Bill Ralston quotes me and some other Left bloggers on the Burgess debacle suggesting it means Goff’s neck is on the line and a leadership challenge might be coming. Well, sorry, but that’s just an old Tory’s daydream. Goff’s leadership is secure. There is no prospect of him being overthrown. His support in Labour is solid. Frankly, the Right’s attempts to destablise suggest they are more worried about his potential to seriously challenge Key in 2011 than they are letting on.
Ralston and others (not Farrar, interestingly) don’t understand where the criticism comes from. Perhaps in the Right’s mindset criticism implies opposition and blind adulation is the only acceptable attitude toward a leader one supports.
Look, Goff knows as everyone knows that he has one chance to get this right. If Labour can’t form a government after 2011, he will have to pass the baton. More importrantly than Goff’s personal success is the consequences of Key’s government winning a second term – you think they’re bad now? Wait until they take the gloves off.
That’s where the criticism of Goff comes from. Not from any opposition to him but from the knowledge that it is so important that he and his team get it right and win in 2011 (and it can be done, they only need to chip off less than half a percent of National’s support a month on average from now to the election).
They need a strategy. They need to decide how they want to frame the political debate (what issues, what words). They need to implement the strategy with the right tactics (building relations with the media, building relations with allied orgs and parties, the ‘personal face’ crap, making sure your attacks are solid, keeping the Nats on the back-foot). Two more things: they need to make building membership a priority and they need to see the supercity elections as an opportunity to build momentum and build relationships across the Left. Irish has an excellent piece on these issues.
None of these things are easy but nor are they rocket science. Goff and at least some of the people around him are capable enough. They just have to do it right and not drop the ball on the small things.
Ralston might like to construct conspiracy fantasies around my comments on Goff but no-one on Goff’s office will have been too surprised or upset to be fairly criticised. They know when they’ve got it wrong too, and they know The Standard isn’t going to treat them differently than it would any other party.
My hope now is that they’ll get the rest of their recession package right. I’ve suggested some things they need to take into account with the structure and promotion of the package. Whether they take up that specific advice or not, the most important thing is that they approach this opportunity strategically and develop a full plan, rather than the slapdash style we’ve seen recently.