Shearer’s appalling lack of talent – A Guest Post

A leader with mediocre talents weighed down by a caucus whose bitterness is only matched by its shallowness. That is the plight of the Labour Party, and David Shearer’s next moves will entrench that perspective.

In light of his summary execution of David Cunliffe for failing to be a devout disciple in the face of sagging poll numbers, Shearer now faces the task of welding together a shadow cabinet. This task will be a study of the man’s ability to think about what’s best for himself and his party.

Cunliffe was arguably Shearer’s strongest asset on the front bench, a point Cunliffe himself knew only too well. Ironically he will now sit on the back benches with one man who is clearly the equal or perhaps better than most of the government’s front bench: Shane Jones.

Post Cunliffe, Shearer’s options are limited. Grant Robertson is deceptively smart, but he is the Environment spokesperson. Environment is not about green issues; rather it is about the apportionment of property rights in a world where human progress intersects with nature. What’s the point of ranking the Environment to number two in the caucus rank when Labour has no analysis of private property rights, let alone how those rights ought to be upheld?

Shearer is heavily reliant on David Parker in both Finance and now Economic Development. Parker is a clever politician, a lawyer by trade and has experience as a Cabinet Minister in the latter stages of the previous Labour government. But Parker’s is hog-tied to a party that is either incapable or unwilling to wean itself off a diet of big spending commitments. Why for example is Labour committed to KiwiBuild, a strategy that would see the state involve itself in the construction of 200,000 new homes? (More than three times the total stock of Housing New Zealand properties).

Shearer places great faith in Jacinda Ardern in Social Development. Aside from being disliked and isolated from the majority of her female caucus colleagues, Ardern is both linear and doctrinaire. Her default position is to argue every issue from an ideologically left perspective, something that more adept operators like Annette King and Phil Goff would periodically avoid. As a result Ardern has little in common with blue collar conservative voters, many of whom consider welfare to be an unfair wealth transfer from the battlers to the bludgers.

Clayton Cosgrove is a formidable debater in Parliament. But like Robertson he struggles to make an impression due in part to Labour’s lack of analysis for the ownership of assets or the future of New Zealand’s capital markets.

Maryan Street continues to be overrated and ineffective both inside Parliament and on the hustings. Labour has been completely outgunned by Tony Ryall in Health, and Street’s perseverance in that portfolio (while earnest) fails to close the yawning gap between the Labour and a historic Achilles heel for any government.

Nanaia Mahuta has never been popular with her caucus colleagues.. Nicknamed “the princess”, Mahuta has done well to hang on to her Tainui constituency. But she has performed poorly in Education, and is consistently bettered by her junior colleague Chris Hipkins. The trouble for Shearer is demoting Mahuta will send a signal to the Kiingitanga movement that their designated representative in Parliament is less valued, a tough sell coupled with the fact that Mahuta is a Cunliffe supporter.

William Sio is not to be underestimated for his links within the Pacific community. But Sio is a social conservative in a party that is seeking to redefine marriage to allow men to marry men and women to marry women. This strategy both offends and tests Labour’s ties with the Pacific community, a point that Sio himself has made publicly.

Phil Twyford has done well to dig in in Te Atatu and has scored headlines on local government and transport issues. But that in itself is small fry compared to the task of building an alternative government.

Beyond that Shearer has a caucus of candidates who are in the twilight of their careers (e.g. Parekura Horomia, Trevor Mallard, Phil Goff and Annette King), or who are simply too lightweight to be taken seriously (e.g. Sue Moroney, Moana Mackey, and Louisa Wall). Some options are simply not trustworthy (e.g. Charles Chauvel and David Cunliffe himself), or have yet to make an impact (e.g. Claire Curran).

Shearer could and probably will promote Chris Hipkins and Andrew Little. But neither man has any reason to show loyalty to Shearer long-term, particularly if Shearer is unable to reverse Labour’s sagging poll ratings.

Labour’s caucus is the by-product of a party and a selection system that rewards cronyism over talent, gender and sexual orientation over competence and union-dominated fiefdoms over political smarts. That is why Darien Fenton rather than Kelvin Davis or Stuart Nash sits behind Shearer at question time. The lack of talent means Shearer turns up to a gunfight with John Key holding a bread and butter knife rather than a loaded firearm.

It’s no wonder Labour’s rank and file members are itching to have a go at shaping that party’s leadership. Maybe they should start with their own MPs too.


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  • Mike Smith

    “Labour’s caucus is the by-product of a party and a selection system that
    rewards cronyism over talent, gender and sexual orientation over
    competence and union-dominated fiefdoms over political smarts.” – leave anyhting out?

    • CommonSense404

      Nope – spot on I think

    • busman

      No i think thats about it .

    • CJA

      Sometimes home truths hurt but that’s why they are there.

    • stinkeye

      You summed up why Labour isn’t in government Mike – there is signs of life from The Standard after all!

      Have a gold sticker, flower.

