Papers on Goff

May 21st, 2008 at 10:40 am by David Farrar

The papers this morning look at Goff’s positioning. at the Dom Post reports:

’s heir apparent, , appears to be positioning himself for a leadership tilt if loses the election, dropping his previous denials that he had ambitions for the job.

Mr Goff, Labour’s third-ranked minister, has also conceded Labour could lose the election as it battles a mood for change. …

Though he is widely accepted as Miss Clark’s successor should she step down after a Labour loss, his opening the door to that possibility now is likely to spark damaging leadership speculation. …

In response to further questions, he said being prime minister was “not an overwhelming ambition”.

That contrasts with a comment in February when, asked if he had ambitions to be prime minister, he said: “I have absolutely none.”

Goff claiming to have no ambitions to be Prime Minister could almost be called perjury. Even his statement about no “overwhelming” ambition probably rests on a Clintonian type definition of “overwhelming”.

The Herald also looks at his answers:

Mr Goff did little yesterday to make amends for his public admission that he wants Helen Clark’s job if Labour loses the election.

“There is no question about leadership at the moment,” he said yesterday when questioned about his pre-recorded television interview.

A seasoned politician who wanted to end discussion about leadership would usually give such an answer unconditionally, without qualifications such as “at the moment”.

It is no secret that Mr Goff wants to be Labour leader, but it is the first time he has acknowledged it publicly and it is the first time a senior Labour MP has openly contemplated defeat.

The qualification is unnecessary because people always know that the statement doesn’t imply forever. So by stating the obvious “at the moment” tends to be for a reason.

There is of course no chance Goff will challenge. But what he may be signalling is in the event of a loss, he wants a quick change. He doesn’t want Clark to stay on for 18 months, giving other contenders the time to build up support and get the job ahead of him.

John Armstrong also reads the tea leaves:

The body is still breathing – just. But some of the family already seem to be fighting over the corpse.

It is a sure sign that a Government is on its last legs when its members admit they might lose the coming election and discuss – even in passing – what might happen to their party afterwards. …

He may have stated the obvious in saying “there’s a prospect we might lose”. However, no matter how dire things might be looking – and they do look pretty dire for Labour right now – no politician worth his salt admits the possibility of defeat. Never. Full-stop. Period. And certainly not a politician as smart, seasoned, politically wired, competent and ultra-careful as Goff.

Goff is known as ultra-careful. He has been in Parliament since before most university students were born. He has especially been careful on issues of leadership as for the last 12 years he has been the focus of attention. Not once in 12 years has he said what he said last night.

This is the first time Goff has ever opened up on the possibility of his leading the Labour Party. Even if he did not say that much, it was in marked contrast to his line back in February. When he was asked then if he had leadership aspirations, he replied “absolutely none” and instead heaped praise on Helen Clark.

Those who argue this means nothing at all, have no experience with how leadership contenders position themselves. Now trust me, one thing I know about is leadership contenders and coups. I’ve seen MPs and leader’s press secretaries negotiate words so they can express confidence in the leader, yet keep their options open. The language around confidence in the leader is very precise and deviations from it are well understood.

Again this does not mean Goff will try anything before the election. He does not want to be Mike Moore, and he would not win anyway. But it is a signal that post-election he will vigorously contest the leadership and on his timetable, not necessarily Helen’s.

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20 Responses to “Papers on Goff”

  1. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Wow has the right and media (I thought they were all left wing nutters – that’s what you guys tell us all the time) got a little stiffie over this one, and imagine it not being a media beat up.

    He mentioned the prospect of defeat, shock horror, imagine thinking.

    He mentioned that if there was a chance he’d like to lead. Well bugger me, a politician with designs on the top job, that must be rare in politics?

    Of course Goff won’t try anything before the election, as you rightly say he doesn’t want to end up being that sad bastard Moore. Who has ever heard of post election defeated leaders being safe in their jobs? How many leaders has National had in the last 9 years?

    the media’s got a little stiffie.

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  2. Ross Miller (1,664 comments) says:

    The damage control around this from the 9th floor and TV1 has been fascinating. See that even Murray ‘The Mouth’ Deaker canvassed the issue on his sports programme last night. ‘She’ must be spitting tacks.

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  3. Ross Miller (1,664 comments) says:

    Paul … re your 10.52. Politics 101. You never speak of defeat; you never speculate on leadership no matter what you might think privately. Because to do so is to invite what you see happening now. When the focus should be on your budget Goff manages, single handed, to high jack the agenda.

    Remember the words of HC earlier in the year “from hereonin you can expect Labour to be relentlessly possitive” … Yeah right.

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  4. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    Goffs in guys. Trotters just confirmed on ZB that its too late for him to roll Helen before the election but he is odds on after she loses the election.

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  5. Grant Michael McKenna (1,156 comments) says:

    Fighting over the body? Bet somebody steals it before the funeral is over. I can just see the post-election coverage; Phil Goff ranting about all the tactical errors of the last few years- will our Dear Leader get to finish her concession speech before the knives are out?

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  6. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Ross, perhaps one is allowed to talk about reality every now and then. It’s not politics 101 BTW, it’s media relations and corporate double talk 101, but then that is possibly the heart of the issues isn’t it.

    Imagine a politician talking about the real world, I wo pineata uld have thought that is what you guys would have wanted eh.

