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Posts Tagged 'Phil Goff'

Tribal Politics and the Death of Reason

armies-clash (1)

Since 1964, when I arrived in this country, I’ve mostly, though not always, voted for the Labour Party. My core political belief is that in a caring society the haves have a moral obligation to support the have-nots. I see progressive taxation as the only reliable mechanism for bringing this about. “Trickle Down” won’t cut it. Little or nothing “trickles down” and the concept smacks of charity. Nor can charity itself ensure social and economic justice for those at the bottom of the heap. Charity is capricious and unreliable. So the rich have to be compelled to do their part. That includes me.

If you want to give a name to it, I suppose you’d call this Socialism. I see myself as a Socialist. Not surprising, you might think, since I was an only child raised by a solo parent in a council flat in Belfast. Though John Key had  a not dissimilar background.

Bit different now. Judy and I have a nice house, a nice car, a bach up North and a few dollars in the bank. And of course we both get the pension. But I’m still a Socialist. That’s more about principles than party politics. And not complaining about paying tax.   Read the rest of this entry »


Congratulations David and Karen from Brian and Judy! And why John Key’s days are numbered.

Next step: the big desk on the ninth floor!

Next step – the big desk of the ninth floor!


I hadn’t intended to do anything more on this mini-post than congratulate David and Karen. But I’ve decided to stick my neck out and make a prediction. I predict that a Labour/Greens coalition will win the 2014 election and that David Cunliffe will be New Zealand’s next Prime Minister. Labour might even go it alone.

I’ve been provoked into this rash course of action by my former media partner on The Nation, Bill Ralston, who tweeted something to the effect that Cunliffe’s win was just another example of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Here’s my principal reason for thinking that Bill’s got it wrong.   Read the rest of this entry »


Despite the danger of becoming a right charlie, I offer some free advice to David Shearer.

 (Update: David Shearer and Helen Clark met in his office on Tuesday night.  They discussed, inter alia, the difficulties faced by a Leader of the Opposition.)

Welcoming wrongdoers to hell, Rowen Atkinson’s ‘The Devil’ turns his attention to the large assembly of atheists present and says, ‘You must feel a right lot of charlies!’ It occurred to me that, if David Shearer becomes Prime Minister in 2014, he will be well within his rights to address the same comment to the Shearer non-believers, myself included,  who wrote him off two years earlier.

So what does Shearer have to do to ensure that he has that moment to savour? For starters, he would do well to take note of the fate of his predecessor, Phil Goff.

Here’s what I know from first-hand experience of knowing and working with Phil. He is highly intelligent, extremely hard-working, hugely politically experienced, a tough debater, morally scrupulous, a decent human being. His reputation as a minister in Helen Clark’s government was second to none, most notably in the Justice and Foreign Affairs portfolios. As a candidate for the highest office in the land his credentials would seem to have been impeccable.

So why isn’t he Prime Minister?   Read the rest of this entry »


Shock! Horror! Labour Luvvie spurned by David Shearer!

David Shearer shuns Labour Luvvie. I spotted this intriguing headline in this morning’s Herald. What could it mean? Who was ‘Labour luvvie’ and why had David Shearer shunned him or her: I just had to read on:

‘David Shearer needs media help and he’s getting it – but not from former Labour love Brian Edwards.

‘Edwards was paid to media-train Helen Clark and her ministers, and even got the SOS call from Phil Goff during the election after a couple of years in the wilderness.

‘However, he’s been left out in the cold by the dynamic new Labour leader and his chief of staff, Stuart Nash. Sources tell me Sean Plunket was considered for media advice, but Nash told The Diary there will be “no external media training”.’

OMG, imagine my consternation! I was ‘Labour Luvvie’. I am ‘Labour luvvie’. And I have been ‘shunned’ by David Shearer – ‘shunned’ by a man I didn’t even know I was dating. ‘Left out in the cold’ by the ‘dynamic new Labour leader’ and his chief of staff, Stuart Nash.

Can you understand the humiliation? To be ‘left out in the cold’ by someone you spoke to once outside a cafe in Herne Bay, without even the chance to mail a billet doux or plight your troth.

And the ultimate insult – to learn that he’s getting what he needs, but not from you!

