Goff gets wild at leadership rumours

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2011

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An increasingly angry Labour leader Phil Goff is again facing leadership speculation after conflicting accounts over a meeting with some of his closest and most senior colleagues.

He furiously denied reports in political newsletter Trans-Tasman that he asked his frontbench MPs whether he should quit.

Several frontbench MPs backed Mr Goff, either describing the report as "bollocks" or insisting the discussion never took place. Others refused to comment.

But one senior Labour MP said the conversation did happen. "[Phil] did consult the front bench over whether he should go."

The reaction from MPs was mixed – some were "adamant that he shouldn't quit" while others were more muted. But no one said to Mr Goff that he should resign.

The source said Mr Goff raised the issue during a discussion about polling and said he was worried that, after battling for three years, he was still failing to get cut-through on policy. He also thought the media weren't interested in him.

But Mr Goff said any suggestion he offered to resign was an "invention".

"That is not true and I think [press secretary] Fran Mold, who was at the pre-caucus meeting, said to whoever raised it with her that it was absolutely untrue. These things are great inventions; people have been speculating on that for three years.

"I'm the leader of the Labour Party. I'll lead this party into the election campaign this year and I'll look at forming a government after that."

Labour was dogged by destabilising speculation yesterday, including suggestions that deputy Annette King was preparing to step down in favour of former leadership contender Shane Jones.

Ms King immediately rubbished the rumours – which were fanned by Right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton – and described the stories as "nasty" and "stupid".

The rumour mill went into overdrive, however, when Mr Jones failed to turn up to a speaking engagement at the Beehive – though it later turned out that he was filling in for Maori affairs spokesman Parekura Horomia at coronation celebrations at Ngaruawahia's Turangawaewae Marae.

Mr Goff could be forced back on to the back foot again this weekend if Labour's fortunes take another hit in the 3News and One News polls, which are expected this weekend.

One Labour source has described the polls as "OK Corral" territory for Mr Goff, with a number of well-respected MPs set to lose their seats should Labour's support drop any further.

But another MP said Mr Goff's leadership should be safe – even though there were probably the numbers to roll him should any of the contenders put their hands up.No one wanted the leadership because it was such a "a poisoned chalice" this close to the election.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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