    Goff didn’t hijack the agenda, the media choose to focus on that. What about the extra 5000 elective surgeries announced this week. The poor dear with cataracts who can’t even make a cup of tea these days is about to have her life given back. This is good, there is no way on gods clean earth this can be a bad thing, unless you are in the media, when Sky’s nightly news called it a pre election budget lolly scramble. This is the media setting the agenda. Which is more important to the citizens of NZ, the 5000 extra cataract, hip replacements etc or what one politician said. If you claim or think the latter you illustrate that politics is no longer about the people.

    Sorry if that is a pre election lolly scramble, give me the stick and show me the bloody pinata!!!

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  7. Steve Withers (98 comments) says:

    Dave: I withdraw part of what I said yesterday. That “at the moment” confirms Goff is NOW on the hunt for Helen’s job.

    I recant here: http://truthseekernz.blogspot.com/2008/05/at-moment.html

    Still doesn’t mean the “Cabinet is falling apart”, but it does reveal more of Goff’s mind. If I were a Labour supporter, I’d be VERY pissed off with Mr. Goff.

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  8. Sushi Goblin (419 comments) says:

    So let me get this right – Labour are about to release a budget that by any objective examination will need to be a circuit-breaker to help turn around their fortunes. They will need every bit of publicity to try and turn things around – and Goff decides to come out and say that he wants to be the leader one day and hogs the headlines?

    mmmmm, beautiful!

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  9. Grant Michael McKenna (1,156 comments) says:

    Pre-election lolly scramble= announcement of actions that could have happened eleven months ago but which were held off so as to make the government sound generous just before an election and obscure the fact that it is our money that they’re spending.

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  10. Johnboy (14,998 comments) says:

    ” Which is more important to the citizens of NZ, the 5000 extra cataract, hip replacements etc or what one politician said.”

    I think what one pollie said is much more important, after all when Micky said to Paul Little “Are you sure thats enough for your old trainset” he was condemning a lot of people to using their crutches and seeing-eye dogs for the rest of their lives.

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  11. Grant Michael McKenna (1,156 comments) says:

    Paul- Helen Clark and Phil Goff decided to start a bungee-jumping business in Mexico. They go to Casa del Sol, Mexico, build a huge platform, and open for business. By noon the first day, they both noticed that while everyone was watching, no one was buying tickets.

    So Phil tells Helen to go up and jump, so everyone could see how much fun it was, and then they would buy tickets and try it. Helen jumps, almost reached the ground, and springs back up. Phil sees she has several open wounds, a broken arm, and is bruised over most of her body. Phil quickly gets Helen onto the platform and asked her what in the world is going on.

    Helen replies: ‘I’m not sure. Do you know what ‘piƱata’ means?’

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  12. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    Well bugger me, a politician with designs on the top job, that must be rare in politics

    No Paul, only rare in a Labour Party after 9 years of iron-fisted dominance designed to stamp out any possible successors. As a result Labour’s talent-pool is puddle deep, with those that remain only just breathing, tired and devoid of fresh ideas.

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  13. Ross Miller (1,664 comments) says:

    Paul … re your 11.07. If Goff hadn’t put his foot in it big time the media might just be talking about the 5,000 more elective surgeries. But then again I guess they might also be talking about the 40,000 patients Labour arbitrarily removed from hospital waiting lists sent back to their respective GPs.

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  14. 3-coil (1,200 comments) says:

    Goff’s weasel words do reveal something else that confirm what Ian Wishart’s book discussed.

    Goff says he will consider the job “when Helen decides that she wants to step down”. It is obvious that the Labour members have no say in who their leader is – Helen is in charge, she will step down when SHE wants to.

    “We will choose a new leader when Helen tells us we can”. Clarkie calls all the shots, and therein lies Labour’s problem – she has assembled a team of arse-licking toadies and trembling yes-men, none of whom have the backbone to stand up to her.

    The potential future Labour leaders in this weak bunch are totally underwelming – too weak to stand up for themselves = too weak to lead the country.

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  15. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Paul if it was National Party MP it wouldn’t be a beat up it would be a beat off as all the lefties blew their load.

    You’re done. Deal with it.

    Door, ass, way out.

    Seeyoubye.

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  16. first time caller (384 comments) says:

    What goes around comes around. Finally everyone’s working out Clark is not as special as she’s been telling us for years. She will leave office, no-one will remember her.

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  17. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    [Clark] will leave office, no-one will remember her

    Not so sure. Think of Helen as a veruca on our long road to recovery. Every step will remind us of her.

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  18. Frank (320 comments) says:

    Just another red herring to put the news hounds? off the scent of the prewsent scandale dogging labour’s woes?

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  19. faithnomore (1 comment) says:

    Over the past 8 years one of the most repeated criticisms of this government by the Right and the media has been arrogance. Now a senior minister admits there is a possibility they will loose and the criticism is just as bad. Who would be Phil Goff….

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  20. mavxp (494 comments) says:

    This is good news for everyone really. Labour knows they are toast, and after 9 years of Helen & Mike it’s time to cut their losses and go for change. Goff is the safest pair of hands in the current Labour mob, and will restore some hope in the party faithful that there is a future after Helen. He can take over the reins, and whilst in opposition take it to Key whilst the global economy tanks. He could be a temporary leader whilst they groom someone else for leadership -Andew Little, Shane Jones etc?
    Actually Goff will be good for National too, as he is more to the centre than Helen, and will likely build a team with similar views. This will pressure Key to move to the right, back to National’s home turf. It’s the battle of the middle-ground. To all those on the right complaining that National are too much like Labour-lite. Goff will be National-lite, so the shift in National will be interesting to see.

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