The Dim-Post

July 27, 2011

What is to be done?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:27 pm

The latest Fairfax poll has Labour on 28%, cementing the expectation that the main opposition party is heading for a bloodbath in November.

Labour’s MPs – especially those list MPs contemplating a sudden and unwanted year end career change  – will be convincing themselves that the polls will tighten once they enter the formal election campaign. After all, that’s what happened back in ’08.

The trouble with that theory is that Helen Clark was a very formidable, very experienced campaigner, and Phil Goff is . . . not. Goff’s leadership qualities (or lack thereof) are more likely to cost the party additional support during the campaign. Consider his latest escapade in which he transformed the story about alleged Israeli spies(?) into a debate about Goff’s own integrity and ‘what he knew when’. Does Labour really want similar vignettes playing out every week of the election campaign? For six weeks?

My point is that there’s no downside to replacing Goff as leader, even at this late stage. The voters are adamant: they don’t like him. A leadership change is a signal that Labour are actually listening to what the voters are telling them. I’d also argue that there’s no political downside to an individual taking over a party that’s headed for certain defeat: all the new leader has to do is return an election result in the mid-30s and they’ll be safe. If none of Labour’s prospective leaders think they can do that then why should they ever be in charge of the party?

And the timing is actually pretty good. A coup in the next few weeks means you get a sudden flurry of publicity, then a six week break during the Rugby World Cup to put a new leadership team in place and plan a campaign strategy.

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31 Comments »

  1. This title is made of win, even if I disagree with the post.

    The time for a coup has passed. It could have gone ahead earlier in the year, but post-CGT it is too late. With Goff as leader Labour hasn’t improved its polling situation, but it hasn’t substantively worsened either; allowing for the usual tightening close to the election things are tracking tolerably close to last time. There is clearly a solid base of ~25% of the electorate who will simply vote for Labour. The downside risk is that a leadership change — even if not consumed by factional infighting — will confuse the electorate and put this baseline of support at risk. That, more than anything, will make it easier for National to gain an outright majority (or worse, a majority reachable only in coalition with a resurgent ACT), and thus a mandate to enact whatever they please over the coming term.

    The best play for Labour at present is to work on preventing National from achieving a commanding majority, and work on the bloodletting later.

    L

    Comment by Lew — July 27, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  2. To expand — many people are comparing this election to 2002, when National was at its nadir. But the difference is that, even then, Labour was not in a position to form a majority government on its own. The risk of National doing so without constraint now is something we’ve not seen since 1993.

    L

    Comment by Lew — July 27, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  3. If Labour changes leaders now they’ll look like panic-merchants who change course on a bad poll – which isn’t what is wanted in a country’s leadership. For better or worse they have to stay the course with Goff until the election, and at least *look* like they’re a cohesive group with the best interests of the country at heart. Who knows: If they fake it long enough, cohesion and good ideas might just become habit-forming.

    Comment by Ataahua — July 27, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

  4. he transformed the story about alleged Israeli spies(?) into a debate about Goff’s own integrity and ‘what he knew when’

    …yeah… I think you might be giving Goff too much agency in shaping the media narrative here. I think it’s more about news organisations hostile to the Labour Party transforming the story and Goff not being able to stop them.

    Not to say that a good leader shouldn’t be able to stop them. But the way you’ve put it it almost makes it look like Goff voluntarily decided to launch this discussion, which would be retarded, so all Labour needs is a non-retarded leader to do better. But if it’s a matter of deftly maneuvering around a hostile media, that’s a tougher ask, and it’s possible any of Goff’s potential replacements would do just as badly.

    Having said all that, the last time Labour were looking this weak heading into an election, waaaay back in 1990, they did indeed switch leaders just before the polls, and it did work for them.

    But really Danyl if you are going to call for a new Labour leader I think you really need to commit to a name. This whole “anybody but Goff” thing lacks teeth.

    Comment by Hugh — July 27, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

  5. Goff had an opprotunity to challenge a rumour campaign run by the media via anonymous sources but chose a cheap shot at Key. It back-fired, what a surprise.

    I think that sums up the Labour Party of the last 3 years.

    Goff will go once they lose but I don’t see why the remaing senior figures will start acting any better.

    Comment by NeilM — July 27, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  6. many people are comparing this election to 2002, when National was at its nadir. But the difference is that, even then, Labour was not in a position to form a majority government on its own.

    I’m annoyed that nothing I’ve read in the msm is pointing out this very obvious truth. If I can remember back that far, why on earth can’t Fairfux? All they are doing is cementing the idea in many voters’ minds, that voting against National in the upcoming election is pointless.

    Comment by Purple-Shirted Eye Stabber — July 27, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

  7. The most depressing thing for me is that after three years Labour still seems to have little idea about how to go about unlocking the vice-like grip the carefully cultivated cult of on Key has on the electorate, or even acknowledging they are being out-played. Good policy is all fine and dandy and probably seems the perfect solution for the political managerialists who make up the Labour party senior parliamentary team, but good policy is no damned good without good politics to get you elected.

