Hooton on Goff and ETS

Matthew Hooton writes (offline) in the NBR:

The clock is surely ticking on Phil Goff’s leadership. New Zealand’s most accurate polls, TV3 and Roy Morgan, both put Labour below 30%, half the support of National and its partners.

Worse for Mr Goff, while the Greens are secure in Parliament, Labour’s other essential ally, Winston Peters, has no chance of resurrection.

And Anderton is retiring. That means Labour and the Greens between them need to get at least 62 seats.  They currently have 52 but on the latest polls are below 50.

Mr Goff does not help himself with his choice of issues. This Tuesday he used all his parliamentary questions to quiz John Key on whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) had advised sending SAS troops back to Afghanistan before the cabinet decided to do so.

Mr Key easily swatted Mr Goff away, saying that no specific advice had been given. The cabinet would decide about putting kiwi soldiers into harm’s way, not bureaucrats.

Yet Mr Goff pushed on, asking increasingly detailed questions about what Mfat may have told Mr Key about security in central Asia. …

It’s difficult to see what Mr Goff hoped to achieve. Afghanistan is far from a driver of voting behaviour.Informed observers also know that Ms Clark was so committed to Afghanistan that she broke up her coalition with the Alliance and called an early election on the issue in 2002.

I’ve said it many times before. Labour keep concentrating on Wellington issues, not issues that connect with the average voter.

And a useful reminder of how committed Labour was to the war in Afghanistan.

Were Mr Goff prime minister, it’s likely he’d be far quicker than Mr Key to provide military support to the United States.

Most embarrassing, Mr Goff’s parliamentary attack coincided with revelations that Ms Clark had secretly sent kiwi spies to Afghanistan.

As her foreign affairs and then defence minister, there is no doubt Mr Goff was intimately involved in that decision. Only parliamentary rules prevented him being called a hypocrite.

The thought that Labour would turn down President Obama’s request for assistance from the SAS, after lending them to President Bush on three previous occasions is farcical. Of course they would have.

Mr Goff’s last hope lies with the emissions trading scheme (ETS). Labour understands that Mr Key became prime-minister-assumptive when he stood with Ms Clark on smacking.

Mr Goff knows that if a deal is done, he and Mr Key will stand as equals. Labour’s broad approach to climate change will be implicitly endorsed.
More importantly, the National/Maori Party/ACT Government would be seen as dysfunctional.

The business, farming and iwi sectors would be furious.
The ratings agencies and influential media such as the Wall Street Journal would continue lampooning New Zealand for our stupidity.

What international investment that might be possible in the midst of a global recession would evaporate.

National would get the blame for the $5,400 a year the ETS will cost a family of four.  And Mr Goff would be back in the game.

It is definitely an opportunity for Goff. His problem is whether he has enough control of his caucus to get them to back any compromise he does with Key.

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