(Author note: I originally wrote and scheduled this post just at my own blog, but given Imperator Fish’s post has been syndicated to The Standard, I figured I’d reply in kind.)
I’m absolutely certain that Scott Yorke was not thinking of me when he wrote The Post I Never Posted.
I don’t believe I’m personally on his radar. I think he’s responding to a wider trend of Shearer-critical posts, predominantly at The Standard.
And I can see how people who are Labour supporters are getting a little annoyed with the constant pointing out of Shearer’s many clear failings. Look, people, we’ve already explained six times that he can’t answer basic questions about his political ideas in clear complete sentences, do we really need to go for round 7?
And I was feeling all warm and charitable about the broad variety of opinions on the New Zealand left, and how wonderful it is that we have so many leftie bloggers who can put their arguments forward for wider discussion.
And then I got to this sentence.
And even if I was wrong on that point, I went on to write, David Shearer was still not the best man for the job, because he had failed to demonstrate an ability to walk on water or bring the dead back to life.
How droll. Scott thinks we Shearer-critics are unrealistic, over-demanding, petulant children who expect the leader of the parliamentary Labour Party to be not just the perfect politician, but messianic.
It would be a super-cutting little barb if it bore any resemblance to reality. If, say, Shearer had blown the political debate wide open with his first big policy speech, taking the fight straight to John Key, if whoever the Labour Education spokesperson is/was had claimed the easily-findable scalp of Hekia Parata. If, say, Labour were still only at 30-odd in the polls, but this was clearly down to a set of un-Shearer-related botches, like Shane Jones getting caught using taxpayer money for porn. Again. And it was Sea Shepherd-themed.
Basically, if Shearer had turned out to be a fantastic, charismatic, visionary, inspiring leader, but Labour was still doing poorly in the polls because a lot of its MPs are complete muppets … then someone like Scott might very well have a good point to make about criticisms of Shearer being based on unrealistic expectations.
Here’s what I hoped – I won’t say “expected”, since he was such an unknown quantity at the time of his election to the parliamentary Labour leader position – of David Shearer.
Look and sound better on the telly than Phil Goff did
Difficulty rating: not found
Phil Goff was actually a damn fine speaker when he was on form, but on TV he just had an unfortunately grumpy-looking face. Then someone worked magic behind the scenes during the 2011 campaign and he figured out how to smile. Apparently this someone is no longer employed by the Labour parliamentary office.
Tell us what Labour is about
Difficulty rating: minimal
I understand that I’m a big scary ranty feminist with big scary feminist political goals (like SHOCK HORROR comprehensive sex education!) I do understand that mainstream party leaders cannot actually go on Campbell Live and say “First thing I’m going to do is make abortion legal, free and available in every town in New Zealand.”
What I feel it was entirely reasonable to expect, though? A big, sexy commitment to a guaranteed living wage. To a 40 hour working week. To expanding Kiwibank, or offering a public option for KiwiSaver, to crack down on Aussie banks who don’t pay tax and millionaires who hide their assets in trusts.
What we got was analogies about lazy roof-painters not pulling their weight.
Lead the Labour caucus
Difficulty rating: pretty low for a dude whose work experience includes literal warzones
Instead, a damn fine spokesperson and one of the most competent (one might almost say one of the only competent) frontbench MPs gets paddled over a non-coup … and Shane Jones shits all over the Green Party while Clare Curran antagonises the biggest online ally the party has.
Take the hammer to National when the opportunity presents itself
Difficulty: kinda your job
Remember how David Shearer completely caned John Key over the Christchurch school closures debacle? That was totally awesome! … Wait, the dude with the big ears who says “marvellous” all the time isn’t David Shearer? He’s a journalist, you say? Well damn.
And yes, I would’ve liked a giant, fluorescent shift to the left, some repudiation of previous shitty Labour policies, even the slightest glimmer of acknowledgement that the Waitakere Myth was a stupid basis for policy, but guess what, people, the fact I say “fuck” a fuck of a lot doesn’t actually mean I’m a totally unreasonable echo-chamber-constructing bitch.
What I really wanted David Shearer to do, was show he understood that in the first year of a big, public, direction-setting role like leading the parliamentary Labour Party, you need to make an impact. You need to put your mark on the situation. You need to show you have a reason to be there which isn’t “keep the member for Hutt South in bike pants” and a passion for the job. Please note: constantly using the phrase “I have a passion for this job” is just breaking the cardinal rule of show, don’t tell.
For any of the above to be the political equivalent of “walking on water” I must actually be situated on another planet, like Mars. Where the water is frozen damn solid for a lot of the time. What I’m saying is, it’s not hard. Unlike the water.
And the only “dead” that Shearer was meant to bring back to life was Labour’s poll ratings. Given the performance of the government in recent times, Labour clawing its way back to its crushing 2008 defeat levels of support is barely a flicker in Lazarus’ eye.
What’s super-ironic is that the most recent example of Shearer-pedestal-setting I’ve seen comes from … still-a-Shearer-fan Mike Smith, quoted by Colonial Viper at The Standard:
Labour’s new leader promised a fresh approach. He’s delivered already in his speech in reply today. Gone is the ritual opening denunciation of the government’s programme – Shearer begins with where a new Labour government would start.
He puts Labour firmly on the path to winning in 2014 – the intention is clearly stated and the programme for the clean, green and clever New Zealand is exactly the right one. He understands what New Zealanders expect of their MPs. It’s a very good start.
I never expected Shearer to be the messiah of the Labour Party. Other people told us he would be, but I am nothing if not a cynic.
I just wanted a leader.
Apparently this was far too much of me to ask.
(Here’s the hilarious thing: before I saw Scott’s post I’d already drafted tomorrow’s post, an apology to David Shearer. Because it is actually possible to seriously dislike a guy and have not a shred of faith he’ll lead Labour to victory and simultaneously not think he’s the Antichrist.)