Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, seems to be styling himself on Labour’s Tony Blair, only without the smile and without the passion.
If his public acceptance speech today is anything to judge by, he’s got a long way to go to start a revolution. His speech was a safe run through the professional politician’s lexicon; “fresh face”, “fresh start", “listen”, “unified”, and “reform”. The only thing good about him, apparently, is that he is new.
Being ‘new’ was barely one quarter of Blair’s initial ‘offer’ when he took over New Labour. The majority of Blair’s approach was to take his Labour Party out of its union and welfare obsession into mainstream concerns and policy.
Blair knew what he wanted. He was inclusive because of his vision. Shearer does not quite know what he wants, just that he will be inclusive. In the New Zealand Labour Party that’s a recipe for Phil Goff style disaster.
There were three hints that Shearer wants to do something similar to Blair:
His ‘slogan’ is that he wants a ‘clean, green, clever’ New Zealand. Sadly, he genuinely thinks this is a new vision. He’ll need to fill it out a lot more. I think his use of the term “clever” is a reflection of his self-view, imposed on New Zealand.
The second hint has more potential. He said he wanted to connect with people who had not voted for Labour because they were working double shifts, self employed or ‘on contract’. This is usually code for moving to the centre, to concentrate on matters important to these working people. That’s Blair territory.
The third hint was that he was open to new ideas. This is code for throwing out previous policy positions. It’s also code a politician inadvertently uses to pretend inclusiveness.
Since Shearer’s self-projection is so dull and safe, for clues on what interests him I took a look at the subjects he covered in his two year radio show on PlanetFM.
He chose the subjects himself, so it is an insight into Shearer’s real interests and beliefs, as well as his social networks. It is also Shearer’s own projection of the type of person he wants to be, and wants others to see.
I analysed the interviewees and subjects to come up with broad categories that represent Shearer’s interests.
I concluded that Shearer doesn’t have connection with the double shift worker and self employed he says he will speak to on the beaches over summer. He’s a thoroughly professional modern politician; without a real agenda or coherent ideology.
I’ve left out interviews that were primarily connected to his electorate network. In brackets are the interview subjects.
Politics: Shearer’s single biggest interest is the business of politics (Bomber, Colin James, Duncan Garner, Len Brown, John Banks, Chris Trotter, ad nauseum).
Business: Interested in modern, non-traditional business. This will be the ‘clever’ in his ‘clean, green, clever’ slogan. (the Icehouse, NZ Institute, Nanotechnology, agribusiness, Kingsland business Centre, ICANN)
Public transport: Shearer is interested in one of the flagships of modern centre-left politics, Public Transport (Akld transport, DBC rail-loop, cycle action, waterview, Joshua Arbury)
Republican: Supports turning NZ into a republic. Could Shearer be the first leader of the Republic of NZ?
Finance: intrigued by the institutional causes of the GFC (Hickey, Oram)
Alternative: an interest in ‘alternative’ lifestyles (Paleothic Diet, Transition Towns, Zero Energy Housing)
Environment: a surprisingly mild interest in environmental matters (EDS).
The full list of interviews and shows is below: