Edwards on Goff

April 26th, 2011 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

looks at the futu for . He notes:

After Clark steps down in the wake of National’s win in the 2008 election, Is unanimously elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

Both Goff and Labour have floundered in the polls ever since.   

It’s worth pointing out, however, that Goff’s and Labour’s poll ratings are actually better now, seven months before a general election,  than Clark’s and Labour’s were seven months before the 1996 general election. Had it not been for Winston Peter’s decision to go with National, Clark would have won that election.

There is an important context here. The last time Labour polled below 27% was indeed in 1996. But the Alliance and NZ First between them were polling 33%, and both were pushing left wing messages. So the actual support for leftish parties was 60%. Today it is under 35%.

And Edwards is right Clark coudl have been PM in 1996 if Winston went with her. In fact on election nigth she all but declared herself the victor. It was partly the arrogance of Labour in the negotiations that pushed Peters back towards National.

There is, however, no such expectation that Goff can win this year’s election in November. He has been written off by the media and, if the latest polls are to be believed, by a majority of Labour’s own supporters. After a 27-year career in Parliament the Leader of the Opposition looks almost certain to be denied the glittering prize. Therein lies the tragedy.

Goff, it seems to me, has three strikes against him.

The first is that he took over as leader of a party which had been in office for nine years, which the electorate was thoroughly tired of and which had just lost an election. His task, to re-enthuse that  electorate to the point where it would throw out the government after only one term, was nigh on impossible. Political history argues against it.

Second, he has been around too long. In a post entitled The Prince Charles Syndrome

I think the second strike is the hardest to overcome. Phil Goff joined the Labour Party in 1969 when John Key was an eight year old and became an MP in 1981, when Key was a second year university student wooing Bronagh. It is hard for someone who entered Parliament when Muldoon was prime Minister, to be seen as a Prime Minister for the future.

The third strike against the Leader of the Opposition is that amorphous quality ‘charisma’. Or rather the lack of it. Phil does not have charisma. His ‘image’ – that other indefinable term – is terrible: stiff, wooden, robotic, uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, stern, censorious, lecturing, occasionally irritable, occasionally sour.

In an unhappy irony Goff is a Labour leader with no apparent common touch. The ‘apparent’ is important, because people who know him and people who meet him face to face speak of an entirely different person – approachable, warm, relaxed, funny, a good bloke, a decent man.

I’ve found Goff perfectly pleasant and nice in person. And if we are to have a Labour Prime Minister, I’d rather have Goff than many others.

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19 Responses to “Edwards on Goff”

  1. freedom101 (505 comments) says:

    In 1996 the Alliance and Winston were pushing left wing messages …. whereas in 2011 it’s National. It’s therefore surprising that National isn’t polling around the 70% mark. Goff should be pleased with 27%!

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  2. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Labour can’t help themselves make themselves look old and tired. At the last election they were banging on about the Springbok tour at one stage. That was before a sizable chunk of the voting population was born and hardly a way to make yourself relevant.

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  3. JeffW (327 comments) says:

    Not sure about your maths David: “There is an important context here. The last time Labour polled below 27% was indeed in 1996. But the Alliance and NZ First between them were polling 33%, and both were pushing left wing messages. So the actual support for leftish parties was 60%. Today it is under 35%.”

    With National being Centre Left, I make it about 90% support for leftish parties. Of course, I am hoping for the day that National deserve to loss the centre-left description.

    Sorry, Freedom 101 beat me to the comment.

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  4. giggleatthegaggle (10 comments) says:

    Goff and King are both looking old and tired – we are in for some interesting times when they fail at the next election. I think that AL will try and send the party back to its union ‘roots’ and will stage a leadership bid. I don’t know that Silent T or Nosey will up for the challenge.

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  5. Peter (1,713 comments) says:

    He’s looking at the futu?

    Perhaps Phil can’t look at the futu himself….

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  6. s.russell (1,642 comments) says:

    Poor Phil,
    Oppositions are irrelevant unless the Government is unpopular. So no-one much cares what he says. He is also caught between trying to appeal to the left-wing base and the moderate middle. He’s trying to do both and thus appealing to neither. He acts like a robot because he is one. He has been a politician so long he has become the mask. He is a political machine, but one that is sadly obsolete, like an IBM 386 computer.

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  7. Monty (978 comments) says:

    Edwards talks about the image of Goff as being ” terrible: stiff, wooden, robotic, uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, stern, censorious, lecturing, occasionally irritable, occasionally sour.”

    I had to re-read that because I thought he was describing Clark. (Don’t forget this is an inside the circle lefty decribing Goff).

    Goff cannot capture the imagination of the people in the way Key does. His politics are all negative, and Goff cannot sell Labour Policies to a population that simply is not interested in the Labour Message. They country has not forgotten the train wreck economy that Labour left the incoming government.

