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Labour leadership

Written By: - Date published: 3:02 am, October 2nd, 2012 - 33 comments
Categories: david shearer, john key, leadership, uk politics - Tags:

I’ll be in Manchester tomorrow to hear Ed Miliband speak at the UK Labour Party conference. Two years out from their next election, UK Labour are currently well ahead in the polls, and as one commentator points out right now Miliband is the most secure of the three political leaders. While the Tories regard him as their secret weapon, releasing a poll at the start of the conference comparing Labour’s supposedly improved prospects under David Miliband, Ed Miliband has surprised those who thought Labour chose the wrong brother. Ed is also receiving plenty of free advice about what he should say. I suspect he will continue to be himself, and good on him for that.

Andrew Rawnsley noted in yesterday’s Guardian, Ed Miliband’s big test is to make voters see him as Prime Minister. Miliband’s approval rating has improved 31 points since mid-January while Cameron has slumped by 25. The Tories plan is to brand the Labour leader as too weird and too left wing to put inside Number 10.

Rawnsley says:

The Labour leader cannot help coming over as agreeable, idealistic, a bit pointy headed and rather earnest, because that is what he is…

The sort of stunts performed by previous leaders of the opposition – Tony Blair doing headers with Kevin Keegan, David Cameron riding with huskies in the Arctic Circle – won’t work for him. We are now familiar enough with such manipulations to have become suspicious of them and anyway there would be a high risk of him looking like a prat. So his best bet is to attempt to flip the flaws in his image into an advantage. The earnestness and wonkishness at least suggest an authenticity that might be contrasted with the sort of slickeries practised by David Cameron en route to power.

Amen to that. I’ve always believed that in politics eventually authenticity will trump public relations. It has taken a while with Key, but he is now revealed for the fraud he always was. Just like Cameron’s Conservatives in Britain, National in New Zealand is being shown up as the most right-wing government since before the war.

Jackie Ashley returns to the same theme in today’s Guardian

Let’s deal first with the Ed Miliband question. Are we really still so politically childish that we believe a Big Character, armed with all the meretricious tricks and lures of celebrity politics – the faux-working class diction, the camera-adoring glances, the fabricated backstory – is going to stride out and save the nation?

Ed’s just Ed. He’s a serious, politically brave and thoughtful north London intellectual. I once coined the term “Zen socialism” to describe his almost eerie sense of self and calm. Frankly, I’m still delighted to be watching a Labour leader sans bullying spin doctors, sans cheesy photocalls and, above all, sans a bloated, swaggering sense of personal destiny.

She then goes on to say:

The far bigger question is the shape of the Labour politics emerging under this man. And again, to see it, you have to stop asking the wrong questions. Of course Labour can’t set out a detailed shadow budget this far away from an election. But we do already know from Miliband that the top tax rate of 50p would be restored, that there would be a much greater focus on creating jobs, and that the banks would be reformed and the NHS changes reversed.

More than that, though, Labour is talking of a badly damaged economic system which requires not just a leader, and not even just an election, but a national transformation to put it right.

Double amen to that. The parallels with New Zealand are obvious. And as with Britain’s Eds, Miliband and Balls, we should be noting that in New Zealand Labour’s Davids are asking the questions and challenging the old orthodoxies that haven’t worked, laying the groundwork for that transformation. It’s not all there yet but it is well under way.

As for Labour’s leadership, an issue that is also under discussion on both sides of the world, Andrew Rawnsley coined what he called the “close your eyes test… Can voters close their eyes and imagine this person standing on the threshold of Number 10?”: It’s a bit unfair in relation to Miliband; while he is no oil painting he did use to sound rather adenoidal. But he’s had an operation to correct that, in my view an interesting sign that he is ready. While David Shearer is better looking, his main problem is the habit of a repetitious stutter step in his speech; it didn’t matter before he had to go on television so much, where it makes  him sound more indecisive than he is. That too could easily be corrected.

