Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Tag: David Shearer

Alastair Cameron to be the Labour Chief of Staff?

by Jake Quinn


Labour CoS Alastair Cameron

As you may have heard the NZ Leader of the Opposition’s Office Chief of Staff, former MP Stuart Nash, recently hung up his boots after just a few months in the job.

Today iPredict launched stocks on who would replace him. The candidates according to iPredict were Alastair CameronMarcus GanleyJon JohanssonConor RobertsJames Bews-HairJohn PaganiJohn Tamihere, and Gordon Jon Thompson.

Read the rest of this entry »


Shearer finally hits his stride

by Jake Quinn

It’s been a big day for David Shearer who this morning delivered his first scene setting “vision” speech since being elected leader in December. “Finally” the crowds remarked. After all, we’ve waited for three long months for this.

(I will admit I was starting to get worried, especially after reading this strange rambling interview earlier in the week).

But it worked. It was a strong speech that began to paint a portrait of what Shearer would look like as Prime Minister. Moderate, down-to-earth, growth-focused yet compassionate, not afraid of tacking left or right when the moment called, ideological agile you might say.

Excellent developments, from my similarly agile, generally left-leaning, centrist point of view. Read the rest of this entry »

Hey bloggers, stop blaming the staff

by Jake Quinn

The Standard guest author Jimmy Reid writes about the struggle by Labour parties around the world to formulate and articulate their vision. He says they have “no communications strategy or narrative.” 

Some interesting points are made in the post about the lack of a cohesive vision, both here and elsewhere. It seems that Labour parties the world over understood what they used to stand for, but are now struggling to find an effective space between the centre and the left that makes sense to both voters and membership.

Jimmy goes on to attack David Shearer’s staff, saying he “is being let down by an inept communications team and by useless advisors. We really have to stop assuming that because someone is a journalist they get campaign and political communications. There is more to it than boozy lunches with Duncan Garner.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Summer reading: The Political Brain

by Jake Quinn

My summer reading list, last week purchased for a crisp US $10 a piece and whispernetted onto my Amazon Kindle includes The Political Brain by Drew Western. It’s an interesting read for centre lefters struggling to understand why the right, particularly in the US, seem to have an easier time of it, in terms of winning the argument (and elections) in much of the last 40 odd years.

I’m about a third of the way through it. I’m also reading Infidel the autobiography of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and planning on getting stuck into Island by Aldous Huxley and Portfolios of the Poor (which examines how the poorest people in parts of South Africa, Bangladesh and India draw on extensive small-scale financial instruments to manage their finances, it’s essentially a book about the possibilities of microfinance) by Daryl Collins et al.

Oh how I love three-week holidays in the Coromandel with nothing much to do but sleep, fish, swim, walk, drink and read. Read the rest of this entry »

We could solve poverty, if we wanted to

by Jake Quinn

The current government in New Zealand has no real interest in poverty eradication, so it is not surprising that they turned down Labour leader David Shearer’s offer to take part in the government’s poverty group. His ideas might have actually helped, and that wouldn’t be helpful.

Poverty eradication, especially during times of limited economic growth, is – surely – most effectively addressed through redistributing existing wealth.

National’s answer to poverty is to remove welfare. There are very few jobs for people on welfare to take these days, so removing welfare is highly unlikely to remove people from poverty, it is, rather, likely to do the exact opposite. Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes you just need to ask your girlfriend

by Jake Quinn

Focus group of one, my lovely girlfriend, had some interesting things to say about the Labour leadership tonight as we wandered around a few leafy blocks for our evening walk in the blaring sunshine, 30 degree heat and solid humidity.

Birds were chirping, puppies – that didn’t appear to have homes – hovered nearby with their tails only half wagging between their legs in a completely rational display of happiness and fear (ex-pats tend to pat dogs, locals not so much).

A family of mongooses ran across the street in front of us.

My girlfriend is not particularly interesting in NZ politics – she’s seemingly got bigger fish to fry. Read the rest of this entry »

Shearer and Robertson a breath of fresh air

by Jake Quinn

David Shearer and Grant Robertson are Labour’s new leadership team. Neither man was an MP, let alone a Minister, in the previous Labour government, led by Helen Clark.

