Edwards on Shearer

January 29th, 2013 at 1:38 pm by David Farrar

writes:

Shearer’s media image remains a problem. The blame for that must lie in part with bad advice.

Faced with criticism of his seemingly ineffectual leadership Shearer was advised to talk and act tough. He clearly took that advice.  His essential message to the November conference was: I’m running the show, I make the decisions, I’m in charge. That was the talkingtough component. His subsequent interviews were notable for the number of times he said ‘I, me, my’, a  self-conscious attempt to reassert his personal dominance of the party. …

 Shearer is still doing most of the talking about himself, still involved in the  first-person defence and praise of his own leadership: ‘I, me my…’  And there it was again in his State of the Nation speech: ‘I can tell you that today I’m refreshed. I’m fired up and I’m raring to go.

The somewhat curious thing is that the lines, delivered with almost evangelical fervour, weren’t spontaneous; they were scripted, there word for word in his speech notes. But they  cannot disguise the fact that Shearer should not have to ‘tell’ his audience that he’s fired up and raring to go, that it should have been obvious not just on this occasion, but since the day he was elected leader. It hasn’t.

There s some truth to what Edwards say, that you say things to try and convince people of things – and they are not always true. I use the example of any country that puts democratic in its official name is invariably a totalitarian state. If they are obviously democratic, they don’t need to say so.

The simple fact is that Shearer isn’t comfortable in the ’talk and act tough’ role. The best demonstration of this was in his response to the media scrum after Cunliffe had been dismembered in Caucus. He was a stumbling, bumbling, incoherent wreck. I suspect he was deeply upset by the lynch-mob mentality and the savagery that had dominated the previous hour. He eventually walked off, refusing to answer any more journalists’ questions.

Shearer is a reasonable man, a conciliator by nature. He has to stop trying so hard to be something he isn’t. He can’t carry it off and we will see through it. He is a poor actor.

This week John Key gave him  a lesson in strength. He sacked two under-performing ministers, in all probability ending their parliamentary careers. Yet he’s taken little or no flack for what seems like a pretty brutal thing to do. Maybe that’s because he didn’t act the strong leader, didn’t say much about it at all, was matter-of-fact about a necessary decision.  Maybe that’s the lesson.

It is a worthwhile lesson.

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38 Responses to “Edwards on Shearer”

  1. La Grand Fromage (145 comments) says:

    Sounds like someone has got the pip that they didn’t get the call to be Shearers media trainer.

    Of course he does get results presuming that the intention was to make Helen Clark look and sound like a transvestite, John Wayne impersonator.

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  2. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    As I commented on Edwards’ blog:

    When Shearer was chosen (by the Labour caucus) to be party leader I had some hope that he would be a diffeent sort of politician. He promised to be a different sort of politician.

    Since then he has seemed to try harder and harder to be a ‘same old’ politician, but the harder he tries – and the harder his coaches try to mold him – the more insincere and out of his depth he looks.

    Shearer may survive as leader next week, but if he continues to repeat this poorly executed charade he may condemn Labour to not survive as a major political force.

    He needs to either find himself in politics, or leave it to someone who can at least give the appearance of being authentic.

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  3. BeaB (2,164 comments) says:

    The man is neither a politician nor a leader. He will always look like someone trying to be something he is not. It will be fatal – either for him if he is replaced or for his party – if they hold on to him.

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  4. tvb (4,553 comments) says:

    Key has a lot of authority within the National Party providing he does not abuse it. He seems quite adept at staying within the limits of his authority. Shearer does not have the same level of authority within his party.

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  5. Manolo (14,166 comments) says:

    Shearer may survive as leader next week, but if he continues to repeat this poorly executed charade he may condemn Labour to not survive as a major political force.

    Well said, P.G. I do hope Sheare survives as leader to guide his socialist party to extinction.

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  6. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    I agree that by modern standards Shearer is unsuited to the job. But look at what “modern standards” have brought us. Many a time I’ve read that Abe Lincoln would never get elected today – he was too ugly and while his words were inspiring his delivery was apparently not. Instead we have Barak Obama, whose delivery (albeit with a teleprompter) is perfect but whose performance is disappointing.

