chance of rolling Phil Goff before the 2011 election.

I don’t know the answer to this particular question.  To me the wider question – that of the impact of strong oratory on the fortunes of New Zealand politicians – is an even more interesting one.  Perhaps I should read Jon Johansson’s new book.

[Update: for an example of strong (i.e. inspiring, motivating, emotive) oratory see this speech to the House by Clayton Cosgrove on National’s cuts to special education]