The failure of Labour to fire isn’t limited to the leadership team. A big part of Labour’s front bench simply aren’t doing their job.
I had to ask a mate last week who the health spokesperson was. I actually couldn’t remember. It’s indicative of what a poor job these guys are doing.
They should be standing up for our well-being, giving the less well off a voice, and most of all putting the knife into this truly hideous Tory government. But most of them are floundering.
Comparing them to the winning Labour team in 1999 really hammers home how awful our guys today are. I pitted each of the frontbenchers today against their 1999 equivalents. Out of the 9, only 2 of the 2012 crop come out on top. And only 3 (Parker, Cunliffe, Cosgrove) have done the job they’ve been put there to do.
David Shearer (2012) vs Helen Clark (1999)
No contest. Whatsoever. None. Clark looked like the next Prime Minister. Shearer’s minders wouldn’t even let him front on Q+A this morning for fear he would be shown up by Norman.
Grant Robertson (2012) vs Michael Cullen (1999)
Grant is better than his leader. Without a doubt. But he just doesn’t shape up compared to Cullen. While Cullen gave excellent support to Clark, oversaw a brilliant house strategy, and kept on top of every portfolio he was ever given (finance, tertiary education, attorney-general, acc etc.) Robertson has failed to fire. His strategic genius has put Labour in the shit they’re in now, and Labour are virtually invisible in the Tertiary Education and Environment space.
David Parker (2012) vs Michael Cullen (1999)
Parker has been one of the better performers, but has a way to go before ranking with Cullen. Tough competition though. Not ruling out that he may equal Cullen as he continues to develop. Sharp as a knife, he is the party’s thinker and, while he comes across nerdy, his careful work is helping to build Labour’s economic credibility and undermine National’s. Very well liked and promising, and could do wonders if he learns the killer instinct.
Jacinda Ardern (2012) vs Steve Maharey (1999)
Maharey was a brilliant advocate and really held the government to account. Remember Christine Rankin hiring a plane for WINZ executives to visit an exclusive Taupo resort? Maharey uncovered it. Ardern on the other hand has been invisible, even after being gifted the MSD privacy uncovered by Keith Ng the Greens outshone Labour. She does not deserve the portfolio nor being put at number 4. New Zealand’s most vulnerable deserve better.
David Cunliffe (2012) vs Pete Hodgson (1999)
This is a tough contest. Like Parker, Cunliffe is one of the front benches’ performers. Articulate and makes a lot of headlines. Clearly hates what the Tories are doing to the country, and it shows in his work. His ability to bring economics into human terms and speak with vision and passion nicely compliments Parker to form a strong economic team when it’s given the chance. While Pete was also an incredibly effective opposition MP and knew his stuff, Cunliffe edges Pete out in the public performance stakes. Cunliffe clearly still has leadership potential.
Clayton Cosgrove (2012) vs Paul Swain (1999)
I liked Paul Swain. He was a well spoken and hearty politician. But Clayton is at least his equal and has the potential to be better. He’s done an excellent job as SOEs spokesperson and keeping Labour in the middle of the campaign. Been a bit quiet lately, but bound to turn up again soon. Clayton along with Parker and Cunliffe make up the only performers our front bench has.
Phil Goff (2012) vs Phil Goff (1999)
I’d have to go with 1999 Phil. He’s got his whole career in front of him.
Maryan Street (2012) vs Annette King (1999)
While now past her use-by date, 1999 Annette was a brilliant opposition politician. While no one even knows who Maryan Street is, in 1999 Annette was ripping Wyatt Creech to shreds. Barely a day went by without health making the news and Annette always stood strong against good healthcare for only the rich. Street on the other hand is awful. She must go.
Nanaia Mahuta (2012) vs Trevor Mallard (1999)
Trevor used to be good. Bloody good. This really is no contest. Nanaia hasn’t performed. Putting out a press release after getting hints she might be dumped doesn’t cut it. She ought to be slaying Parata. To be fair she’d probably beat 2012 Mallard. But how hard is that? Yesterday, Mallard thought it would be a good idea for a senior Labour MP, him, to publicly attack the head of Treasury after he made comments widely welcomed as open-minded and turning away from dry neoliberalism. At least Nanaia keeps her mouth shut rather than putting her foot in it.