The Leader in Waiting

Audrey Young profiles the leader in waiting for Labour, and also looks at the far more interesting issue of who would be Goff’s Deputy.

First she look at if Labour loses:

Being Opposition leader is one of the worst jobs in politics, especially up against a new Government enjoying a honeymoon with the public.

The leader has to have the skills to prevent the defeated party tearing itself apart – and this is where Goff would be weakest – be the toughest opponent to a Government that has just been given a mandate to do what it is doing, and have public appeal.

It is a job for the toughest. Few in Labour ranks could handle it well.

Clark could but there’s no satisfaction in going backwards. Michael Cullen could but he would be yesterday’s man. Annette King could but does not want it. Mallard would have been a rival to Goff had he not played fast and loose with his own reputation.

Lianne Dalziel revels more in backroom work than public profile these days.

Clark would indeed be a formidable Opposition Leader.  But I can’t see her wanting to have that job for long unless someone like Little was in Caucus who given time could beat Goff.  Cullen and King don’t want it.  Mallard does but has struck himself out literally. Maharey has gone and Dalziel’s sacking from Cabinet for lying would be recalled too often.

If Labour wins, the situation is a bit different:

A return to power by Labour at the next election reduces the alternatives.

Clark could then hand over to a new leader (and Prime Minister) before the 2011 election. Again that could still be Goff if none of the new generation have scrubbed up well enough.

But by then Shane Jones, now in his first term, may have acquired some of the necessary communication skills and party political experience necessary to lead Labour.

Indeed if Labour do win again, some alternatives to Goff will have time to prove themselves.

And then the deputies:

The best the next generation could hope for under a Goff leadership would be as deputy.

David Cunliffe has ambition, is handling the front bench well, and has definite public appeal but his perceived arrogance makes him unpopular in his own caucus.

Maryan Street has ability but, with less than one term, very little political experience. However she may have a rapid rise owing to the thinning ranks of capable women in a party where gender balance is important.

Street fighter Clayton Cosgrove would be invaluable to the party in Opposition but does not have broad enough appeal to make it to the top two.

King it seems does not want Leader but maybe could be persuaded to be Deputy. If Cunliffe survives Health I could well see him moving into Finance – but that may be seperate to Deputy. Street has been effective behind the scenes but too early to know if she move into a public leadership role.  She has been Party President though. Jones as Deputy is a possibility also.

Audrey then sums up all the candidates:


Best bet since Maharey announced he was quitting and Mallard wrestled Henare in the corridors of Parliament.

More respected in the caucus and as able as Goff, but colleagues know better than to ask. She would refuse. She has found love and will do nothing to compromise it.


The perfect candidate on paper, expert in Maoritanga and Harvard-educated, but the first-termer is not experienced enough and not steeped in party culture.

Has won over the public for his strong leadership in health but has still not won over his caucus, who have as little regard for him as they do for his ego. Could be deputy material.

The Mike Moore acolyte has won respect from the Left of the party for his ability to put differences aside – but not that much respect.

Clever, witty and able but needs another six years under his belt to shake off the kid-brother image and show his serious side.

A classic modern Labour MP – policy-driven feminist with a strong human rights bent – not as scary as she sounds. Could be an a contender for deputy to Goff.

Bright, methodical, a details man but has too much of an academic approach to the job.

Ruled himself out of Parliament next term but could do a Bob Hawke after 2011 if other leadership combinations have failed.

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