Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Tag: Grant Robertson

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 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 »

Party unity, Nationhood speech and Foreshore and Seabed repeal

by Jake Quinn

An interesting piece by Vernon Small in today’s Dominion Post suggests that Labour MP’s will be ‘taking it’ to Goff, over his recent nationhood speech, at next week’s Caucus meeting.

Small notes that “Discontent, especially on the Left of the party, has centred around Mr Goff’s comments on the foreshore and seabed policy”, which Goff has signalled Labour will now oppose the repeal of.

One can’t imagine that much discontent, I mean these are the MPs that voted for the legislation in the first place. (I do wonder however, what Party President Mr Little will be thinking, having unilaterally announced that Maori should “have their day in court” at this year’s Labour Party Conference).

It is clear why certain MPs feel the need to publically take a stand on these issues (particularly the speech); as Farrar notes, “Grant [Robertson] will just be doing his job as a local MP. Wellington Central is a very liberal seat, and Labour activists there are very liberal. I have no doubt Grant will have been bombarded by supporters asking what the fuck is going on”. Indeed.  It would be fair to say that similar sentiments have resonated from a few Labourites around Auckland University.

While they’re on the topic next week, Goff might like to remind his MPs that such discussions are best undertaken in caucus however, and not in the Dominion Post.  The image of party unity is important to staving off leadership discussions, and as many have noted, the lack of descent dissent from the party and its MP’s was the hallmark of Clark’s years.

That said however, Goff has made it quite clear that he wishes to have a different managerial style from Helen (which has, for instance, lead to the creation of the Labour MP’s succesful blog Red Alert).  The question remains though: will Goff’s hands-off style work during what is a pretty serious rebuilding phase for Labour.

Carter to babysit foreign affairs for Shearer?

by Jake Quinn

Today’s announcement of an opposition portfolio reshuffle – due to Helen and Michael’s departure from Parliament – and that Chris Carter will be Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs begs the question: is the job being held for the ‘almost there’ new comer and foreign affairs expert David Shearer? After all, he was Phil Goff’s foreign affairs advisor when he was the Minister.

Chris Carter is well known in the caucus as a safe pair of hands. Under Clark he always enjoyed his share of decent portfolios such as Education, Conservation and Housing. However, with solid up and comers like Twyford and Robertson holding the associate portfolio, there must be a reason why this old hand has been given the nod ahead of the young bucks hungry for experience.

The other factor at play is the Soldier of Fortune saga, where a few right-wing blogs have had a field day delving into some journal articles Shearer published a decade ago stating the case for mercenary soldiers in extreme conflict zones. All of this, and TV’s sensationalist coverage of it, may lead to Shearer being kept at arms length from the defense portfolio. I doubt that this is the case, but if it was it would be a shame.

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.]