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Selections I have known

Written By: - Date published: 5:18 pm, December 13th, 2011 - 38 comments
Categories: david shearer, labour, mt albert - Tags:

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.


38 comments on “Selections I have known ”

  1. Lew 1

    A leader who gets it: politics is more about winning hearts than filling heads with facts. Finally!


    • IrishBill 1.1

      Fools rush to judgement, Lew.

      • Lew 1.1.1

        If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. This sort of thing isn’t enough, there’s a lot to do, he might suck, someone might know where the bodies are buried. But even thinking aloud in such terms places him a country mile ahead of the previous lot of leaders on the basic task of understanding what motivates people to make political decisions. That matters.


        • IrishBill

          I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying we’ll wait and see. There are a few in the caucus that like Westen’s work but understanding something in principle and being able to put it into action are different things. Hopefully Shearer will be able to put it into practice.

  2. vto 2

    Picture what you would like in a leader that you were required to follow. In a personal sense. Like, someone you can relate to, someone who empathises with your situation, someone who wants the same things you do, someone who can unite people for a purpose, someone who can make things happen, someone you would like to have around for a bbq this sunny evening in Christchurch. Those are the attributes needed. Pretty clever huh.

  3. Craig Glen Eden 3

    “He’s won two out of three, and been most impressive every time.”

    Some people are easily impressed though Mike. I watched and listened to him in MT Albert by election campaigning and watched him last weekend in Auckland, one word useless. Has not improved at all, you can talk him up all you like but I am telling you know Labour is in big trouble when Mps dont listen to their members and Lec’s.

    • David H 3.1

      Agreed He is just bloody hopeless when it comes to speaking. and in parliament he will be laughed out the place then what??? I saw his attempt at public speaking and I cringed. Not only that, he says that he needs a complete break with the past and yet goff mallard King and co are all in there supporting him, so what break?? just 3 more years of same ol’ same ol’ before the Nats implode and Donald Duck hisself could win the PM’s seat.

    • Bunji 3.2

      There’s a bit on here about MPs not listening to their members, but I know in my electorate the view was not so clear. If you polled the LEC, the hardcore activists who do most of the actual work, then Cunliffe would have won easily, but certainly not unanimously. But we asked the (many more) wider membership list their opinions too. If you included them, the vote would have been overwhelmingly Shearer.
      Should the hardest workers who live and breathe politics have the biggest voice (they’re certainly the ones who made their opinions known) – or are the wider members closer to the general public and in a better position to judge?

      Make of it what you will. We’ll no doubt never know what emails / communication MPs received, and whether their views were in line with the majority of their local Labour members or not.

      At any rate, my personal view is that the caucus has decided (hopefully members will have some say next time), and we’re best getting on with it, giving the new guy the chance to make his mark and hopefully kick the Nats to the curb come 2014…

      • Colonial Viper 3.2.1

        If you included them, the vote would have been overwhelmingly Shearer.
        Should the hardest workers who live and breathe politics have the biggest voice (they’re certainly the ones who made their opinions known) – or are the wider members closer to the general public and in a better position to judge?

        Outside of Auckland, hardly any ordinary Labour Party members (not the activists) knew that David Shearer existed, let alone anything about him, until the last 2 weeks of loud, positive press coverage.

        • David H

          Such positive press coverage even the bloody Nacts were wanting him in. Now did that not tell the labour elite that the NACTS were shit scared of Cunliffe and co????

      • lprent 3.2.2

        That doesn’t surprise me. The hardcore activists don’t get taken in very easily by PR, and they know the types of risks that the party is running with their time.

        I’m going to cool down for a few days and then make a set of decisions. But I will be leaving Mt Albert. ‘Vicks’ convinced me that it is getting rather poisonous there.

        • Peter

          There are many others who are considering going down the same route as you.

          Taking a break from the party perhaps, but never leaving the movement…

          • Colonial Viper

            indeed. The movement was born in NZ a long time before the Labour Party was born.

        • aspasia

          If ‘Vicks’ really is a member of the Mt Albert LEC it is certainly very disappointing to see the electorate organisation of (now) two Labour party leaders connected with these nasty and vicious attacks. Labour should welcome younger members prepared to stand for selection. I think it would be a nice gesture for the Mt Albert LEC to publicly disassociate itself from what I would hope are unauthorised comments made on its behalf.