    • Auto_Immune

      Is the answer Rajen Prasad??

    • GregM


  • jaundiced

    Great analysis – albiet depressing. Who is the guest?

  • Mike Smith

    “many of whom consider welfare to be an unfair wealth transfer from the battlers to the bludgers.” – Do they? In what sort of numbers?

    • busman

      Come election time i suppose we will find out mike !

    • Gazzaw

      More than enough at the last election Mike. About two to one in fact.

    • stinkeye

      Mike, thank you for your contribution to this post.

      Do you remember being a child and having a toy which your sister wanted and mum forced you to share with it with her even when it wasn’t hers?

      Imagine that instead of it being a toy that your parents bought you, its money or property which you worked for to give yourself.

      In this new scenario, its not your sister who wants the toy, its somebody else.

      Somebody who, due to poor life decisions, are not as well off as you are.

      This person, who has done nothing to up themselves in society, instead feel like they should have what you have without working for it.

      They want to own a house, so they want to make houses worthless so they can own one. They want to sleep in and then drink for the rest of the day, so want some money to do this.

      Welfare started off as a good concept – if you are sick then you will still be able to live. What it’s grown into is an entitlement system. That you shouldn’t have to make sacrifices to get anywhere.

      Shouldn’t as a society we encourage people to lift themselves up, instead of dragging down those who do make an effort so that the rest of the population doesn’t have to?

    • The “many” of course being those that have continued to vote the centre right in.

      It is also fair to assume that the “many” would at least include the 17% – or those households with an income of $120,000 or more, of taxpayers that are paying 97% of net taxation…that is, those funding such entitlements as benefits, Accommodation
      Supplement, Family Assistance, Child Tax Credit, Child Care Subsidy, Community
      Services Card, New Zealand Super….and shares in such things as NZ SOEs

      The remainder of the voting majority would most likely include young people with no kids/dependents and most of the baby boomers…the latter being of course those who actually did pay enough taxes to fund their Super.

  • Troy

    I’d agree that Shearer has very little real talent to choose from. Robertson is smarmy, Parker is plain boring and thinks money just drops off trees, Ardern is a viscious bitch – a mini-me Helen Clark wannabe, she ought to stop spitting vitrole in the debating chamber, Cosgrove reminds of a used car salesman, Street is there for a trip down the boring road of self-indulgence, Makutee tries to be a politician but fails miserably… well i’ll stop there because i’m getting bored thinking about the rest. I look forward to seeing Shearer’s reshuffle so that I can continue to contribute to the destruction of a socialist party that hasn’t a clue about the electorate and what it needs. Labour – the gift that just keeps on giving.

    • Mike Smith

      “Ardern is a viscious bitch” – misogyny.

      • Gazzaw

        ‘Ardern is a vicious MP’ – that better Mike?

        Nothing happening at Stranded this morning or are you just fed up with the self flagellation over there?

        • Troy

          The latter I think. Bit disingenous to accuse of misogyny – if i was a misogynist i’d have said she was a viscious bitch that has no place in society to contribute anything like all females shouldn’t contribute… but i didn’t say that so best Mike Smith should fuck off to a corner and find out what the word means… geesh what a goat’s cock he is….

          • unitedtribes


  • conwaycaptain

    On the button. If either Shearer or Cunliffe resigned from Parliament Socialist Cindy would be parachuted in to that electorate. From her 600K house in Ponsonby

  • Is the leadership on the right so bad that we need to have post after post about the inadequacies of the left? Why give fools oxygen; in politics I would imagine that any press is good press, so wouldnt it be better to post why the policies of the right make better sense?

    These kinds of things achieve nothing – you wont convince left wingers who come on here to troll and we all agree with said views, hence why we are regular readers of a right (‘ish) wing blog. :)

    • No, but isn’t it fun!

      • Neil

        Yep – I totally agree – it is fun reading – it’s a bit like watching the FOXNEWS and expecting to actually hear the news…..

    • CommonSense404

      Fair point Unsolicitedious – this blog does spend a fair chunk of time criticizing the left, the media and other general fuckwittedness – and rightly so. But I would like to see some more positively focused policy analysis. Stuff that works, stuff that we should be advocating for – common sense basically.

  • kiwiinamerica

    The Labour caucus is reasonably representative of its wider party – the problem is the wider party is becoming less and less representative of NZ society after driving out many of the fiscally conservative small business owners who had a social conscious and marginalizing working class white males with so much gender, sexual orientation PC inclusiveness. Damien O’Connor spoke the truth when he said that Labour was dominated by “a gaggle of gays and trade unionists”. If anything in recent years the party’s grass roots has lurched even further to the left – the whole Cunliffe tilt at the leadership was to replace Shearer (seen as a wishy washy centrist) with a man of the left who can articulate their convictions. The left never believe that their policy proscriptions are unpopular only that the great unwashed merely need to be convinced by a more charismatic spokesperson.

