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.