Brian Edwards Media

On David Shearer, Ian Fraser and the Bespoke Art of Media Training

 

 The news that David Shearer is to ‘get media training’ from Ian Fraser in order to make him more visible to the electorate has tended to reinforce the notion that ‘getting media training’ is rather like getting a new suit from Hallenstein’s.  All you have to do is put the new suit on and you’ll immediately not merely look better but be a whole new person. Unfortunately media training doesn’t fit this prêt-à-porter model. It’s a bespoke art. Everyone’s  needs are different,  no two people’s measurements are exactly the same, and there are some people who will never look good in anything.  

I’ll abandon this analogy before I invite derision,  but it serves to make the point that you can’t just ‘get media training’ in the same way that you might  ‘get trained’ to drive a car, a skill in which most people are capable of being competent at least and which even indifferent drivers can teach you. Here, by the way, the Maggie Barry Principle applies – if you’ve never been a professional interviewer and haven’t had wide experience of all branches of the media, you’ve not really qualified to talk about media-training, let alone engage in it.

It’s rare for the diagnosis of what is ailing an interviewee to be obvious. With the exception of ‘umming and erring’, saying ‘you know’, ‘like’ , ‘I guess’, ‘absolutely’, ‘going forward’, ‘OK, so’ at least once in every paragraph, what prevents someone from coming across well on radio or television is often extremely subtle and quite difficult to pin down. 

Some people are crippled by nerves; some – often graduates of poor PR schooling – robotically recite the ‘key messages’ they have been taught to deliver; some have unnatural speech patterns, randomly emphasising words or delivering their information in self-contained packages; some cannot retain eye contact with the person opposite; some are monosyllabic, others verbose; some fail to realise that punctuation is as necessary to clarity in speech as it is in the written word; some confuse pace with speed, sprinting through their consequently tedious answers; some take offence too easily, others are doormats; some are too careless with the truth, others too pedantic; some will never concede, others apologise too often and too abjectly – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa; some come across in stereophonic sound and 3D, others are wallpaper; some lack confidence, others are brash; some are naturals, others will never get it. While it’s essential to be protective of the feelings of the latter, it’s a kindness to put them out of their misery and tell them the truth. Generally speaking, they’re relieved.  

So the media trainer needs to be diagnostician, psychologist, counsellor, teacher. He must be a good reader of people, have a bullshit detector for a brain and understand the power of praise. One thing becomes very apparent in this business: genuinely confident people are few and far between. If we contributed at all to Helen Clark rising phoenix-like from the ashes in 1996 – and she has been generous enough to say that we did – it was less as the result of ‘media training’, than of rebuilding her confidence which was at its lowest ebb.

So what of David Shearer? Ian’s media credentials are impeccable, but I think he will have his job cut out. The one thing the media trainer cannot do is change the fundamental personality of his client. It’s as if there were a performance gene that some people, regardless of their intelligence, education, socio economic standing, experience, moral character or any other integer, were born with, while others lack it entirely. Being born with the performance gene tells you nothing about whether a man or woman will make a great Prime Minister – consider David Lange – but in the modern race for the glittering political prize having it is a distinct advantage.

I’m not convinced that Shearer has the performance gene nor that it can be conjured from thin air by even the most adept media training. Shearer may well be our next Prime Minister and quite possibly a very good one, but the achievement will be the result of auspicious events rather than that force of personality which we sometimes call charisma.

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43 Comments:

  1. Charisma may well be right. I would phrase it that David Shearer needs to have some fire in his belly. I am sure he is a great guy but I have the greatest difficulty when listening to him determining what he actual believes in. He is too reasonable. I think he likes to be sen as Mr Nice Guy. He ought to realise that John Key plays that role much better than he does

    Just take debate on state asset sales. I wished he had come out and said in forthright terms that the next Labour government would renationalise any state assets in the same way that Labour made it their intent to unpick the ACC reforms in 1999.

    Such a statement would of course of caused uproar but it would have got him noticed and perhaps made those who might vote for him think that here was a guy with balls.

    Instead he has left the running on this, and so much else to the Greens (and probably NZ First).

    With the problems National has had in the last few months the star of DS should be in the ascendant not being sucked into a black hole.

