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Goff gets it right, as Key goes off the rails

Written By: - Date published: 3:30 pm, November 22nd, 2009 - 24 comments
Categories: john key, phil goff - Tags:

Phil Goff has managed to defy the critics and make himself relevant. His speech on ACC and his criticisms of National’s backroom deals with the Maori Party got praise and draw a contrast between Labour and Key’s government, with Labour on the right side of popular opinion.

It’s a nice piece of timing too. The public has begun to see John Key as a do nothing PM who is “relaxed” about everything and more interested in publicity shots than looking our for New Zealanders’ interests (he even joked on Sunrise earlier this week that he ought to be getting actor’s dues for his appearances). Rodney Hide’s confirmation that Key “doesn’t do anything” has probably been far more damaging than the media realised at first because it confirmed something people already suspected. Key’s lazy attitude, lack of control over his ministers, and inability to give straight answers is actually making him irrelevant – he’s not plotting the course of his own government. An excellent time, then, for Goff to reinvigorate his own leadership.

Labour needs to reconnect with the working class that created it. That means focusing on economic issues, rather than liberal social issues. Goff gets that. His recent performance has earned praise from the media for moving away from the social agenda that came to dominate, at least in the public eye, the 5th Labour:

Gower “a year to the day of taking over as Labour leader that Phil Goff finally got his first real “good on ya, mate” reaction from the public.”

C Espiner “if he can position himself as the friend of the worker who’s missing out while being collared with higher fees, he might just be able to drive some of those voters back home to Labour.”

I don’t read too much into polls this early in the election cycle, Goff and Labour will be happy to have gotten a boost in the lastest Roy Morgan – taking 4% off National and narrowing the gap by 8%. More importantly the confidence in government numbers are trending down.

People are tired of Key’s ‘all PR, no action’ style. If Goff can continue to give a voice to the real concerns of ordinary New Zealanders – unemployment, wages, a fair deal – he will create a stark contrast between himself and ‘Do Nothing John’, and the voters will keep coming back.

24 comments on “Goff gets it right, as Key goes off the rails ”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Goff is probably too centrist for most of our tastes here, but he is experienced and proven as a safe and competent Minister. And given that much of the electorate, under pressure from the recession is in a rather conservative mood… he probably is the right man to win an election for the left.

    My only thought is that one poll, with a movement still in the noise, is probably not enough to draw any conclusions from just yet. A long ways to election day yet.

  2. ghostwhowalksnz 2

    4% is quiet a lot for Morgan, as they do a continuous sampling over the month rather than the more normal 4 -5 days once a month.
    Still notice how bellows like DPF will go all quiet for a while., any way while they marshall their push back over ditching the monetary policy consensus

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    As fast as politics moves I still don’t think there’s enough data to say that National’s support is trending down yet.

  4. prism 4

    Can’t ignore the social issues, its no good just being concerned about traditional working men’s issues like wages and unemployment, though these are important. No amount of good wages can make up for living in a country where a considerable number of people have completely mucked up lives because the society doesn’t bother to find out and meet their needs.

    • Bill 4.1

      I don’t quite understand the splitting of economic issues and social issues….they are part and parcel of the same thing.

      The only reason I can see behind such an exercise is, sadly, a forlorn attempt by out of touch people to reinvent for themselves what they think it might be to be working class. Know what I mean? Like, there can’t possibly be any working class gays; no working class views on wars being fought and social justice issues; no working class comprehension of the world beyond (insert short list of cliches)….fucking ridiculous perspective, but one which would appear to lie behind the splitting in two of an obvious coherent whole on the implied premise that workers have no worthy interest in or opinion on issues beyond their wage packet.

      Maybe the problem is simply that in a general broad brush stroke way, working class perspectives differ from middle class perspectives to such a degree that the Labour Party, being full of ministers of a middle class persuasion, simply cannot represent those interests.

      Instead of impoverishing the already inadequate reflection of working class perspectives in parliament by focussing solely on overtly economic issues, why not infuse the party with genuine workers in place of careerists?

  5. Rob A 5

    I’m starting to see a few more comments in the media regarding Nationals do-nothing approach to government. Until now Key has got away with it because Goff has been a failure of an opposition leader upto now. Here’s hoping Goff finds his feet and is able to give the Nats a good run over the next two years.

  6. J Mex 6

    Gower: “He called Harawira an out-and-out racist, attacked the Harawira family and dropped lines like “he bludged off the taxpayer” and “one rule for everybody”

    Sounds like a characterture of Don Brash to me, Eddie.