    In expecting that our politicians will speak and act in a certain way and refusing to elect them if they don’t, we narrow the field of potential candidates. And look at what it has given us – a Parliament about which we constantly complain (and with good reason) and find increasingly disappointing. Who in NZ embodies the wiles, charisma and oratory of the modern politician? Winston Peters, who once rated higher than Labour remember. Or at least he did till his failings became blindingly evident but even then he can captivate enough voters to remain in Parliament and bring with him the likes of Brendan Horan – another modern politician, media trained with the ability to project a slick image, no principles, and no thought beyond the retention of power.

    I’m not necessarily saying Shearer is better than he’s being given credit for – I don’t get to see enough of him to really make a judgement.

    But unless we’re actually pretty happy with the standard of our politicians and only come here to see our names (or nom de plumes) on the interwebs, then we need to readjust our thinking about what makes a politician, and what makes a leader, and not be so ready to dismiss those who don’t fit the current mould.

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  7. BeaB (2,164 comments) says:

    Rex
    But it doesn’t have to be an either/or. We expect people to be good at the job they aspire to – and Shearer patently is not.
    Being PM can accommodate all kinds of characteristics, just look at the NZ line-up. No cookie cutter there.
    Shearer is like a fish out of water.

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  8. Andrei (2,653 comments) says:

    Shearer’s media image remains a problem. The blame for that must lie in part with bad advice.

    Therein in lies the problem, image and creating that is what counts to modern pollies which is why they as such useless empty vessels.

    It is vision and deeds that matter – look at Rob Muldoons legacy, the energy projects he got built in Taranaki, the Clyde Dam, etc love him or loath him that is real enduring stuff that no politician since has come close to matching – instead we get Prime ministers and wannabe Prime Ministers seeking out photo ops and pandering to noisy interest groups

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  9. rouppe (983 comments) says:

    I laughed out loud when after thumping the lecturn about something or other, and the required applause occurred, he beamed like he’d just been made Prom King

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  10. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    Rex – Shearer is most criticised by Labour supporters and political pundits on the left. For good reason – he is failing to present well in public and media appearances, and he is failing to unite the party. And there’s a small problem with continuing poll problems, he is following in Goff’s footsteps there.

    Key didn’t fit the mould but people saw him as genuine and authentic. What you saw is what he is.

    I’ve seen Key in media and in person and he’s a natural and accomplished speaker who usually sounds like he knows what he’s talking about – more than that, he usually has an in depth knowledge (as much so as Clark).

    Shearer comes across as anything but authentic. And he appears to have scant knowledge of what he’s talking about beyond practiced sound bites. The only thing he’s consistent about is he looks and sounds out of his depth.

    Shearer is like a fish out of water.

    Compared to John Key looking like a trout in the Matukituki, David Shearer looks like a flounder trying to scale Aspiring.

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  11. Lloyd (125 comments) says:

    New Zealand needs David Shearer like a fish needs a bicycle or a paua needs an ashtray…

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  12. krazykiwi (8,040 comments) says:

    Shearer is still doing most of the talking about himself, still involved in the first-person defence and praise of his own leadership

    This morning as I walked up the Terrace in Wellington I saw Shearer, fresh from a workout, heading in the opposite direction. I could be wrong, but the look I got from him was an almost pleading “do you recognise me?” as he scanned my face for some evidence of recognition.

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  13. sparky (235 comments) says:

    David Shearer needs to give up trying to be a Leader. He is hopeless. I just listened to him try to deliver his first speech in Parliament for 2013, and it was Painful to listen too. Stammering and disjointed, I couldn’t follow what he was talking about. If the Labour party can’t see that, god forbid, they must all be as bad as he is.

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  14. Bill (94 comments) says:

    Shame on those who pushed Shearer into this embarrassing position.
    It was an act of selfish greed to promote him far too early. and he was starting at too late an age for a decent run in politics.
    His back story, based on nebulous stories from crises points, was never enough.

    Sheare and the Caucus made a mistake. Time to sort it.