    • CommonSense404

      Sound stuff here. kiwiinamerica speaks sense

    • Bunswalla

      How do you know all this? Aren’t you still in America trying to figure out where your man Rmoney went so horribly, horribly wrong?

      • kiwiinamerica

        Ive been in the US 6 years – I was a Labour activist since 1984 then heavily involved with senior campaign work (national and local electorate level) for first PM then LOO Mike Moore. I left Labour in the mid/late 90’s once I became self employed and also because of the takeover of the sisterhood and all the skulduggery that went along with that. Many of the older senior current Labour front benchers I knew well and I’ve kept in close contact with most of the senior staff that were in Mike’s office back then. I have business interests in NZ that bring me back on regular visits so I keep very close tabs on what goes on back home. I have dual citizenship courtesy of an American mother so I can and do vote in both countries.

      • kiwiinamerica

        And as to your second question – been there done that – my mea culpa was a guest post over at Kiwiblog

        • Bunswalla

          That was no mea culpa – it was a poorly executed rehash of all the excuses, rationalisations and smoke and mirrors theories about why Rmoney failed. You damned Obama’s tactics with faint praise, glossed over Rmoney’s many failings and tried to paint the result as extraordinarily close, when it was in fact a spanking.
          Suggest you look up the definition of mea culpa.

          • kiwiinamerica

            Thats the view you’d expect from the left – I made a wrong prediction and I examined the reasons that those on the right felt lay behind the wrong predictions. Obama’s margin of victory in the 4 key states was all that mattered under the Electoral College system of electing the President and it was a mere 406,000 – had Romney got 410,000 more votes in OH, CO, FL and VA you’d be wondering why Nate Silver got it wrong. Opposing political parties see the same results differently – it comes as no surprise that you would take the view you did.

          • Bunswalla

            That’s very true. Mind you, if my Auntie had balls she’d be my Uncle.

          • Bunswalla

            BTW I’ve never voted for any party or candidate other than National and I’m as far removed from “the left” as any of the other regular posters on this blog (leftard trolls excepted).

            Like Cam (also not a leftie by any definition of the word) I call bullshit when I see it. Rmoney’s campaign and your enthusiastic endorsement, not to mention attempted belittling of anybody that dared speak out about the great white hope, fall firmly into that category.
            Your weasel-like grudging acceptance of the result and attempts to paint it as something quite different do you no credit, and are a long way from a mea culpa.

          • kiwiinamerica

            Buns – the fact remains Obama won the 4 swing states by 406,000 votes. That is a verifiable fact and not an attempt to paint the results as something other than they were. Had Romney got 410,000 votes he’d be president. For each of the points that I make in the kiwiblog post I invite you to crtitique each one and tell me where I am wrong rather than make some sweeping denunciation. Obama won and if you’d read my comments in the thread of the guest post as a former campaign manager in my days with Labour, there is much to admire about Obama’s machine. I also make what I believe are valid criticisms of Romney both in the post and in the comments. I take back the leftist tag and apologise.

          • Bunswalla

            Apology accepted. Sorry if I was overly critical.

      • Gazzaw

        Sounds like a slam dunk to me Buns.

    • I mostly agree. Whilst the left dont have the monopoly on such things as a “social conscious” (btw, I think you mean conscience!), it is a common misconception that they do….especially after Shipley’s slash and burn reign and this is why many of the small businesses (which amount to 80% of NZ business) used to vote left.

      These people are generally in their mid 40s and beyond so I wouldnt say they are always fiscally conservative as this group initially made up the majority of the WFF recipients, but they are more socially conservative, so when Labour (under Uncle Helen) became as you have quoted “a gaggle of gays and trade unionists” they swung to the right.

      Given that National is now going to mostly likely vote the Marriage Equality Bill through it will be very interesting to see what this swing group do.

      • kiwiinamerica

        Correct – should be conscience – multi tasking today as a day off tomorrow (Thanksgiving). The more rigid amongst the social conservatives that Labour drove away may be pushed to the Conservative Party with most of the National caucus now backing gay marriage but it will not be the majority. National has not made social engineering a priority indeed it stays away from most of these contentious issues and allows an unwhipped vote on conscience issues and the party accepts and tolerates a much wider diversity of opinion than Labour where only a few diehard white heterosexual male MPs in safe electorate seats with enough financial members to ensure head office cant de-select them can buck the PC inclusive pandering mainstream of their party. Clark maintained a centrist (mostly) economic policy but allowed various dream items of the socially progressive left to come to the vote (prostitution decriminalisation, civil unions etc). Allowing prominent MPs in your own party to champion such legislation is a different kettle of fish to responding to a conscience vote to someone else outside your party’s private members bill.

  • conwaycaptain

    During the Napoleonic Wars Britain had a Govt called “The Minstry of all the Talents”. If Shearer became PM or Cunliffe for that matter, with this collection of Hasbeens, no hopers and general n’er do wells, we would have the “Ministry of no talents’