    It also looks like Goff has discovered that the only room available is to the right of Key. While I’m happy about it, internally Labour is going to be in all sorts of bother if this keeps up.

    • mike 6.1

      “It also looks like Goff has discovered that the only room available is to the right of Key”

      I am noticing that more and more. But having been stung so badly by the bossy boots, nanny sate and smacking agenda last election he has finally seen the writing on the wall.

      Moving to the right of Key? – hell there’s plenty of room for him…

    • Alex 6.2

      Yes, I’ve noticed it too. I wonder how long it’s going to take for the left of the Labour party to start making some noise about it if the Parliamentary wing continues like this. There are definitely shades of Don Brash creeping into their rhetoric. I’m certainly not happy with what Labour’s doing, I probably won’t vote for them next time even though I did in 08. Self destruct time?

    • Craig Glen Eden 6.3

      So, what wasn’t true about any of that, none of that was right wing, Goff was just telling the truth. Harawira has done nothing to advance the cause of Maori his little rant only adds fuel to the fire of those who love to bash Maori. Having said that neither has the Maori Party done any thing for Maori, which I suspect is a large part of Harawiras frustration.

      Don’t go blaming Goff or try to paint him as right wing because he had the balls to call Harawia on his appalling behaviour.

      • Alex 6.3.1

        I think the consequence of that type of rhetoric is to foment anti-Maori sentiment. It’s also creeping in in the Maori party/National party deal over the ETS. Goff’s paid a disproportionate amount of attention to what is a side show in the whole the debate around the ETS (he should be focusing on environmental and economic repercussions and the harm to our international reputation), apparently only to try to get support from the types who go in for Don Brash-esque Maori bashing rhetoric.

    • Eddie 6.4

      I had a paragraph addressing this in the post but thought it too distracting from the core point.

      I don’t agree with Gower’s analysis. There are legitimate criticisms of the ETS deal and the Whanau Ora (and Harawira of course) and just because the beneficiaries of National’s dodgy dealing with Maori Party are the Maori elite doesn’t shield them from all criticism.

      When he says “one rule for everybody” he is referring to behaviour of MPs – that Hone is Maori and that there is a passing similarity between Goff’s phrase and the ‘one rule for all’ that all National leaders from English onwards have used is coincidental

  7. Alex 7

    I think the consequence of that type of rhetoric is to foment anti-Maori sentiment. It’s also creeping in in the Maori party/National party deal over the ETS. Goff’s paid a disproportionate amount of attention to what is a side show in the whole the debate around the ETS (he should be focusing on environmental and economic repercussions and the harm to our international reputation), apparently only to try to get support from the types who go in for Don Brash-esque Maori bashing rhetoric.

  8. gingercrush 8

    The Roy Morgan poll I’ve found to be rather erratic. Its the one poll that is being released monthly as opposed to other polls which are coming out quarterly. The left and right are quite often swapping 2-4% of the vote each month. Until that becomes more regular it can’t be too relied on. Though the government approval has been rather static so they could be showing a movement.

    I do think Goff has made himself more relevant as of late. Looks much more an opposition leader than previously. He’s always been good in the house. But his appearances outside the house haven’t been the best. This is changing. John Key has some management issues to sort out but in particular there seems to be a distinct lack or organisation behind the scenes. National really needs to lift their gear in that area.

  9. Zaphod Beeblebrox 9

    No one seems to have commented on the drop of Maori vote from 3.5 to 2. If this were true (who knows) this would indicate a considerable shift within the maori electorate. When a party loses 4/7’s of their vote you suspect something is happening.

    Also the ACT vote has leapt form 1 to 2.5. This shows to me that the drop in National support is going to ACT, presumably due to dissatisfaction with the Maori/Nat alliance.

    Labour needs to pull back another 8-9% from the conservative parties- the only way they are going to do that is by providing superior economic policies- either that or National continue to make a hash of the ETS.

    • gingercrush 9.1

      2% seems more indicative of the Maori Party support anyway. Tough I would trust the Marae Digipoll over Roy Morgan anyway since it focuses much more on what Maori are thinking.

      Roy Morgan polling can be particularly volatile. Just look at these from Aug 3 onwards.

      National: 53.5, 56.5, 51.5, 57.5, 53, 55.5, 51.5
      Labour: 32.5, 29.5, 33.5, 28, 30, 29, 33

      The Greens went from 8.5 on Aug 3rd to now being on 6.5.
      Act 1% to 2.5%. Maori 2% with a low of 1.5, a high of 3.5 and now back to 2%

      The only real constant is that since February National has been above 50% while Labour hasn’t been over 34% Whilst with confidence National has been above 63% approval in the right direction since being elected.

