Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Deputy Grant Robertson moves up in the world

Grant Robertson will be giving pride of place to the picture of former Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Grant Robertson will be giving pride of place to the picture of former Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser. Picture / Mark Mitchell

Grant Robertson believes the new Labour team has a great chance to win the 2014 election

Amid the mass movement going on at Parliament, MP Grant Robertson is packing up his office papers for the move upstairs to take over offices of Labour deputy leader.

His suite will be just across the hallway from the new leader, David Shearer, in the Old Parliament Buildings.

After just one term as Wellington Central MP, Mr Robertson hasn't accumulated terribly much.

But finding a place on Annette King's old wall will be his red portrait of former Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser.

And on his new desk will be two prized photographs, one of his great-grandparents in 1913, and a photo of him and Alf Kaiwai, his partner of 12 years.

Mr Shearer and Mr Robertson will settle down today to discuss the caucus reshuffle, and key staffing appointments in their bid to oust the most popular Prime Minister of modern times, John Key.

Mr Robertson dismisses suggestions they have one to two years to make inroads or a challenge will be mounted by Mr Shearer's rival, David Cunliffe, or Mr Robertson himself.

"I will be a loyal deputy," he said.

"I am looking at this as a fantastic opportunity for us to win the 2014 election."

The Shearer-Robertson team is an unusual political partnership.

They have a few things in common such as love of music, though Mr Robertson goes for "alternative grunge pop" like the Phoenix Foundation while Mr Shearer's tastes are more towards the Foo Fighters and other heavy rock.

They both love sports.

They were both inspired by the anti-nuclear politics of former Labour Prime Minister David Lange in 1984, though Mr Robertson as a 13-year-old schoolboy and Mr Shearer as a 24-year-old social studies teacher at Massey High School.

Mr Robertson as a former political adviser to Helen Clark is a political insider and strategist, who knows the party backwards and is a good enough communicator to be made campaign spokesman. Mr Shearer is not deeply rooted in the party in the same way but nor was John Key when he stood for National in 2002.

Mr Robertson defends Mr Shearer, saying he is deeply rooted in the values of the party.

"He is in touch with Labour values and has lived the values of social justice."

Mr Shearer is an avowed centrist, Mr Robertson has been the unofficial leader of Labour left, taking on Phil Goff early in his first term over a speech on race relations.

Mr Robertson said it was the responsibility of the caucus to unify.

"I do think that that's important job for me and him, to bring the caucus together and I think we both have the attributes to do that."

The challenge for the new team was to go out to the provinces and listen to people, "to start rebuilding the Labour Party as a party that can run a Government".

"And when you've scored 27 per cent in an election, you have to face up to that."

The next challenge was to improve communications and messaging about how Labour values related to people's lives.

"People need to feel Labour is on their side." Besides its internal challenges, Labour's other challenge was to take on the Government and there were no shortage of issues on which to do that.

- NZ Herald

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