Mar 28, 2011

Harden up, Labour

The more I think about Phil Goff and the events of the past few days the more unlikely it seems, in my mind at least, that Goff will be able to form a coalition government post-election. Ultimately, Goff does not have the ability to bring together and manage a coalition of competing and disparate interests. The Darren Hughes controversy and the Parekura/Nanaia rebuke indicates, in incredibly stark terms, that Goff is a political amateur.

For the sake of this post let’s say Labour’s coalition arrangement post election will be Labour/Winston/the Greens/Hone Harawira. Managing this coalition would be problematic for even the most competent political manager. The four parties share some common ground on economic issues, for example foreign ownership, yet in almost all other respects the four parties differ significantly. There is little ideological common ground between Winston (or should I say New Zealand First) and the Greens/Hone Harawira. The three will almost certainly be at logger heads on almost everything. Take the foreshore and seabed. Nationalisation of the foreshore and seabed is bedrock policy for Winston. The issue will form the basis of his campaign and, assuming he is re-elected, will probably feature in any agreement he signs. On the other hand, the Greens and Hone Harawira will be campaigning on the amending the current act with the intention of strengthening Maori rights. Hone Harawira will accept no less. Which brings me to the question, how will Goff, an appalling political manager, reconcile Winston’s position with the Greens/Hone Harawira’s position. That is assuming Goff even has the ability to pull together a coalition in the first place.

I am of the view that it is beyond Goff to even attempt to pull together such an incongruent coalition. If Goff cannot even form and maintain a functioning and effective opposition, how the hell is he going to form and maintain a functioning government, let alone an effective one.

The Darren Hughes controversy has shown, once again, that Goff’s judgement is poor. The Parekura/Nanaia rebuke illustrates that Goff is presiding over a divided caucus as well as an ill-disciplined caucus that is ostracised from the decision making process. The Goffice has adopted a top down approach to political management. The decisions are made at the top, by Goff’s advisors, while the party is informed after the fact and expected to swallow the political poison that results. No wonder there are whispers of discontent. If Goff were to continue this approach in government, he will soon find his partners on the cross benches. 

If Goff cannot control his own party he sure as hell cannot control Hone Harawira and Winston Peters. Ultimately, Goff does not have the political nous required to hold together a coalition of disparate and competing interests. Therefore, Goff needs to go. The left will need a skilled and intuitive political manager if we are to have any hope of forming the next government. I am hesitant to put forward any names, having said that I do like the sound of David Parker and Shane Jones as deputy, or even David Cunliffe at number one and Shane at number two. Broadly speaking, Parker and Cunliffe speak to identity politics while Jones speaks to class politics.

Sadly, Goff has been harshly criticised – I actually think quite unjustly at times. However, Goff is always one step behind and one step out of line with everything he does. The left cannot afford to go into the election with someone so terrible. Labour has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The party has polled at around 30-35% consistently. This indicates their base is solid and probably will not move. Goff is the problem. Labour’s policy resonates with the electorate, the problem is the face, and in some cases faces, of that policy. What is the harm in replacing a leader who is deeply unpopular with the electorate?

Balls up Labour. If not, you deserve to lose.   


  1. I wholeheartedly agree that Goff has no chance of winning November. But I think it's too late for a new face to save Labour this election. Were any of the competent contenders to roll Goff now they would simply get nobbled in November and be associated with one of Labour's worst electoral defeats. None of the possibilities want the leadership badly enough to take it this election.

    They will all hold their noses and wait for Goff to lose in November, and then pull the knives out and have him gone before Parliament resumes in 2012.

  2. Hi Matt,

    Most politicians are arrogant enough to think that they can win in most circumstances. I do not think that the circumstances, as they currently are, point towards total disaster. The party's poor performance can be laid at the feet of Goff and to a lesser extent the memory of the last Labour term and the lingering ghost of Helen Clark. I also think the media, and I know many informed commentators disagree with this notion, is plays some part in reinforcing negative perceptions.

    If a new leader could come in, do away with the past and steer the party in a new direction - then Labour might have a better chance. I do not buy the line that if Goff were to go the party is doomed. Goff is a government's wet dream and an electorate’s nightmare. There will be no harm in doing away with an incompetent and unloved leader.

  3. Goff has already ruled out Harawira, and thank god for that too! Who would want to rely on that crazy-arse radical for any reason? Totally the right call. I would love to see a Labour-NZ First coalition. I like the Greens' environmental policies and I admire Russell Norman, but wouldn't trust them with foreign policy issues. Winston gets my vote for his stance on the foreshore and seabed, all 100% of it should be renationalised.



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