The Dim-Post

November 7, 2011

An interview with Phil Goff

Filed under: Politics,satire — danylmc @ 3:39 pm

I met Labour leader Phil Goff in his Parliamentary office. It was a dreary Wellington day, with a thick grey mist rolling off the sea and clinging to the hills – but Goff wasn’t downcast about the weather, or a new round of poor poll results. When his assistant showed me into his office he greeted me with an infectious grin, leaping out from behind his desk to shake my hand. ‘Ah! Time for another interview,’ he enthused. ‘Let’s get started!’

He sat behind his desk again and I sat in front, resting my notepad on my knee. Goff’s assistant closed the door with an unobtrusive click, and we began.

‘I’d like to start with the subject of asset sales,’ I said, and Goff nodded seriously. ‘You oppose the mixed-ownership model put forward by National, but for nine years the previous Labour government ran Air New Zealand on an identical model. How can you reconcile this contradiction?’

‘It’s an excellent question,’ Goff replied. ‘But . . .’ He paused and tapped his fingers on the solid oak of his desk. My pen rested above the notepaper, poised. The eyes of former Labour leaders looked down at us from the portraits spaced around the room. ‘Is that really what you came here to ask?’ He fixed me with a penetrating stare.

I looked away, unable to meet his gaze, and stared out the window. ‘I suppose not.’ I put away my pen.  A sea-bird croaked outside, invisible in the oppressive mist. My gaze fell upon the drinks cabinet on the far wall. I gestured. ‘Mind if I help myself?’

‘Be my guest.’

I stood and crossed to the cabinet. I fumbled with the bottles: they felt heavy in my hands. The sound of the whiskey fizzing on the ice-cubes was unnaturally loud in the warm, dead air.

Goff said, ‘Fix me one too will you? Scotch. I like it with -‘

‘I know how you like it.’ I looked back at him over my shoulder.

He smiled, sadly. ‘Of course you do.’

I poured his drink. The expansive room felt somehow enclosed. Oppressive. I handed Phil the glass; our eyes made contact and he blinked and snatched the glass from my hand, a look of anger – no, of fear, pure fear – flashing across his face. Then his usual friendly expression replaced it, so quickly I scarcely knew what I’d seen. I stepped back and said, ‘Phil . . .’

‘Don’t.’ He shook his head, curtly, turned his chair to face the window. His hand shook, the liquor sloshing over the sides of the glass. He said in a mock-cheerful voice. ‘Don’t say anything. Just listen. I’ll tell you something you can put in your precious interview. You see that picture there?’

‘I see it.’ Mounted on a pillar by the wall was a portrait photo of former Labour Party leader Bill Rowling.

‘Bill Rowling is my hero,’ Phil said. ‘I’ve modelled my whole career on him. But you know what I most envy about him?’


‘That he died fifteen years ago.’

‘Phil . . . Don’t -‘

‘How lucky the dead are. No debates. No polls. There’s no Tuesday caucus meetings in the grave.’

‘Don’t talk like that Phil. Don’t. You know I don’t like it.’

He spun his chair around again to face me, his fake cheerfulness gone and spat, ‘I don’t give a damn what you do or don’t like, Danyl. Not any more.’

I did not reply. We sat in silence for a moment. Phil sent an email on his cell-phone. I looked at my notes. The words swam across the page. Superannuation. Assets. Compulsory. Millions. Billions. Meaningless hieroglyphics from a lost and incomprehensible civilisation. I cleared my throat but had nothing to say.

Eventually Phil broke the silence. ‘You look good.’

‘Thanks,’ I replied. ‘I’ve been running.’

‘You need a hair cut though.’

My hand automatically ran through my hair, and I laughed self-consciously. ‘I know,’ I said. ‘It’s hard to find the time.’

Another pause. But this one was warm. Comfortable. Presently I said, ‘You look good too.’

‘You don’t have to say that. Just because I complimented . . .’

‘ No. I mean it. Your hair looks great. The colour suits you.’

‘Thanks. Mary dyed it.’ Rueful smile. ‘The press gave me a hard time about it.’

‘It looks very distinguished. To hell with them.’

‘That’s what Annette King said.’

I knocked back the last of the whiskey. The drink lit a low fire inside me. I stared into the glass, and rattled the cubes, not wanting to look at Phil when I asked in a low voice, ‘And how is Annette?’

