Is Phil a Prince Charles?

March 12th, 2010 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs on the syndrome:

I assume would like to be Prime Minister of New Zealand. He has every reason to think he deserves the job. He’s served a lengthy apprenticeship, having come into Parliament in 1981, the same year as Helen Clark. And he’s had a distinguished career as an MP and Cabinet Minister. He’s highly intelligent and well-informed on a whole range of portfolios from Justice to Foreign Affairs. And he comes from good Labour stock.

Goff and his party are languishing in the polls at the moment, but their figures are actually better than Helen Clark’s and Labour’s were in early-mid 1996.

Labour in early 1996 dropped as low as 14%. But the overall left vote was pretty strong – with the Alliance and NZ First, they were around 50%.

Labour and Greens have no other potential partners on the left, except the Maori Party, which Labour keeps doing its best to alienate.

But it’s interesting to speculate what might have happened if Clark had not  called the coup leaders’ bluff and stood down. In every conversation I’ve had with Michael Cullen, he’s claimed to have had no interest in leading the Labour Party or being Prime Minister. So Labour’s new leader might well have been Phil Goff: 43, talented, hungry, going places.

Could Goff have won against Bolger in 1996? Quite possibly. A factor in Winston Peter’s decision to go with National in the country’s first MMP election may well have been his reluctance to serve under a woman Prime Minister. So he might just have gone with Labour, and Phil Goff would have achieved his ambition to lead the country.

A big factor in NZF going with National was the sheer arrogance of the Labour negotiators. A Goff leadership might have avoided making that mistake.

I also think Labour would have done quite a bit better in 2008, if Goff had been made Finance Minister in mid 2007.

Popular political wisdom at the moment has it that Labour will not win the next election. If that is right and if Goff’s personal rating as preferred Prime Minister has not significantly improved by then, he’s unlikely to survive long as Opposition leader after the election. In similar circumstances, Clark had 6 months to improve her poll ratings and did so spectacularly. Goff has at least 18 months and National’s social and economic policies will inevitably begin to erode the party’s huge lead in the polls well before then. So Goff is in with a chance, albeit a slender one.

Against him is a less easy, less engaging image than Key’s and a phenomenon which I like to call The Prince Charles Syndrome. Charles, the man who would be king, has simply been around too long. Kept waiting by a mother in excellent health and showing no inclination to abdicate, the once young and attractive prince has lost his appeal to his handsome and exciting son, Prince William.  Kept waiting by the hugely charismatic, if morally flawed Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, the dour Scottish son of a Presbyterian minister, may have suffered the same fate – around too long. And the same may be true of Phil Goff.

At the heart of National’s 2008 election win was the simplistic but potent belief that it was ‘time for a change’. John Key had been in Parliament only 6 years when he became Prime Minister. He was fresh and new and the electorate is giving him a lot of slack. We are still getting to know him.

When the 2011 election rolls around, Phil Goff will have been in Parliament for 30 years, kept waiting for twelve of those years by a woman who in 1996 also refused to abdicate.

So does Phil Goff deserve to be Prime Minister of New Zealand? I believe that he does.

And has he been around too long? Possibly.

I an normally very loath to make predictions about what party will win an election, or even a seat. Partly because of my day job, and partly because I know how quickly things can change.

I was very cautious about the results of the 2008 election, right up to and including election night.

However for most of the last year I have been saying that I do not think Labour will win the next election. Not because John Key is popular. Not because National is in its first term. But because, like , I do not think voters will choose to elect as a “fresh face” someone who has been an MP since 1981.

Of course it can happen, National could implode. Some sort of event could cause the public to want a PM with 30 years experience in Parliament, rather than John Key. But it is a very hard sell, regardless of what Goff does.

The baby boomer generation did place a premium on experience in Parliament. Holyoake served 25 yars before becoming PM. Marshall served 26 years. Nash did 28 years. Kirk did 15 and Muldoon did 15.

Later on it was shorter. Lange did 7. Bolger 18, Shipley 10, Clark 18 and Key 6.

Even in the old days, 30 years was beyond the waiting period for Holyoake, Nash and Marshall.

Today people distrust more people who have spent their entire life in Parliament. It is, well uncool. Look around the world:

Kevin Rudd became Pm after only eight years in Parliament. Tony Blair took 1 years to be Leader and PM in 14. David Cameron may do it in 13. Even Tony Abbott is in only his 16th year. Stephen Harper made PM 13 years after he entered. Angela Merkel took 15 years.

Now this is not a hard and fast rule. But it is a sign of the massive challenge ahead of Goff, to convince voters that he is a Prime Minister to lead NZ into the future.

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22 Responses to “Is Phil a Prince Charles?”

