As expected, Phil Goff resigned yesterday, effective in mid December.
Despite the result, Goff ran a reasonably strong campaign and more than one person commented to me that they are unsure that any of his likely replacements will be a better campaigner. However it is the right decision that he goes, because at the end of the day I don’t think someone who entered Parliament in 1981 would ever be able to convince New Zealanders they are the future. His longevity was the one thing he could not reinvent.
Being Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics. Goff struggled at it, as most MPs have. The only MP I can recall who excelled at it was Muldoon. McClay, Bolger and Clark all struggled in the role. Bolger and Clark went on to be competent Prime Ministers, and Goff would also have been competent if he had been elected. However he achieves the unwanted record of being the only Labour Party Leader in the last 46 years, not to have made Prime Minister.
Goff’s legacy is that of a high achieving Minister. He made some good changes to the tertiary education system in the 1980s, and performed extremely well as Foreign and Trade Minister under Clark. The Free Trade Agreement with China is his greatest achievement, not made easier by the opposition of the then Foreign Minister to it.
In the fullness of time, I think it would be appropriate for the Government to offer him some sort of role. Possibilities are:
- Ambassador to the US (once Moore term ends)
- Ambassador to China (to build on FTA)
- Deputy Administrator of the UNDP (okay, just kidding)
- Ambassador to the WTO
Phil Goff spent 30 years trying to make New Zealand a better place. I disagreed with many of his policies, but respect his intentions and contribution. I hope he has a successful career outside Parliament, whether that commences in 2014, or before.