I’ve now seen David Shearer in three Labour selection contests – I was on the panel in Waitakere in 2002 and Mt Albert in 2009, and I was in Wesley Church last Wednesday in Wellington. He’s won two out of three, and been most impressive every time. Had I been a caucus member today, he would have had my vote. This is why.
He can lead. Not everyone can, but he can. His track record and his CV said that. I well remember catching a glimpse of it in Mt Albert, and thinking to myself – “you could go all the way.” Now he has.
He’s a listener and an unifier – the best sort of leader. When both David’s were asked the question in Wesley Church, “What is charisma”, David Shearer’s answer was to quote Drew Westen’s “The Political Brain” about the importance of connecting emotionally, and to say that the first thing he would do was to get out and listen to people all around New Zealand. I was reminded of Lao Tsu’s famous saying:
Go to the People. Live among them, Love them, Learn from them. Start from where they are, Work with them, Build on what they have. But with the best leaders, When the task is accomplished, The work completed, The people all remark: We have done it ourselves.
He’s got the x-factor. Brian Rudman wrote recently quoting a jaundiced campaign veteran saying if he had it nobody knew what it was “at this stage”. Rudman could have checked his own paper, which made Shearer New Zealander of the Year in 1992. It’s not on-line; I checked it in the library before the Mt Albert selection. He certainly had it then – no reason to believe he’s lost it now.
The other constant about selections in the Labour party is that they often leave supporters of those who miss out more disgruntled than the contenders themselves. That was the case in Waitakere in 2002, but to David Shearer’s credit when I asked him, disappointed as he was, to stand for us in Whangarei, he did it and did it well. That’s impressive.