Where the bloody hell are you?

Just what to do about David Shearer?

Anyone with any feeling for the liberal traditions of New Zealand such as they are, are in a quandary about David Shearer. We recognise the huge importance of the ‘left’ winning the next election, but are acutely aware of Labour and Shearer continuing to not ‘get it’, and failing us.

In between the 30 second television bits that occur, say, three times a week, so obviously rehearsed, where the bloody hell are you?

What do you do? Who are you meeting with? Are you surfing? Given all the pain we’re feeling do you know how you come across David? That you don’t care a damn; that you cannot bestir yourself enough to make your mark; that you are not willing to risk making a mistake because you don’t care enough; that you don’t feel it enough to be willing to go for it. You come across as peevish, because the only time you have displayed any sustained passion was when you fought for your job.

My God, if I was your adviser I’d give you a kick up the jacksy and get you out there to respond from the heart, from your feelings. Yes– all right, guided by some political policy guidelines, but always with the sense of danger that you could go beyond them, to be your own man.

Get out your pistol and charge into the tent and rescue us David.

You are a possum in the daze of the political spotlight.

You don’t come across as sympathetic David?

You and your advisers, both the last group, and your present one, have got it wrong on policy in many respects, and where you have got it right, you just aren’t creating a buzz.

There is terrific scope for policies on regenerating provincial New Zealand: ‘My plans for provincial New Zealand.’

Heartland New Zealand. Great!

I know you think you are doing it, but it’s all in your mind.

‘My plans for boosting manufacturing.’

Tax credits, research, capital gains tax, development funds, subtle forms of protection. (Why not? Where else can farm products be bought?)


But get out there.

Create excitement. Let the critics criticise. It’s publicity man: know what that is? To hell with the critics – go to the people.

For good or ill, people love seeing their leaders being themselves.

In many respects you and your advisers are First World War generals fighting the next war on lessons learnt from the last.

OK, agreed – in realpolitik, Labour can’t overtly base so much on the poor; for one thing they are so bogged down in poverty that they don’t even get out to vote. (But alleviating poverty will be at least a central implied policy.)

Policy has to be made exciting – and it’s excitement and hope you must generate. The excitement and hope you generate at the moment wouldn’t recharge a torch battery.

Yes – elections are won or lost in New Zealand in the mortgage belt (you’ve got that right). But the greatest concern in the mortgage belt is middle-class unemployment, especially the prospects for their children. Develop schemes for employing the young – all sorts of schemes such as the arts; protecting the environment; generous and flexible and paid retraining schemes; provincial regeneration; manufacturing policy; also, restricting immigration. Say you care.

I still remember Norman Kirk visiting an ohu in the 70s, and me saying wow! He’s a real  New Zealander.

Forming a policy based on developing a broad-based national identity communicates a range of exciting and interesting possibilities. It would allow a whole range of policies to cohere: heartland; manufacturing; arts; literature; sport; employment; education; cultural features; environment; foreign relations; economic treaties; railways; and media ownership.

In the last election, education and teachers were only helpful in election terms as a source of attack – that has changed.

A few months ago you delivered a speech about education that was better than any delivered by Peter Fraser and, following it, Labour’s rating went up, but since then absolutely zilch from you. You bloody fools, you were onto a winner, but didn’t realise it, and you became the invisible man again. You and your advisers were back in the last election, thinking education didn’t rate. What does your lack of follow-up communicate? In my view, that someone else wrote it and you delivered it, but you didn’t believe in it.

For goodness sake David learn to go for it, this is the next election, you are in Opposition, and things are different.

Why didn’t you stand in Christchurch and say all the policies will be reviewed when I am prime minister? Say you are going to return education to communities and away from government cliques.

Talk about what education can do for children, not the economy: that education is not a silver bullet for the economy, economic decisions are the silver bullet for the economy, education is the silver bullet for the well-being and satisfying lives of children.

This is an arrogant, dishonest, do-nothing constructive government, a government of sleight of hand. There is so much you could campaign on.

If you really wanted to show you care you would be down in Hamilton tomorrow expressing outrage at the possibility of the new schools at Rototuna being charter schools. No, Chris Hipkins won’t do; he’s all right but he’s not the leader of a political party trying to establish a prime minister-in-waiting identity.

There was no mandate for charter schools.

 There is no call for charter schools.

 State schools are not for profit.

 They said charter schools were for Decile one children.

 This is a government of arrogance and deceit.

 A Labour government will not countenance charter school.

 They are wrong and there is no future in them.

 Labour will rip up any agreements for charter schools.

Also, that intermediate schools are iconic New Zealand.

Wow! you would light up Hamilton and a good part of the country.

In the middle of writing this, my grandchildren insisted I take them on the Karapiro cycle-way and teach them how to ride or be more confident in their riding, if you showed half the intensity, passion and noisiness that was displayed along the otherwise quiet banks of the Waikato, David, you’d be almost there.

But, as it is, we are left to ask, and with increasing vehemence and distress: Where the bloody hell are you?


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