  2. to be rude – media training is toastmasters and the worst is where the trained become the slipperiest avoiders and obsfucators.
    I wonder who trained John Banks to have no memory ( a cabinet minister with no memory retention – classic and to such a ‘high standard’)

    BE: Your comparison of media training with toastmasters is perhaps the most offensive thing I have read on this site. The worst speakers I’ve encountered have been Toastmasters’ products who appeared to have been taught the art of speaking by numbers.

  3. The point – the – the issue here is – is not – because you’ve got to – the point is that media – um, media training – does not fundamentally affect – er, change – it doesn’t change the basic verbal wiring we all have – which – it really – it needs to have an instant delete function, if you like – it instantly deletes the, er – the word options before you say them, and Shearer’s problem – er, he – he says the options out loud – and then he deletes – he starts one sentence and – he stops – he goes back again and then – he half-says the other one – and – well, you get the point.

    Free advice: When you talk, David, just Slow Down. You can’t change who you are (and shouldn’t try), all you can really do is 1) know what you want to say, and 2) then say it as best you can.

    If the real problem is 1), even Ian Fraser can’t help you. Or even Brian Edwards.

  4. I couldn’t put it better simon. I wonder if Shearer’s problem is a speech defect akin to an actual stammer, in which case with hard work it should be surmountable. Look at King George 6th.

    Do you really need the performance gene? It may help you become PM, but in the long run it is going to be seen for what it is – a political performance that doesn’t mean anything in practice.

    If Shearer can overcome his constant repeating of certain words then he need only be his normal self, and the genuineness and intelligence that he clearly possesses will show through of their own accord?

    BE: “Do you really need the performance gene? It may help you become PM, but in the long run it is going to be seen for what it is – a political performance that doesn’t mean anything in practice.”

    This seems to presuppose that you can’t be genuine, while at the same time being articulate, clear in expressing your ideas, confident in your opinions, an able debater, persuasive advocate, someone who inspires confidence and looks and sounds like a leader. You can. Honesty and charisma aren’t incompatible.

  5. Well Brian, thats it then, David Shearer may just require a confidence boost and Ian Fraser has the credentials to contribute towards that. Then, should Shearer become the next PM, it wouldn’t be just ‘completely’ accidental.

    BE: I don’t recall saying that Shearer ‘just needed a confidence boost’. I suspect this is quite a confident man. His problem is that he comes across poorly on television. Ian has ‘impeccable media credentials’ to deal with that, but, as I indicated, ‘he will have his job cut out’. I’m also not sure who said his becoming PM would be ‘completely accidental’, but it wasn’t me. If the government loses the election, it will not be accidental, but because it lost favour with the electorate – a happy coming together of circumstances for Shearer. That said, my use of the term ‘serendipitous events’ may well be inaccurate and I’ve changed it to ‘auspicious’ which conveys my meaning better. Thanks.

  6. Anne not sure I am as optimistic as you when you say ” in the long run it is going to be seen for what it is – a political performance that doesn’t mean anything in practice.”
    It seems many voters are taken in by performance, charisma , alpha male strutting etc etc .
    I am not and I am sure you are not but there are thousands out there who still vote for John Banks, Winston Peters etc.
    Maybe we need reverse engineered media training for voters .

  7. CnrJoe is perhaps echoing a perception that media training equates to spin doctoring and the slippery slope of deception eg Don Brash , as revealed in Nicky Hager’s The Hollow men.

    I disagree and think media training is crucial for political leaders.

    I have done a little bit of media myself and know how bloody hard it is to articulate what you need to in the tiny frame of a radio/tv/news interview.

    Its a land of sound bytes and shadowy editors where a chance remark can end up being the full story. Or the bit you thought was what you need to say got edited our because it was too long.

    I am not even blaming the media , though I do think there is a dearth of really good in depth interviewing.

    You definitely need help to enable you to express what you need to, through the various media channels.

    Some of it is as basic as removing the ums and ahs , not speaking too close to the mic or phone, summarizing your thinking into sound bytes but above all I see good media training as enabling leaders to be authentic and real , within the constraints of the media channel.

  8. Looks like sour grapes, Brian. Did you miss out on the gig this time?

    BE: One would probably have to volunteer for a gig and be turned down in order to be ‘sour’ about someone else getting it. I’ve made no approach to David offering my services. And it is strange ‘sourness’ that results in one describing the person who got the gig as having ‘impeccable media credentials’ for it.