      • Olwyn 3.2.3

        How on earth do you know? I was at the Auckland event, and the crowd seemed to favour Cunliffe. I assume that they were all Labour Party members, but not all activists.

  4. logie97 4

    Why do I feel the same lack of enthusiasm about this selection as I did when Phil Goff took the lead. Boy I hope I am going to be feeling inspired in a few weeks when the unknown becomes the all conquering. Otherwise the Labour Party could be consigned to history … Good luck Mr Shearer. Put some fire back into the belly of a once proud movement.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Pedal to the metal. 3 years to win this damn thing the country needs us. No false starts and no letting the new National front bench get away with an inch.

  5. CentreOfLeft 5

    Ok. Let’s go win this thing.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    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.

    This sage advice is aimed at aristocrats, elite officials, military generals, royal princes and Jade Emperors who have no familiarity with the soldiers and the commoners that they are supposed to lead and govern.

    It is advice which says – if you do not understand the ordinary folk under your command in your own nation, you must then learn about them, understand their ways and their moods. If you do not understand their character, their personality or their aptitudes, acquaint yourself to them, first hand, from amongst them, so that you can grow to become a great leader of them, one day enabling them to do magnificent things for themselves.

    Are you telling me that this is Shearer’s starting point.

  7. Peter 7

    I get the horrible feeling here that we have made a mistake, but I would like to be proven wrong.

    • Craig Glen Eden 7.1

      We didn’t make the mistake Peter, Labour’s rank and file clearly wanted Cunliffe and Mahuta, its our MPs that have let us down. Come 2014 it will be time for a big clean out. Some LECs will probably need to get rid of existing electorate MPs, some on the current list will also need to go. How can the current lot connect with the average voter they cant even connect to the average Labour supporter?

      To many MPs think they know best and thats a big part of our problem, they don’t respect the rank and file but will want us to fund their next campaign. I for one wont be giving any more donations to the Party/National office I will spend it locally on local activities.

    • lprent 7.2

      I’m contemplating that I really don’t have the time to wait for them to learn from their mistakes.

  8. max 8

    Wow. Some disaffected people here. So he needs a bit of polish. That will come with time.

    Get in behind and support Shearer!

  9. Oh Mike – tell us what you really think or just stay silent. This is post factum drivel aimed no doubt to try and reunite. The ‘charisma’ question in the Wellington meeting was planted by the Shearer team – asked by Fran Mold’s husband – and yes Mike you know who she is – Goff’s Chief Press Sec, the brunette seen attached to Shearer as he faced the media.

    When almost all the white female MPs apart from Dalziel and Moroney have voted against the Maori woman deputy candidate, the Labour caucus has failed to reach out to a major constituency. I am ashamed of them and after almost 30 years a Labour voter, I’ve thrown away my membership. Shearer answered the ‘women’ question on Sunday saying ‘more training was needed’ to get them into caucus roles – how sexist – how insulting – I’ll be voting Green.

  10. Blue 10

    See, this is what I dislike about the Shearer-worship. It’s all warm and fuzzy shit, with no evident practical basis.

    Shearer ‘can lead’ – how do you know? From his CV? Not from your actual experience of him? Because he hasn’t led anything in politics so far.

    And there’s the crucial point right there – he’s ‘led’ in a totally different context. Politics is a very different beast from leading aid workers in war-torn regions.

    It’s a bloody, dirty, nasty arena where not all the people on your team are fully ‘on your team’, there’s divisions and factionalism and backstabbing. How is Shearer at dealing with that?

    As for the ‘listening’ idea – how is he going to do that? Is he going to have a series of public meetings up and down the country? Use social media? Or just take a walk outside his office one day and chat to a few people?

    For myself, I want a leader who knows how to be ruthless but fair, who can communicate in efficient and concrete terms what they want to do and where they stand, and knows their shit.

    A whole load of ineffectual waffle doesn’t impress me. Shearer will have to demonstrate some ability to get things done.

