Granted Goff didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already. You’d have to be deaf and blind to not know the Mount Roskill MP has been grooming himself to take over from Helen Clark ever since the pair left university.
Heh harsh, but true.
It’s also true that Goff has never denied he was interested in taking over, either. But I can’t recall him ever being quite so explicit as he was in a partial transcript of an interview he gave to Alt TV, which airs tonight.
Ues it is normally done by nudge nudge wink wink.
Given the opportunity to explain himself to reporters this morning, Goff didn’t resile from his remarks – in fact he said he stood by them. He added that Labour was the underdog going into the election, and that clearly some people felt it was time for a change.
So is Goff saying people think it is tme for a change of government, or a change of leader?
Now, full marks to Goff for honesty, but it’s a well-known political convention that senior ministers don’t upstage their leader by talking about defeat in an election year, particularly when the party is staring down the barrel of a walloping.
And they most certainly don’t start speculating about the process involved in a leadership change, bloodless or not, should that party be defeated.
The question, then, is was Goff simply having an off day or was he being disingenuous? Did he make a faux pas or is this part of a wider game plan on his part?
I’m going with the latter option. Goff has been in politics almost as long as Clark. He knows the score. There is no way he would have made these remarks without an end-game in mind.
That’s a big call, but Colin is right that Goff is no novice. As Foreign Minister Goff is well trained in never saying anything without careful thought. And if you look at the actual video of him on Alt TV, he seems very clear with what he is saying – it was not something “tricked” out of him.
Consider also his track record. Goff was one of the gang of four who went to Clark’s office in 1996 to ask her to step down. He held an infamous barbecue at his house in 1999 to which Clark was not invited and rumours have persisted ever since that it was to canvass leadership options.
I seem to recall some “BBQ at Phil’s place posters going around Wellington at the time!
So what’s Goff’s end game? I’m not for a minute suggesting he would sabotage his party. Nor do I think there is even the remotest chance of a leadership spill before the election.
But it is clearly in his interests for Labour to lose, and lose badly. That would prompt a clear-out of the current leadership and its allies and give him the opportunity and the mandate to rebuild Labour and take it in a new direction.
I think his comments to Alt TV, repeated again this morning, were a reminder to his supporters and the wider public that Phil Goff is still in the frame, biding his time, waiting for his opportunity.
When you are 27% behind in the polls, it is normal and natural to start thinking of post-election positioning. Certainly there will be no moves before the election at all, but the list ranking for Labour will be very interesting to watch.
Phil Goff has breached political convention and openly admitted that not only might Labour lose the election but, if so, he could be interested in the leadership.
While both those things are widely known, it is not done speak aloud about alternative leadership or admit the possibility of defeat. That is politics 101.
Goff’s offending comments were made a couple weeks ago to Oliver Driver’s niche TV show Let’s be Frank and will screen tonight on Alt TV.
They are an extraordinary lapse for such a seasoned politician and canvassing the issue of defeat and leadership is the last thing the Labour Government needs in Budget week of election year.
Yes, an unusual pre-budget announcement – ‘We might lose and if so I want to be leader’.
He reiterated his comments that Labour could lose. He used a little more discretion today on the leadership question, but still implied it could be up for debate soon: “There is no question about leadership at the moment,” he said. “There is 100 per cent support for Helen Clark and I have been 100 per cent in support of her right through this office.”
The use of the term “at the moment” is very significant. It is the traditional phrase used to send a signal.
After being caught unawares in the stand-up outside the caucus room Goff could be heard having strong words with his press secretary.
Dr Cullen’s office has also been having staffing issues. It can get very stressful there when things look grim.