    What interests me is your need to find base motives on my part for writing the post. It can’t just be my honest opinion. This would be rather like my suggesting that your comment was provoked by my describing your last effort as being ‘condescendingly expressed’ and dismissing the rather silly comparison you made in it. I’m sure that isn’t the case.

  9. Tom that’s just plain nasty !

  10. Do you think, that Bill Rowling would have improved his TV persona — to appear more authoriative and statesman-like — with the best media trainer?

    I’d have trouble believing that.

    BE: Peter Debreceny and I did some work with Bill. The problem was that he seemed ineffectual and weak on television. His rather light voice and small stature did not help. He received some advice that he needed to appear stronger on television. In reality he was a very strong personality, but could not portray it on the box. The advice (not from us) was that he should be more aggressive, perhaps speak a bit louder and thump the desk occasionally. He came across as a weak man trying to be aggressive, speaking louder… His difficulty was accentuated by having Rob Muldoon as his opponent in three elections all of which Bill lost. And he was mercilessly pilloried by Bob Jones who dubbed him ‘the mouse’. Bill lacked ‘the performance gene’ and it is a tragedy that he was only able to be Prime Minister for half a term. He would, in my estimation, have been a very fine leader of the country. The same may be true of David Shearer.

  11. Hi Brian

    Just checked out this page from Tumeke. I think your replies to some of the comments were very funny!

  12. 12

    But is presentation Shearer’s biggest problem?

    I’ve yet to hear any significant Labour policy that seems to be based on intelligent, constructive thought.

    The whole lot seem to be variants of: “If it moves, tax it and give the proceeds to our supporters. If it doesn’t move, throw money at it.”

    BE: “I’ve yet to hear any significant Labour policy that seems to be based on intelligent, constructive thought.” I would have thought a capital gains tax and raising the entitlement age for the pension fitted those criteria absolutely.

  13. “‘getting media training’ is rather like getting a new suit from Hallenstein’s”.

    Hallensteins?

    Denigrating your own profession, eh Brian?

    Many a true word…

    yuk yuk…

  14. Im sure media presentation helps, but if the message you’re giving isnt up to it, no amount of sugar coating will suffice.Shearers main competitor ,John Key has cold fish eyes, and hopefully be seen for what he(and his party) are at the next election.

    BE: I’m certainly not in favour of sugar coating, or any type of coating for that matter.

  15. “Peter Debreceny and I did some work with Bill. The problem was that he seemed ineffectual and weak on television. His rather light voice and small stature did not help. He received some advice that he needed to appear stronger on television. In reality he was a very strong personality, but could not portray it on the box. The advice (not from us) was that he should be more aggressive, perhaps speak a bit louder and thump the desk occasionally. He came across as a weak man trying to be aggressive, speaking louder… His difficulty was accentuated by having Rob Muldoon as his opponent in three elections all of which Bill lost. And he was mercilessly pilloried by Bob Jones who dubbed him ‘the mouse’. Bill lacked ‘the performance gene’ and it is a tragedy that he was only able to be Prime Minister for half a term. He would, in my estimation, have been a very fine leader of the country. The same may be true of David Shearer.”

    Not sure I agree entirely with your judgement, even though you obviously have the direct experience, Brian.

    You are right that Rowling was a tough politician. He survived as Labour leader for over 8 years. Ironically, Rowling was probably more ruthless with his colleagues e.g., insisting Moyle resign, compared to Muldoon. But when it came to policy there was little to differentiate them, and Rowling would have been an able long-term PM (although I’m not certain of the calibre of personnel Labour had to fill a cabinet in the mid-to-late ’70s).

    However, MJ Savage also had a high voice (and slight stature), and he operated in the days of radio, when it was even more important. Despite that he was beloved. Jimmy Carter was also similar to Rowling, and won a US Presidential election in the same era.

    But yes, trying to make Rowling more aggressive, especially against Muldoon was a waste of time. I think Rowling’s problem compared to Muldoon was that he would try and over-explain and qualify. Muldoon knew all the complexity and detail, but always simplified it to memorable bullet points for the voting public.

    Some lessons there for Shearer – know precisely what it is you are thinking, and what you want to say. Key may not be a favourite around these parts – fair enough, ya pays yer money and ya takes yer pick – but he is very very good at sticking to the message, without getting sucked into qualifying and explaining what he doesn’t want to discuss, and not getting rattled. As was Helen Clark before him.

  16. Pjr – I think you are missing the point media training is not sugar coating – that’s called spin doctoring or PR at it’s darker side.

