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Labour's front bench report card


As David Shearer prepares to dust off Labour’s front bench, David Cunliffe plots his dust up with Mr Shearer.  Here’s a report card for the last 10 months:

David Shearer, Leader – 5/10
Hapless and ever-less-confident media performer, except on TV3 comedy showsFailed to build cohesive team.  Caught inventing stories about painters.  Lost control of his own office, now staffed by Grant Robertson loyalists.  Faces leadership challenge before Christmas.  Only KPI, though, is becoming prime minister.  If he holds on as leader, recent polls suggest that’s what he’ll be in two years.  Five points for that alone.

Grant Robertson, Deputy Leader, Environment – 3/10
Allowed Tim Groser to defang the ETS without political cost, making Labour cheerleader Rod Oram the lone campaigner against the changes.  Has provided no public support for his leader, fuelling destabilising leadership speculation.  Points for achieving more control over the party apparatus than Helen Clark in her prime.

David Parker, Finance

His plans to intervene in currency markets to drive up the Australian and US dollars are nuts, but are at least bold and have people talking, even if he will ultimately lose the intellectual debate.  Needs to package his ideas more coherently and learn to distil difficult concepts into fewer words.

Jacinda Ardern, Welfare

Failed utterly to confront Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms, despite the beneficiaries burdened with new obligations being a key Labour voting bloc.  Wins a point for leadership on gay adoption, targeting her Grey Lynn constituency.

David Cunliffe, Economic Development

Should be sacked for disloyalty.  Gives cliché-ridden think-speeches, with excruciatingly laboured analogies.  Panders to Labour’s left by advocating 19th century mercantilism, which he can’t possibly believe.  However, he’s the only Labour MP whose speeches anyone bothers to read and can articulate complex ideas.

Clayton Cosgrove, SOEs

Like Lianne Dalziel, manages to get under Gerry Brownlee’s skin occasionally, but can’t take any credit for Mr Key’s difficulties with the SOE floats.  Is meant to be Labour’s attack dog but has been over-shadowed by the Greens’ Russel Norman.  If he wants to be the tough guy, needs to fix the first name.

Shane Jones, On Gardening Leave

So much hype, for so many years.  So little to show for it.  Pro-business attitudes not a good fit with his party. Walking advertisement for political mercy killing.

Nanaia Mahuta, Education

Has done nothing.  Will be sacked.  Mr Shearer should demonstrate importance of education to Labour by taking portfolio himself, a la Peter Fraser and David Lange.

Maryan Street, Health

Wins a point for promoting euthanasia law reform, but voters probably expect potential health ministers to focus more on curing people than killing them.

Su'a William Sio, Employment

Unemployment is touching 7%.   High profile job losses at Solid Energy, Tiwai Point and Kawerau.  Ever heard of William Sio?

*     *     *

What does Mr Shearer do? 

Only Mr Robertson, by virtue of election, Mr Parker, Mr Cosgrove and, if he will be loyal, perhaps Mr Cunliffe deserve to stay in their current roles.  Ms Ardern, Ms Mahuta, Ms Street and Mr Sio need to be told the experiment has failed.

  What’s more, Mr Shearer must face the growing possibility he may need to form a government in just two years.  Experience is needed.

  His best performer is Phil Goff, who severely damaged National’s master strategist Murray McCully over restructuring at the foreign ministry.  He and Annette King deserve to be returned to the front bench.

  A more constructive role for Trevor Mallard should be found.

  Even bolder, Mr Shearer should announce that John Tamihere will be his social welfare minister.  It is nothing more than has already been mused privately.

  It is also time to move up new talent like Andrew Little – although strangely he has been overshadowed in ACC by the Greens’ Kevin Hague.

  The Reverend Dr David Clark is targeting an economic role and there is more to him than being one of the world’s leading experts on Christian existentialism.

  Chris Hipkins has done well tackling Hekia Parata.

  Along with the Green ministers Mr Shearer would have to appoint, a government leadership team of himself, Mr Robertson, Mr Parker, Mr Cunliffe, Mr Goff, Ms King, Mr Mallard and Mr Tamihere would at least have a degree of credibility compared with the current dysfunctional crew.

More by Matthew Hooton

Comments and questions

Mr Hooton can i infer from your low votes that you are a National supporter through and through?

Can i remind the people of NZ we have an investment banker that has a nick name "smiling assassin" ruining running the country. He will sell us up, move back to the US then collect his commission from the investment institutions that buy us.

not just sell us up though... Add in selling out our sovereign rights. Eroding our democracy... I fear the concessions this Govenment will make to Corporate America under the guise of T.P.P.
Hopefully I'm just being paranoid. Living in my own private fantasy...
but am I?

You ceratainly are.

Ha Ha! Thanks Doris. I hope you are right. I guess when its all signed off and locked in tight and New Zealanders have no right to recourse, then we will see...

David Shearer 5/10!? Is he the teacher's pet or something? Take any subject, and the comment on the report card sould read:

"This subject is beyond his capabilities".

Matthew Hooton

Biased, pessimistic and a true blue Tory


Labour cant control what stories the people of NZ see on their news programs every night. How about you read the Labour Party website or listen to a speech by a Labour MP - OUTSIDE OF PARLIAMENT and you'll see the exact opposite of your baseless innuendo.

