Tagged: david shearer

New rule: hands off chins

Frank’s post on Shearer’s resignation used one of my least-favourite images of the man (actually worse than those damned dead fish), and has inspired today’s New Rule: get your sodding hand off your sodding chins, gentlemen.

It doesn’t make you look thoughtful or deep or serious or whatever the fuck your publicist has conned you into thinking.  It makes you look like you’re desperately trying to look thoughtful/deep/serious/whatever the fuck.

Proof:

shearer chinkey chingarner chin

You all look like total hankies.  Slightly-confused, total, hankies.

And Duncan, that goes for fingers too.  You’re making Espiner look positively grown-up in comparison.

garner chin 2

Homework: 200 words on why the hell people keep doing this to themselves in orchestrated photo shoots meant to make them look good.

Well that was unexpected

David Shearer’s stepped down – and not been rolled (well, formally.  Someone had to pull the trigger and I never thought it would be him.)

I’m pretty much with No Right Turn’s train of thought – to resign the day after a really high-profile piece of legislation passes which has serious potential to damage the government, and turn the media attention to a leadership scrap (because any time there’s no anointed successor, it’s going to be a scrap) seems like a really bad idea.  But would there ever be a good time to go?

I guess we’ll just have to sit tight for four weeks to figure out what, if any, new direction a new Labour leader might take.  Anyone for popcorn?

All I’m saying is …

I sure wish I were well-off enough to forget about $50k in an offshore bank account.

Idiot/Savant and marty mars have better-formed thoughts on the subject.

No, it doesn’t make Shearer corrupt.  No, it’s not a rort.  But it is:

  • a very vivid symbol of his membership of an elite – an elite who do not actually have to know instantly how much cash they have on hand – quite unlike the Waitakere Man whose vote he courts
  • another amateur fuckup (paperwork is haaaaaaaaard)
  • a breathtaking illustration of his lack of political instinct.  Did no one in his office think the phrase “offshore account” posed a risk?  Before it became “undeclared offshore account”?  Undeclared offshore United Nations slush fund worth more than 50k, even?

Pols 101 for David Shearer

I think we’ve frankly got to be worried about Labour’s prospects when people are giving him advice which shouldn’t need to be said.

Like Morgan from Maui Street pointing out that leaving your Maaori Affairs spokesperson on the back bench doesn’t bode well for any hopes you have of retaking the Maaori seats.  Personally, I’d go for the theory that Labour’s strategy team are a bunch of entitled dipshits who assume that eventually the Maaori Party will collapse and that everyone hates Hone Harawira as much as they do, and thus in the fullness of time those silly brown people will remember to vote for their rightful overlords.

Or they’ve forgotten about the Maaori seats.  Anything’s possible.

Then there’s Dr Bryce Edwards explaining that Labour need to present a credible alternative government and be different from National.  I respect Dr Edwards very much, but I have to say that this is hardly a groundbreaking idea.

I mean, how the fuck does Shearer expect to be Prime Minister without being a credible, substantially-different alternative to National?  Hello?

Maybe this is nothing new to the Labour leadership.  Maybe they’re trying, but for some reason (quackslikeaduck) it’s not working.  Hell, they have a distinct shortcoming in only having 34 MPs (and being used to having a lot more, unlike the Greens) – which makes Shearer’s “top 20″ lineup seem a little ridiculous.  (There’s no bottom 20!  Six members of the top 20 are also in the bottom 20!)

But I just cannot conceive that it is that difficult for people with the level of political experience they have to make a dent, to wave a bright flag, to summon a few basic bullet points which sum up the point of their party’s existence.  Unfortunately, that means the only logical conclusion is they don’t give a fuck as long as their safe electorate seats play ball.

It doesn’t Get Better

There are those who will see this as yet another horrible mean-spirited attack on David Shearer.  Those who will instantly retort that he totally got the support of caucus at the February show trial vote and imply that it is my continued criticism which is really destroying the party.

All I’m saying is this.

When David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party, marcher at Auckland Pride, is asked “Is there room for MPs with homophobic views in the Labour Party” …

You should be very fucking worried if it’s actually kinder to cut his answer off at “Oh look yes, absolutely” …

Than to quote the entire mumblefucked response verbatim.

