With Phil Goff’s accession to the leadership, Labour looks set to provide National with serious competition. Phil is easily one of the brightest and hardest working politicians in the country, a very effective debater and highly credible alternative prime minister. As the Herald put it in an otherwise muddled (downright stupid in places) editorial:

“Mr Goff has many of the attributes of Helen Clark: wide ministerial experience, a good command of all issues, instinctive common sense and a sure political touch. And he is a more forceful public speaker than she is.”

Yes, that political astuteness. Way back in the spring of 1981, I went out canvassing with Phil in Mt Roskill, where he was standing for the first time. It would be fair to say that some of the good burghers we met held very traditional views and were sceptical of the progressive ideas that the Labour Party had acquired. Goff disarmed them with simple, persausive reasoning that spoke to their values and concerns, reflecting his own background in South Auckland.

I’d be surprised if these voters didn’t comprise a large part of the “Labour-plus” group that National managed to prise away from Labour at this election. Or who stayed home. National can’t afford to take these people for granted now.

More recently, I went with a couple of very eminent professors to lobby Phil on university salary funding. He had taken the trouble to get a briefing on the subject from Wellington, and impressed my colleagues with his incisive but gentle and respectful questioning of our assumptions. Deeply impressed them.

A few years ago Phil’s more “centrist” position would have ruled him out of contention for the leadership. It took a long time for some of us to forgive him for his involvement with the neo-liberal reforms in the 1980s. His hard line on law and order probably causes some disquiet in the ranks even now.

However, much of the damage caused by the neo-liberal revolution has been repaired, and priorities have shifted. Further, as Steve Pierson points out, the Labour Party policy-making process is not as subject to the leader’s whim as is National’s, and Phil’s influence over the Party’s policy will be limited.

With people’s focus on economic security, he looks right for the times. Capable and competent, sharp as a tack.

I certainly don’t buy the dopey stuff in today’s Herald editorial about the need for someone “fresher, younger.” Phil’s only in his mid-fifties! No, this cult of the youth stuff the Herald is retailing is about setting up a destabilising narrative that will sell more newspapers. It’s up to Phil to prove them wrong.

I think that he has what it takes.

Update: Perfect. After just one day as leader, Phil Goff comes out with a measured admission that the way that the EFA was introduced and some of its provisions were not “as good as it could have been.” He said he will work with other parties to review the Act. Many of those NZers who stayed home or switched to National will see this as reasonable, constructive and just what they’re looking for in a leader. And he’s caught National on the hop.

Clever. Very, very clever.

Neil Stockley’s more detailed take here.

[Disclaimer: For some years I counted myself a friend of Phil’s. But that came to an end in the fractious late 1980s. Sadly.]



13 Responses to “Goff”

  1. the sprout Says:

    Nicely put jp.

  2. Ari Says:

    Yep, this pretty much sums up my feelings about Phil, too. 🙂

  3. CDH Says:

    Sorry, but Phil did not say some of it’s provisions were “as good as it could have been”.
    He said “I don’t think the way that the Electoral Finance Act was passed or necessarily its specific detail was as good as it could have been,”
    Context is everything, don’t you think?
    He was admitting they got it wrong, and congratulations to him for doing so.

    Thanks, CDH, for pointing out the typo. Fixed now.

  4. macdoctor01 Says:

    I was wondering how you see this as catching National “on the hop”? Frankly, Goff’s timing is poor, as it is clear that the EFA is going to be a very low priority for at least the first year. He could have got more mileage out of it when National turned their attention to it. Right now, he just looks like he is obsessed with irrelevancies.

  5. jafapete Says:

    MacDoc, When National turns their attention to this matter they will have to decide whether to take up his offer of a bipartisan approach. If they turn it down, then they will be just as guilty of ramming something through without consensus as Labour was in the first place, and look mean and petty.

    Also, it would seem that Goff shares my assessment of the part played by perceived arrogance in Labour’s loss, and he has acted very quickly to dispell this perception by saying ‘we didn’t get it right.’ Hear the pitter patter of thousands of feet in the distance? Them’s erstwhile Labour voters coming back to the fold.

  6. macdoctor01 Says:

    Hear the pitter patter of thousands of feet in the distance? Them’s erstwhile Labour voters coming back to the fold.

    And I thought it was the sound of rats leaving the sinking ship… 🙂

  7. StephenR Says:

    Goff’s timing is poor, as it is clear that the EFA is going to be a very low priority for at least the first year.

    One could be forgiven for thinking they probably didn’t make it a very high priority during their time in opposition then…the next election is ages away, of course.

  8. rayinnz Says:

    Goff then wades into the Maori Party and really pisses them off or rather their supporters
    Not a good look, he needs those votes next time.

    Ray, I don’t think that “waded into” really sums it up very fairly, and I doubt whether that many Maori share Turia’s deep-seated animosity to the party that brought her into the parliamentary arena. That’s not what their voting suggests. Maori made real progress under Labour, in sharp contrast to the 1990s under National, so it will be interesting to see how they do under National-lite.

  9. adamsmith1922 Says:

    So Doug Graham’s negotiation of major treaty settlements was not progress.

    And are you not making an assumption that all Maori vote eithe Maori Party or Labour, when very many ‘Maori’ are on the general roll and may well vote for a variety of parties just like the rest of us

  10. jafapete Says:

    Adam, Doug Graham was exceptional in the National Party — in fact, I recall the Labour candidate in 1993 having publically to defend him from his own people because of the treaty settlements. I think Brash at Orewa was more mainstream National, no? It’s fairly easy to establish cause and effect in respect of the sizable increase in National’s support that came straight after Orewa, so there’s a fairly clear picture emerges. For more details, refer to The Hollow Men.

    I am not sure how those Maori on the general roll vote, but I am not assuming that they vote one way or the other. More earlier comments refer primarily to those Maori who form Turia’s constituency.

  11. rayinnz Says:

    The Labour Party did set the Waitangi settlements rolling but for a variety of reasons was really slow in nailing down settlements

    They have given the impression that they take the Maori vote as theirs regardless of what they might have done for them
    They appear to be really unhappy that Maori might look elsewhere for help. Hence my statement about Goff, who I do hold in high regard (for a labour l.s.p etc etc)

  12. Ayrdale Says:

    ..Goff has earned a lot of respect from many of his opponents. To the right of most of his parliamentary colleagues, a pragmatist, but also unfortunately yesterday’s man. What a pity Brian Nicolle won’t step up to the podium and give his opinion…

  13. ecwaunwq@gmail.com Says:

    ¡Touche! Ciertos criterios. Manten este nivel es un post estupendo. Tengo que leer màs articulos como este.


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