    Your comment once processed through the editorial machine could come out
    PJR says Key is a cold fish
    PJR says media training is just sugar coating of bad messages

    Or worse it would be completely ignored as too mushy

  17. Hey Kimbo you got it! Methinks you have the making of a good media trainer .

  18. @ Richard Aston

    “Hey Kimbo you got it! Methinks you have the making of a good media trainer”.

    Not me! I suffer from a Tourette’s Syndrome-like trait of always needing to respond to questions and comments – just ask my friends Dean Papa and Ross!! Not a good practice for politicians!

    Just thinking through poor old Bill Rowling a bit more – it helps to get support from the right places. The sort of folks attracted to him, e.g., the academics and clerics who fronted for the “Citizens for Rowling” (which was actually a hypocritical personal attack on Muldoon) were actually bad for Rowling’s overall “brand” . Made him look like he needed the pointy heads to bail him out.

    That, and like Jack Marshall (another who lost to Muldoon), Rowling was always seemingly whining about the ungentlemanly “style” of politics – which was a sanctimonious and hypocritical personal attack on Muldoon.

    Bob Jones may have put the initial “weakling” tag on Rowling, but it didn’t have to stay that way. What is forgotten is that Muldoon was a highly polarising figure, who lost the popular vote in two elections he won, and there was a palpable sigh of relief, including within the National party, when he eventually lost power. Muldoon’s dominance of a decade wasn’t a certain thing. But instead of looking long and hard in the mirror, Rowlings’ supporters fixated on Dancing Cossacks, the Moyle incident, and the rude ogre from Tamaki…

  19. 19

    “I would have thought a capital gains tax and raising the entitlement age for the pension fitted those criteria absolutely.”

    Not in my humble opinion. The CGT will create yet another large bureaucratic documentations and avoidance industry and yield minimal revenue as IRD has said. Raising the entitlement age will make a marginal difference to a problem that can only be solved by fixing the demographics, the education of too many Maori and PI youth and improving productivity.

    Neither will make the slightest difference to the wealth and prosperity of this country.

  20. Alan, you may be right about the retirement age, it should actually be lowered so everyone can take full advantage of Nationals ‘brighter future’ that is ahead. If only that were true.

  21. 21

    I was hoping for some clarification. Chris Trotter thinks those born after 1966 will lose if the retirement age rises to 67. He suggests baby boomers were born before 1966. Douglas Coupland who wrote Generation X and who coined the phrase said they were the generation born between 1961 and 1971. So what is the cut off date for baby boomerism? Can anyone help please?

  22. Bit hard to make real headway in the image stakes when one guy in the ill-fitting “Hallenstein’s” suit goes up against another who’s wearing Armani.
    Even worse, the media trainer for the underdog sourced his threads from the sallies op shop.

  23. “I was hoping for some clarification. Chris Trotter thinks those born after 1966 will lose if the retirement age rises to 67. He suggests baby boomers were born before 1966. Douglas Coupland who wrote Generation X and who coined the phrase said they were the generation born between 1961 and 1971. So what is the cut off date for baby boomerism? Can anyone help please?”

    Probably not. A generation in this sense is not, as the philosophers say, a natural kind, but a convention. Depending upon what contrast you want to make (whether or not that contrast actually fits the facts, for it may not), the tail end of the baby boom will vary.

    The contrast that people are trying to make in this context is between those who did well out of both the post war political and economic settlement and the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s onward. Note that I don’t necessarily mean doing well as pertains to results (although that is generally true), but in terms of opportunities. Here’s my take.

    Pretty much everyone born between 1946 and 1955 had exceptional opportunities. Finding employment to start a career was exceptionally easy by today’s standards, the welfare state was very generous, university education was, if not free, affordable (especially with the summer jobs that were easy to find and well paying, and the fact that many people were sent to university by their government employers), and most importantly, housing was more affordable (and there were various schemes that made it easier: my parents were basically given a house and my wife’s parents had a ridiculously easy government loan to get theirs). By the time these people got old enough to start paying more into the system than they were taking out (mid thirties), they voted in neoliberal governments who lowered their tax burden and increased costs on the next generation.

    Those born between 1955 and 1965 are different. They hit the workforce as things started to slow down and employment was harder to find. If they were high school leavers or high school graduates, they had fewer opportunities than those immediately before them. On the other hand, for those who entered tertiary education, it was more or less the same as before.

