Trotter on Heroes

? Bowalley Road

Chris Trotter seems totally fed up with David Shearer. He thinks Labour needs another hero. Is a coup brewing?

?It is difficult to imagine a ?hero? better suited to the needs of twenty-first century New Zealand. John Key?s very ordinariness confirms his ?Everyman? status, and amplifies the potency of his success. The power he wields is not his own, but a weapon forged from the capacities inherent in every Kiwi: those mysterious qualities that allow New Zealanders to ?punch above their weight?; that national essence which sanctions John Key?s followers? vicarious participation in his personal and political success. He is Us, and We are Him. It?s why, until an even more emblematic hero comes along, John Key will remain invincible.

For a while, it looked as though Labour had found just such an emblem. David Shearer?s story, like John Key?s, begins with an ordinary bloke setting forth on a journey, during which he encounters all manner of monsters ? from Somali warlords to murderous Israeli settlers ? learning in the process the magic spells for opening the human heart to compassion, justice and reconciliation. He, too, returns to his people and, at the crucial moment, steps forward from the shadows to declare that he is the one destined to lay low the National Party usurper.

Except he hadn?t learned the spells, or, if he had, he could no longer remember them.

It?s as if Arthur stepped up to the sword in the stone, gave it a confident tug ? and nothing happened. Instead of a sword flashing in the sunlight above his head, proof positive that he was ?rightwise King born of all England?, the weapon stays exactly where it is, and the hero, with an embarrassed shrug, picks up a guitar instead.

There are, of course, many variations on the classic hero tale. Instead of acquiring forbidden knowledge and inheriting mysterious powers, the hero is often required to overcome a series of obstacles and/or eliminate a host of adversaries before completing his quest. In doing so he blazes a trail and lays a path for those who follow after him. Think of the Labours of Heracles, or Theseus?s struggle with the Minotaur, or Luke Skywalker?s destruction of the Death Star in?Star Wars.

Does Labour have another hero? And, if it does, can we assume that the first obstacles and adversaries he must overcome are all inside his own party?