Could this all really be true? Of course, it was in the Herald. And the writer was not just some anonymous hack, but tabloid intellectual and rapier wit Rachel Glucina whom I’ve long since forgiven for calling me ‘irrelevant’.

Still, I refuse to give up hope. Someone else is bound to come along yearning for a luvvie. I may not even have long to wait.


Random thoughts on why Labour did so poorly in the election


Josie Pagani, Labour’s candidate for Rangitiki in the last election and, incidentally, my researcher for two years on Top of the Morning, has penned an interesting opinion piece in today’s Herald  which the paper has headed “Workers lose faith in party with glum message”. Her theme is essentially that making people feel miserable about their lives is not a good way of getting them to vote for you. Helen Clark sometimes used the term ‘”shroud waving” to convey a similar message.

I think Josie has a point, though it’s difficult for an opposition Labour Party during an election to avoid talking about poverty, unemployment, kids going to school without breakfast, the minimum wage and the appalling and widening gap between rich and poor in this country.

Josie’s column led me to thinking of some other reasons why Labour did so poorly in the election. Some can be summarised in just a few words:

  • The extreme improbability of any political party in New Zealand being voted out after just one term in office;
  • The nation’s love affair with John Key, without doubt the greatest exponent of the photo opportunity and ‘skinetics’ in the history of New Zealand politics;
  • The relative lack of voter enthusiasm for Phil Goff;
  • Earthquakes, mining and shipping disasters which, in media terms, disadvantage those not in power and unable to influence events;
  • The Rugby World Cup, a convenient distraction for National shortly before the election;
  • The general euphoria that winning the Cup produced;
  • Widespread voter disengagement from politics, particularly on the Left.
  • The self-fulfilling nature of three  years of polls branding Key and National  sure-fire winners and Goff and Labour sure-fire losers.
  • Labour’s courage in advancing policies that made long-term economic sense, but were highly unattractive to voters in the short term: a capital gains tax and raising the age of eligibility for the pension.    Read the rest of this entry »


Win or lose, Phil Goff can stay or walk away with his head held high.


 Over the past six months Judy and I have come to know Phil Goff really well. The experience of working with him has been something of a revelation for me. We were colleagues before, when he was out of Parliament, teaching at the AUT. I didn’t warm to him. Small things can influence your view of another person, often wrongly. Phil had this swaggering walk, which suggested  arrogance. He still has it. But I have known no politician less arrogant than him. Goff is a modest man, not given to airs and graces – a part explanation perhaps of his discomfiture on television.

Looking for words to describe him, I come up with: warm, generous, kind, caring, loyal, principled, hard-working, intelligent, passionate – a decent man.

‘Passionate’ may surprise. At the beginning of the campaign it was fashionable to call him ‘robotic’. But the television debates revealed a man with a passionate commitment to social equity. Where inequity and injustice are concerned, you have to add ‘anger’ to his list of qualities.

Ironically, it was his opponent who seemed ‘robotic’ during the campaign, a smiling photo-opportunist cuddling dogs and babies, yet whose eyes showed no trace of real emotion.

But what has most impressed those working with Goff has been his extraordinary resilience in the face of polls and pundits that until very recently have branded him  ‘loser’. I can think of only one occasion when I thought he looked a little down. But it was fleeting. Phil refused to be beaten. He showed, and continues to show, enormous strength of character.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s election, Phil Goff can stay or walk away with his head held high.


TV3 provides a great debate. Goff wins. Pity about the panel!

OK, I’m one of a number of people advising Phil Goff and you’re entitled to think I’m incapable of being objective. So I’ll stick to the demonstrable facts.

I was worried about ‘the worm’. TV3 had made the indefensible decision to allow viewers at home who could afford a particular type of phone to vote on who was winning at any particular time in the debate. ‘Indefensible’ because the owners of those phones would come from a social group much more likely to support National than Labour. They then decided to combine the indefensible with the defensible – an audience of 65 uncommitted voters who would be given meters to record their preference for what each leader was saying during the debate.

Here’s the outcome: for three quarters of the debate, Phil Goff registered approval and John Key disapproval. For one part of the debate, where Goff spoke of the possibility of an arrangement with Peters, the worm favoured Key.

More significantly, the economically-biased ‘rich folks’ worm produced virtually the same result.

