Mallard likens Shearer to Norman Kirk

Credibility on David Shearer’s leadership isn’t helped by over the top claims. Trevor Mallard has likened Shearer to Norman Kirk.

There weren’t any Tui billboards in big Norm’s day.

Last week in a Stuff political brief:

Mallard allusion to Kirk well-timed for reshuffle

It fell to local MP Trevor Mallard to give a vote of thanks to leader David Shearer, who visited his Hutt South electorate yesterday to deliver his scene-setting speech ahead of the resumption of Parliament tomorrow.

Mr Mallard mentioned the inspirational quality of his leader in the same breath as Norm Kirk, who led the party to victory in 1972. 

And this morning the NZ Herald reports:

Labour MPs voting on the leadership this morning are expected to overwhelmingly back leader David Shearer – whom Shearer loyalist Trevor Mallard is likening to the late Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk.

That’s a big call that many will see as a ludicrous or hilarious comparison.

But Mr Mallard, in his thank-you speech, likened Mr Shearer’s speech to the first he heard from Mr Kirk on the steps of the Wellington City Library in 1972, the year of his landslide win.

Mr Mallard told the Herald that Mr Kirk had referred to the state housing programme of the then National Government as creating “little boxes to send the workers home to at night”.

It was at the time of massive lower-quality state house building such as in Porirua and South Auckland, Mr Mallard said.

Mr Kirk injected a feeling of hope, which Mr Shearer also did.

“There is something there about having something to hope for, something to dream about. Shearer, possibly because he has spent so much time overseas, sees that as important for New Zealand.”

Mr Mallard said there were other similarities too. “They are both real Kiwis but both are a bit diffident.”

Other politicians of the day such as Sir Robert Muldoon and Bob Tizard were much more in your face, “whereas Kirk and Shearer would be more like the people down at the footy club”.

I don’t know where Shearer is injecting hope, that is not evident in what I’ve seem – far more apparent is frustration, despair and real concern about the future of Labour. Wikipedia:

Throughout his political career, Kirk promoted the welfare state, supporting government spending for housing, health, employment, and education.

As such, Kirk often appeared as a champion for ordinary New Zealanders.

His working-class background also gave him some advantage, as ordinary voters saw many other politicians as out-of-touch and aloof.

And from his biography at

Kirk had joined the New Zealand Labour Party in 1943 and now set about building the membership of its Kaiapoi branch. He was soon chairman of the branch and in 1951 became chairman of the Hurunui Labour Representation Committee.

In 1954 Kirk stood for Parliament in the Hurunui electorate. He improved Labour’s share of the vote, but lost.

He won nomination for Lyttelton for the 1957 general election. A seat with a long Labour tradition, it had slipped narrowly from Labour’s grasp in 1951.  On 30 November 1957 Kirk was elected to Parliament by 567 votes.

At 35 Kirk was huge. He was described as having ‘a resolute chin, a twinkling eye, a charming smile, and an impish wit’.

He shone in debates, and Nash predicted that Kirk would one day be prime minister.

He was elected vice president of the party in 1963; in May 1964 he became president, holding the position until 1966.

On 9 December 1965, by the unexpectedly wide margin of 25 to 10, the 42-year-old Kirk became leader of the parliamentary Labour Party, and leader of the opposition.

Kirk had extensive experience working his way up the party. He was an MP for eight years before becoming leader.

Likening Shearer to Kirk will puzzle and amuse many, Shearer is as similar to big Norm as a UN troubleshooter is to a stationary engine driver, or Mallard is similar to an adept political strategist.

Or is Mallard alluding to the fact that it took Kirk seven years as leader to win an election, losing in 1966 and 1969 before winning in 1972.

Not surprisingly Eddie at The Standard is incredulous:

To be fair to Shearer he’s stuttering a bit less these days but “Norman Kirk”? What’s Trevor’s next claim? Phil Goff reminds him of Ghandi? Annette King is New Zealand’s answer to Mother Teresa? Between this and his absurd play for speaker it seems Trevor’s (hopefully imminent) retirement plan is stand-up comedy. He certainly gave me a laugh this morning…

Just what Shearer needed on his big day of endorsement – overshadowed by nonsense from Mallard. Deliberate diversion or just dumb?

1 Comment

  1. Darryl

     /  February 4, 2013

    Mallard’s comment has to be the joke of the week. Shearer like Norm Kirk, who does he think he is fooling. It says a lot about the Labour Party. I have never seen such a hopeless Labour Party.