He took a long time to answer. I could hear his breathing: an irregular, human sound over the inhuman drone of the air-conditioner; the buzzing light, the computer fan; the distant cars on the distant roads. ‘She’s . . . as well as can be expected,’ he said.

‘Good. I’m glad. Really. Does she . . .’

‘Talk about you?’ He sneered. ‘No.’

‘I didn’t imagine she would.’

She thinks about you sometimes,’ he continued. ‘When she thinks she’s alone. I know some things remind her of you. The silhouette of the war memorial at sunset. A certain stormy cast of sky. The cattle lowing at night. Sometimes I catch her crying and she won’t say why . . .’

‘Phil. Stop.’

He gave me a nasty grin. ‘You asked how she was.’

‘I asked but I didn’t want you to answer. That’s your tragedy Phil. You never know when not to answer.’

He turned to the window and stared out at the city. The trees, barely visible through the mist, waved at us like drowning ghosts. He said, ‘My tragedy is that I have no tragedy.’

‘You’re wrong Phil. You know you’re wrong.’

‘So what if I am? It doesn’t matter.’

‘You’re so cold now Phil. When did you grow so cold? Was it when you became leader? Is this what leadership does to a person? Did running the Labour Party make you like this? Or was it . . . something else?’

His eyes glittered. They were wet with anger. ‘You know damn well what it was.’

‘Then say it.’

‘I’ve said enough.’ Phil stood, a look of cold disdain on his face. ‘And so have you. This interview is over. Will you leave quietly? Or do I have to call security?’

‘Call security?’ I laughed bitterly. ‘And say what? There’s someone in my office who knows who I really am? Who remembers what I want to forget? Go ahead and call your security guards. I dare you.’

Phil was furious, but he spoke with a terrible calm. ‘Forget the DPS, he said. ‘I’ll deal to you myself.’ He rounded the desk and towered over me, shaking with rage. ‘Go. Now. One more word from you and I’ll . . .’

‘You’ll what, Phil? Hurt me? Bruise me? Go ahead. I welcome it. I’d welcome anything other than this numbness! This horrible feeling of nothing! You’re just like that mist outside! Opaque and cold. You’re there but no one can find you or touch you!’

‘Get out. Get out!’

‘I’ll go.’ I sprang to my feet, my face millimetres from Phil’s. His eyes were cold and furious. ‘I’ll leave. You’ll never see me again. But first I want you to tell me how you really feel.’

‘Feel?’ His eyes flashed, the Arctic cold replaced with fire. ‘What does that term even mean?’

‘It means you believe,’ I cried. ‘It means you’re a man of flesh and blood, not air and mist. It means you say what you say because you know it’s the truth!’

‘Truth! Belief!’ Phil threw his arms in the air. He stumbled backwards. He raged, ‘Sophistry. You’re trying to blind me with words. Vile things that mean nothing.’

‘Words are all we have, Phil. Say the ones you know I want to hear!’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’  Now he was wild-eyed, reeling. ‘Speak them to me. Say them and I’ll answer.’

‘Then answer! Tell me! Are you really unconditionally opposed to asset sales?’

Phil let out an inarticulate wail, the sound of a mortal soul in unspeakable pain. He threw his empty glass across the room. It smashed open on the photograph of Bill Rowling, knocking it from the wall, splintering the frame. It landed on the floor face-down in a bed of broken shards.  ‘I don’t know! I don’t know any more! Sometimes I think it’s crazy to deny ourselves the revenue stream, other times – late at night – I think it’s a good way to raise additional capital. But mostly I just don’t know. God help me I just don’t know.’ He sank to his knees, balled his fists and beat them against his forehead. ‘Are you happy? Is that what you want?’

I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes, opened them again and whispered, ‘Yes.’

When I walked out of the room I did not look back. I did not say goodbye. I did not wipe the tears from my eyes. The door swung shut behind me.

I walked out of the Labour offices into the cold, damp mist. It embraced me with open arms. Somewhere in the grey void a foghorn sounded, drowning out the sound of deep, shuddering, heart-breaking sobs coming from the office behind me, floating up into the deadening emptiness of the indifferent sky.

Tomorrow: Prime Minister John Key on how to make a handy spice rack for your home kitchen!


  1. First!

    That was so epic😀

    Comment by Rimu — November 7, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

  2. Reading that was 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back!

    Comment by pmofnz — November 7, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  3. Fantastic.

    Comment by Rob — November 7, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  4. Welcome back, Danyl! Welcome back.😉

    Comment by David in Chch — November 7, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  5. last line = amazing

    Comment by bradluen — November 7, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  6. Channeling Rand or Hammett?