      Thus the polls don’t say much of anything.

      What has changed is the media narrative. Goff has lifted his game and is now being acknowledged in the media while a narrative is setting in for John Key and National with the media seeing them as being too wishy-washy.

      Where I disagree with Eddie is he’s saying people are too coming to that conclusion. I don’t think that can be agreed at this stage and even if that is the case, it isn’t making an impact on support for parties yet.

  10. student_still 10

    “Labour needs to reconnect with the working class that created it. That means focusing on economic issues, rather than liberal social issues.”

    By doing this, Labour has effectively lost my vote. I care about liberal social issues. Does Goff care that he is alienating and disenfranchising left of centre voters such as myself?

    I don’t want to vote Green, as I find some of their policies, and their radical fringe element, unappealing. Yet, I feel very little connection to/resonance with the Labour Party anymore.

    As a liberal, left-of-centre, well-educated, reasonably-well-employed, 25 year old, Caucasian female, who is left for me to vote for?

    • roger nome 10.1

      SS – we ain’t going any further with liberal social issues for a while. The redneck underbelly of NZ needs a little time to adjust to the rational (read “scary”) progressive law changes of the last government.

      Anyhow, i think we’re doing pretty well as a country on that front in terms of legislation. As one of the least sustainable and most inequitable developed countries on the planet, i think we could stand to go a little in the direction of the Greens. You’ve also got to understand that the “wacky hippy” image you see of the Greens on the tv doesn’t actually represent the party.

  11. TF 11

    I don’t want to vote Green, as I find some of their policies, and their radical fringe element, unappealing.

    Interesting comment ,student_still
    It would be helpful if you could give some examples?

  12. student_still 12

    Don’t get me wrong; the Green Party has some aspects that I really believe in. For one, they are the only Political Party (as far as I can see) that is not afraid to champion the rights of women and promote equality openly, and actually write it into their policy and charter etc…With all the PC backlash that has occurred in the last year, it is sad to see that Labour have backed down, and don’t seem to hold this as being as much of a priority anymore, in MHO. Perhaps the sentiment is still there – with many female Labour Party MPs, but any such ‘voice’ has been pushed aside in favour of Goff appealing to the ‘working class, white, male’.

    I don’t agree with the Green’s view on food regulation, and their unwavering stance on GE.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the emphasis they place on public transport.

    Nor do I necessarily agree with their stance on Gambling.

    Or drug-regulation. Or Climate Change.

    I guess you could say that I agree with much of the Green’s social policy, but environmentalism, conservation, and sustainability are not immediately a priority to me.

    There was a piece in the media recently detailing that the average New Zealander was experiencing ‘Green overload’ and were sick of being bombarded with messages telling them to recycle, live sustainably etc…Not to mention the irritation that ‘Being Green’ appears to be ‘trendy’ and ‘in’. It is exactly this kind of ‘wankery’ that makes the whole concept even more unappealing to me.

    And by ‘radical fringe element’ I mean any person or group who protest or participate in activism where public/private property is destroyed, people have some ‘green’ message rammed down their throat, or people make nuisances of themselves just for the sake of being difficult/confrontational. I’m not suggesting that the Green Party is the only one to have this element, but it is this minority that makes it hard for me to relate to the party 100%

    I’m fairly sure I would not be the only New Zealander who feels that way.

  13. ben 13

    The public has begun to see John Key as a do nothing PM who is “relaxed’ about everything and more interested in publicity shots than looking our for New Zealanders’ interests

    Sorry but that is simply false. National is 30 points ahead and Labour isn’t closing it. That is not how Key is perceived at all.

    Repeat after me, folks: just becuse you say it doesn’t make it true.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 13.1

      Yeah, but even Key will find he’s swimming against the tide. Everywhere I look I see centre right parties struggling wiith their ideology and being able to cope with the crises they face. People no longer expect govts to do nothing when they get into power, they want active steps to invest in education, alternate energy, promote high tech investment.

      There are rapidly emerging crises in energy, climate, food production and water. There is a devloping international consensus from China to Chile that something needs to be done now and many of these right wing parties are clueless on how to act.

      I look at the Republicans in the U.S (led by that intellectual giant Sarah Palin), the coalition in Australia- hopelessly split between the pragmatists and the deniers. In Britain David Cameron- a very smart and able leader is trying to run a way from the conservative agenda as fast as he can and even he is running into difficulties.

      With emerging consensus that stuff needs to happen the low taxes will save us chant is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The NZ right will not be immune.

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