This leadership team sends a very strong message to New Zealanders that Labour can deliver something new and fresh. The pairing provide an incredible narrative that no media strategy or finely crafted speech or photo-op could ever deliver. It’s a strong break from the past. And that message is priceless. Read the rest of this entry »

Robertson’s endorsement crucial

by Jake Quinn

Grant Robertson’s endorsement of David Shearer is a strong one. Grant is much more experienced in political terms than his three years as an MP would suggest. Previous roles as a senior advisor to Ministers and Prime Minister Clark have afforded him high level exposure to the reins of power.

For a time Grant was known as “H3” after Helen and Heather. That is, as the most senior advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office, after Helen’s redoubtable Chief of Staff Heather Simpson, Grant was as (or more) influential as many Ministers around the Cabinet table.

Grant is not green, in terms of experience. On the contrary – I’d describe him as a sort of moral leader within the caucus; meaning new ideas are canvassed with him to get a read, in terms of how something might play out politically. Read the rest of this entry »

Cunliffe v Shearer

by Jake Quinn

It’s a nice situation to be in as a Labour supporter. Two candidates called David both highly talented individuals. I’m happy this leadership contest is happening publicly and I’m happy that David Parker pulled out, he being the most Goff like of the three David’s.

I actually think David Cunliffe ‘should’ (yes, those are inverted commas) be the next leader of the Labour Party. By that I mean he’s the most experienced and probably more skilled (in the practical, political sense) to be a leader of a political party in this country. He’s bloody clever, a Fulbright scholar at Harvard, has real private sector experience, is a fantastic facilitator and has impressive people skills (he remembers names and details in a scary way). For what it’s worth (to me not a great deal) he goes to church on Sundays (Key doesn’t). Read the rest of this entry »

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]

Interesting iPredict stocks, smack poll & Shearer

by Jake Quinn

iPredict has launched a stock that asks “will the anti smacking referendum be cancelled this week” which has been a quick flop, dropping swiftly to two cents (which means the traders believe it has only a few percent chance of coming true).

And lets not be shy, people in the Prime Minister’s office and throughout parliament and the gallery trade on iPredict. If anyone knew anything that indicated this could happen it would be quickly reflected in the price.

So John Key won’t be cancelling the referendum. Well, at least not this week. Realistically though, he’d be mad if he did. Can you imagine how rabid the smackers would get? Not to mention ‘middle NZ’ who would probably think of it as an arrogant abuse of power, which I guess (even though i’d love to see the bogus poll canned) it would be.

More interestingly, this stock that asks “will David Shearer replace Phil Goff as Labour leader before the 2011” could be seen as quite politically mischievous, and im interested in it’s motives. The person who designed this question is could be seen to be trying to undermine Goff’s leadership by scaremongering about a Shearer leadership bid.

For heaven’s sake, Goff got Shearer his job! They are good mates. Simple decency alone wouldn’t permit such an act that soon. The stock is (this evening) running @ $0.20, or a 20 percent chance of coming true, which is overvalued so will short-sell.

The politically motivated nature of this stock is could be seen as quite blatant. Wouldn’t a more sensible question not be about one of the more often discussed future labour leaders like David Cunliffe?

iPredict should now launch stocks that asked “will John Key resign due to stress before 2011” or “will Bill English roll John Key before 2011”. They are however, like the one above, loaded and leading questions – and in the interest of science are best avoided.

Shearer says thanks

by Jake Quinn


The new MP for Mt Albert takes to the streets of the electorate to thank those that voted him in. A nice touch.

[Hat Tip: Young Labour]

Hooten Holyoakes Shearer

by Jake Quinn

On nintonoon this morning, Matthew Hooten plays the trick of touting Shearer as the next Labour Prime Minister and Duncan Garner asks him if he wants the job. Shearer handles himself fairly well.

