Saturday, 11 April 2009

Phil Who?

A few days old, but I've been away from the keyboard until now. The latest One News/Colmar Brunton poll makes depressing reading for Labour, and especially for Phil Goff:
It is still sky high in the polls with 57%. Labour is well back on 31%, the Greens are on seven percent and the Maori Party and ACT both hovering around two percent.


John Key is on the top shelf as preferred Prime Minister with 51% of the vote and surprisingly Helen Clark, even though she has a new job at the UN, is still featured on the poll with nine percent of the people wanting her back as PM.

Just six percent believe Phil Goff, the new Labour Party leader, is the man for the top post.

Crazy numbers, huh? Even most of the 31% of people who would vote Labour don't want Goff as PM. It looks suspiciously like a considerable number of the pollees are terminally confused, and want John Key to lead a Labour government. And, tragically, more people want Helen Clark - the loser who lost, and who's off to the UN to do More Important Things - to be prime minister than the man who actually would be, if national would only mislay a dozen seats or so.

Which makes for wryly amusing reading, if you recall Pompous Chris's attempts to install Goff as Labour leader BEFORE the 2008 election (here and here (2)).

Poor old Phil is an affable, hapless fellow who doesn't deserve this. He probably doesn't deserve to be Labour leader either, but since he put his hand up for the job - and no-one else hasd the balls to do it - he deserves a lot more loyalty than he will probably receive once the full horror of these figures sink in.

So what do Labour have to do? First of all, be patient. Key's riding a big wave at the moment, but there's no reason to believe he'll manage to ride it all the way to victory in 2011. If the recession continues to drag on, he'll start to pick up the blame for it - especially since his only policy for dealing with it seems to be to piss on employee rights (4), reduce wages (5) and build a cycle path whilst trying to avoid actually paying for it (6).

Twiddling their thumbs and waiting for voters to wise up won't get Goff et al very far, of course. Nor will pretending to be Just Like John Key. Because when the wheels come off the Keymobile, the electorate are not going to be casting about for more of the same.

Labour need to look at what the party actually stands for and rediscover its principles. These need to form the basis of a body of policy that will appeal to voters - the majority of whom are generally well disposed to well articulated social-democratic policy and progressive ideas. The main problem of Clark's third term was that it was seen as dithering and reactive. There was no clear program, and certainly no sense that whatever vague policy ideas were linked to principles. The main exceptions - Kiwibank and Kiwisaver - werhave been embraced by New Zealanders, which shows there is an appetite for this sort of stuff. The other good things that were done - buying back the railways, for example - were either ad hoc responses to circumstances the government not only appeared to have no control over, but didn't even seem aware of until it was too late. If a clear, socialist programme had been laid out before the elction, something that Key couldn't simply mimic and smirk and say, "Yes, we'll do that to," then perhaps Labour wouldn't be staring hungry at the seat of power from the opposition benches.

Key is wildly popular just now, but he's in hock to some pretty unlikeable types whom the majority of New Zealanders do not like very much - Rodney Hide and Garth McVicar. Once people start to reject their ideological savagery, they'll want to hear more from Labour than a weak echo of John Key.

Time for courage. Time to lay out some principles, and leave some hostages to fortune. Afterall, things can't get much worse, can they?

1 - 'National, Key popular despite recession,' unattributed One News article, reproduced on TVNZ, 5th of April, 2009. (
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: and
3 - '90-day probation legislation comes into effect,' by unattributed NZPA article, 1st of March, 2009. (
4 - '90-day probation legislation comes into effect,' by unattributed NZPA article, 1st of March, 2009. (
5 - '9-day work plan tipped to begin this month,
' by Claire Trevelt, published in The New Zealand Herald, 10th of March, (
6 - 'PM, deputy disagree on timing of recovery,' by Audrey Young, published in The New Zealand Herald, 6th of April, 2009. (

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I am still here.

 I am still here.  I haven't gone away.  I'm just trying to shame you all into better behaviour through my disapproving silence.