    The complacent careerists who make up the top 20 of the Labour list have forgotten they are dirty, filthy, pig wrestling politicians first and foremost. They need to re-discover politics if they want to defeat National.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 27, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

  8. The risk of National doing so without constraint now is something we’ve not seen since 1993.

    Party vote for the Maori Party is one solution, if it’s going to be National then a strong MP would a positive moderating force.

    Comment by NeilM — July 27, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  9. But it isn’t just Goff.

    He isn’t a general being followed into battle by loyal troops. But nor is he facing a mutiny. He says “Follow me!” and charges, and then turns around to see … his lieutenants and NCOs whistling and looking skywards.

    The Labour caucus want Goff to lead the party for their own reasons. Either because they’re past it and settling for three more years seat-warming, or young and waiting for their chance in the future.

    Danyl’s argument for change in Labour’s leadership has been consistent and logical over many months, based on the reasonable premise that usually applies in elections – that an opposition party really, hungrily, passionately, absolutely wants to win.

    But the premise is wrong.

    Comment by sammy — July 27, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  10. “all the new leader has to do is return an election result in the mid-30s and they’ll be safe”

    Also, having a leader for the 2014 election who has had the experience of taking the party through an election campaign before is probably a good thing. Let them do their learning on one they’re never going to win, rather than an election that matters.

    Comment by Dr Foster — July 27, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  11. The Labour caucus want Goff to lead the party for their own reasons. Either because they’re past it and settling for three more years seat-warming, or young and waiting for their chance in the future.

    Speaking as an ordinary guy who votes to get people in parliament to represent his interests and those of everyone else, knowing that this is true makes my blood boil. I want a Labour party fighting hard to prevent the other guys selling our stuff, crapping on the weak and cutting services that we pay a buttload of tax for.

    Comment by Purple-Shirted Eye Stabber — July 27, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  12. but is it 28 or 29. The headline in the dom-post says 28%, the article in stuff says 29%
    whats going on?

    Comment by Luke — July 27, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  13. The complacent careerists who make up the top 20 of the Labour list have forgotten they are dirty, filthy, pig wrestling politicians first and foremost.

    95% of the time Labour tries to do this, it backfires. The screams of “smear tactics” and “focus on the issues” are deafening. David Benson-Pope, the most prominent Labour exponent of dirty wrestling, is almost discredited.

    Labour has had some success in this area – Pansy Wong and Richard Worth in particular – but for every success, there’s a repainting of Premier House, supposed overuse of DPS and others that are just shrugged off.

    Comment by Jordan — July 27, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  14. I’m not sure that there is an obvious leader who isn’t Goff. Frankly, Labour has been so useless in the past couple of years that I’m not going to vote for them. Even though I find their policies considerably better than National’s (apparent) policies.

    I’m going to vote Mana instead.

    The other possibility could be that the polls are useless. Which, on past form, seems to be a real possibility. Although whether they are useless enough to explain the current poll deficit is another question.

    Comment by Richard — July 27, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  15. I wish Goff would have the courage to resign and force a replacement on the cowards unwilling to push him. It’s the best thing he could do to earn himself some credibility and fond recollections rather than the fall into being forever despised presiding over his parties likely catastrophe this election will earn him.

    Comment by Fentex — July 27, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  16. “David Benson-Pope, the most prominent Labour exponent of dirty wrestling, is almost discredited.”

    Text book perfect use of understatement there, Jordan

    Comment by Tinakori — July 27, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

  17. “…95% of the time Labour tries to do this, it backfires…”

    But Jordan – they don’t. They sling mud and accusations, but they don’t play politics.

    Maybe to use a rugby analogy, they are like a rugby team of old, lazy professionals who all know they’ve got a watertight three year contract. They don’t really want to do the hard yards, play for postion or think about the game at a higher level. They want to score from every move and give up easily. Then they sit around wondering why, with such perfect gym attendance record, they are not winning.

    Kind of like the Hurricanes really – and like the Hurricanes, they heed a new coach and a new attitude.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 27, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  18. The only people who will still be voting for Labour come the election are people who are *always* going to vote Labour – a leadership change simply cannot hurt … But agree with the question whether there actually is anyone else

    Comment by Casey — July 27, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

  19. What Labour lacks is a Heather Simpson to ensure Phil Goff doesn’t keep tripping over his undone shoelaces. The reason suicidal Phil, and his untied shoelaces, are leading this uncharismatic rabble to defeat is simply because no viable alternatives currently exist within the party, and none of the rabble want to be seen helping Phil, in case it damages their future options.

    The “undecided” voters aren’t going to be impressed by the consistent incompetence as Labour pretends they can shatter John Key’s popularity. They can’t. Voters don’t like some National policies, but not enough to trust this rabble with government.

    Phil may get some underdog sympathy vote, but I suspect many voters will simply not bother voting with such appalling choices available.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — July 27, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  20. Actually, you guys are all being suckered by Labour’s secret strategy.

    Basically it is four step.

    1. Lull National into a false sense of security and complacency so that National voters are complacent by election day and don’t bother voting.
    2. Activate Labour’s world famous turnout machine to get Labour voters out
    3. ???
    4. Win Labour Majority Government.

