Oh Shearer, so close!

David Shearer gave a speech today about education.  He announced some really good actually-talking-about-concrete-stuff-not-Excalibur policies!

Labour will put food in schools.  Labour will extend Reading Recovery to all schools.  Labour will (and this is the one I’m a little stuck on) introduce school report cards which will, somehow, tell you if your school is under-performing, taking into account things like the local demographics, without creating league tables and without costing a bajillion dollars.

I mean, it’s a great idea, I’m just sure the implementation would be a nightmare.

Anyway, I’ve got to admit I’m a hard sell.  I like the policies.  I even like the anecdote at the beginning.  But my god, people, can we not get some freaking fire into our political speeches?  Even some basic comedic timing?

Here’s David’s opening anecdote about schools:

A few years ago, I was leading a team of people in West Africa supporting a new government after its election.

Around a meal one day the topic of what school we attended came up.

As we went around the table, it turned out that all my team had been to elite schools from around the world.

One had attended Eton, another Harrow and others had gone to a number of exclusive US schools.

They asked me, ‘David, where did you go to school?’ Papatoetoe High School I replied.

‘Oh’, they said politely, ‘what sort of school was that?’

I told them that it’s a public school in south Auckland and it provided me with a great education.

I sat back, the odd one out, and realised that the teachers and school I attended had not only got me here, but rather satisfyingly, I was their boss.

I swear, those one-sentence paragraphs and the meaningful pause between each one kills me.  And seriously, when in normal conversation have you ever uttered the phrase “and others had gone to a number of exclusive US schools”?

What if David had kicked off like this:

A few years ago I was leading a team in West Africa, supporting a new government after historic elections.  One day at dinner someone brought up which school we’d gone to.  We went around the table:  Eton!  Harrow!  Everyone had gone to a posh big-name school with ivy on the gates.

Then they got to me.  “Where’d you go to school, David?”  “Oh … [and you *can* have a significant pause here, then deliver it utterly deadpan] Papatoetoe High.”

It took them a while to click that I’d gone to a bog-standard public school with no fancy names on the donors’ wall.  No donors’ wall at all, in fact.

There I was, a kid from Papatoetoe, leading a team of guys from the best – or maybe just the most expensive – high schools in the world.  That’s how good our education system is.

And what about this horrible conclusion:

I have a strong sense of where I want to take New Zealand, and what we need to do to get there.

Our education system is at the heart of that.

As I said, I started my working life as a teacher.

I confess that education is in my DNA. My Dad was a school principal, my mother was a teacher aide and my wife was trained in reading recovery.

There are ways to lift our education system and I will make it happen.

We start by valuing what we have. Listening to those who know.

Education is an investment in our future. It is not a cost. And in the Labour Party we take that to heart.

I know we can be the absolute best in the world.

We can give our children the best possible start.

And equip New Zealand with the best talent it needs to prosper in a 21st century world.

Let me repeat, the world’s best education will be available at your local school.

We’ll keep alive the vision of Peter Fraser.

Opportunity for all, no matter where you’re from, to achieve your potential. Not just the privileged few.

Education has transformed New Zealand before, and under Labour it will transform New Zealand again.

Stodgy stodgy STODGE, my god.  What’s wrong with:

We already have a great education system, and we know what we need to do to make it even better.  These three policies are just the beginning, and we’ll be able to achieve so much more in Government.  We will have the best education system in the world available at your local school for your kids, for everyone’s kids.  Imagine what kind of a place New Zealand could be then.  That’s the New Zealand you’ll have under Labour.

I mean, I’ve just banged that out in five minutes (as it were) but how much punchier could Shearer’s speeches be if he canned the boring, aspirational-sentences-slammed-together-for-soundbite-purposes styles which infects our entire political oratory?

Come on, David S!  You’re 80% of the way there what with actually announcing real things, now it’s just the gravy to go!


    • QoT

      ARGH. My brain must have shut that one out in self-defence. It’s an okay error in off-the-cuff talking, I suppose, but in a no doubt carefully-scripted speech? *dies*

    • Tamara

      Yeah, there was some discussion of this on The Panel yesterday. Something about most parents polled being in favour of it, hence Labour policy.

      This parent is not but then i never get polled.

  1. NickS


    Pagani’s curse strikes again!

    Because who else would have told him that being a pompous arse with snobish pretensions would win voters?

    • QoT

      Well, Pagani is meant to be out now … but one suspects this speech may have been among his last bits of work for the office.

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