Claire Trevett 's Opinion

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Shearer delves into optimism manual and comes up empty

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Labour leader David Shearer on Te Tii Marae the day before Waitangi Day. Photo / Natalie Slade
Labour leader David Shearer on Te Tii Marae the day before Waitangi Day. Photo / Natalie Slade

Happy Waitangi Day! Labour leader David Shearer told us all to chirp as part of his vision of Waitangi's future.

Mr Shearer had arrived at Waitangi brimful of ideas about how the weekend could be improved to the point where Maori and Pakeha danced around the maypole, rather than spitting on the flagpole, and there were group hugs on the streets.

His strategy was clear: positivity reaps rewards, especially when the inaugural Mr Happy of politics - Prime Minister John Key - was having to get used to being Mr Just A Little Bit Grumpy.

So Mr Shearer announced there would be "no politics" when he arrived at Te Tii Marae, just half an hour after Mr Key had been shouted down and rushed off.

The Mr Key who fronted up to the Prime Minister's annual Waitangi Breakfast, fittingly held in the Treaty Room at the Copthorne Hotel, was a different beast from the Mr Key of breakfasts of yore.

Yesterday he delivered a perfunctory round-up of matters affecting Maori - education, the poverty committee, progress on Treaty settlements. He then moved on to a blunt, almost irritated right of reply - the one that was denied him when he had stepped on to Te Tii Marae the day before only to be shouted down before he had even started.

He went into bat for his Government, addressing issues of the Crafar farms, asset sales and even deep sea oil drilling.

If previous Waitangi Days were about promises, this was about delivery and Mr Key adjusted accordingly.

After he was shouted down by protesters on Sunday, he responded by saying he would continue to return to Te Tii - a stance that earned him some grudging respect from arch rival Hone Harawira.

Mr Shearer arrived having taken a lesson from Mr Key's now discarded manual on wooing the voters with optimism.

He may have overdone it rather with his "Happy Waitangi Day" vision.

His illusory day of group hugs and people frolicking around a flagpole bedecked in streamers, rather than spitting on it, barely got attention.

Because Mr Key's pledge to return reflected not only a determination to stick to a promise he had made in 2008. It also reflected his recognition of the importance of the Government actually fronting up, just that once a year, to account for itself.

- NZ Herald

Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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