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.