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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Politics With Paul – Goofy & His Micke Mouse Party

Leadership coups can often take place with little warning, so I’m hesitant in proclaiming Labour leader Phil Goff out of the woods just yet. However, as of this writing it appears that this may be the case. As such, perhaps Duncan Garner’s conclusion that the Labour caucus “is clueless, gutless and talentless… and have no collective balls” is well founded. Or, perhaps Martyn Bradbury says it best in his suggestion that “Labour are officially the most stoned caucus in the history of the Westminster system.”

The Hughes affair has been well documented in the media and I’m not going to rehash it once again here, but it’s safe to say Goff’s handling of the situation was woeful and illustrates that he lacks the competence to lead Labour to an election victory. Of course, there is that inevitable question of whether anyone in the Labour caucus could at this point.
There have been reports that a David Parker-led coup is on the cards. Scoop’s Selwyn Manning reported, “Maryan Street and Ruth Dyson are representing a cabal that is seeking support for David Parker to replace Goff. And rumours that Helen Clark and her strong-arm strategist Heather Simpson have been consulted appear to have some substance.”
Similarly, in the National Business Review, Matthew Hooten quoted an unnamed source who revealed, “David Parker, Maryan Street and Ruth Dyson—with the approval of the New York office (aka Clark)—are gathering numbers to see what can be done.”

Whether or not such a coup could be successful, there are serious doubts over whether Parker could lead Labour to victory. To be sure, he sits comfortably to the left of Goff on economic policy, and considering Goff’s enthusiasm for the neo-liberal policies of the mid-1980s, a Parker-led Labour might have significantly more credibility in that respect. Unfortunately, Parker doesn’t yet have the profile to slot comfortably into a leadership role, and as such it would be highly unlikely he could attract enough support by November to ensure success.

My pick, up until mid-last year, would have been the incredibly talented and entirely likeable Shane Jones, and I think the way in which the ex-minister dealt with the situation when his taxpayer-funded blue-movie transgressions came to light, proves he is adept at reading and reacting to scandal. It may be a distant memory for most at this point, but unfortunately the public embarrassment remains recent enough to be damaging to Labour’s prospects at this point in the election cycle.

Then you’ve got the likes of David Cunliffe, who suffers from the same lack of profile as Parker. There’s Trevor Mallard, who despite being a brilliant politician, would likely enjoy even less public support than Goff. Or you could turn to David Shearer or Grant Robertson, both of whom are potential leadership material, but remain far too ‘wet behind the ears’ to stand any real chance of leading the party out of opposition in this round.

Regardless of the lack of an obvious viable candidate, Garner suggests the Labour caucus needs to choose someone, gather support and “present Goff with a done deal on Tuesday” when the Labour caucus meets, and I tend to agree. While a leadership change so close to an election will ensure a huge uphill battle for the stricken party, surely it’s better than wallowing in the shadow of an unpopular leader who has now proven himself to be a liability.

Unfortunately, while they may not be as candid about it as they were in the Botany by-election, I think it’s safe to say Labour have all but thrown in the towel this round. Goff will lead Labour until the November election at which point he will be rolled, and someone else will lead the party through three more years on the opposition benches.


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