    I can’t decide.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 7, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  7. The silhouette of the war memorial at sunset.

    ROFL! A highlight amid the laughter.😀

    Comment by Ataahua — November 7, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  8. I know some things remind her of you. The silhouette of the war memorial at sunset. A certain stormy cast of sky. The cattle lowing at night.

    Some things remind me of Phil Goff. The irregular dripping of water into a dehumidifier. A certain feeling in the pit of my stomach after too much chilli. That congealed web of hair and bathroom-product you pull out of a shower drain.

    Comment by Phil — November 7, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  9. Channeling Rand or Hammett?

    I knew there was somewhere I had read such awkward prose before. This reads like Rand.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — November 7, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

  10. Fuck Danyl, I didn’t realise you could be such a cruel bastard. Remind me not to piss you off.

    Comment by dpf — November 7, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

  11. Channeling Rand or Hammett?

    I thought you were going for Lovecraft.

    Comment by pete — November 7, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  12. “Channeling Rand or Hammett?”

    More Bogart from the female side.. or indeed intuitions of “Angelique”.


    Comment by JC — November 7, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

  13. Not Rand – no single speech extract lasts 56 pages. (Thank Zeus!)

    Comment by MeToo — November 7, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

  14. To me this never reaches the heights of Harawirapocalypse Now nor the skin-crawling depths of JK in the jacuzzi. But I’m prepared to give danyl some leeway on account of the sleep deprivation.

    A+, would lol again.

    Comment by SHG — November 7, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

  15. The “I Write Like” analyzer says Stephenie Meyer.

    Comment by MeToo — November 7, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

  16. I just can’t image Phil Goff being that passionate, even when bitter. Maybe I can imagine him lying awake at night wondering “why?!”, but enraged? No. His mood will be incomprehension instead of frustration. He’s no more capable of virtuous passion than a trilobite. I’ll vote for Christopher Ecclestone (I’ve just been rewatching Our Friends in the North ).

    Comment by Rhinocrates — November 7, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

  17. That was, quite possibly, the most evil thing you have ever written, Danyl.

    Thank you.

    Comment by MacDoctor — November 8, 2011 @ 12:16 am

  18. Tee hee – I tried out a blog post of mine on the “I write like” analyser and it says I write like JK Rowling! Who knew?

    That was evil, dude – and pretty cool. SO looking forward to finding how to make the handy spice rack….

    Comment by webweaver — November 8, 2011 @ 2:19 am

  19. Very clever.

    Comment by will — November 8, 2011 @ 7:19 am

  20. Trying a selection of the piece in “I Write Like” gives Stephen King (?!). Onto another Stephen (Joyce); wondering in your alternate reality where he was lent to Labour what he would be doing. Launching rumours about compulsory civil (gay) unions for Bretheren elders? Nationalisation of church property? Anything to get them on the campaign trail!

    Comment by Owen — November 8, 2011 @ 7:59 am

  21. Brilliant, hilarious and so sharp – thank you.

    Comment by Michael Stevens — November 8, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  22. Reminds me of The Life Aquatic. Tragically funny, Danyl. +1

    Comment by Adze — November 8, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  23. And yeah, the last last was gold!

    Comment by Adze — November 8, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  24. It reminded me of a one of those radio dramas you stumble across on National Radio at some odd hour when they don’t really no what to schedule.

    I am frightened by Danyl channelling his inner 60 year old woman tho.

    Comment by R Singers — November 8, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

  25. I’m tempted to relay a similar encounter I had with a member of the Green Party.

    My dear Sue
    Thank you for bringing your war gear out of the wardrobe
    You looked so fierce and determined on TV the other night
    It’s good to see you this way again after all these years
    Please consider reverting to your old style, the perm really suited you
    And welcome back to the frontline

    Comment by Betty — November 8, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

  26. Pitiless, and peerless.

    Clearly sleep deprivation, though a form of torture, agrees with the satirist.

    Comment by sally — November 8, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

  27. Pah! You forgot to mention Geoff Palmer perched out on the beehive balcony, legs swinging slowly as he mournfully reprised ‘Oh when the saints go marching in’ to a funereal tempo that matched the swirling grey mist emitting from his trumpet. Amateur.

    Other than that, the judges at Mills & Boon 2011 Semi-Bodice Rippers Awards want to know if you’re free Thursday evening?