Kiwi Keith Holyaoke used to destroy new MPs he didn’t like, in both parties, by suggesting they had the makings of a future Prime Minister. He then watched them puff up and get too full of themselves, then fall flat on their faces. Lets hope Shearer sees what they’re playing at.

On an unrelated matter, Key is poised to announce Worth’s replacement to Cabinet with the money all heading towards Nathan Guy. Nathan Guy is known as a decent fella who has excelled as Party Whip.

[Update: Nathan Guy is the new Minister to replace Richard Worth]

With friends like these Lee needs no enemies

by Jake Quinn

Melissa Lee has been hung out to dry by John Key and the National Party. Duncan Garner, Linda Clark and John Campbell discussed this at length on Saturday evening following David Shearer’s landslide victory in the Mt Albert by-election. Lee was called a “goose” whose “political career was over” and who will likely now be list placed out of selection for the 2011 election. Ouch.

Meanwhile John Key is on a “pre-arranged holiday”. Excuse me? John Key picked the election date and he picked his holiday date. Therefore, both events were planned so that he was unavailable to comment or be photographed with his hand picked, fast tracked into parliament, unsuccessful candidate. This was not a coincidence.

To make matters worse Jonathan Coleman, the Minister of Who Knows What, was the only cabinet minister at Lee’s function. I know victory has many friends and all that but this was simply cruel and a terrible look for National, something which the public won’t have been missed.

Meanwhile, David Shearer started on a positive note saying in his acceptance speech: “Labour needs fresh ideas and needs to reconnect with the people. As you stay in government there’s a tendency to lock down and not take risks as you go on,” Shearer said. “I think what you’ve got to be constantly doing is refreshing and taking time to get new ideas and continuing to listen. I think otherwise you end up hunkering down and fighting battles, and then people get tired. “Some of the policies we were pushing in our third term we probably would have had no problem with in our first term, but by the third term came around people were just growing a bit tired of it.”

This is precisely what Labour supporters (not to mention the media) want to hear and a great tone to set upon his entry into Parliament. I discussed earlier about how Shearer will be a heavy hitter for the opposition and suggested he may be in line for something foreign affairs related. I would also point out that I initially favoured Meg Bates for Labour’s candidacy suggesting that Shearer was too old. However given the result (and how bloody decent an individual Shearer seems to be) I would be a fool to suggest that Labour did not make the right decision in selecting him.

Sour note finishes tough week in politics for nats

by Jake Quinn

A TVNZ Mt Albert by-election poll released yesterday put David Shearer on a staggering %59, Melissa Lee on %21 and Russel Norman on %15.  I understand that this is consistent with other private polling.

PredictionsRussel will beat Lee on polling day because apathy will see both Nat and Lab voters stay at home (as the result appears to be a foregone conclusion), plus the leftist protest vote will go to Norman instead of Shearer now that they’ve seen the poll result that Shearer is “safe”. Shearer will still win comfortably, but not by anything like this margin.

A strong victory for Shearer and Labour in Mt Albert is a strong endorsement of Phil Goff’s leadership of the Labour Party and will see questioning of his leadership off the agenda for sometime.

Today’s Herald leads with an Audrey Young piece about the poll capping a bad week for National and explains: “Labour may even increase its majority in the seat this weekend, which would be a big boost to the authority of new leader Phil Goff within the Labour Party.”

It was also interesting to hear John Key backtrack on his odd endorsement of John Banks for Super Mayor of Auckland. NZPA reports: “A spokesman from Mr Key’s office said this morning there were no endorsements for any candidates and it was up to the people of Auckland to decide who they wanted as mayor.”

This is yet another example of botched political management from John Key and his staff. How could the words “Can I start by acknowledging the mayor – more importantly the Super Mayor of Auckland city – John Banks,” be seen as anything but an endorsement?

His “arch-nemesis” (please read inverted commas as an indication of sarcasm) Paul Henry was kind enough not to ask any tough questions about this on Breakfast this morning, rather he ended his piece with “it’s [the tough last week] character building, and you’ve got a good character”. Thank you Paul.

Thought for the day: Goff has got John Key and his “Minister for Ethnic Affairs” Richard Worth “by the texties”.