There have been many articles on what Phil Goff was up to with his comments on Alt TV, and there appears to be an merging consensus (which I stated was my opinion early on) that his comments were not directed at Helen, but at other post-election contenders for the leadership – especially David Cunliffe.
Now a Goff vs Cunliffe contest for the leadership could be fascinating. Neither man is universally popular with his peers, but both are respected for the jobs they have done in their portfolios. Whether there would be a third contender remains to be seen.
So what was said over the weekend. First the Dom Post editorial on Saturday:
Announcing the beginning of the Siege of Helengrad on a television channel that believes it needs to titivate the news to attract viewers is a strange move for would-be Labour leader Phil Goff, The Dominion Post writes.
It’s almost as strange as his admission in the same venue that “sure, we might lose the election”.
Traditionally, politicians wait till the votes are counted before conceding even the possibility of defeat, but Mr Goff has not got time to muck about with the niceties if he wants to be Labour’s next leader.
That’s why it’s doubtful either statement was a Goff goof.
There have been claims that it’s all down to media mischief-making, but they are about as credible as the claims of those who say they watch Alt TV’s naked news to keep abreast of current affairs.
It was not a gaffe. Goff has spent ten years saying he has no ambitions to be leader, and when you change the tune to be no ambition until after the election it means something.
Mr Goff is a man of long experience and it is foolish to believe he unintentionally flashed his intentions.
He is used to the convoluted logic and necessary evasions of politics, and well versed in their practice. After all, he is the man who, as trade minister, has to convince his foreign counterparts that even though New Zealand’s foreign minister fulminates against free trade agreements, the Government that Winston Peters represents overseas is actually very keen on them. …
Instead, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Mr Goff has taken a leaf out of Lewis’ book.
He has decided to begin his own leadership fan dance, revealing enough of a glimpse of his ambition to take over from Helen Clark to indicate his interest and titillate his supporters. …
Or, as Lewis would undoubtedly observe, it’s all about Flirty Phil Goff from Mt Roskill deciding he needs to be out there swinging his tassels before Delicious David Cunliffe from New Lynn has even tied on the G-string.
Goff seems to have detected a 9th floor led campaign for DC to be her natural successor. He is of course not happy having been so quiet and loyal for the last 12 years, and having seen off Maharey and Mallard.
Fran O’Sullivan also writes on the issue:
Goff knows that Clark does not want him to inherit her mantle as Labour leader. The Prime Minister has been less than discreet in signalling her preference for a generational switch to take place after her 15-year reign as Labour’s leader ends. Those who have been treated to her gossipy confidences believe she favours Cabinet rising star David Cunliffe to take over from her in a carefully stage-managed post-election transition of power.
That sounds like some well placed sources.
Goff would have heard the gossip. He would also have felt rather miffed that his loyalty to Clark – which has not been in question since he and Cullen led a deputation asking her to stand down as Labour’s leader in 1996 – has not being openly returned.
Goff-watchers believe he lacks the bottle to openly challenge Clark, even after an election defeat.
This is Goff’s problem. If Labour loses (and it may not of course) and Clakr steps down immediately then Goff has to be the favourite. But what if Clark stays on as Opposition Leader for a year, and then stands down. By then Cunliffe (or others) may have gained enough support to beat Goff in a ballot.
It occurs to me that if it is Goff vs Cunliffe for the leadership, then the winner would be sensible to make the other their Finance Spokesperson. The two of them together would actually be a pretty strong team, and would give Labour a decent shot in 2011 (especially with Cullen’s poison pill budget).