Because at least then we’d know what the fuck Shearer stood for.  It’d be awful homophobia, but at least it’d be something.

The problem

I had this big long post written out about the many, many issues I have with David Shearer’s speech: the constant buying into rightwing rhetoric and language, the illogical little anecdotes, the poor writing …

But all of that is actually beside the point, the core, the one big reason I cannot get behind David Shearer’s leadership, cannot stop criticising him, cannot stop being a terrible undermining everything-that’s-wrong-with-bloggers person.

Throughout his speech, David Shearer makes it very clear that Labour supports a specific type of New Zealander:  the employed New Zealander (secret code:  “hardworking”).

You think, “duh, it’s the Labour party!” and sure, you have a superficial point there.  But strategically, this is a really stupid thing for Labour to do.

There are a large number of voters who probably completely agree with Shearer’s dogwhistles – that paid work is the only valuable work, that you need to prove you’ve worked hard to deserve social support.  Those people are voting for National, because National offers them tax cuts – hey, you’re so hardworking, why should you pay for lazy teenagers who have a bazillion kids?

They’re not going to buy Shearer’s line because it’s still got a thin facade of leftwing policy.  If they don’t want their hard-earned money supporting DPB teens, why would they want it to go to helping lazy yuppies who can’t save a big enough deposit get a first home?  What about their first home?

They see Shearer’s dogwhistles and say “that’s good … but are you going to give me tax cuts?  Why should I have to pay taxes so other people can get houses?  I could use that tax money to buy my own house, with a nice little linen cupboard to keep all my bootstraps in!”

Then there’s the voters who realise that life and happiness are about more than being a good little productive economic unit, who believe that helping the worst-off benefits the whole.

They see Shearer’s dogwhistles and think “this is not a party of compassion.  This is not a party which cares about the welfare of society.  This is not a party which will protect the vulnerable – including workers – once they’ve been thrown on the scrapheap.  Sure, there’s a thin leftwing facade there, but what are you offering that’s substantively different to National’s approach?  Why would I vote for that when I could help the Greens or Mana have a real influence on you if you do recover before election 2014?”

And to both sides, the approach screams dishonesty.  Hang on, say the first group, if you agree that work is awesome and non-workers are scum, why aren’t you supporting National’s moves to reform welfare?  Why are your supporters declaring that you’re a fantastic social democrat Jesus?

The second group say, “if you really are a fantastic social democrat Jesus, why are you constantly using language to reassure the conservatives that really you hate the beneficiary menace too?”

Even ignoring my personal beliefs on the matter, this strategy does not strike me as good politics.  It’s not really working for anyone.  It’s not really giving a clear picture of either what David Shearer and Labour really stand for, or what they want us to think they stand for.  And to me, that leads to one conclusion:  they still just stand for saying whatever it is they think will get them elected and preserve their shiny Parliamentary pay packets.

That’s the problem.

ETA:  Just saying stole my thoughts and expressed them far more clearly; DPF unsurprisingly nails the scorn deserving of Shearer’s autocue use

~

This post isn’t getting cross-posted to The Standard, because I’m seriously bored with Shearer supporters

(a) acting like the kind of mealy-mouthed crap he delivered on Sunday is AMAZING ASPIRATIONAL DIRECTION-SETTING GODLIKE ORATORY

(b) acting like criticisms like mine are the real reason Labour’s polling 31%

And ye shall know him by his key messages

The Greens have released a housing policy around progressive ownership – government builds houses, low-income families rent houses for nominal cost-recovering rent, and extra rent paid goes towards purchasing equity in the house.

As a bonus, rich people’s kids don’t even have to self-select out of it!

Holly Walker did a great job explaining the policy – and how no, Minister Heatley, it isn’t just creating bad debt the way your government did giving tax cuts to the rich – on Firstline.  It was clear, compelling, and made sense to someone like me who really, really avoids the deeper, scarier economic debates over at The Standard.

And when David Shearer was asked to comment on it?

“it comes down to the economic impact of that and whether we could afford it”.