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  8. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    So the actual support for leftish parties was 60%. Today it is under 35%.

    National is plainly a left wing party. The Left now poll 85% in this country.

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  9. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    He is a political machine, but one that is sadly obsolete, like an IBM 386 computer.

    Goff first became an MP (1981) the year IBM released their original PC, which was an 8088. They released the AT (286) in 1984.

    Intel introduced their 80386 in 1985 – Compaq where the first off the block with that, when Goff was into his second term. just after Jim McLay had taken over from Muldoon. IBM didn’t use the 386 until 1987.

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  10. jaba (2,143 comments) says:

    “occasionally sour.” .. It’s the occasionally word that is wrong for Clark Monty.
    Gaffe had his chance when elected, I mean appointed as the new leader. He should have gone away with his choosen ones and made a list of the MP’s he wanted and a list who he didn’t. He should also have made up a 3rd with people who he thought maybe interested and approach them (like with the guy who replaced Clark for instance .. can’t remember his name which says it all).
    He didn’t do that, indicated he was happy with his team and went downhill from there. Tough shit

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  11. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    “futu” – it’s UTU with an added “fuck you”

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  12. Richard Aston (5 comments) says:

    Futu – I really like this new word – future utu ie bad karma is coming your way soon

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  13. Richard Aston (5 comments) says:

    I have spent an hour with both Phil Goff and John Key, interestingly they both are very affable people and they both lack that strong physical charisma I have felt off other leaders.

    So Phil and John are on a par in that regard but Phil, hell, he just doesn’t do telly very well does he. I get the sense he is trying hard, too hard. Strutting out his decisive/ assertive persona where as Oky Doky John just smiles and kinda says it’s all gonna be ok. Which is what a lot of people want to hear.

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  14. sooty (64 comments) says:

    Will Labour disappear into the annuals of history after this election?

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  15. Elaycee (4,393 comments) says:

    I had to read this comment by Edwards a second time – especially the part where he states… “His ‘image’ – that other indefinable term – is terrible: stiff, wooden, robotic, uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, stern, censorious, lecturing, occasionally irritable, occasionally sour”.

    To me the extract could be taken from Edwards’ biography. Just include the descriptions: pompous / smug / self serving and the opening chapter of his book would be complete.

    Edwards is really showing signs of working too long under the protective tentacles of ‘dear leader’ and H2. Or is he simply testing the water to see whether he can help push Goff aside in order to pave the way for a return to NZ by the gruesome twosome?

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  16. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Goff’s problem is he never looks “real”. He always looks like he is trying to be strong, trying to be a leader, trying to be decisive. He is a journeyman politician, adequate but nothing more. Add that to the other issues highlighted in the Edwards piece and Goff is destined to be “the man who never even looked like getting close” let alone “the man who would be king”.

    Even if by some freakish act of National self destruction, Labour managed to win the election I reckon Goff would still be rolled within weeks. As a grade he’s a “C+”.

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  17. iMP (2,387 comments) says:

    Personality is actually more vital in politics than capability. David Lange is proof of that.
    Geoffrey Palmer (perhaps one of the most capable ministers in a generation) was a hopeless PM
    because he lacked that “common touch.” Mike Moore was much more successful and could have
    been great, but the timing was off for him. There is nothing Phil can do, the timing is off, he has
    no media personality, and no “common touch.” Three strikes. GONE. Off to the UN.

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  18. kiwi in america (2,456 comments) says:

    I agree David – in person Phil is a real nice bloke and in fact would be a safer PM for NZ than Clark ever was because his instincts are truly centrist whereas Clark’s were hard left all the way and she tempered these instincts only for political expediency.

    Goff’s actually a natural for Labour’s old working class base but his common touch instincts have to be hedged so as to not offend all the feminists and neutered metrosexual males around him who kowtow to the sisterhood.

    Timing is everything as Imp says. Anyone taking over after Clark’s political scorched earth was always on a fools errand.

    I cannot recall who came up with these rules of thumb – perhaps Tom Scott – but he said if you could imagine a leader in a scout uniform then they would never be PM (or be popular) and could imagine yourself having a beer at a BBQ and the leader in question being 100% at home in that setting – another test of the common touch. Rowling, McLay, Palmer, Brash all looked out of place in the pub and very much at home in a scout uniform. The opposite was true of Muldoon, Moore, Bolger and Key. Goff is kind of in the middle and I think if Labour was not so PC, his natural instincts would shine.

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  19. reid (16,516 comments) says:

    she tempered these instincts only for political expediency.

    Correction kia, she appeared to temper those instincts for the sake of political expediency but just that made her mad so to punish the people of NZ for making forcing her to be appear ethical, she went ahead and let those instincts lose, but only in unannounced ways and only to be discovered until way after she’d left office.

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