For me, Grant Robertson’s move late on Sunday afternoon to declare that he will run for the Labour leadership shows that he has chops as an operator. Likewise, the swiftness with which he moved to hold a press conference after Shearer quit. Indeed, the fact that Robertson’s team are good political operators has been on display with their character assassination of Cunliffe for years. But is being a good operator enough?
I reckon you can guess my answer. (incidentally, you’ll notice how restrained the Standardistas have been considering we were damn well right about Shearer all along – it doesn’t do to blow one’s own trumpet)
Here’s my concern about Robertson. The public rejected Goff and Shearer because they didn’t think that either were adequate potential PMs. Goff didn’t appear genuine – too often he didn’t seem to believe what he was saying and, after 30 years playing chameleon in Parliament, one wondered if even Goff knew what he believed in underneath it all. Shearer, well Shearer clearly didn’t know what he believed in and no-one could have any confidence in his ability to handle the big events that PMs have to deal with. Both Goff and Shearer were nice, and Goff knew about being an operator, but not only didn’t they sell their vision to New Zealand, they didn’t really have a vision.
Which brings me to this from Robertson’s email launching his candidacy:
With our members and supporters alongside us, and a clear vision and message we will be at our strongest for the 2014 election.
There is a huge amount at stake. Every week New Zealanders can see new examples of how badly John Key and his government have lost touch with their hopes and concerns. From the Sky City deal, to rising unemployment and a lack of respect for our fundamental democratic rights and freedoms, this government is not listening to New Zealanders.
What Labour must do is not just highlight these problems, but give New Zealanders reasons to vote for a Labour government. Our story is one that should give hope to every person that no matter where they are from, they will get the opportunity to achieve their potential.
My vision is for a country that is proud and optimistic about its future. We have got to regain some hope. New Zealanders are tired of the short term fixes and deals, and the failed ideas of the past. We must look ahead and govern for tomorrow as much as for today. We need to build the country that our grandchildren want to live in- prosperous, fair and environmentally aware.
I see the phrase “clear vision” there but I don’t see an actual clear vision. In the final paragraph, where Robertson tries to elucidate his vision, what comes out is a set of bland platitudes that could just as easily come out of the mouth of a tory.
I don’t doubt that Robertson has good left values. Nor do I doubt that he would be a good leader of Labour and would make a perfectly credible Prime Ministerial candidate, which is, perhaps, all that Labour has lacked.
But to be sure of winning, you need to communicate a vision that is heartfelt and speaks to New Zealanders. I’m still to see that from Robertson.