    Comment by bob — November 8, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  28. Bloody hell, Danyl…. you are a good writer! Have you ever had any short stories published?

    Comment by Dave Mann — November 8, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

  29. Hmmm! Despite the first-person narrative, it put me more in mind of The Iceman Cometh – especially in the conversations between Don and Larry – with it’s themes of hopelessness, profound despair and empty dreams beckoning to the grave of the assorted socialists and anarchists. Not to mention the awful guilt of having sent mother away out of hatred for dominating and ignoring him….

    You could have finished it off in a similar manner too, listening to the woosh and thud of the falling body.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — November 8, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

  30. Bloody hell, Danyl…. you are a good writer! Have you ever had any short stories published?

    Really? I thought the prose was intentionally (I hope) overblown and awkward. I could barely bear reading it. I thought of Rand who’s Atlas Shrugged I didn’t even finish it was so unreadable. I suppose there’s no accounting for taste.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — November 8, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  31. Oh I get it, this is one of those right wing fantasy press releases that ends with a mess on the Nact embroidered duvet cover.

    Comment by Keep it real — November 9, 2011 @ 1:02 am

  32. lovely.

    Comment by TBWood — November 9, 2011 @ 6:58 am

  33. “Tomorrow: Prime Minister John Key on how to make a handy spice rack for your home kitchen!”

    I’m guessing this will be in the style of Bret Easton Ellis?

    Comment by uke — November 9, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  34. Hmmm! Despite the first-person narrative, it put me more in mind of The Iceman Cometh

    Actually I was thinking about ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ when I wrote it. The mist, the foghorn. But I think there’s some Iceman in there as well.

    Comment by danylmc — November 9, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  35. Dammit! It’s tomorrow already Danyl. Where’s my John Key custom-built handy spice rack?

    Comment by bob — November 9, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  36. Guess J Key couldn’t provide the details for the spice rack, just like he couldn’t provide the 170,000 jobs, a plan to close the growing divide between rich and poor, a remedy to the Ausi exodus and all the other promises hes failed to act on.

    Comment by keep it real — November 9, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  37. The Greens have cornered the market in spice.

    Comment by — November 9, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  38. Somewhere in labour land a dream just died.

    Comment by Gus — November 9, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  39. “The Greens have cornered the market in spice.”

    I thought that was herbs?

    Comment by Nick — November 9, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

  40. I don’t get it. Too fucken hi-brow…wanna dumb it down a bit for the great unwashed ?

    Comment by pollywog — November 9, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

  41. Yeah pollwog, it’ll miss the target audiance with all that anti-redneck hi-brow stuff. No mention of his crimes like trying to maintain programs the likes of Paula Bennett benefited from.

    Comment by keep it real — November 9, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

  42. “I’m guessing this will be in the style of Bret Easton Ellis?”

    He’ll be along with the spice rack once he finishes his morning routine.

    Comment by rich (the other one) — November 10, 2011 @ 9:20 am

  43. @ keep it real

    I think you’re looking for The Standard.
    I’m fairly sure the target audience for this blog was squarely hit.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 10, 2011 @ 11:40 am

  44. @ Gregor w
    Yes we all deserve a higher standard.
    Fairfax need to sack Key as editor of their “newspaper”.
    There’s real reporting out there, and yes some of it can be found on The Standard.
    If you saw Hosking on Close up last night interviewing Key you will notice standards are improving.

    Comment by keep it real — November 10, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  45. “The Greens have cornered the market in spice.”

    I thought that was herbs?

    Have the promised to make the trains run on Thyme?

    Comment by Phil — November 10, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  46. “The Greens have cornered the market in spice”
    No silly Brash is leader of (final)ACT.

    Comment by keep it real — November 10, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

  47. Have the promised to make the trains run on Thyme?

    Not sure. But they have released a number of Sage policies pre-election.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 10, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  48. Not sure. But they have released a number of Sage policies pre-election

    I’ve never voted for the Greens before, but i’m still Cumin to a decision about who will get my vote.

    Comment by Phil — November 10, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

  49. I write like James Joyce, Edgar Allen Poe, and HP Lovecraft depending on which piece of writing I ‘analyze’. Given the vast disparity between these writing styles, I suspect the the whole thing is a crock of shit. Kind of fun at first though…

    Comment by Sam — November 10, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  50. Jesus-titty-fucking-christ that was so fucking rad!

    Comment by nzcampbell — November 10, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

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