“There’s other areas we would want to take a look at, particularly the economic impact of it. We want to be responsible economic managers and that’s a big proviso on whatever we roll out as policy.”

Good economic managers, that’s his comment.  Economic impact is what’s important – not getting underprivileged families into safe dry homes, stable tenancies, and actually able to work towards owning a house as their circumstances allow.  Not reducing demand on the rental market so landlords can’t just charge $300 a week for any old drafty damp shack.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I think about people’s concerns (yes yes, voiced often at The Standard) that David Shearer’s Labour Party might just be a bit of a National-lite no-principles don’t-scare-the-horses-by-actually-saying-anything-too-lefty outfit?  I definitely hear the words “responsible economic managers” ringing in my ears.

Gold star to Shearer’s advisors though for making him sound like he’s been stuffed with waffles.  “Oh yeah, there are other things we’d look at.  Oh, I don’t have examples to cite or anything, I haven’t figured out how to make definitive statements, but we’d definitely look at things.  Lots of things.  Because that makes us sound open-minded.  And responsible.  Especially about the economy.”

I know none of y’all in the big grey building next to the silly round building read blogs, but you might like to consider just how many commenters over at TS are now declaring themselves for the Greens.  Those white-anting bastards.

An apology to David Shearer

I figured it was his turn.

David, I am sorry.  I don’t really think you’re an awful person.  I don’t think you’re the worst thing to happen to New Zealand leftwing politics in a generation.

I don’t even think most of the stuff I rant about in your name is actually your fault.

I mean, you have advisors.  A number of them have backgrounds in the media, or in communications.  Some of them are there to do research for you, to produce key messages which state your policies and beliefs clearly and memorably, to write your speeches, and make sure you’ve got the information you need to put the Labour Party’s case to the electorate.

Some of them are strategists, big-picture thinkers, people with long histories in the left, in the Party, people with an understanding of the longer-term narratives of NZ politics.

And yet.

They let you Define The Future Of Your Leadership with a conference speech the cornerstone of which is a housing policy which doesn’t help the truly struggling and assumes rich people will “self-select” out of government handouts.

They’ve sold you a communications strategy based around a soulless, madlibbed e-newsletter.

They (I do sincerely hope this is not your own writing) give you clunky, boring stodge to read out to audiences.  They tell you to use the phrase “shadow yacht“.

They almost certainly make your social media presence look like it’s run by a robot.  They set the scene for your whole leadership with a (naff as fuck) New New Zealand tagline.  What happened to that, by the way?

They’ve created a situation where you occasionally announce a really good policy … and smaller opposition parties steal the show because their soundbites are a heck of a lot better.

And I’m not even touching the specific caucus-management aspects of the job, or the fact you’ve got thirty-odd fulltime Members of Parliament who are kind of meant to be pulling a bit of the weight in terms of getting Labour’s message out there for you.

David, even your defenders are having to work hard to come up with explanations for the continued failures of your leadership team.  Seriously, you’ve got sympathetic commenters on The Standard arguing that that whole roof-painter analogy – which you used multiple times and explicitly defended – was just “not thought through” properly.

Repeated grimace-inducing moments like these cannot be the work of one man, David.  So I don’t actually hold you solely responsible for the trainwreck your leadership of the parliamentary Labour Party has been to date.

The sad fact, however, is you’re the leader.  The buck does stop with you.  It’s your Excalibur-like vision which is meant to be the guiding light of the party.  And either you have not noticed how poorly your advisors are serving you, or you don’t care.

(Even I will not be extreme enough to imply this is some kind of bizarre, deliberately-executed plot.)

That, quite simply, is my major issue with your leadership.  Everything else is a symptom of it:  the poor delivery, the lack of delivery of even basic slightly-leftist ideas, the dogwhistles to bigotry, the uninspiring Major Policy Announcements … you’re getting – and accepting – shoddy advice somewhere along the line.

Now, of course, the obvious question is why you should take advice instead from a horrid, sweary pseudonymous blogger?  You don’t have to, by any means.  But it’s not like taking a look at the groundswell of critique from the Outside Left could make you do any worse, is it?

David Shearer isn’t Jesus? No shit, Sherlock

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.)