I had to laugh at Labour List MP Carmel Sepuloni trying to insist on Breakfast TV that it had been a great week for Phil Goff. It was like a finance company spokesperson trying to insist they were sound.
Where do I start. First the Herald reveals that Phil Goff did not tell them the sob story he fed to them, owned a total of three properties, and it was not the case of someone with no assets being forced out of their family home. It was just a case of someone being unwilling to sell their property investments for a loss. I hope this story appears in as prominent place in the print edition as yesterday’s story.
Now even before this episode was exposed, Guyon Espiner blogged:
Labour’s ill-judged foray into the benefit policy debate – offering the dole to anyone who losses their job regardless of their spouse’s income – is a strategic blunder which ignores these basic facts of political life….
Labour now claims it isn’t going to allow the dole to be paid to anyone, regardless of income. But that’s a back down because that is exactly what they were saying on Monday.
You could sense the desperation on Monday after the story was broken in the Herald. Goff had clearly blurted out the story too early because Labour party officials and MPs were scrambling to fill in the details as other media worked to follow up the story.
On Tuesday Goff was desperately trying to claim that he was talking about the principle of middle income people not missing out on welfare and not the details. All the more reason then for not announcing the plan until the details are worked through.
Guyon makes it fairly clear Goff personally blundered by making policy up on the hoof. Guyon also covers their banking inquiry:
I see Labour is having another go. Having failed to win a proper select committee inquiry into whether the banks’ interest rates are too high, they are teaming up with the Greens and Jim Anderton to hold their own “inquiry” – one with no standing, no authority and no power.
Essentially they’ll be sitting in a room, preaching to the converted. Looks like a gimmick to me. Looks like Labour hasn’t fully realised it was turfed out of power.
Indeed.Hat Tip: Keeping Stock
John Armstrong writes this morning:
This has been an especially awful week for Phil Goff. It is not just that the Labour leader has made two blunders – the first being a policy mishap and the second being caught out by failing to reveal pertinent information. It is that a pattern of bad judgment calls is starting to emerge. That will be causing his colleagues some serious concern.
The problem for his colleagues is the lack of options. After 2011 there will be options, but there are not yet.
Twice within the past two months, Goff has sought to cause National discomfort only to end up pinging himself by failing to disclose facts which ended up being revealed by his opponents to his embarrassment.
The first example was Neelam Choudary, the Indian woman who alleged former minister Richard Worth sexually harassed her. She turned out to be a Labour Party activist.
The latest example is a Helensville man, Bruce Burgess, who seemed the perfect example of the kind of middle-class distress Goff had been talking about when he floated a shift in Labour policy so the dole would be paid to redundant workers for up to a year regardless of the income of their partners.
There is a warning in Armstrong’s writing. Having twice sat on highly relevant information, the gallery is going to be far more suspicious of any information from Goff in future. His effectiveness will be reduced due to this.
Goff is kidding only himself if he thinks this new information would not change people’s perceptions of Mr Burgess’s predicament.
Labour knew Mr Burgess owned the properties. It should have dropped his case immediately it knew that. However, presumably Goff was blinded by Mr Burgess being one of John Key’s constituents. The Prime Minister had done nothing to help him. Goff could see the headlines before they appeared. Through his own fault, they have ended up being the wrong ones.
The information totally changed people’s perceptions. Just as Choudary’s identity did also. I actually felt a bit guilty, at the time, for blogging yesterday on the Burgesses as I felt sorry for them being on the verge of losing their only home. While still sympathetic they are in tough times, the fact they have two other properties means they do have options – far better options than most families.
If he fails to win in 2011, Goff knows his party will look for someone else to lead them into the next election. If he keeps performing in the fashion displayed this week his colleagues might start asking themselves whether they should not look elsewhere before then.
I think Goff is safe until 2011, again due to the lack of alternatives.
Duncan Garner also blogs:
Labour sat on the fact he owned three homes. To Labour it was irrelevant to its case – that hardworking Kiwis are missing out under National.
How many Kiwis can cry poor with three homes? It’s a bad look Labour – and I suspect you know it.
Can you imagine how Helen Clark, as Prime Minister, presented with this sort of information – would have acted?
She, and/or Michael Cullen would have not only crucified Burgess – but she or he would have damn well made sure John Key was cut into three pieces,
So Labour needs to go away and look at what it’s doing.
It needs to take a breather. Goff has been too damn keen this week. He’s cocked up. He’s acted like a cut snake.
And finally we have Colin Espiner:
Labour’s also attacking the appointment of former National leader Don Brash to the new productivity taskforce, calling him a stalking horse for privatisation. Goff says it will lead to a renewal of ideas soundly rejected at the 2005 election.
Actually, as Key pointed out in the House yesterday, National wasn’t “soundly rejected” at the 05 election – it only lost by the narrowest of margins. And it was probably the Exclusive Brethren that spooked voters more than National’s privatisation agenda.
Indeed. Mps who call Don “Lord Voldemort” may want to reflect on the fact he got only 2% less than Helen Clark in 2005, and that their references to him as such actually alienate a large segment of the population. Anyway back to Goff:
Goff had another terrible day in Parliament today after the case of poor old Bruce Burgess, a constituent in John Key’s electorate no less, who having worked hard all his life now couldn’t get any assistance from the state after losing his job.
Labour shopped the story to the Herald this morning, which ran it without question. Trouble was, poor old Bruce owns two rental properties besides his lifestyle block in a leafy part of Helensville – in other words, he has assets of at least a million dollars. Now, that doesn’t mean he isn’t suffering, but that wasn’t the picture presented to the public by Goff or the Herald this morning.
Also, according to the Government, Bruce is eligible for $92 a week state assistance – something that wasn’t pointed out earlier either.
Once again, an issue that should have run in Labour’s favour ended up backfiring badly.
So this is what Carmel Sepuloni calls a great week for Phil Goff. I’d love to see what she calls a bad week.