Labour conference 2012: David Shearer’s speech, the verdict (now with video)

by Toby Manhire / 18 November, 2012
After the drama of the last few days, Shearer supporters could hardly have hoped for better.

The most important lines, at least as concerns the political drama of recent days, came at about the two-minute mark. Having spoken of New Zealanders “daring to dream”, Shearer told the delegates gathered for the Labour party conference: “We must show we’re more focused on their ambitions than our own ... We must speak with one clear voice.”

The reference was clearly to David Cunliffe, his former, and most say future, rival for the leadership, and to the changes to the way a vote on that position is triggered, as entailed by yesterday’s decisions - themselves prompted by that “anxiety about contemporary leadership”.

And those lines were freshly minted. You could not miss them in the hall, but they do not appear in the officially released version of the speech. (Update: video now posted above.)

The speech was an immense success. Beyond those vital lines - Shearer had to show he understood what was going on, to have avoided it would have looked tame – it delivered a strong pitch to the delegates and beyond, drawing on party tradition (Kirk had three mentions, Lange one) and pegging out some important differences between National and Labour. “Don't let anyone tell you a government can't do big things to change lives,” is not quite an exhortation to “big government”, but it seemed to do the trick.

There was genuine enthusiasm, and numerous ovations, from party members.

Shearer was introduced by his wife, Anuschka Meyer, who spoke engagingly of his efforts with her in humanitarian work abroad, as well as in cleaning the bathroom. Shearer arrived to the stage to applause and strains of The Naked and Famous – make your own joke – and began with a few jokes about mowing the lawn, before setting out his main theme, “a new direction for Labour and a new direction for New Zealand”.

The big policy announcement, a ten-year entry-level house-building programme which will, Shearer says, “put 100,000 Kiwi families into their first home” was warmly received, as were, especially, his remarks on Christchurch and education, a subject on which he right dwelled.

There were a few saggy moments – the material on asset sales, for example, fell a little flat – but overall Shearer’s supporters will be thrilled.

Shearer refused to be drawn on the Cunliffe question in his media stand-up after the speech. He conceded that “we have some issues to deal with in the Labour party” but insisted, “I am the leader. And I determine how this party goes forward. It will be done in my time."

He refused, too, to confirm that he will call for a vote on his leadership in caucus this week. But it seems increasingly clear that is the strategy – to seize the initiative back from detractors.

There is some confusion about whether such a vote would take place under the new rules, where 40% opposition to the incumbent triggers a full leadership race, or the existing 50%. Either way, after his performance this afternoon, Shearer will be feeling, with good reason, he will prevail.

If he does win, there remains still the requirement for a fresh vote in February. And a reshuffle of the shadow cabinet is likely to follow in short time. The first name people will look for is, of course, David Cunliffe.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about past Māori and Pākehā conflict
106234 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z History

Vincent O’Malley: Why we need to open up about pas…

by Sally Blundell

Calls are growing for us to take a more honest look at our past, particularly the wars over land and power that shaped the country.

Read more
Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the country with one killer line
106291 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z World

Scott Morrison: How a 'doomed' PM stormed the coun…

by Bernard Lagan

As Australia’s tourism tsar 13 years ago, Scott Morrison oversaw the rollicking “So where the bloody hell are you?’’ ad campaign.

Read more
What you need to know about knee replacements
105774 2019-05-26 00:00:00Z Health

What you need to know about knee replacements

by Ruth Nichol

Replacement knee joints are giving thousands of Kiwis decades of service, but don’t rush to get one.

Read more
How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miranda Tapsell back to her roots
106072 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Movies

How a hit romcom took indigenous Aussie star Miran…

by Russell Baillie

Miranda Tapsell tells Russell Baillie how she came up with Top End Wedding and why its Northern Territory setting means so much.

Read more
The link between cardiovascular health and dementia
105915 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Health

The link between cardiovascular health and dementi…

by Nicky Pellegrino

New research into the brain has found that cardiovascular ill health is linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

Read more
Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned freezing works
106317 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Following the call of New Zealand's abandoned free…

by John Summers

John Summers wonders if his abiding interest in New Zealand’s abandoned freezing works is actually a long farewell to his grandfather.

Read more
Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlooked moonshot
106359 2019-05-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Tech Week: Time to celebrate Aotearoa’s own overlo…

by Peter Griffin

“We bow down to this idea of Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos going to Mars, when here in our own country, we had the equivalent."

Read more
Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure
106331 2019-05-24 11:09:35Z Music

Kiwi composer John Rimmer: An instrumental figure

by Elizabeth Kerr

Contemporaries and students are paying tribute to composer John Rimmer and his musical legacy.

Read more