Rachel Alright Mike we’ll come back to you a little later in the programme. We’re going to go back now to Hastings where I think we have Stuart Nash, and I think he can hear us now? You can I think. Excellent. Thank you for joining us there. Can I put that to you actually as David Shearer’s former Chief of Staff. Was it David Shearer who failed or did the team around him, the immediate team around him? Did that team fail him?
Stuart Nash – Former Labour MP
Well I would say two things Rachel. There were two things that went wrong. First of all, you know your political history as well as I do, I cannot think of a party that won an election either in government or in opposition that had an openly dysunified caucus, and the second thing I think went wrong is the strategy was wrong in the Leader’s office.
Rachel Okay so let’s start with the caucus. What did the Labour caucus think of Shearer?
Stuart Well they elected him. When you elect a leader you stand behind that leader, you work very hard for that leader, and you make sure you give that leader the best possible opportunity to win an election. Politics is about winning elections. I personally think David would have been a very good Prime Minister, he’s a smart guy. Look I don’t buy into the argument that he was too nice. This was a bloke who lived in Mogadishu. This was a bloke that led the UN in Iraq. Mr Nice does not do those sorts of jobs. This was a hard man. He was a very good bloke, and like I said I think he would have been a very good Prime Minister given the opportunity.
Rachel What was going on in the Leader’s office then?
Stuart Well I firmly believe that if you want to be Prime Minister you’ve gotta give every New Zealander the opportunity to have met you. Now if you think about if you want to be President of the United States that person has to travel up and down the country and speak in nearly every little hamlet, town, city, right across America. And it’s the same in New Zealand. Helen Clark between 1996 and 1999 spent all her time just travelling up and down and right across New Zealand, speaking to every little Rotary Club, Lions Club, Workingmen’s Club, you know you name it Helen talked to it. You’ve gotta have meetings with town halls that contain 10 people and contain a 100 people. You’ve gotta give 10 speeches a week, and then you’ve gotta get up and you’ve gotta give another 10 the next week. Every single year when you are in Opposition is election year. There is now sort of hiatus, there’s no holiday, you’ve gotta start campaigning the day after the election.
Rachel So they had the wrong strategy for him then do you think?
Stuart They did. I firmly believe that what David needed to do was – well do what Helen did. Tuesday and Wednesday in parliament, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, up and down the country speaking to New Zealanders. Like I said if New Zealanders feel they’ve had the opportunity to meet you it doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily taken up that opportunity, but if they feel as if they have had that opportunity then they’re much more likely to vote for you. And keep in mind if you come to a place like Hastings, or like Napier, the Leader of the Opposition turning up is still big news, you’re still gonna get your photo in the community daily, or the community weekly.
Rachel So who do you blame for this failure? Who do you blame for this failure in strategy?
Stuart Well David had some staff around him that he listened to, that he took advice from. The bottom line is, David has resigned as Leader of the Opposition because he felt as if he didn’t have the confidence of his caucus colleagues, and that basically is because the polls weren’t rising in a way that the caucus felt he should have. So you know I think his chief strategists have actually got to put up their hand and say hey we got it wrong.
Rachel Who? Exactly who?
Stuart Well I actually think Fran Mold needs to put up here hand and say look, maybe I didn’t do things as well as I could have in terms of media relations. Alistair Cameron perhaps has to as Chief of Staff. But Alistair’s a very good man and I’ve had a couple of conversations with Alistair, but you know the bottom line is David is the Leader, but I just think if he had spent all his time up and down the country, cos he is a good man, he’s a man of absolute integrity, he’s a man of fantastic values, and he could have been a good Prime Minister. But what I’m talking about, this isn’t rocket science Rachel, this isn’t the first time this has been said. This is what every leader in New Zealand and across the western world does if they want to be Prime Minister, President, you name it. They get out and they meet the people, and they find out what the real issues are.
It will be very interesting to see what happens to both the caucus and the leader’s office if Robertson or Cunliffe wins. Robertson is close to most of the leader’s office staff so I suspect little change there if he wins. Cunliffe however could well bring in new people.
Likewise in the caucus, I see little change in the shadow cabinet except a promotion for Ardern is Robertson wins. Cunliffe however could well dispense with some of the old guard who have spent years briefing against him.