Not many people know (or remember) but for a week – just long enough to fulfill one official commitment – after Darren Hughes was sacked, David Shearer was Labour’s education spokesman. For some unexplained reason he had the portfolio taken off him and it was given to Sue Moroney.
Its time he took it back!
David was a teacher, his wife was a teacher, he comes from a long line of teachers and he has a real passion for education. He also has a number of great ideas for the sector and has made it one of his key leadership themes. Peter Fraser and David Lange both took the education portfolio as Labour Prime Ministers (and one could do worse than emulate these great men), so the precedent exists for a Labour leader to run education.
Now David and I were best friends in the 2008-2011 Labour caucus. I have seen, heard and discussed enough ideas to believe that David will make a very good Prime Minister. I am also honest enough to admit the public has only seen glimpses of the passion, drive and energy I know exists within the man. There are many reasons for this; and not all of David’s making (for a start, how about hiring Kim Dotcom’s strategic PR person). What David does need, however, is a cause and a passion that complements his leadership responsibilities and within a portfolio area that he can really make his own: the ability to drive change and lead the debate in the education sector gives him both.
The other reason is that the leader has first call on any story and the majority of the resource in the leader’s office is devoted to supporting the leadership. If managed strategically by Labour’s communications team, education could continue to dominate the political landscape for the remainder of the term. By taking it on David not only eliminates the risk of pissing off his alternative spokesperson by always claiming the story, but he has the full mandate to go hard, and often. It also means that he can devote scarce leaders office resource to finding new stories and new angles on existing stories.
Education is very important to Labour and to middle New Zealand. Successfully communicating passion, commitment, drive and energy is important to any leader of the opposition wishing to transition to Prime Minister. Managing the education portfolio gives David the ability to shine: something he now needs to do.
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