    Those born after 1965 had, for the most part, different experiences, especially those born after 1974. Educational expectations have shot up, and the student loan scheme and abolition of allowances for most people meant massive cost hikes. Note that most of the changes hit people born in the early seventies first. When I left high school in 1990, apprenticeships had been radically cut back and it was really hard to find a job. Many of my friends whose parents owned their own homes and who were decently off have struggled to get anywhere near what their parents had, unless they went to university (and even that seems to be more difficult now).

    When people moan about boomers, they primary mean all those between 46 and 55 and the better off who were born between 55-65. That’s why, in my view, it’s a bit of a confusing notion. But it does highlight an obvious problem caused by such a massive cohort entering the democratic system.

  24. @ Jeremy Anderson

    “So what is the cut off date for baby boomerism? Can anyone help please?”.

    I always thought it was about 1963-64 (I was born just outside the range so I don’t qualify), and that is what this link says…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer

  25. 25

    Lee Churchman, not true. I was born in 1945 and married in 1967. We bought a house in 1973 by taking on 3 mortgages and certainly with no Government help. As a baby-boomer I contributed to the demand that saw the previous generation depleted by war take advantage of a tremendous surge of employment. In my speciality of chemistry the university staff had doubled by the time we graduated but then almost no further appointments were made after we graduated. Almost all of us went overseas and many stayed there. A large proportion of us found careers in newly opening areas especially computing. Most of us lived at home until we graduated and almost none of us owned a car.

    Basically we had to be thrifty, work hard and be very adaptable. Not much has changed.

  26. “Lee Churchman, not true. I was born in 1945 and married in 1967. We bought a house in 1973 by taking on 3 mortgages and certainly with no Government help.”

    Your logic rises to its usual standard of impeccability…

    To summarize: you got a mostly free education, bought an affordable house, sponged off your parents whilst at university, and found career opportunities plentiful when you graduated. Cool story, bro…

    I don’t think anyone has said that no baby boomers worked hard. The complaint is that the opportunities are lesser – a subtle difference, but an important one.

  27. 27

    Lee, I think you will find that we left home considerably sooner than the current generation who seem unable to grow up until their late thirties if then. Of course you will claim that is because we could buy cheaper houses but they were simple, small and in the outer suburbs. The “free” tertiary education was available – if you made it into the top 5% of students or bonded yourself to teaching.

    There are far more opportunities to start a business now than there were then when the Government gave import licences only to its mates. However, excessive bureaucracy and silly environmentalism continues to stymie opportunities today.

  28. “Lee, I think you will find that we left home considerably sooner than the current generation who seem unable to grow up until their late thirties if then.”

    People leave home when they can afford to. Usually, when they have a full time job or equivalent income. Given how easy it was to find work when the government had a policy of full employment, this independence could be easily enjoyed by boomers. Not so for the rest of us.

    I find it comical to have a boomer tell me I need to grow up. Your generation are the eternal adolescents.

    “Of course you will claim that is because we could buy cheaper houses but they were simple, small and in the outer suburbs.”

    I own such a house. I like it. That does not change the fact that I had to pay much more for it as a multiple of the average yearly income than people my parents age paid for their first home (nobody gave me a single cent either). Nor does it change the fact that one reason for the high prices is the large number of boomers buying homes as investments. I consider myself lucky in that I was strong enough academically to do pretty much whatever I wanted and still get by. Others I grew up with have been less fortunate. Most are worse off than their parents.

    “The “free” tertiary education was available – if you made it into the top 5% of students or bonded yourself to teaching.”

    It was also “not necessary” to have a tertiary qualification if you wanted a decent job. Now it is, which is somewhat of a joke, since most people with university degrees would make a better contribution if they were trained on the job. A higher proportion of people are now paying for their own training, whereas their parents learned on the job and were paid for doing it. We could easily afford tertiary education if we wasted less money on pointless tax cuts based on generational selfishness masquerading as bad economic theory.

    “There are far more opportunities to start a business now than there were then when the Government gave import licences only to its mates.”

    Non sequitur.

    “However, excessive bureaucracy and silly environmentalism continues to stymie opportunities today.”

    I believe this is called “derp”. You just lost any residual respect I had for you.

    Deregulation has destroyed more wealth than any bureaucracy or environmental policy could manage. Perhaps you have been in a coma for the past five years, or I guess that you want to blame that on government too.