    You can find more of Labour’s secret strategy and other insider tips on:

    http://labourpartyhack.blogspot.com/2011/07/inside-labours-strategy-why-labours-low.html

    Comment by Francisco Hernandez — July 27, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

  21. Labour need to axe Goff now to regain any electoral respect.

    Comment by abel the amish — July 27, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

  22. If Fairfax are shit at their core business – reporting the news – what the hell makes anyone think that they’re any good at this spin-off designed to save them the money they’re losing because they’re shit at their core business?

    You may as well get predictions from throwing dead rats at a dartboard with politicians’ faces on it. At least it’d be cheaper, and you could eat the rat afterwards.

    Comment by Dizzy — July 27, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

  23. Labour has had some success in this area – Pansy Wong and Richard Worth in particular

    Yes, but this didn’t actually translate into any electoral success. National and ACT had this problem during the last Labour government too. Claiming ministerial scalps might be satisfying and allows Labour and its supporters to feel self righteous as crusaders against corruption, but it’s rarely rewarded with votes at the general election.

    Comment by Hugh — July 27, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

  24. the embarrassing thing is, they still seem to have more than twice as much support as we do

    Comment by Kahikatea — July 27, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  25. Goff has been poor, but the fact that no other party besides National has made significant gains suggests the main issue is that people love what Key is selling. Even if Labour’s leader was genetically engineered to have Savage’s warmth and Lange’s wit, they’d be behind National in the polls.

    Comment by bradluen — July 27, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  26. This reader comment on the Stuff story sums up so much:

    “I get a bit tired of taxes being the centre point of election campaigns. Sure it’s important, but so is health care, education, our tragic suicide and child abuse rate. I would rather pay a bit extra in taxes if we could see some (effective) long term strategies in improving these areas.

    I’m leaning towards National at the moment, mainly because the other parties are so blah at the moment and I like John Key.”

    God, there’s some deep and responsible thinking on the policy offerings of New Zealand’s political parties. Even if you’re a true-blue National supporter, this isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of your principles. Jeebus. And yet I fear this person is all too typical.

    Comment by Stephen — July 27, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

  27. At least Phil Goff gets to enjoy a bucket load of free tickets to the Rugby World Cup. Nice for some.

    Comment by OECD rank 22 kiwi — July 28, 2011 @ 5:33 am

  28. Just looking at the standard, it has another fairly obvious – and probably legitimate – attack on Key preaching fiscal restraint whilst having another of his frequent holidays in his Hawaiian hideout.

    The post crystalised a bit for me what Labour and it’s fervent supporters don’t understand about Key. They have not yet grasped that Key is not a politician, he is a tightly controlled and guarded brand. Now, you don’t get people disliking Toyota or Watties by claiming their products cost to much, or that their advertising uses to many pretty girls or getting shitty that the chief political editor of TVNZ drives a brand new Prius to the warehouse to pick up his free pallet of tomato sauce.

    You do it by creating an alternative brand, one that makes people think they should shift their allegiance to. Labour’s current leadership is an old and tainted brand. They need a new one, but the party parliamentary leadership seems to lazy to be bothered to do this, to do the thinking requires, to apply the discipline required to stay tightly on message brand wise, and to plan an advertising campaign around the brand message that always has 18, 12, 6 and 3 month goals. Steven Joyce is a cynical hollow man who made his money taking the lowest estimate of public intelligence and playing to it in private radio – he more likely to regard “hank You for Smoking” as a text book than a satire.

    Until Labour clears out the old, creates a new brand, and works towards getting to public to buy that brand, they’ll struggle.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 28, 2011 @ 9:18 am

  29. Phil Goff, if he is sincere and not just another money hungry politician, should stand aside from the leadership of labour.
    In fact he should have done so during the Darren Hughes fiasco, when he either would have faced down his challlengers or found out that he had no backing to stay on as leader.
    The 2 Davids were in the box seat then and if elected leaders could have rolled out the CGT as completely their idea. Goff rolling it is out now is akin to him swallowing a dead rat, he does not believe in it, he past record shows that to be true.
    And now, when Labour gets trounced in November, the 2 Davids will be damaged goods also and a new leader altogether will arise from the ashes.
    Andrew Little must be smirking all the way to that job at present.
    So after Nov 26, I see Shane Jones and Andrew Little as leading Labour, as Labour will turn on the 2 Davids bigtime.

    Comment by Sam — July 28, 2011 @ 9:58 am

  30. Do people actually believe these polls? Amazing!

    Comment by ruskin — July 28, 2011 @ 10:29 am

  31. Oi, you lot of plonkers! Wake up!

    Opposition parties do not win elections.

    Ruling parties lose them.

    Opposition parties need to work like hell on the ground to get voters out to actually vote.

    It will not be bloggers who decide election results.

    It will be voter turnout that decides election results.

    A high voter turnout should guarantee the usual MMP quadrille.

    A low voter turnout will ensure that “Smile and wave” will let his wolves loose to reduce us fourth world status.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — July 28, 2011 @ 11:49 pm


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