  1. oob (194 comments) says:

    Having just emerged into the warm light of freedom after nine long, cold years of Clarkist oppression, the prospect of a return of a Labour regime is chilling to contemplate.

    We’ve barely even commenced repairing the damage inflicted to our society and our economy by the Communists. Do we really want a return to;

    “Indoctrination, not education.”
    “Traffic enforcement, not law enforcement.”
    “Welfare lifestyle, not work/life balance.”
    “Entitlements, not responsibilities.”

    ..so soon?

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  2. poneke (280 comments) says:

    Labour in early 1996 dropped as low as 14%. But the overall left vote was pretty strong – with the Alliance and NZ First, they were around 50%.

    NZ First was never a left party. It was a hard-right nationalist party full of ultraconservatives, run by a demagogue.

    [DPF: Most of Peters rhetoric in the 1990s appealed to left wing voters. This is seen by the fact that support for Labour collapsed and went to him. He campaigned against big business, against free trade, against foreign investment and against privatisation - all associated with the left generally.

    On other issues such as law and order, he appealed to conservative voters, but in the mid 90s it was mainly left voters he attracted]

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  3. poneke (280 comments) says:

    The baby boomer generation did place a premium on experience in Parliament. Holyoake served 25 yars before becoming PM. Marshall served 26 years. Nash did 28 years. Kirk did 15 and Muldoon did 15.

    These were administrations elected by the parents of the baby boomers. The first baby boomers did not even get to vote until the 1996 election, and did not become dominant electorally until the 1980s.

    Later on it was shorter. Lange did 7. Bolger 18, Shipley 10, Clark 18 and Key 6.

    These were administrations elected by the baby boom generation. Shipley, Clark and Key are actually baby boomer themselves. As is Goff.

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  4. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    Phil might not know it yet… but he’s always been Labours stand in.
    And who’s the Queen in this case.. If your thinking Clark.. she’s already advocated.. with no successor on the horizon.
    Labours survival without Clark is like the royal family without the Queen.
    So yes Phil is like the Prince Charles syndrome as Labour is like the Royal Family syndrome: Domed.

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  5. Pete George (22,760 comments) says:

    The first baby boomers did not even get to vote until the 1996 election

    You must mean 1966?

    Labours survival without Clark is like the royal family without the Queen.

    Labour should morph into something modern, but the royals will probably fad into irrelevance.

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  6. poneke (280 comments) says:

    [DPF: Most of Peters rhetoric in the 1990s appealed to left wing voters. This is seen by the fact that support for Labour collapsed and went to him. He campaigned against big business, against free trade, against foreign investment and against privatisation - all associated with the left generally.

    No, support for Peters was from the disaffected elderly Rob’s Mob (and bizarrely — given he began his career as a relentless Maori basher — from Maori) which included the swathes of talkbackland through the Mt Roskills of the nation.

    Labour had its vote carved away on two sides — from the Alliance on the left and ACT on the right. Both those parties were created out of Labour factions. NZ First was a National faction, as I said, the conservative Rob’s Mob, whom Muldoon had cultivated out of Labour in the mid-1970s.

    Muldoon drove the urban liberals out of National into Labour, while encouraging the urban working-class conservatives who were Labour’s backbone to support National and it was from that faction that Peters drew his appeal. He was Muldoon’s anointed one.

    You must mean 1966?

    I did indeed but David’s correction system would not let me back in to correct it, or to put an s on the end of boomer.

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  7. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Oh come on, Phil Goff is in no way a Prince Charles, now if you had said a Prince Albert…

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  8. s.russell (1,559 comments) says:

    Periodically, voters get tired of the same old same old and want something fresh. That was a factor in 2008 (though not the only one as Brian Edwards seems to think).

    But that is not the mood now. The voters have something fresh and and offering an alternative fresh (and untested) leader in (say) Cunliffe would be pointless – it would not appeal to voters’ mood: which for a while at least is likely to favour continuity.

    That is Goff’s one chance: if National/Key were to suffer a meltdown, he would be the reassuring known quantity. In the absence of such he is irrelevant.

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  9. davidp (3,540 comments) says:

    I kind of feel a bit sorry for Goff. He has to stand for election in 2011. When he loses he’ll be rolled within months. So he’ll finish off his career as an opposition backbencher. That’s a pretty sad end to 30 years of work. Especially when he made it into Cabinet before Clark did.

    But then I remember that he is a career Labour MP who was collectively responsible for the nine wasted years of the Clark government, and don’t feel sorry for him at all.

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  10. bwakile (757 comments) says:

    “Labour should morph into something modern”

    If “modern” now means “hypocritical troughers” then the morphing is already complete.

