Monday, June 15, 2009

ResRep in Jordan to replace Helen Clark at the helm of Labour in New Zealand

Labour's newest MP, David Shearer, was very gracious in victory yesterday after his landslide in Mt Albert.

While National rival Melissa Lee went to ground after her heavy loss in Saturday's byelection, Mr Shearer described her as someone with "a huge amount of courage and guts".

"In many of the debates she made some really good points and particularly towards the end she was getting better and scoring more."

It is not surprising that the harshest criticism of Mr Shearer, besides running a safe and dull campaign, is that he might be too nice a person to be an MP and has no mean streak.

He disagrees - not that he has a mean streak, but that one has to have one to be a politician.

"I don't think you need to be nasty about it. You need to be strong. But when you play the ball you play it hard."

It is third time lucky for Mr Shearer who stood for Labour in 1999 and 2002.

Mr Shearer will be welcomed to the Labour caucus tomorrow morning by leader Phil Goff, a good friend and former boss when he worked for him when he was Foreign Minister.

Mr Goff was as jubilant as anyone about the win, his first real success since being handed the leadership in November by former Prime Minister Helen Clark. He declared it the end to National's "honeymoon" and said Labour would redouble its efforts and win the 2011 election.

Mr Shearer said it was an important win for Mr Goff's leadership "but I think it was more important for the party - that this is the beginning of the return and pride was coming back in again and that Phil is a highly credible leader who can lead them to the next election".

"In some ways it was a test for him and he came through with flying colours."

Mr Shearer acknowledged the Labour Party machine that had helped to campaign for the byelection.

The party had 400 helpers on the ground on Saturday - 200 scrutineers and 200 door-knocking to make sure people had voted.

One scrutineer from another party had told him "you own this electorate".

Mr Shearer, who has most recently been the United Nations' No 2 man in Baghdad, and the United Nations Development (UNDP) programme's No 1 man, will now move his family back to New Zealand from Jordan.

One of the ironies, had he not won, was that he would have had to have negotiated with Helen Clark, now head of the UNDP, to regain his post in Baghdad.

But Mr Shearer scored an overwhelming victory with 12,613 votes and 63 per cent of the vote.

That was 9187 ahead of Melissa Lee on 3426 votes and 17 per cent.

Helen Clark telephoned Mr Shearer from the Congo on Saturday and asked for all the details.

Mr Shearer told her about the majority. He did not tell her that his percentage of the vote was higher than her 59.29 per cent at last year's election.

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