  11. Adrian 11

    I am a Cunliffe supporter for the simple reason that he has the eye and head for detail and most importantly knows that to achieve all that we would like to do requires money, money that has to be taken from people in a manner that doesn’t annoy them too much. Shearer may be one of the great Kiwis for all that he has done in his career but spending large amounts of money that is just there is one thing, being responsible for relieving the Dark Side of it is another. How he handles the vilification and hostility associated with that job will be the measure of him. After a few months of the shit that Phil and Helen put up with may have him pining for Baghdad.
    He’s now there, if we want to do that which needs to be done we need to support him and make sure that he succeeds.

  12. Mike Smith 12

    These comments do indeed remind me of selections I have known – angst and anguish and the occasional dash of vitriol amongst the supporters in the hall after results were announced. The unsuccessful candidates were usually much more supportive of the outcome. I’ll stand by my judgment – it hasn’t been too bad so far.

  13. seeker 13

    Not feeling any connection to this strange new Labour Party. It feels as tho’ it has been hi jacked by weird ideas. I want to wake up and know there is one competent leader of a major party in NZ. Alas, I know that this will not be the case, and that tomorrow’s political landscape in New Zealand will be diminished by today’s decision.

    Good effort in trying to rally our spirits Mike -but it just ain’t happening. Spirit all gone at the moment. Shearer should not have stood, that would have been the correct, brave and humane thing to do. Hope for the sake of our children and young people living in poverty I’m wrong.

    • Olwyn 13.1

      I feel very similar seeker, and this is not because I did not get my own way, as some are saying about those who express disappointment. There appeared to be a groundswell of support for David Cunliffe, and the series of meetings gave hope that the caucus would listen to the members, whatever their personal feelings were. It may turn out well, and I hope it does, but feel-good waffle does nothing to assuage the unease. If anything it makes matters worse. Moreover, a special sort of disconnect arises when the caucus sees fit to unleash a PR initiative on the members, rather than seek their consent in a forthright manner.

      • Craig Glen Eden 13.1.1

        Exactly Olwyn and Mike is part of the old guard nice enough bloke but he still cant quite work out why Labour is not connecting with voters aye Mike.

      • Anthony 13.1.2

        Feels like the goal was to be narrative building exercise which would inaugurate and authorize a new leader in the public mind, rather than seeking any kind of member feedback. Problem is that the people who are members are generally a bit more cynical so they can see through that bullshit and perhaps feel a bit exploited.

        Now seems to be a revision beginning where Shearer and Robertson overwhelmingly won over the crowd at every meeting.

        • Colonial Viper

          Now seems to be a revision beginning where Shearer and Robertson overwhelmingly won over the crowd at every meeting.

          Not sure what that revision would accomplish. The small problem being that most ‘hard core activists’ anywhere near the cities, like myself, were actually at those meetings.

        • Olwyn

          I have to say it feels rather weird when the caucus and Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, et al, are on the same page while the Labour party membership is on a different one.

          A further point: when National moves to the mythical centre, it actually has its flag planted firmly on the right, and courts the centre, making a few concessions. When Labour moves to the so-called centre, it shifts its flag there, and the recipients of the concessions are its historic constituency. It may not be as bad as I fear of course. David Shearer is talking the talk, but in such general platitudinous terms that I have to see what this amounts to if I am to be convinced.

      • RedLogix 13.1.3

        Same here. It’s way too early for me to feel any solid connection with this Shearer-led Labour Party. I’m more than willing to give the man a fair go…. I think we owe him that much.

        But he’s starting from ground-zero.

        Someone please get the man to some media-training urgently. We can’t afford a repeat of Phil Goff’s tragedy of finally firing (and very well too) … but too late just weeks before the election.

      • deuto 13.1.4

        Ditto to your comment and those that followed. I have this feeling of disconnect and unease; although I am willing to give Shearer/Robertson a chance and support if they are able to perform and bring the party together etc. That will be reinforced if Cunliffe is right up there (preferably Finance) along with Mahuta; and most of the old guard in particular Mallard are removed further down the ranks and with less influence. Time will tell but it has to be fast.

        I am not trying to suggest conspiracies etc, but I have lingering unease about the level of right wing support for Shearer – and in particular the fleeting references by some of those to the Hooton BBQ. I am just hoping that there is nothing that happened at the BBQ that is going to be come back (joker in the pack) and be used against Shearer in the future.

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