Either that or the entire Labour leadership is dedicated to trolling me and willing to destroy their own credibility to do so, which is probably unlikely. Probably.
Let me just put my reaction to this utterly shambolic recent offering into perspective: tonight I rewatched part 2 of a great episode of The West Wing, “20 hours in America”. And this happened:
President Bartlet: The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
Bruno (to Sam): When did you write that last part?
Sam: In the car.
In comparison, dear readers, we of the New Zealand left are meant to derive hope, inspiration, and enthusiasm for the cause out of:
When I visit some of the smartest new businesses as I go around New Zealand I see them working cooperatively to get ahead.
Almost invariably I see management and workers intelligently demonstrating good faith on all sides and a recognition that everyone’s in there doing their best.
Look, even Martin Sheen ain’t making that scripted-by-committee shit sound cool.
I said this in my last, more even-handed post on the topic, and clearly no one paid attention, so here it is again:
Great speeches are stirring and powerful and they have a sodding point, which they make clearly and strongly in a whole series of interconnected sentences. Maybe they use repetition for effect (dream/fight them on the beaches etc) and maybe they start off with a cute little anecdote … but fuck, they’ve got to have soul.
I sincerely defy anyone, including youse fullas on Twitter making statements like “but you’re not the target audience” and “they’re trying to recapture the centre, not disaffected progressives”, to tell me that “A Country That Works For All Kiwis” has soul.
That lines like:
I’d like to begin with a question.
Are you familiar with the expression ‘shadow yacht’?
… actually speak to you as a person and make you want to know more … rather than sound like the opening of an infomercial for some kind of self-actualising book-on-tape series narrated by a man with too many teeth and pretty hair.
Or that a wandering paragraph about mansions in Connecticut (probably most familiar to Kiwis as the resident state of the Baby-Sitters Club) has even half the power of any hand-written amateur “I am the 99%” sign you might have seen over the past year.
Or, to be honest, that there is anything in this set of vaguely-connected sentences which in any way can be distinguished from exactly what John Key would say in any speech on a similar theme:
I want us to become prosperous together and give everyone a fair share.
New Zealand has such enormous potential as a nation – that we really can be a place where anyone can grow up hopeful, with the future they dream of within their grasp.
Last month I gave the first of a series of speeches I’ll be making about New Zealand’s future.
I said I intend to lead a government that creates a new New Zealand.
I’ll be setting out how we get there, step by step.
I have talked about the need to lift our educational achievement and the importance of science and innovation in creating more exports.
Today I want to talk to the New Zealanders who are doing the work but not reaping the rewards.
Here in New Zealand we have been working harder than almost anyone in the developed world.
But it’s not paying off.
We are trying to succeed by squeezing more out of people, by paying lower wages than other countries and working longer hours than them.
When people tell me they’re actually working harder for less, I believe them.
Hundreds of thousands of honest individuals get out of bed each day and go to work, and they cannot get ahead.
The only difference is in the next line, where Shearer … well, eventually makes some kind of point about growth in productivity vs wage growth in real terms and somehow this is about Australia, but where John Key would … also make some point about Australia, but then move on to red tape, company tax, and trickle-down theory.
The point, yet again, is this: it may seem really nifty to those who are still hanging on to the dream of a Labour Party with guts to see a speech full of positive aspirational stuff, occasional plaintive dogwhistles to the nursing/IT 2.5 kid crowd and the contractor who wants a new van … but what is there in this speech which will make some swinging centre voter say “Ooh, I like this Nice Mr Shearer a lot more than Nice Mr Key”?
Are we seriously just going to see Labour churning out more “I like New Zealand. New Zealand is great, and our people are great. And we’re not bastards with shadow yachts, we just want to have a nice soccer camp for our children, and our children’s children” in the hope that enough Gerry Brownlee-related cockups will take the shine off Key and make Shearer comparatively brighter?
And the thing is, at its very, very stripped-down core, it’s not actually a bad speech! There are some points in there about the super-rich prospering at the expense of workers, the myth of “productivity” gains, plain simple facts about how hardworking New Zealanders are, creating real opportunities for young people … and it’s completely drowned out with smarm and cliche and significant. Pauses.
The closest we get to impassioned, punchy oratory is this (and it’s not very close at all):
We need to imagine an economy where we say: Dammit, we can have a country where everyone has enough to live on.
But after trudging through the schlock that came before it, all my brain could leap to was this.