Almost everyone is saying no.
The party is suffering in the polls, with the public still madly in love with John Key and still bearing a grudge against the perceived infractions of the last Labour government. Carter blames Goff, saying he’s a nice guy, but he can’t win. Political commentators nod sagely and agree that Goff is useless but Labour has no one else.
But 24 hours can be a long time in politics, and a year is a very long time indeed.
On current settings, victory for Labour looks extremely unlikely. John Key’s cautious, relentlessly poll-driven approach has ensured he keeps the poll numbers where he needs them to be. Anything too unpopular that can be put off, will be put off, no matter how many flip-flops it may take. He wants a second term and will sacrifice almost anything to get it.
But Key needs to be cautious. One look at what happened to Kevin Rudd in Australia will confirm that. Once Rudd lost his popularity with the electorate, he had no support within the party itself and his leadership imploded. Key, as a political newcomer, does not have many allies in the party. His control is entirely dependant on his poll ratings, and if those were to collapse there would be no shortage of challengers willing to seize the reins.
The public like John Key’s snake-oil salesman act. Phil can’t compete on charisma, and the real question is whether Labour should bother trying. Having charisma will not save a political leader when their time has come. The charming ones get voted out of office when the fundamentals catch up with them.
The real question is when the fundamentals will catch up with John Key. At the moment, he is riding the recession for all it is worth. All his sneaky little changes are being let slide because of the weak economy anything that might help is being welcomed by the public. But there are traps ahead. The first being the rise in GST that’s coming in October.
Inflation this year is expected to hit 5%. The tax cuts are not going to change the world for most people a few dollars here or there is not going to be noticed much. The changes in prices will be.
The second trap is the 90 day probation period being extended to all workers. When it was just small businesses it didn’t affect very many people. But now the policy can expect to claim a few victims who would never expect to find themselves on the wrong end of that law.
But by far the biggest trap is what happens when the economy picks up again. When workers notice that the recession is over, but things for them are not improving, there will be questions asked.
The biggest mistake Labour could make now would be to get into leadership battles. The political commentators are right about one thing disunity is not attractive. Supporting Goff as leader is the only sensible move.
Phil Goff is pretty universally acknowledged as a nice guy, a hard worker and good public speaker. He’s competent, committed and professional. There’s a sense that in his style as Prime Minister he would be similar to his predecessor acquiring the gravitas of office and being intelligent, dignified and well-respected.
It’s a style that served Helen Clark well. True, most of her opponents were in no danger of out-charming her. Jim Bolger, Jenny Shipley, Bill English and Don Brash had not much charisma to share between them.
But being able to make a fool of yourself on Letterman is not the only valuable political commodity.
Phil’s strength is in his sincerity. Unlike Key, he does have principles. He is not a flip-flopping truth-twister who will smile and wave with one hand while keeping the fingers on his other hand crossed behind his back.
The public might be charmed into buying snake oil once. But eventually they will realize that the product doesn’t live up to the promises.
What Labour needs is for Phil and the team to keep chipping away at National, questioning their figures, exposing their spin and establishing their own policies.
They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and the opportunity for Labour to get some serious traction is coming.