For the rest, let Ed be Ed and Shearer be Shearer. Idealists with integrity and a proven track record. We could all do with those qualities standing on the threshold. In my opinion they will win out in the end.



33 comments on “Labour leadership”

  1. Craig Glen Eden 1

    Is Ed loosing party activists like Shearer?

    • Te Reo Putake 1.1

      Yes, Craig, both Milliband and Shearer are setting their activists loose on the Tories.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Your Region hasn’t been bleeding Labour activists and members young and old to the Greens?

        • Te Reo Putake

          No, and neither has anywhere else.

          • Craig Glen Eden

            Thats Bullshit TRP I know of activists up and down the country that wont lift a finger while Shearers is in charge because he simply does not represent/ articulate Labour values.

            Tamihere for Waitakere? You watch the exodus!

            • Antonina

              You are so correct Craig. All those ‘front bums’ for a start.

            • Te Reo Putake

              No you don’t, Craig. You appear to be way out of touch. But keep moaning from the sidelines, the rest of us will do the work for you.

              • Craig Glen Eden

                Really TRP you support Shearers dog whistle against sickness beneficiaries?
                You support Nationals Standards, Nationals mechanism to reduce Teachers wages and to attack the Teacher unions.
                You support no one owns water/ water access rights for Maori? Because be my guest you stand up on the Labour Party conference floor and spout this bullshit and we will see who’s out of touch. Be my guest just let me know I will be there to see it with all my out of touch Party activist mates .

            • David H

              Oh you are so right there… I have already said publicly that while Shearer is in charge I will be voting Greens. And NO volunteering with driving voters to polling stations, ringing up potential voters, etc etc

    • just saying 1.2

      That gave me a giggle.
      Shearer has never been a party activist. He only became amember to stand for a seat.

      • Craig Glen Eden 1.2.1

        Whats more it shows with his bullshit “sickness beneficiary roof painting” comment.

        When you are Labour through and through and you get more excited about the Greens response to issues than your own Party Leader you know some thing is seriously wrong.

        • King Kong

          “When you are Labour through and through and you get more excited about the Greens response to issues than your own Party Leader you know some thing is seriously wrong”

          Exactly, it means you have taken that step from being merely mentally feeble to a full blown crazy.

          • prism

            King Kong
            Thanks for the token sneer from a RWNJ. Where would we be without one to demonstrate the opposite of the opinions being discussed.

          • thatguynz

            So the next step from Greens to National would make you a completely batshit loony overgrown ape of limited intellect?
            Hmm, no thanks.

      • Bill 1.2.2

        Thought Shearer used to work for Goff years back. Was that as an employee rather than as a member of the party? And did a ‘matey’ relationship form…enough of one that the Goff-awful faction in Labour could put him up there as their trojan horse (thinking more along the lines of ‘my little pony, but never mind) to sneak the (‘Shit! We don’t have the numbers’) Roberston into the leadership via natural progression from deputy to leader?

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Mike. Ed Miliband just stood up against the trillion dollar City of London, declared that their business model was unsustainable and harmful to society, and presented them with the nuclear option of forceable breakup.

    Can you please give me a similar example of David Shearer standing up against corporate interests for the sake of NZ.

  3. Bill 3

    …we should be noting that in New Zealand Labour’s Davids are asking the questions and challenging the old orthodoxies that haven’t worked.

    Erm. Really? I guess we would be noting such a thing if it was the case, aye?

    But as noted in ‘Open Mike’ yesterday, the NZ Labour Party leaders appear to playing out a parody of the satirical ‘The Thick of It’… Nicola Murray, the ‘omni-shambles’ leader of the opposition stumbles and flails…calls for an end to ‘adversarial politics’…is cut adrift and the deputy leader shoulder tapped.

    Only difference I see is that Robertson’s shoulder tapping didn’t come off. No loss there… Robertson is just a more polished Shearer with hair and glasses.

