Colin James on Goff

As Labour heads into their first caucus meeting of the year they should consider what Colin James has to say about their leader. They can perhaps read the article as he bores them all to death with his masterful plans of defeating John key and as they read they can think about whether or not they want to go to his BBQ this weekend. Unfortunately the article isn’t online, but was published in teh ODT 25/1/2011, I predict there will me a mass request to the parliamentary library fro copies this morning. Meanwhile I’ll post some here so it can garner a better readership than the ODT.

It’s barbecue time for Phil Goff

Phil Goff has two image problems. One is himself. The other is the party around him.

Goff’s personal disability this election year is his inescapable identification with the bygone Clark government, demoted to a 34 per cent vote in 2008. He was a senior minister: foreign affairs, defence, trade and justice.

And, while he is not chronologically old as party leaders go, he is politically old: MP for 27 years; minister for 15.

Yes, Phil Goff joined the Labour party 41 years ago in 1969. He is as long in the tooth as his hair was back then. Colin James then starts channeling me as he talks about renewal of the Labour caucus.

Goff also has a lot of 1999-08 colleagues on his two top benches, as is usual after long period in office. Some are, as individual MPs, alive, active and aggressive — notably Annette King and Trevor Mallard. Some are smart and thoughtful and still young or youngish politically — notably David Parker, David Cunliffe and Charles Chauvel. But as a group they look like yesterday.

Goff’s need is to re-image himself and his party. That challenge starts today with his “state-of-the-nation” address. It will continue on Friday when, after a day-long caucus, he has one of his famous barbecues at his home — famous, or rather infamous, because one summer he was accused of plotting against Clark at a barbecue he put on for MP mates.

Goff’s dual need is to present a party deeply rethinking policy but also one scratching voter itches: to rebase policy on principle so that it is relevant in 2021 but also to get immediate traction in 2011 without looking like reheated 2000s fare.

Unfortunately with his current line-up it looks like old stale rissoles left in the fridge from the last BBQ. So what is Goff’s problem? Apart from their policy vacuum.

So Goff has grabbed at matters of the moment: take GST off fruit and vegetables to ease inflation — but punters don’t seem to hold the GST surge against the government; Chinese wanting to buy dairy farms (shades of a past peril) — but Key read that yellow light fast and retreated; ructions among iwi and in the Maori party over the foreshore — but that will be sorted for better or worse within months.

Goff’s problem today is that he is not in the position of Don Brash in January 2004 who swung the polls with a one-nation speech exploiting disquiet about the beaches. Goff is in the position of Bill English, staring at looming defeat in January 2002.

Oh dear, the first commentator after me to suggest the horrors of 2002. I think Bill English still shudders as he contemplates that slaying, as well he should. Then the channeling seriously begins with talk of promotions and demotions. Unfortunately Colin James delivers the kicker right at the end….extinguishing all hope.

And if he raises young risers, will they in any case be visible to voters through Key’s blue haze?

Well, the Barack Obama and Kevin Rudd hazes dispersed suddenly last year. A sudden, unpredictable upset in these volatile times could put Goff in the game.

But that is hope. Reality for now for decent, intelligent Goff is head-against-a-brick-wall. Throw another chop on the barbie.

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