  29. David Shearer is getting media training from Ian Fraser. Small stuff at one level, but serious stuff when it comes putting together the package that will get rid of Key ASAP and improve the lot of the PAYE worker. Three observations.
    One: during the leadership debates in Dec ’11 Shearer acknowledged his weakness in this area and said he would ave to do something about it. Eight months later…WTF….no sense of urgency or criticality.
    Two: Ian Fraser is a dinosaur who made his bones in Muldoon’s time. He was a cot case in TVNZ and a cringe case in the NZSO. He is a total sycophant: that is how he got those gigs. He will blow so much smoke up Shearer’s arse that he will increase the level of disconnection from some serious realities.
    Three: what type of twits are advising Shearer? Why has it taken so long? Why Fraser? Why publicise such a gormless situation?
    You have been to coy, Brian.

    BE: “You have been too coy, Brian.” Nothing to do with coyness. I simply don’t know the answer to those questions.

  30. “Nor does it change the fact that one reason for the high prices is the large number of boomers buying homes as investments.”

    I don’t think that’s true, Lee. There are two kinds of buyers – the owner occupiers can afford to pay a bit more for the house they want – if they’re going to stay there for 10 or 15 years, paying an extra $25k on a half million house becomes irrelevant. But it’s not irrelevant to an investor – every dollar counts on every horse you back. You wouldn’t pay over the odds for Warehouse shares or gold bullion, and nor would you for a house. Houses cost fortunes because property appreciation is ingrained into the buyer’s psyche – they just go up because they always have.

    Usual disclaimers – we don’t own residential property.

    It’s tough on our kids, but that’s the way things happen. But our 20-something friends have just bought a neat 3 bed GJ in Manukau, with a spa and an electric garage door. I’ve never had a spa and I was opening my garage doors manually until I was 59.

  31. Anyone hoping to knock Shearer into something resembling a communicator would no doubt realise the enormity of the task, had they heard Key on Radio Live this afternoon. The man is simply remarkable in that context.

  32. 32

    Lee, you evidently enjoy the socialist ghetto at Waikato as well as the large chip on your shoulder. However you overlook that the rampant house price inflation you deplore occurred during your beloved Labour government and much of it is directly due to excessive and badly conceived regulation of land and building.

    I’m not going to return the insults to you or your generation – just wish for you to grow older, wiser and happier some day.

  33. 33

    Negligent Holdings Ltd

    you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

  34. @ Lee Churchman

    Not wanting to push in on your love-fest with Alan Wilkinson, Lee, but if you could please clarify/respond to the following: -

    “…most importantly, housing was more affordable (and there were various schemes that made it easier: my parents were basically given a house and my wife’s parents had a ridiculously easy government loan to get theirs”

    Uh, huh. I remember my dad getting a subsidised public service mortgage in the mid-1970s so we could buy our first home. The downside of that was the high tax rates (up to 66% at one stage), so there is no such thing as “cheap”, or “free” (like the education you mentioned – incidentally I was one of the first to take out and pay back a student loan, but I personally don’t have a problem with that, or what happened before).

    Those high tax rates meant that even in the days of “full employment”, people often wouldn’t work overtime and increase productivity for their employer and the nation because the extra tax they would pay didn’t make it worth their while. I take it you prefer a return to that scenario (and fair enough if you do, although I’ll opt out if given the choice, thanks very much…)?

    “Nor does it change the fact that one reason for the high prices is the large number of boomers buying homes as investments.”.

    Why does it matter who buys them, when it is the limited supply that determines prices? Put another way, wouldn’t house prices fall if people, be they first home owners/developers/investors, were allowed to readily build?

    But I do agree with your comments on what passes fro University education. Apprenticeships were a valid and valuable means of training, and often far more useful than the plethora of student loan-subsidised NZQA approved nothing courses looking for cannon fodder to prop up their empires…

  35. BE: “Nothing to do with coyness. I simply don’t know the answer to those questions”.

    But you do! Ask the TVNZ staffers how Ian Fraser is best remembered by. They will tell you – he was somewhere between a spurned Miss Havisham and Edward Rochester’s attic-cloistered wife.

  36. Kimbo, those high tax rates, good heavens, it seems we agree on something!

  37. @ Kat

    “Kimbo, those high tax rates, good heavens, it seems we agree on something!”

    I think not! You may have missed the phrase, “downside”.