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  15. Nostalgia-NZ (5,318 comments) says:

    ‘instead we get Prime ministers and wannabe Prime Ministers seeking out photo ops and pandering to noisy interest groups’

    There are other aspects as well, particularly in the changes since Muldoon’s time in who makes up the electorate and even their grasp of English. I think the Key versus Shearer arguments while holding a lot of weight on Kiwi Blog don’t cut right across the electorate. For example Peter Dunne has held his own well in the last two elections possibly because he is less combative but also because of his ability to make his reasoning clear. Some of the variables include that PI’s don’t particularly relish ‘personal’ politics, something I think Key has realised because he has looked to stack his PI stocks with well known and respected P I candidates rather than necessarily those that take no prisoners in their speeches. Part of the trick is to hold all of that together, Shearer won’t lose support because he is not necessarily a rousing speaker just as JK won’t gain it by opening mocking his opponents so I don’t know if Edwards is basing his conclusions beyond experience in his own circles, but if he were he might have touched upon some of the things Rex raised and even addressed the wider cultural issues alive in the electorate and how they view speech making.

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  16. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    Pete George says:

    Key didn’t fit the mould but people saw him as genuine and authentic. What you saw is what he is.

    He’s certainly good at convincing people he’s “genuine and authentic”. I’ve had friends in the media tell me that he embodies those qualities, right after they’ve finished telling me stories of favouritism and ego stroking that makes Clark’s treatment of her media favourites look finessed by comparison. But because it’s been layered over with an “Aw, shucks, I might be PM but I’m just ordinary like you” veneer, it slips right under the radar. Invariably it’s also someone who works on a music station or local paper and thinks “They wouldn’t bother manipulating me, they’d be focused on the real reporters”. But in that way Key gets his “common, daggy bloke” image out there without facing as many hard questions.

    You don’t get to be a successful currency trader by being folksy and a little retiring. Key is an extremely competent, calculating (or if you prefer DPF’s recent epithet, “ruthless”) politician who has no modern counterpart in NZ when it comes to knowing precisely how much of that to keep back in order to win over the public.

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  17. hmmokrightitis (1,596 comments) says:

    “Hambone, clean up in Aisle 3, hambone to aisle 3, Captain Mumblefuck has dropped his eggs and is sobbing in the corner”

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  18. RF (1,487 comments) says:

    I dread to think of Shearer on the world stage mixing it with heads of state and making small talk. That’s going to be most unlikely as his own party will see to that. No matter how intense his media training is, it’s the old silk purse into a sows ear problem.

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  19. HC (154 comments) says:

    David Shearer’s speech in Parliament today was once again less than inspiring and very mediocre at best. I see the man trying, trying so hard, to present himself as a “strong”, well spoken, convincing “leader” of the Labour Party, but honestly, he is totally unfit for the leadership role. His look went up to the balconies where the public can sit, and he was desperate to find encouragement and approval.

    While Key did basically just deliver a refresher of what he and National have announced and talked about for years, what he announced more recently in his State of the Nation speech, and besides of that did all to ridicule and criticise and blame Labour (for NZ’s difficult challenges), Key did not appear to be the tired man he was for much of late last year. He seems to have prepared himself for a busy and challenging parliamentary year in 2013.

    Shearer was trying oratory, looked wooden, did not convince me and others much, and he repeated, rather in defensive modes, what Labour would do and offer in housing, training of youth and so on. Yet there was nothing new, no announcements of what Labour will offer for an alternative, and more deflection and endless criticism of National.

    I feel the Nats had their days, and they deserve to go sooner than later, but for Labour to form a competent, convincing alternative government, likely to depend on the Greens (and others), Shearer must go! He will only cost Labour too much. Like him a few old heads in caucus need to roll, and a refreshed party must be presented.

    For Labour the time has come, to cut out dead wood, and the time is now, or they will soon be overtaken by the Greens, or perhaps even, by a newly founded, more inclusive, competent, freshly organised and staffed party to the left of centre. I see this time to be extremely fertile a chance for creating and establishing a completely new party, which could be joined by progressive, inclusive, fair minded, intelligent and competent new faces, and they would instantly get 20 plus per cent next election, no problem!

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  20. sparky (235 comments) says:

    TO: HC (14)

    John Key put on an excellent performance today. David Shearer was absolutely hopeless, and definitely not Leadership material.

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  21. BeaB (2,164 comments) says:

    Rex
    I agree totally with your judgement of Key. It has always been a huge failure of Labour to underestimate him and sneer at him as a money trader when in fact his career was crucially as a top global executive – a position no-one achieves without stellar qualities. He has an easygoing, pleasant manner which I think is genuine. It also disguises a sharp intellect and a steely sense of strategy.
    Many Nats are frustrated with his refusal to blame everything on Labour eg Chris Carter signing us up for Novopay but he knows this strategy makes him look stronger and in charge. And, by contrast, Labour look like a bunch of silly timewasters playing the old political games.

