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War zones more comfortable than Labour Party - Shearer

Outgoing Labour leader David Shearer has told TV One’s political editor Corin Dann that he feels both relieved and disappointed to be stepping down as head of the party - but also that he hopes for a spot on the front bench once the current leadership tussle is resolved.

Mr Shearer resigned as leader in August, ending months of speculation about his leadership.

“Oh, in one respect relieved, obviously, because it takes a huge weight off your shoulders, and in other respects disappointed, of course. You know, I put a lot into it and I would have liked to have continued on,” he says.

But he says he found both the pettiness of politics and being in Opposition frustrating.

“A lot of it was petty. A lot of it was venal. I think politicians from all sides come in to make a difference, to actually get something done, and what you get caught up with, particularly as the leader, is, you know, point-scoring and that sort of pettiness. And I just found it boring, I found it beneath me, and I wasn’t very good at it because of that. Other people thrive on it. They love it. I mean, that’s the thing they love about— the arena of politics. For me, I found it a bit below me,” Mr Shearer says.

But he also battled disunity within the Labour party, which ultimately lead to him stepping down. He says whoever takes over from him as leader must have the full backing of the party. Labour is currently holding an electoral process within the party to elect a new leader. The three candidates standing are David Cunliffe, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson.

“What we need to see is whoever wins, we all need to get behind that person. Certainly from my point of view, whoever wins this competition, I will give them 100% support, and I don’t care who it is. Well, I’d say I do care who it is, but if that person wins, then we get in behind them, and we can't do anything else, because if we don’t do that, then we won't win. It’s as simple as that. The most corrosive issue for us in the Labour Party has been disunity.”

And he says he often felt more comfortable in war zones than he’s felt in politics.

“I always felt, oddly enough, more comfortable in a war zones than I did in the Labour Party— not so much in the Labour Party but in politics. I mean, obviously in politics you're getting sniped at from all directions. In a war zone, you can generally tell who the good guys are and who are the bad guys.”

And he says he doesn’t regret holding up two snapper in Parliament, a stunt that happened just days before he resigned. He says fighting to protect recreational fishers snapper quota has brought back many of Labour’s previous supporters.

“You're out there by yourself and you make the calls. And if they work, you know, you get the plaudits, and if they fail, you get the blame, and that’s just the way it is. On the fishing issue, though, I actually went out fishing last Tuesday and caught 16 snapper with a couple of mates, and I’ll fight that on the beaches till the very, very end. And the whole idea of that is it was meant to be a bit of a laugh. And if anybody looked at that, what they didn’t realise was that the group that had walked away from Labour were male, white, middle-income – the kind of guys that were lining up on the fishing issue. And they got in behind us. That was gold for us, and many of the people in Beltway just didn’t actually recognise that.”

And on the matter of Syria, Mr Shearer, who has years of international experience in humanitarian affairs and conflict resolution, says Prime Minister John Key must support the UN Security Council in creating the space for whatever retaliatory action needs to happen, rather than backing the United States in what would be a mostly unilateral strike on Syria.

“That’s not going to work. I mean, first of all, it will be hated by the Arab street right across the Middle East. Secondly, it could actually propel Assad into a role of being picked on by a big— You could actually enhance his reputation. Thirdly, it could really damage the burgeoning relationship with Iran with its new leader. Fourthly, Israel is a proxy for the United States. Who knows, there could be some attacks against them. Fifthly, the relationship with Russia absolutely collapses, and Russia instead of being wedged into a corner by weapons inspectors that demonstrate that it was the Syrian regime that caused these attacks and Russia having then to come and respond in the Security Council, you give them an out. It has so many bad consequences that it’s not worth doing and I don’t think New Zealand should support it.”

Watch the full interview here.

Comments and questions

In theory, whoever wins the Labour Leadership, all Labour Losers need to get behind that person and really fight against the ruling Party....but in reality, it is just the opposite, as it has been happening in UK, Canada and Australia.
High time to learn, or NZ Labour will most likely follow the similar path of the Australian ifs or buts.

Oh, puleese. The snapper were to stand up for the fishermen? I call bull... on that one. The 2 snapper were to try and make fun of Key's assertion that more kiwis were worried about snapper than the GCSB. Yes, it was a pathetic political stunt on Shearers part. Unfortunately for him it fell flat. What was he thinking? And, now, after all that, he basically admits Key was right all along and snapper ARE more important to kiwis. At least he got there in the end.

Poor David - even out of the hot seat, he cannot get it right!

He found politics beneath him - but he stays in.

He says he does not care who wins the Labour leadership. Then, he says he does.

Move on, David - you are better than that!

The Shearer interview in Q&A gave us a glimpse of what the man was really capable of. Excellent delivery, no ums and ars. What a shame we did not see this before he was deposed. I'm no Labour supporter but I hope that he will remain with the Party and maybe we will see him as a future Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was too decent a guy to be an effective Leader.

This says a lot about David Shearer as the man and the politician. His comment that: ,,point-scoring and that sort of pettiness... For me, I found it a bit below me,” ... put himself above the average politician but still a better man. If he was such he would not need to make the comment. Perhaps he need look no further than this term, after which head back to the war zone, and Oh yes your foreign bank account, you rich person Mr Shearer

Shearer does not get it and does not understand personal responsibility. He should resign from Parliament at the next election.

The cattiness to which he refers is that genereated by Robertson. This is further evidence of Robertson's unsuitability. Robertson should get out of Parliament also.

"A lot of it was venal." That's a rather serious allegation. Whom is he referring to as corrupt and/or open to bribery? All of parliament or just his Labour colleagues?

Waaaah. Seriously. If it's beneath you, get over it and out of it.