Labour’s leadership contest has hogged the headlines for weeks, and the last couple of days has seen a focus on the winning team of David Shearer and Grant Robertson. Now that the new leaders are settling in, I think we should all take a moment to thank the outgoing leaders, Phil Goff and Annette King.
Phil and Annette took over Labour after the party had had a long term in government and a clear election defeat – the worst possible time for any incoming political leader. As a country we very seldom reject a government after just one term. No National government has ever failed to secure second and third terms. So a Labour win in 2011 would have been historically unprecedented. It was a next-to-impossible task.
But Phil and Annette gave it a damn good try, and Labour ran a strong campaign. Yes the 27% share of the vote is a terrible low for Labour, but it was a better result than National’s 21% in 2002 (after one term of the popular new Labour government). Also, breaking out of old fashioned FPP thinking, the vote for the Left as a whole held up well, while the majority for Key’s government as a whole has fallen.
I was particularly impressed by Phil Goff during the campaign. No one could have tried harder. He was set an almost impossible task, and he threw himself in to it heart and soul. He grew over the course of the campaign, and his popularity was rising. After the election he left on his own terms, and oversaw a productive and orderly transition. Bloody good work. Thanks Phil.