    • just saying 3.1

      Goff and Shearer are old school friends. As I understand it, Goff approached Shearer when he came back to NZ a few years ago, thought he’s make a damn fine centre-right candidate for Labour. He was offered a safe seat at his second standing. Prior to this approach, and offer of a a seat to stand for, Shearer wasn’t a member of Labour. I think Goff may have given him a job in his office for three years prior to his being offered his current seat.

      Democracy in action.

    • Jokerman 3.2


  4. BloodyOrphan 4

    I personally think David Shearer is more popular than people are realising.
    The polls are going up for a reason.

    David Shearer is staying the course, He’s standing there and taking it on the chin.
    As his ground solidifies under him, (Which means great directional speeches from all his Collegues as well as himself), I think we’ll have a Labour Leader that has a truly great heart, and there are many New Zealanders who would admire his commitment under fire.
    Go Labour!

  5. Craig Glen Eden 5

    “The Polls are going up for a reason” National are coming down Labour is hardly moving?

    This would be the worse performing Government and Prime Minister I have seen in my life time yet still Key and National poll solidly. Labour should be doing a lot better but other than Cunliffes speeches voters have had very little from Labour to make them look in Labours direction.

  6. captain hook 6

    so where exactly did kweewee serve his apprenticeship as a tory party flunky?

  7. captain hook 7

    He simply bought the franchise to plunder and loot the New Zealand Treasury off Michelle Boag.

  8. Blue 8

    Are we really going to pretend that Shearer’s only problem is the stutter?

    Not, say, the complete lack of ability to articulate his ideas even when he’s not stuttering? The woeful lack of political experience? Struggling to get airtime in the media because no one’s interested in him? The nasty swing to the right moaning about sickness beneficiaries?

    For me, Shearer’s ‘leadership’ firmed up my intentions to vote Green. I’m picking a ‘National in 2005’ style election result, close but no cigar for the left, National gets a third term to wreck the country further, and Labour finally wakes up and has the much-needed cleanout, not only dumping Shearer as leader, but getting rid of the complete morons who put him into the leadership in the first place.

    I hate that it will take so long, and so much damage will be done in the meantime. It didn’t have to be so hard.

    • Mary 8.1

      Shearer’s certainly had some media coaching lately. Now he’s rote learning his sound bites to eliminate the ums and arrhs. Makes him sound like a robot. Almost as bad as Phil Goff. His new-found media skill ain’t going to help him in interviews, unless he just sits there repeating his lines in affirmation-like style which in fact won’t help him at all. His problem is he can’t immerse himself in a subject well enough to respond quickly to questions in an engaging and unselfconscious way. I don’t know if that’s something that can be learned.

  9. gobsmacked 9

    These parallels are common, but wrong.

    Key isn’t like Cameron. Shearer isn’t like Milliband.

    Cameron and Milliband are two smart, savvy communicators, both with good brains and sharp tongues. (That doesn’t make their policies good or bad, of course – I far prefer Milliband’s party to Cameron’s).

    Key and Shearer are thick hicks. If they were in the UK Conservative or Labour parties, they wouldn’t get past candidate selection in a local electorate. They might be allowed to make the tea. Whereas Helen Clark and Michael Cullen would have been Cabinet Ministers.

    Ed Milliband will be Britain’s next Prime Minister. Tune into the UK Labour conference (BBC, Guardian, etc) to see and hear why.

    David Shearer won’t be our next Prime Minister, and we already know why.

    • Reagan Cline 9.1

      I would vote for a thick hick with heart over a smart arse pommie snob any day.

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        Shearer then?

      • dancerwaitakere 9.1.2

        I don’t view people who make completely irrational and unintelligent comments regarding the status of a beneficiaries situation while knowing NOTHING about them, to have much of a LABOUR heart at all.

        Unfortunately, a thick hick would not even realise the damage they can cause with such a comment.

      • captain hook 9.1.3

        yeah. Key and his crew think that if they wear eton boaters and striped jackets then somehow they are in the upper class when in reality they will always be manques.
        thats not spanish for monkeys.
        its a good old word for jumped up wannabees.

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