    I don’t think Shearer stands a chance up against Key – and I think Shearer knows it only too well but his ego wouldn’t let him turn down being leader of the opposition.

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  22. Andrei (2,653 comments) says:

    John Key put on an excellent performance today. David Shearer was absolutely hopeless, and definitely not Leadership material.

    Alas you mistake a contest between wannabe stand up comedians as an example of solid political discourse and the one who delivers the best oneliners as exhibiting leadership.

    D’ya think if my kids in Australia were to have seen that that they’d be suddenly inspired to move back here to build their futures and raise families?

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  23. kiwi in america (2,314 comments) says:

    Brian Edwards, whilst he is unwittingly (or perhaps even knowingly) doing the bidding of his former client now resident of New York, has hit the nail on the head. I had dinner just after New Years with my old Labour mates now out of senior leadership in the party and they despair of the cunundrum that Labour’s constitutional changes has wrought and of the influence of the hard left former Alliance/New Labour types who form the bulk of the ‘regeneration’ that Mike Williams rabbits on about. They dont like Key’s policies as they are still tribally Labour but they know a class political act when they see at and they know Key will eat Shearer for breakfast if he lasts until 2014.

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  24. Redbaiter (10,398 comments) says:

    “I see this time to be extremely fertile a chance for creating and establishing a completely new party, which could be joined by progressive, inclusive, fair minded, intelligent and competent new faces, and they would instantly get 20 plus per cent next election, no problem!”

    Ta very much Helen.

    The cheque is on its way.

    Signed
    David Cunliffe.

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  25. greenjacket (486 comments) says:

    Classic line was when Shearer said that “when a five-year old goes to school without having had breakfast, something is wrong.” OK – I thought – it shows that some parents are not carrying out their basic duty of giving breakfast to their kids (porridge and some cut fruit on top isn’t expensive, so its not poverty). But his answer – free food for all kids! Along with his “cheap houses for all!”.

    Of course, he has absolutely no idea at all where the money is going to come from to pay for all this State-supplied food and housing.

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  26. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    I don’t think Shearer stands a chance up against Key – and I think Shearer knows it only too well but his ego wouldn’t let him turn down being leader of the opposition.

    And there’s been a lot of talk abour exactly that on the left for some time, they dread muddling through to the campaign next year protecting Shearer as much as possible from unscripted media, and then Key annihiliating him in the debates.

    Some of thee same people thought Goff improved markedly for the 2011 campaign. I disagree with that, he wasn’t as bad as Shearer but he was famously caught short on knowledge (“Show me the money!”) and (to a lesser extent than Shearer) he often looked like his heart wasn’t in his words.

    Goff was simply a more accomplished reciter than Shearer. And he wasn’t the only one, that’s how David Clark campaigned too (and David Parker?), except he looked like he believed what he’d been told to say.

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  27. Pete George (23,793 comments) says:

    Along with his “cheap houses for all!”.

    Kiwibuild is not that generous, it is cheap houses for those that win Labour’s new house lottery (or new box in block if in Auckland).

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  28. iMP (2,455 comments) says:

    In a way its not that important how good/bad Shearer is. NZ will elect or get a de facto coalition Left government in 2014 or 2017 because the Centre-Right will have had its turn. The public don’t vote for leaders, they give groups turns, to balance governance. Time is ticking on National. It needs allies who can grow the MMP cake.

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  29. Paulus (2,707 comments) says:

    Unfortunately MMP will see a Labour/Greenpeace/Winston/Mana alliance in 2014.
    It has nothing to do with Shearer’s personality, it’s will be the media who still have”Ambrose Utu” in their minds – knock, kick John Key, and thereby the National coalition. There is till hate in the media about “Ambrose” . How dare Key acceot Ambrose’s written apology for his discraceful conduct in selling the recording of the Key/Banks conversation to his media friends, and getting a copy to Winston Peters.
    A small 2% swing is all that is needed and that will give Greenpeace the advantage as they take votes from Labour.
    All the Part Maori Party seats, plus Christchurch will got to Labour (Lianne and Jim are doing that in Christchurch – major media bitch leaders).
    Shearer is a nice guy, but God preserve me from nice guys.
    He has not got the vindictive nastiness necessary to lead the present Labour block, who in following Greenpeace have swung further left again.