Andrew Little union connections will be seen as a lap dog. Talented yes...he has the parasite comment which will haunt him all the way. Will never win the business vote now which is crucial. Best suited as a whip

The best bit is how Goof gets a better scorecard than most of them put together - and he almost single handedly lost them the electon!

Brilliant! So the biggest-ever election loss in Labour's history by their previous "leader" goof - who lost his insipid leadership to an even more insipid leader - is now proven to be the "best performer" of most of Labour's front bench by far? How appropriate!

This is the "Pure Gold" scripting storyline stuff of "Yes Minister" or "The Office"

PRICELESS - maybe John Key could sell that storyline to Hollywood?

With the exception of Jacinda Ardern, who possibly has some potential to improve, the rest of the comments and ratings are very accurate.
A political party has to have at least a modicum of a grasp of economics, and understanding of cause and effect, if it is going to produce policies which will be for the greater good of NZ; not just the unionised element.

Good analysis.
Shearer is looking stronger every day,particularly as JK continues to look more and more fragile.
A strong opposition is essential for a well-functioning government and we are now looking healthier than,say,two years ago.

Looking good by default is scarey. Looking good by being good is much more desirable. Be careful setting poor Shearer up for a fall outside his control! The country is currently bereft of a decent opposition, in fact creating a list of any politicians with integrity regardless of party would be very hard indeed.

Great article, like reading a comedy!

Labour could do themselves a big favour by getting rid of the C.G.T
National needs to abandon asset sales. Seems to me the public has an appetite for neither scheme. The next election is anyone's... and from your analysis it seems Labour has pleny of room to improve...

I imagine most National supporters will be rubbing their hands with glee at the merest hint of Cunliffe taking leadership.

Excellent analysis as ever Matthew Hooton.

Hardly an indepth, objective, factual assessment. Whatever Labour's current report card, the good, bad and ugly- it must stand in comparison to, say what about the government?

One seat majority of (outside perhaps English) incompetents, wannabes and self servers. Jobs, housing, health, education and the elephant in the room nobody wants to comment on- race relations (see current ethnic make-up of our prison population) taking second place to Kim Dot, Iittle Johnny Banksie and the image of our PM bending over for some good ol' American discipline.

Where and who has the vision that inspires, brings together and offers independence, sovereignty and yup, jobs? Oh did I mention jobs? Sales, promotion, alternatives- these are the areas that need developing by Labour. Winning back those supporters that couldn't get out to the polls last election.

A desultoty bunch of worn-out party hacks, deadbeats, pretetenders, has-beens, singing minstrels and the like.

How could you expect Su'a Wiliam Sio to respond to issues regarding the mines, when he thinks of them as deep sea military ordinances?
Manaia Mahuta is there to honour the legacy of Alamein Kopu, Maryan Street about as relevant and fashionable as flocked floral wallpaper, David Parker is still pining over losing his soul mates Darren Hughes and Chris Carter, Clayton Cosgrove is about as imtimidating as his name, and Shane Jones is worried about his extended whanau bros not being adequately represented on the Far North regional boards. And this is Shearer's creme de la creme?

Racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Maori! And those are the good parts not to be compared with the oncology of assorted brain cancers, inoperable obviously. This is why Aotearoa- New Zealand is spinning into the equivalent of the 1930s: the solutions of mental colonialists, masculine midgets, bum bandit auto-de-fe proponents and the last of the bush pirate Oz kangaroo fornicators. Where are the Lewis Carols of tomorrow?Remember what the Dormouse said? No I didn't think so!

Hysterical ramblings of someone who can't accept that the Labour Party is in total disarray.

"Remember what the Dormouse said? No I didn't think so!"
The same as what Grace Slick, sang.

Finally someone has called Ardern for being a vacant lot. Well done Matthew.

Jacinda Ardern may well be a "vacant lot", but I'm backing her in the 5th at Ellerslie.

Why is it that labour supporters can't debate anything rationally Their immediate reaction is loads of abusive dialog.

It's their heritage Deckboy. Labour always resort to bully boy vocal intimidation - it's their union heritage - usually because they have run out of intellectual horsepower, or when they feel trapped andhave toanswer honestly, or when ever anyone contradicts their propaganda...

...and it all starts at the top and oozes downward. Just look at Clark trying to over-shout Key when she had her butt handed to her at election time (where she should have done the honourable and decent thing and committed Seppuku - instead of jumping ship on the SS Titanic/Labour Party - but she left the helm with Goof to drive upon the rocks.)

When bereft of ideas - credible or not - often the only way an insipid, weaker, less agile apponent might think they can achieve is to "bring down" the opponent thereby attempting to give the appearance of yourself actually "rising" whilst your opponent is being "brought down"

What Labour haven't woken up to yet though - is we aren't in the school yard where calling names and beligerant behaviour can be got away with - and NZ public just see Labour as a very insipid version of the Greens - except without class, style, imagination and pixie dust...

Lord help us if Labour ever return to the Govt benches, as it will be the Greens running the show, and Winston as the pupeteer of the rest of the Muppets.