Goff on Q&A

Some parts of the Goff interview showed he wasnt getting it, but others suggest he is getting it – and in fact may be able to pull off a political coup. Taking the interview in order:

PHIL Well actually it was interesting I went to a meeting of the Rotorua District Council and one of the Councillors go up there in front of all of his colleagues and the Mayor and said look I think the Labour government did a good job, he said I voted National last time, I think you got the big things right but the little things irritated me. Later on in the day he told the Council well he was re-examining his position, but I think that’s right, there were things that you do after nine years in office that irritate people, people think that there’s a need for a change, give the other guys a go and if we don’t like them we can toss them out in three years, that sort of feedback.

PAUL Are you still in denial, it was a massive rejection.

Not a good start. It isn’t just Clark. Labour are still acting as if they did nothing wrong but a couple of minor things. They think just hold their breath and they’ll be back in office in three years as the natural party of government.

PHIL Well my vision for New Zealand is it starts with a decent society affairs society, I grew up on my grandmother’s knee, her husband a war veteran from the first war died in 1934 right in the middle of the Depression, they lost their job, they lost their home, for me Labour was about a decent society that looks after all of its people, that treats people fairly that treats people with dignity and respect, so that’s the core of my political beliefs, and that could well become very relevant again in the next few months as more New Zealanders the Treasury say another 60,000 New Zealanders lose their jobs, people lose their homes and so on. But it’s about more than that, as Minister of Trade it was about having an economy that was innovative, efficient, competitive in the world. As Foreign Minister it was about being proud of your national identity, not kowtowing to any other country but standing up for the things that you believe in, believing that New Zealand is a country of 4.3 million people can still make a difference, and we did, and finally I think it’s about the environment, a sustainable environment, living up to that brand of clean green 100% pure New Zealand.

The personal stuff was good, and the ending was good. But Goff needs to stop talking so much about what he did as a Minister. No one cares any more – the sad reality. For nine years it has been about campaigning on his record, but to win in 2011, it will be ablout campaigning on a new vision.

PAUL Let’s get to the nitty gritty what policies do you think will have to change, for example can I ask you about smacking, for example should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

PHIL Well my answer to that is no it shouldn’t be a criminal offence or we should not have people following up and prosecuting parents for a smack in that context, but remember 110 out of a 122 MPs voted for that legislation including every member of the National Party.

Now here I give Goff 9/10. He has said a smack for correctional purposes should not be a criminal offence.  If he comes out and pledges that Labour will respect the results of the upcoming referendum, he;ll leave National wrong-footed and dramatically brand Goff Labour as different from Clark Labour.

Frankly I am not sure he has the authority to force it onto his caucus. But if he can, then it could be a turning point in his leadership. He needs to take some risks, and committing Labour to respect the results of the referendum would be worth the risk.

PAUL What about the Maori seats, take a stand, there’s 160,000 in Auckland shouldn’t they be able to campaign on their own don’t you think?

PHIL Well that’s the Royal Commission’s argument for it, I’ve got an open mind on that, what I’m saying at this stage is that at least it should have been consulted on, it shouldn’t have been scrapped without any consultation.

This is my criticism of Labour. They will criticise what the Government is doing, but won’t actually say what they would do.

PHIL Oh John’s a very nice guy, I think his strength is that he comes across as a middle New Zealander, he comes across as somebody that people can relate to as a human being, I think that’s good for him, what are his weaknesses, I think that his weaknesses are that the policies that’s he’s pursuing on the advice of Crosby Textor are not what he actually believes, and you can see that for the things that John Key said before he became leader compared to what he’s saying now he’s the leader, whether it’s Iraq or whether it’s a range of different issues, he used to push the party down a right wing path, he’s been told that that’s not good you can never win middle New Zealand that way, he’s created a new face but is that the reality of what underlies the National Party and John Key. The electorate will get to see that in course.

Labour don’t realise that no one outside the beltway cares one fuck about Crosby Textor. And Goff is going to get a nasty surprise if he keeps trying to push that Key is a nasty neo-conservative in drag. It did not work in 2008, and will work even less now.

Overall a pretty good interview. Not great, but with some promise. His statement on the anti-smacking law was excellent, and if he follows up by getting his party to promise to respect the referendum results, then he would put the Government on the back foot, and gain some real momentum for Labour.

Goff traditionally has had some pretty good instincts. He needs to be prepared to break with the past more, and trust his instincts.

UPDATE: NZPA have reported that Goff has clarified his comments and says there is no change to their policy on the law. A pity and lost opportunity – it would have left National looking defensive if he had. Now instead he just reminds people of Labour’s association with it.

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