Labour's non-Stalinist conflict

Last updated 12:56 08/12/2009

The first poll to have covered any of Labour leader Phil Goff's nationhood speech is out, and Labour is down 2.5 points.

I should say right upfront that the Roy Morgan poll closed three days after Goff's speech on November 26, and therefore only caught the tail end of responses. It's also a small-ish sample size and can be a bit flaky occasionally.

So there's no need for Labour to panic just yet. It must wait until this weekend for a better snapshot of the public mood, when TV3 releases its next poll, which takes in the whole period of Goff's speech and its aftermath.

Anyhow, the Roy Morgan poll has National up 2 to 53.5, Labour down 2.5 to 30.5, the Greens up 0.5 to 7, ACT down one to 1.5, and the Maori Party up 1.5 to 3.5.

Working on the theory that virtually any publicity is good publicity, then the whole Hone Harawira saga doesn't seem to have done the Maori Party any harm at all.

National will also be pleased that its poll rating continues virtually unchanged. The Morgan poll backs up what I've been hearing from overnight tracking polls done by the two major parties.

Labour held its first caucus meeting since Goff's speech this morning, and on his way in Goff was flanked by Labour's president Andrew Little in the traditional show of support for a leader under fire.

What I found interesting was that neither Goff nor Little tried to deny that there had been discontent within the party over the speech - they simply used the usual political euphemisms such as "robust debate'' and the intriguing comment that "the Labour Party is not a Stalinist organisation''.

That's normally code for "lots of people are unhappy''.

I also thought Goff was a little too voluble in his own defence, rather than dismissive of the media stories about unhappiness over the direction he is taking the party, which tends to give them a bit more credibility.

There is a theory in Parliament that perhaps Goff and his strategists cooked this whole leadership story up simply to make sure Goff got some headlines, and then looked strong when he stared down his detractors.

That's probably a little far-fetched, because such a plan is high-risk - especially if there really are opponents of Goff in the party who might use such an opportunity to destabilise him.

Also, as Goff well knows, leadership stories tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and once the rumours start it's virtually impossible to stop them.

Ironically while Goff claims Labour is not "Stalinist'' and has always vigorously debated issues, that actually isn't true. It didn't debate very much at all when Helen Clark was in charge, and that's why Labour was so successful.

I've no doubt the party is probably a more relaxed and even pleasant place to be now that Clark and her iron-fisted rule have gone, but the free flow of debate and opinion can always be interpreted the wrong way if one isn't careful.

That's all I think has happened with Goff's speech - at least, so far. No one is going to use this to challenge the leader, partly because no one else wants the job right now and partly because there are so many people in that caucus who think they are next in line that they'd never get any agreement on a candidate to replace him.

But the whole thing is a salutary reminder for Phil Goff that if he does want to take Labour to the political Right, as he seems to want to do, he is going to have a fight on his hands.

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65 comments
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Kelly   #1   01:08 pm Dec 08 2009

Phil Goff looks as strong and robust as a wet bus ticket.

mick   #2   01:12 pm Dec 08 2009

I am a Labour voter. Phil Goff's nationhood speech was enough for me to walk away from the party. He seems to have taken the race relations line from Don Brash and it appalls me. Labour have lost their heart and will now lose their voters until they rediscover their reason for existing. I think I will join the Maori Party - if Pakeha can join.

jennifer   #3   01:23 pm Dec 08 2009

Another media driven self fulfilling prophecy. Goff delivers a moderate speech questioning Key's 'relaxed' attitude to impending racial discontent as a fair price to pay for power. The media tell the country Goff has played the race card. Goff goes down in the polls. The media question Goff's leadership and judgement, and report discontent in the party. Pundits blog on potential challengers. Circle complete.

k   #4   01:38 pm Dec 08 2009

I think he'll have to tread carefully, otherwise he won't fulfill his wish to lead Labour into the next Election.

In sayhing that, there's no one else putting their hand up yet who has the ability to take over the mantle and move Labour forward.

David   #5   01:49 pm Dec 08 2009

There is always a strategy behind everything labour does and it is clear he is angling for the Winston votes. If it doesnt work then Little sets himself up nicely to take over. Labour will struggle to take the moral high ground about dirty little deals with their track record. About time they all grew up and started addressing the issues and stopped their silly little games.

BATMAN   #6   01:52 pm Dec 08 2009

This is the beginning of the death spiral for Goff's leadership, once this starts it will not end until some other poor sod ends up as Labour leader. i feel for Goff but he is a bit of a bland leader, who still seems to run things as if he is just a senior minister

RichardRight   #7   02:02 pm Dec 08 2009

what a muppet fill-in goof is....he can't even play the race card right.....ha ha ha dropping another 2.5%.....

p.s nearly fell of my chair with the "the Labour Party is not a Stalinist organisation" comment....luckily Colin corected this lie with the comments on dear leader....NZ has never had a more Stalinist leader as her....

Mike   #8   02:09 pm Dec 08 2009

After 9 years of one of the strongest labour leaders in the paty's history to be followed by one of the most popular PMs in history it stands to reason that Goff is on a hiding to nothing and will not win an election and will in fact be unlikely to lead the party in one. I suspect when key gives it up his successor will face a similar backlash. It's a story that isn't a story to be honest - labour lite should get three terms anything less would be a disaster for them and then they will face a similar fate - what would make a good stroy is if Labour Lite had some meaningful policy.

KiwiKraut   #9   02:34 pm Dec 08 2009

Labour Lite Mike It has a nice ring to it, Wayne is a genius! Labour Lite Mike, this expertly crafted blog by Colin confirms that Labour has aaaaall the ideas. Quite what they are, I bet you don't even know, Labour Lite Mike. Labour Lite Mike, Labour Lite Mike...let me get my guitar out. I feel like writing a song now...can you sing Wayne?

Dave T   #10   02:42 pm Dec 08 2009

Its BBQ season, but no one will want to step up to lead the coup as they will be signing their own death wish. Fill In will not be there at the next election especailly if they do not get their poll numbers up. I think he will go happly, remember "its not what you can do for your country" its what you can get out of it for yourself (SOE Head, UN Position, Chancellorship etc) remember there are some well paying perky govt jobs available paying lots more than that of PM.


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