Labour Conference 2012: fantasy Shearer speech … and drinking game

There have been arguments made that we nasty, shadow-agenda critics of Shearer should wait to hear his speech, to be delivered on Sunday at Labour’s annual conference and probably robotically “Live Tweeted” by his social media team.

I’m personally of the opinion that while anyone can be given a good speech – and I’ve yet to see an example of that from Shearer’s team – good speeches also need to be delivered by good speakers.  Sam Seaborn can’t just make anyone sound inspirational and charismatic, it helps to have a Martin Sheen on the delivery end of the process.

So the problems are twofold, for me:  first off, will Shearer’s speech be a good one; second, will he deliver it with any gusto?  The second is obviously out of my control.  The first … well, a girl can dream.

Maybe he could start by saying

National and Act are leading this country in the wrong direction, and we all know it.  We know poverty is getting worse, there aren’t jobs out there, our public services are being cut to the point they can’t serve anyone.

I don’t need to list every single way in which John Key’s government has shafted this country.  I’m the leader of the Labour Party, and I need to tell you how we are going to fix it.

He might list some big, juicy policies.  Adopt Gareth Morgan’s universal income thingy.  Free doctor/dentist visits for under-18s.  Minimum wage to $15 in the first year of government at to $20 by the end of it.  Paid parental leave to Scandinavian levels.  Decriminalising low-end drugs and treating addicts like addicts instead of criminals.  Paid for by capital gains tax, a new top tax bracket, a financial transactions tax, demanding actual substantial royalties from the mining and drilling industries.

I don’t expect any of these policies.  I completely lack the skill to cost these things.  I just want something I, as a New Zealand lefty, can hang my hat on and say “this is what we fuckin’ stand for, dudes.”

Then he could spork the incredibly-predictable objections from the right:

National and Act are going to say that these policies are ridiculous, are too expensive, won’t fix the problems in our country.  We know what they think fixes everything:  tax cuts for the wealthy.

Tax cuts don’t feed hungry children.  Tax cuts don’t treat preventable illnesses.  Tax cuts don’t even create jobs, and isn’t that always the excuse?  But after four years of unsustainable tax cuts pushing our country further into debt, poverty is worse, unemployment is worse, emigration to Australia is up.

Let’s say Labour want to try repeating the success of the pledge card (though I’m going to say it:  still pissed off about that “affordable tertiary education” bullshit, people.)  So define the 5 big policies and the 5 big facts that Labour wants to take to the election debate table. I could personally go for:

  1. The cost of doing business in NZ is stupidly low compared to anywhere else you want to do business.
  2. The rich in NZ pay a pathetic amount of tax for the privilege of living here
  3. New Zealander workers are hugely productive compared to anywhere else.
  4. Our public service is a vital support system which keeps our economy and society healthy.  Cutting the “back office” functions just makes the front office’s job harder.
  5. When we treat all people with dignity and fairness, everyone benefits.

… and back all that up in the campaign with handy factsheets which your MPs have already memorised.

Then, talk about a united front.  A caucus which will not tolerate petty infighting, a caucus which will have open, upfront discussions about leadership if they need to happen, a caucus which will fucking exile anyone who sows dissent in the ranks/Duncan Garner’s earpiece.  As an early indicator of this, get Shane Jones off the front page of the fucking “People” page on the website.

It’d be a great start.  It might rekindle the tiniest flicker of hope in my heart for a Shearer-led Labour Party.  But it’d be a tiny flicker, a flicker wondering where the fuck this strong, clear direction and decisive leadership has been for the past year – and wondering when it’s next going to be extinguished by some godawful response to a predictable journo query.

The only problem:  I just don’t know if Shearer / the current party leadership have concrete-enough principles to believe any of the above.  You can’t get inspirational prose out of a core of “we really want to be re-elected” and “we definitely know that the one thing we are is not-National.  Specifically … by not being National.”

Things Shearer’s speech seriously does not need (aka the David Shearer Speech Drinking Game, one drink per mention):

  • anecdotes about how he was the White Messiah to starving brown children
  • anecdotes about super-yachts or roofpainters
  • anecdotes about Good Hardworking Kiwis with names like Bill and Joe who work in Real Jobs like plumbing
  • the phrases “going forward”, “bringing the fight to National”, “middle New Zealand”, “ordinary Kiwis”, “our children’s children”, “heartland”, “make the hard decisions”, “new new Zealand”, “pull their weight”
  • promises to announce actual policy in the near future
  • any mention of Excalibur

ETA:  Toby Manhire has also made a helpful list of pointers for Shearer.  Probably more helpful, to be honest.


  1. George D

    His last speech contained 26 (yes, count them) mentions of “New Zealand”. For every 10 mentions, take another drink.

  2. peterlepaysan

    Manhire was correct about the guitar and enjoying the job.

    Get those two bits right and Shearer might start to look believable.

    Being the leader of an opposition party is not a happy lot, but disinterest is “not a good look” as Bill English said when caught out rorting his allowances.

    What does the Labour Party stand for?

    What does Shearer stand for?

    Nobody turned up to vote for Labour at the last two elections.

    Shearer is not responsible for that.

    Like guitars, I doubt a new housing policy is going to do much in this Gordon Gecko/ John Key world.

  3. Pingback: Shearer’s conference speech: was that all? | Ideologically Impure