Labour leadership hopefuls

David Shearer (left) and David Cunliffe. Photo / Christine Cornege
David Shearer (left) and David Cunliffe. Photo / Christine Cornege

Labour leadership hopefuls David Shearer and David Cunliffe will find out on Tuesday who their colleagues prefer for the party's top job. We asked three supporters of each man to say why he should get the nod.

In support of David Shearer

Jacinda Ardern

I first met David Shearer roughly 10 years ago. I remember two things: the photo pinned above his desk of him in a United Nations uniform in some far-off nation, and that he was constantly on the phone navigating thorny diplomatic issues.

I didn't know him well then, but I heard that as well as the work he'd done overseas, he was also battling away as a Labour candidate in Whangarei. In lots of ways, that sums up David. He may have first been known to many as the guy who won international recognition for his work in places like Somalia, or for leading teams in Iraq and Kosovo, but all of that was set aside for a very different job in politics. And why? I've never felt the need to ask David that; he wears his reasons on his sleeve. He is a grafter, intelligent, humble, and I have never questioned that he is here because of an inherent belief that if we do our job properly, we can make people's lives better.

Our potential as a country is huge, but unrealised for just too many. As a team, I know we are capable of producing the ideas and vision to take us forward, and make the Labour Party even stronger. That's a fight I know David Shearer is ready to lead.

Jacinda Ardern is a Labour's employment spokesperson and a list MP.

John Pagani

Labour has to change. David Shearer is a clean break from the past.

I greatly respect the senior MPs in the Labour caucus. But only David Shearer is going to make New Zealanders interested in Labour again.

The buzz around him is unprecedented. People are attracted to David Shearer because there is nothing contrived.

When we watched the rivals debate on TV we saw a contrast between Shearer's authenticity, and his rival's tendency to use words like "complementarity".

Labour wins when it represents the future, not the past, leadership not drift, and the many not the few. Shearer gives Labour the upper hand in each.

He has spent his life serving communities and fighting for the little guy. He has a masters degree in science and a vision for unleashing science to transform our economy and lift New Zealanders' incomes.

He can build teams. He is a natural leader, capable of tough decisions. He's calm. His judgment is sound.

He will change Labour's tone. With Shearer we will hear more about Labour's vision for being the party of New Zealanders' hopes and aspirations, not just tearing down the other guy.

* John Pagani is a political commentator and former adviser to Labour leader Phil Goff. He blogs at johnpagani.posterous.com.

Lew Stoddart

Whoever wins this leadership contest faces several tasks: to reform and unite a neglected, divided Labour movement, to grow the party's membership and support base, and to persuade opinion leaders, and ultimately the public, that he, and they, are fit to run the country again.

These require very different skill-sets.

On paper, David Cunliffe has the better retail skills but he has not demonstrated these can be translated into party loyalty, let alone public appeal.

As finance spokesperson during the economic crisis he has failed to distinguish himself. He is not a proven reformer.

David Shearer's presentation is poor and his portfolio knowledge weak.

If these don't improve he (and Labour) will struggle, but they can be learned - the deeper talents needed to reform an organisation are harder to acquire. Both skill-sets are necessary, but the past three years show the urgent need to prioritise reform, and Shearer's extensive, high-level UN experience and the fact he is not institutionalised mean his reform agenda should be deeper and more ruthlessly driven.

Slickness and technocratic detail rarely inspire; voters make decisions on gut instinct and narrative. As well as organisational experience, Shearer has these intangibles. No new leader is perfect; let him grow into the showman's role.

* Lew Stoddart is a Wellington-based media analyst. He writes at left-leaning blog kiwipolitico.com.

In support of David Cunliffe

Nanaia Mahuta

Words that come to mind are hard-working, enigmatic intellect, well-read, optimist, constructive and likable. Working with David is like playing chess on three boards at a time; he's a strategic thinker by nature yet he is mindful of the task at hand.

He has represented his New Lynn electorate for 12 years and his constituents certainly rate him as a dedicated local MP always prepared to battle for those who cannot.

In Parliament he is a strong performer, able to speak to economic and international issues and never loses sight of those values that seek a fair go for everyone.

I had better outline what are perceived as weaknesses. Sometimes his humour may miss the mark and that's because he might be too aware of needing to inject laughter into his conversation.

He genuinely likes people so isn't successful at personal attacks. People may say he's the kind of guy that you either like or not, but I have seen David among the public and he connects well because he is attentive, astute and always thinking about a way forward - a big plus in a job like ours.

Overall, he's a good smart bloke able to make a huge difference for everyone.

* Nanaia Mahuta is the MP for Hauraki-Waikato and is Cunliffe's preferred deputy.

Greg Presland

I met David in 1998 after he was selected as the Labour candidate for the then National-held seat of Titirangi. Although initially unknown, he campaigned like a veteran, met much of the electorate during the campaign and won in a landslide.

He went from strength to strength. In 2002 he converted the seat into a Labour stronghold. He was then elevated to Cabinet. As Minister of Telecommunications he achieved, against the odds, the unbundling of Telecom's local loop. He also competently managed the demanding health portfolio where increasing demand is met with limited resources.

David has this astounding ability to receive complex information, sum it up precisely and present it back in simple, yet elegant, terms. When answering questions he is able to deliver comprehensive yet succinct answers. He talks simply and communicates clearly. He has a passion for New Zealand that drives his politics.

He is also a team builder and has assiduously built a local team to ensure the seat remains supportive of Labour.

He is the ideal foil to John Key. He will debate the issues from a position of knowledge. He will not tolerate deception or spin.

I have nothing against David Shearer. He is a thoroughly decent human being. But for Labour to succeed it needs the skills and passion of David Cunliffe.

* Greg Presland is Chair of the Labour Party's Auckland-Northland Regional Council, a West Auckland lawyer, a member of the Waitakere Ranges local board and a former Waitakere City councillor.

David Hawkins

Today is my 30th birthday. No one asks for my ID. Children call me "Mister Hawkins". There's no point denying it, I'm middle-aged.

But let's get some context. The Springbok Tour finished before I was born. Helen Clark halted Rogernomics/Ruthanasia before I could vote. For most of my contemporaries, the old debates are antediluvian history.

We're all leaving for Australia.

This battle for Labour's leadership is a choice between obsolete zero-sum politics and a progressive aspirational social democracy.

David Shearer's a nice paper tiger. He's just being exploited by a group that don't respect New Zealand's verdict. They actually don't know what normal Kiwis think because they don't understand modern direct engagement methods.

The Labour Party's Red Alert website is symptomatic of the problem.

In contrast, there's David Cunliffe. He's born with that GenX/Y continual improvement instinct, where policy and practice are never settled and everything can always be done differently and better.

Cunliffe appreciates and wins in open debate, and he's technologically savvy enough to start a disruptive modernisation in our party from Tuesday afternoon.

Labour MPs must decide: change or irrelevance. I expect a majority will prioritise our values and elect David Cunliffe with Nanaia Mahuta as deputy.

* David Hawkins is a Labour Party member, one of the founders of the www.wewantdavidcunliffe.co.nz support website, and former executive assistant to Chris Carter.

- NZ Herald

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