    However, if you think high taxes are required to initially fund subsidised mortgages for “average” (to quote Lee Churchman) income earners (with the unintended consequence of eventually bankrupting the nation), then yeah, we agree!

    Lee Churchman harks back to a golden age of “full employment”. Seems to me that magic window between 1940 and about 1973 was built on a single export market (UK) for a single range of (agricultural) products. No matter how you shuffle the equity cards (and utilise class, race, gender, or generational warfare to try and grab a share of the diminishing national dividend), that era was a one-off, and it’s never coming back.

    But if you think raising the tax rates without inducing a capital and talent flight/movement to brighter pastures won’t eventuate, I admire your idealism, but not your judgement.

    Lee Churchman and others can call that “selfishness” all they want, and depending on how you you look at it, you and he may be right. However, it is tilting at windmills to try and fight it. Instead, IMHO better to increase the opportunities for competition (and Alan is right – they were far less for the baby-boomers before the dreaded 1984 watershed), so that there is more likelihood of affordable houses, and food, and power, and jobs…

    You can’t fight human nature, which manifests itself in the mega-trends of history such as technology, trade, and a desire for progress.

    Which brings us back to Shearer and Labour. Shearer is a good guy, but I wonder if the real problem is not so much his inability to communicate, but lack of a coherent message. I’d suggest in his heart of hearts he probably agrees with the “market is usually best” message – but he’s having a hell of a job phrasing it in such a way that,

    1. he doesn’t induce a pitchfork and torch bearing mob of the left-wing faithful seeking to purge the new Roger Douglas in their midst, but if he over-compensates he will…

    2. scare the horses with the suspicion he’s a tax-and-spend socialist, and

    3. the electorate is probably fatigued by messages of impending ecological and economic guilt and doom unless we all repent in sack cloth and ashes for following the false prophet of sunny optimism, John Key

    No wonder the poor man is having trouble with his communication style!

  38. Is anyone around her old enough to remember ill Rowling?

    Mr nice guy.

    Mr no show at election time.

  39. Whatever is to be done with Shearer had better be done quickly. This government should be sinking without trace yet the latest clutch of polls show Key and National still riding high.

    The first thing that Shearer might do is remove the cloak of invisibilty that surrounds him. On the odd occasions when he does materialise he seems to be no more than an after thought to that JK has just said. His comment on the deaths of two soldiers in Afghanistan managed to be totally unmemorable. I am sure he cares but how about showing some passion?

  40. David Shearer will be Prime Minister of New Zealand in the very near future. Which – more importantly – means that Labour will once more be in Government, and People again will be priority rather than things. The tide is turning, as it always does. And it needs to turn: the election of a party for the People in NZ will mean for many the very real difference between eating or not, getting an education or not, staying in NZ or not, getting Mental Health care or not, buying firewood or not, feeling valued or not, being part of society…or not. Roll on a new Labour Government with David Shearer as the new Labour Prime Minister. The issue is not just about ethereal or virtual media musings and soundbites though I concede, it is important – please remember, the implementation of these parties’ fundamental policies means fundamental and sometimes life-changing street level actions or inactions for all of us. Brian, I think you really care about New Zealand and Labour, and consequently David Shearer. It will be amazing when you share your expert advice with him. Please find a way some time soon… for New Zealand’s sake.

  41. “David Shearer will be Prime Minister of New Zealand in the very near future”.

    God forbid. And anyone wishing to bring their kids up in a society, where only hard work is rewarded with an increased standard of living, will be heading for the airport.

  42. “David Shearer will be Prime Minister of New Zealand in the very near future. ”
    Shelley I wished I shared your optimism.

    On current polling its likely to be a coalition with a strong Green component. The Maori party may just survive and Hone will get in, Winston – god I hope he doesn’t but people still like him, all amounting to a broad based coalition. How will Shearer or Labour for that matter manager that?
    Will the Greens ask for a co leader role? Why not. I reckon Russel Norman has been doing very well recently, media wise.

    But if Labour and Shearer as leader don’t get their communications act together they could just fall between the cracks and only become the larger minor party in a wide coalition.
    Their policies will get diluted, Shearer will have to compete in the media space with Norman, Hone, Winston maybe and whoever the Maori party puts up.

  43. Whatever Shearer’s virtues, he’s not a Leader with a capital L. Neither was Goff. Poor old Labour, sold its soul to Helen and they still can’t find where they misplaced it.