If you insist: Shearer’s speech was a shambles

Okay, chaps, you’ve convinced me.  I may try to be even-handed, but at the end of the day, I expect more from the leader of the Labour Party, and Shearer’s speech was not bold, it was not courageous, it didn’t shake my antipathy towards the party one iota.

There are those who disagree.

There are those who, in fact, think Shearer signalling a move further to the right is in fact a good thing, and we peons who think it’s an abrogation of his duties and an abandonment of his party’s basic principles just don’t understand MMP.

In MMP, apparently, the major leftwing party should just screw the poor, jump on the bene-bashing bandwagon, and buy in to all of National/ACT’s rhetoric because hey, they can always just build coalitions with leftwing parties after the election!  That’ll go swimmingly!

Right up until people point out that using a more extreme party as a cover to pass an agenda you didn’t explicitly campaign on is (a) dishonest, (b) just fucks the minor party and leaves you all-but-bereft of options, and (c) kinda what we’ve been bagging National for for some time now.

Also that whole “betraying the electorate” is definitely a vote-winner and not something an already National-friendly media would just jump on.

But hey, clearly “whether I like it or not“, rightwing vocabulary and ideas and policies are just mainstream now, and we have to work within their framing on their homeground, on a playing field which is specifically designed to lead to their kinds of policies because the rules are written by them and for them.

I guess the only reason Shearer et al aren’t folding up the party and joining National wholesale is because, um, blue isn’t their colour?

So, without further ado and besides the aforementioned “let’s kill the art of oratory with stilted disconnected statements of boringness”, here’s the problems I have with Shearer’s speech.  You may note it covers basically the entire speech.

It starts with a pointless anecdote.  The reason it’s pointless is that someone got hooked on the whole lamb thing, so Shearer focuses too much on the line about lambs, instead of the far better point that our agriculture-based economy can be likened to the Barnum exhibit in that it’s a sham, it’s pretend, it’s unsustainable.

He talks about “anyone who can tell you we can make things better here without making big changes” – like that doesn’t open the door to the Right saying “you’re absolutely right, so bye-bye assets and progressive tax systems – hey, you should be on board with this!”

The honest truth is that a commodities boom, even if it keeps on rolling, isn’t enough on its own to pay for what we need.

But it won’t keep rolling! It can’t! Why would you even mention this as a possibility? Why not say, “the commodities boom cannot keep rolling, and it’s not even paying for itself now”?

Why the fuck make some stupid, out-of-nowhere comment about visions being like freaking Excalibur if you’re then going to launch straight into your vision … and yet not tell us what you’re doing with it because “oh, the policy hasn’t been formulated yet”?

Also, NO ONE TAPES “KICK ME” SIGNS TO THEIR OWN BACK. How long has it been since these guys were in high school?

Why buy into the notion that “people [should] know they can get ahead”? Why subscribe to the notion we can only be happy by accruing goods and wealth? Why not “New Zealand should be a place where people know they can live well, where we’re all secure and able to live good lives”?

Why the hell is anyone chuffed with the mention of Esko Aho and his amazing achievements, when the punctuation at the end is the phrase, “Though our prescription might differ, we could all take a lesson from that”? Because what Shearer just said there, people, is “the important thing is Aho didn’t focus on getting re-elected, but screw all that other stuff I just mentioned, we’ll probably do something different.”

After emphasising so freaking much that visions are meaningless without action, that big change is needed, bite the bullet seize the day reach for the brass ring, what do we get? “A completely new New Zealand. I can forgive you if you have your doubts.”

You’d better be in a forgiving mood, David, because my doubts could create a solar eclipse at this point. We’ll have a plan! Day One we’ll be raring to go! Oh, what that plan might be? No idea. Still in the developmental stages, a bit of focus grouping, maybe a scoping document in the works, but roughly, definitely, there’s a plan, and it’s, um … get re-elected. Just like Esko Aho.

And please, someone shoot whoever thought that it made any sense to say “We need a completely new New Zealand. We’ll have a plan, Day One, etc etc, but I don’t have the plan right now, but if I had to summarise, I’d say we need a new New Zealand.”

Because that just smells like self-referential meaningless bullshit to me.

Then it’s some “I love being back here in … WELLINGTON!” cheap pop, yes we’re all so clever and awesome and yay, and question our assumptions, etc etc. and then it’s straight back into rightwing bollocks:

I believe we can look after everyone better, not by cutting taxes, but by earning more as a country and making sure that everyone gets a real chance to earn their share.

I will bet anyone reading this right now a shiny dollar that originally, that sentence included the phrase grow the pie.

To education, which apparently is the first, and arguably the most important, part of the plan they don’t have yet which will contain policies which don’t exist. Quick: to the I Worked In International Aid anecdote mobile! How fortunate David has a story which roughly equates to “I taught a man to fish and fed him for a lifetime.”

David gets nicely on board with the Crosby Textor “bag our school system but praise the smart kids first so you look understanding and compassionate” meme. We need to value teachers! Yeah teachers! This is sounding positively Labourish! Oh, wait. Just a setup for “bad teachers are bad, naughty unions protecting bad teachers, Won’t Someone Think of the Children” routine #43. David’s a parent! He thinks about parents! God help us all.

Some more delicious shit sandwich is served up:

We all have an instinctive sense in New Zealand that everyone deserves a go, and that everyone needs to pull their weight and contribute.

Labour believes that. It always has.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Shorter Shearer: Everyone deserves a go! And some of you are filthy bludging scum. And don’t let anyone tell you different apparently means “National are wrong to say we love bludgers. We hate bludgers. And bad teachers!”

And with a shout-out to that pointless anecdote at the beginning, ’cause everyone loves lambs, we’re out.

Are you serious, people?  I’m meant to get excited about that?  I’m meant to lie back and think of England and say “oh well, the media are against us and the right control the framing of the discussion, so a single sentence on a capital gains tax means we’re back, baby!!!”

Well, you can just sod right off.


  1. alex

    Oh yes, a right leaning Labour party is exactly what we need to get the country back on track, because, um… well… then the organisation can get itself elected by being like National and all the party hacks can get jobs… and then… blah blah blah… grow the pie…

    I seriously can’t understand how tribal Labour people can defend a move away from being a left wing, or even centre left party. Why are they even in politics at all? Clearly it is not because they believe that policy dictated by principles of social justice and equality will make a better society. This modern Labour party is based entirely on self-interest.

  2. just saying


    I think this is the point in history when many of the comfortably well-off in Labour are thinking ‘With the end of growth and peak oil, peak soil etc. there doesn’t seem to be a way of redressing the extremity of inequality, without people like me getting a bit less – hmmm maybe I was a bit hasty with all this left-wing malarkey.’

    And by-the-by, Shearer was paid a fucking fortune to administer the distribution of fish, not fishing rods actually. He was never an ‘aid worker’ he was a UN exectuive. His fruit-peel-road-to-damascus experience led to him amassing a personal fortune, while having some jolly boy’s-own adventures.
    Why take up extreme sports to kick-start that under-stimulated nervous-system, when you can make bags of dosh with a gold-plated pension scheme.

    And did I mention the glory?

    • QoT

      Why take up extreme sports to kick-start that under-stimulated nervous-system, when you can make bags of dosh with a gold-plated pension scheme.

      I’m a little in love with this sentence.

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