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  11. Pete George (22,760 comments) says:

    That is Goff’s one chance: if National/Key were to suffer a meltdown

    Probably right – they may still dream of somehow winning next year rather than look at a more realistic timeframe, which could explain why Labour’s current strategy seems to be to try and apply the blowtorch to Key. The problem for them is they often look more like kids playing with matches, not caring if they burn the whole country.

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  12. RRM (9,428 comments) says:

    This leftie agrees FWIW. I just can’t get excited about a Goff-led Labour party. Partly it’s the very very silly battles/points of difference they have tried to pick with the Govt, and partly it’s just their straight-out lack of a coherent style.

    They seem to argue with Govt initiatives/talking points just for argument’s sake, and I get enough of that from my 5 year old…

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  13. tvb (4,197 comments) says:

    Goff’s other problem is he has been every which way on issues, not least the latest issue in which he was a Minister in a Government that raised GST 25% gave no compensation AND deepened a recession. How is it different now that justifies Goff’s postion now??? John Key is promising to plough back the revenue into rebalancing the income tax system. Did Labour do that when they raised GST??? Goff is pretty competent politician but he has been around too long, he has little life outside politics apart from his hobby farm and his family. But he is not a Prime Minister, he should have rolled Helen Clark in 1996.

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  14. reid (15,917 comments) says:

    Labour had its vote carved away on two sides — from the Alliance on the left and ACT on the right. Both those parties were created out of Labour factions. NZ First was a National faction, as I said, the conservative Rob’s Mob, whom Muldoon had cultivated out of Labour in the mid-1970s.

    Muldoon drove the urban liberals out of National into Labour, while encouraging the urban working-class conservatives who were Labour’s backbone to support National and it was from that faction that Peters drew his appeal. He was Muldoon’s anointed one.

    ACT on the right? Those guys were using Labour as a vehicle, in my reading Poneke. Are you implying they are a natural outgrowth of the Labour Party and if so, why do you say that? Genuinely interested.

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  15. s.russell (1,559 comments) says:

    Back in the sixties and seventies few people thought much about economics. But many people thought a lot about social and environmental issues. After 12 years of Holyoake, and then Muldoon’s populism it was natural that urban libareals would drift into the hands of Labour.

    When these people did start thinking about economics (prompted by Douglas) their thoughts turned out to be “right wing”. And when Labour rejected that some went off into Act.

    That is how a right-wing (and once sort-of liberal) party grew out of Labour.

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  16. stupidboy (26 comments) says:

    BAHAHAH prince Albert..thats so funny!!

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  17. peterwn (3,146 comments) says:

    ‘sheer arrogance of the Labour negotiators.’ IMO, Helen did not want a coalition with Winston at that time. The trick was to up the ante as much as possible to burden National. IMO if Helen had gone into coalition with Winston in 1996, it would have been pretty well on his terms and Helen would have been dog tucker in 1999.

    In 2007 I expressed a view that National should never go into coalition woth Winston. It was a ‘minority’ view but a year later that is pretty well what John Key decided.

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  18. Inventory2 (10,095 comments) says:

    I still find it amusing watching Goff front a left-wing agenda when I can remember him being a Roger Douglas acolyte in the 1980′s; horses for courses, I guess :-)

    But there’s no doubt that Goff is yesterday’s man; as Labour leader, he’s a mere seat-warmer until such time as the text message comes annointing his successor.

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  19. JiveKitty (869 comments) says:

    @Inventory2: That’s part of his problem with those who can remember his track record. It’s inconsistent in that he’s criticising now what he supported in the past. However, I don’t have a problem with people who change their minds provided they offer a better course and/or explain why they have changed their minds and such policy is inappropriate now. He might very well look back on being a Douglas acolyte as a mistake just based on how his personal politics have changed over the years, but he hasn’t explained what he would’ve done differently and why the macro effects weren’t worth short-term pain. And he hasn’t offered a substantive alternative to National’s mooted raise in GST, for example. His problems are compounded by the fact that National seem to be making their changes quite gradually, unlike the Douglas reforms which were done with relative rapidity, so the pain they may cause is potentially going to be somewhat minimised.

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  20. kisekiman (224 comments) says:

    Brian Edwards is whining hack whose opinion shouldn’t even be read let alone quoted.

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  21. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    I thought there had been a law passed that stated the irish wanker Brian ” I don’t even know how to spell hagiography” Edwards wasn’t allowed to comment on anything ever again.

    I supose he could get Phil air brushed and write an even more vacuous biography than the one he did on his main meal ticket the lying decietful corrupt bitch Clark

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  22. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    Not liking some of Nationals policies, esp the anti education ones, which David is unabashedly espousing, but I hope Goff never gets to se the treasury seats.

    Labour need to be truly punished for the EFB and I think they will be.

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