New Shearer, New Labour?

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:

Andy Hamilton – The Icehouse

Auckland Transport issues

Auckland Transport Issues 2

Ben Milsom and Glenn Riddell – The Banking Auction

Bernard Hickey

Bomber Bradbury

Carron Boswell

CBD Rail Loop

Chris LaHatte – Ombudsman of ICANN

Chris Trotter

Colin James – political analyst

Cycle Action Auckland

Dame Cath Tizard

Daryl Evans – Chief Exec Māngere Budgeting Services

Dean Knight – Republicanism

Development of Tank Farm

Dr. John Angus – Children’s Commissioner

Dr. Rick Boven – NZ Institute

Dr.Shaun Hendy – Nanotechnology

Duncan Garner

Early Childhood Education

Eden Park Trust Board CEO – David Kennedy

Gary Taylor – Environmental Defence Society

Glen Cooper

Graeme Scott – Architect

Highway 20 – the Waterview Agreement

Howard Fancy – Director of Motu, Economic & Public Policy Research.

Ian Proudfoot – KPMG Agribusiness specialist

Jeremy Hubbard – MOTAT Director

Jim Anderton – Progressive Dental Policy

John Banks

Jon Stephenson – Journalist

Joshua Arbury – Auckland Transport Blog

Julianne Taylor – The Paleolithic Diet

Justin Newcombe – Waterview Community Garden

Katrina McLennan – legal aid

Kingsland Business Society – Christine Foley

Len Brown – Auckland Mayoral candidate

Lewis Holden – Republican Movement Aotearoa

Loan sharks and pig farmers

Matthew Hooton – PR consultant and media commentator

Mike Chunn – NZ music

Mouin Rabbani – Middle East expert

Oscar Kightley

Pennie Blair – bfm

Penny Hulse

Peter Conway, Sec NZ Council of Trade Unions

Peter Lee – CEO, Uniservices

Phil O’Reilly – CE Business NZ

Phillip Mills – Chief Executive of Les Mills International

Preserving Neighbourhoods

Prof. Stuart McCutcheon – VC University of Auckland


Ray Avery – New Zealander of the Year

Rick Ede CEO Unitec. Pt. 2 Elders’ bus services

Rocket Man Peter Beck

Rod Oram 2010

Rod Oram 2011

Roger Kerr – Exec. Director Business Roundtable

Russell Brown

Sean Simpson – LanzaTech

SH20 – The economics & mitigation

Sir Paul Callaghan

Stacey Jones

Stacey Jones 2011

State Highway 20. Pt 2 The challenges to Kiwi Exporters

Sue Bradford

Te Radar

Transition Towns. Pt.2. Capital Gains Tax

Youth and Education. Pt.2. McDonalds in Balmoral

Zero Energy Housing

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