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  30. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    Was that a rather long-winded way of saying that Shearer is a tool?

    B Edwards et al slag off the blogeration for it’s lack of reasoned argument and deployment of the ad hom, but the reality is that the blogeration is quite capable of getting to the point and encapsulating Shearer’s shortcomings in a far more efficient manner that doesn’t require the reader to trawl through a pointless reminder of information that already exists in the public arena, or of conclusions that are self-evident having regard to that information. Ergo, “Shearer is a tool” is a more than effcient substitute for Edwards’ chest puffing exercise and is a conclusion readily comprehensible to the assembled masses that doesn’t require any persistence in dredging through Edwards’ exercise in self flagellation.

    Edwards, if he felt compelled to opine on the subject, could merely have said: “BTW, here is yet another example of Shearer being a tool”. Eager readers yet to be convinced of that fact, would then have had an opportunity to read on with bated breath, whilst those who require no further evidence might merely prefer to continue about their business.

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  31. sparky (235 comments) says:

    Paulus (1,476)

    Unfortunately MMP will see a Labour/Greenpeace/Winston/Mana alliance in 2014.

    What an absolute load of BOLLAX. If you can’t sell your Party, and you have BS policy anyone with half a brain would not
    vote for Labour/Greens. You would have to be nuts. John Key is safe.

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  32. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    BeaB points out:

    Many Nats are frustrated with his refusal to blame everything on Labour eg Chris Carter signing us up for Novopay but he knows this strategy makes him look stronger and in charge.

    That’s a pefect example, Bea. What politician in living memory (even including Clark) has resisted the temptation to do that? Not a one. But Key does and you’re right, he does so for a very calculated and strategic reason which would seem counter-intuitive to someone whose instincts were not as refined (i.e. almost everyone else in politics).

    Yet I recall journos fawning over Micael Lhaws saying what a great strategist he was (a claim he thought enough of himself to write a book extolling, since no one else would), yet look what he did when he inherited NZF – plunged it from 30 to 13 percent by election day 1996 and thence to 3 percent before he jumped ship. And blamed Winston for the whole mess.

    I rarely see a journo writing similar things about Key, yet his mastery of the dark arts of politics is rarely seen anywhere. It’s not a comparison he’d appreciate, but the nearest I can bring to mind is Bill Clinton, the similarity being that an intelligent and agile mind managed to project an “Aw, shucks” sincerity to voters much less intelligent than himself. You saw exactly the Clinton he wanted you to see: policy wonks got a policy wonk, Republicans got a President willing to stare them down over a government shutdown, Southerners got a good ol’ boy, and so on…

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  33. hj (7,155 comments) says:

    How can Labour be strong when it has a loopy heart:

    http://publicaddress.net/system/cafe/speaker-what-diversity-dividend/?i=25#replies

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  34. Redbaiter (10,398 comments) says:

    Thedavaselinemode- Your sentence construction is appalling. I hope nobody in government is paying you for your writing skills.

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  35. hj (7,155 comments) says:

    It would be a massive step for a labour leader to embrace the findings of the Savings Working Group as left and right have an unwritten agreement that you don’t attack immigration (people are a good and more are better). Meantime Shearer is stuck with the waffelly policies of “progressives of the internationalist traditions”

    ..sustainability begins at home.

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  36. hj (7,155 comments) says:

    I remember Edwards haranging Garth Mc Vicar about smacking.. “you want to hurt people..” he turned and looked at Garth Mcvicar placing his back between the camera and Garth McVicar. Apparently it was more important that Mr Edwards confronted Garth McVicor head on than the viewer. Edwards seemed to think his opinion trumped the viewer?

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  37. Wayne Mapp (69 comments) says:

    Rex, I am certain John Key would be impressed with the comparison with Bill Clinton. And I think you are right about his skills; affable, sharp intellect, steely determination. And Labour has never understood this combination and therefore why John Key succeeds. But I guess many have worked out that the election next year could crucify David Shearer, especially in the debates.

    Even more strangely the Left continue to accuse John Key of disception about assets sales, as if it was some awful secret being sprung on people. It is in fact a promise being kept. Just about everything National has done, it campaigned on.

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  38. Johnboy (17,015 comments) says:

    Shearer will never be a successful Labour leader. You can’t smell the fish and chips on his breath. :)

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