After making inroads in the latest TV3 poll, Goff has clearly taken fright after the reaction to his nationhood speech. How else to explain his perplexing decision not to comment on the announcement by Prime Minister John Key that the Maori tino rangatiratanga flag will fly on Waitangi Day?
This decision by Key will be controversial, and it was a gift for Goff to get stuck into. Instead he’s run and hid, saying only there are more important things to worry about. That left the door wide open for leadership aspirant Shane Jones to go on radio this morning and slate the flag as the “flag of division, of protest…it’s Hone’s flag”.
Espiner, and others in the media, seem to think Jones is barging through a gap left by Goff to further leadership aspirations. Nup. This isn’t Goff being weak. Nor Jones leap-frogging him. Doesn’t show internal ructions. It shows internal cohesion and strategy. Let me explain.
Legitimate criticisms coming from Goff are going to be mired in race issues and accusations of dogwhistling. Particularly after his Nationhood speech, which had dogwhistles. Going to risk further pissing off Maori Labourites. Labour, including Goff, are genuinely unhappy to have caused that justified reaction.
Jones doesn’t have that problem. Simple truth – he’s Maori. He’s also got a defter hand on race relations.
Labour’s strategy is simple. Jones leads criticism of poor policies that concern Maori like the flag. Goff restricts his comments to stuff that isn’t racially sensitive and dismisses the flag as a sign of a government that’s doing nothing on the big issues.
Criticism made. No perception of dogwhistling. No fear of backlash. Labour gets the win without the toll. Basic politics.