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.