Those are the facts.   Read the rest of this entry »


Why Labour is both right and wrong about asset sales. (And how I’ll be voting on 26 November – as if you didn’t know!)

I’m against selling our state assets. I’m impressed by Labour’s argument that you can only sell an asset once, and that, as soon as you’ve sold it, you’ve lost the revenue stream forever. Forever is probably the key word. You have to calculate the dividend loss for an indefinite period that ends – never.

And I’m not impressed by the Government’s intention to use the money from asset sales to fund hospitals and schools. Funding for hospitals and schools shouldn’t come from  selling the family silver, it should come from general taxation. If it doesn’t, where are you going to find the cash to fund health and education next year, and the year after that, and the year after that,  when the assets are gone?

I’m familiar with the Government’s answer: ‘We aren’t selling off the lot; we’re keeping a controlling 51% share and we’ll still have the dividends from that.’ Well, 51% of the dividends! And I hope you won’t think me unkind, but I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you on this. When you run short of dough, and you will run short of dough, you’re going to sell the rest. Of course you are. You’re philosophically opposed to the idea of governments owning and running businesses. That’s the private sector’s job.

And this is where you’re out of touch with the essentially chauvinistic view of a majority of Kiwis: ‘Hey, this is our bank; it’s got our name on it – Kiwi Bank; this is our airline, it’s got our name on it – Air New Zealand; this is our power station – we built the bloody thing! This stuff is all ours and you want to flog it off to foreigners.’ Ours and foreigners are probably the key (but not Key) words in this debate.   Read the rest of this entry »


Who won, who lost in the first television leaders’ debate? I name the biggest loser.


Well, I won’t keep you in suspense. It wasn’t Goff. And it wasn’t Key. It was you and me – the voting public. We were conned by Television New Zealand into thinking that for an hour-and-a -half last night the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition would debate the serious issues that confront this country, the channel’s Political Editor, Guyon Espiner, would keep order and, by the end of the 90 minutes, we would all be better informed.

We should have learned from history not to trust that promise. Television New Zealand has never treated the Leaders’ Debates as anything more than an entertainment. Its remit to sell audiences to advertisers, its suspicion that viewers are fundamentally uninterested in politics, its conviction that the attention span of the average television consumer is seven minutes tops and its paranoia about doing anything that might bore that viewer into switching channels, all contribute  to the entertainment ethos that drives the Leaders’ Debates.

‘Debates’ is of course a misnomer. A real debate requires an extensive exchange of views between the parties. Three or four minutes on a topic, some part of that time spent in an undecipherable cacophony of moderator and leaders talking at once, cannot be called a debate. But that is precisely what TVNZ wants and the programme is structured to ensure that result.  Read the rest of this entry »


How Phil Goff may come into his own in the televised election debates.

There’s general agreement that the three televised debates between John Key and Phil Goff scheduled to take place between now and the election could  play a significant role in changing voter perceptions of the two contenders.

Television viewers have seen a lot of Goff over the last three years primarily because he has, on principle, made himself available for cross-examination. He regards that as something any politician aspiring to the highest office in the land ought to do. Key, on the other hand, has been largely unavailable for media interviews, preferring, it would seem, to be seen rather than heard. It’s interesting that the video which preceded National’s phoney debate TV opening was a montage of the Prime Minister’s photo ops with famous people.

If the polls are anything to go by, not being available to answer questions is a more effective strategy than being available to answer questions. But it can hardly be described as a more responsible strategy.

The televised debates thus assume a particular importance since they represent the first occasion on which the PM will be available for media interrogation before a large audience and the first occasion, outside Parliament, when we will see him in a face to face encounter with Phil Goff. Read the rest of this entry »


How political polls in prime-time + no serious political debate in prime-time = catwalk values and dumbed-down voters


Is John Key such an inspirational leader that he deserves to enjoy the support of 57% of New Zealand voters? Is Phil Goff such a hopeless leader that he deserves the support of only 8% of New Zealand voters? Has the National Party’s record in office been so impressive that it deserves to enjoy the support of 56% of New Zealand voters, including one might surmise, a significant number of Labour defectors? And has the Labour opposition been so feeble that it deserves the support of only 30% of New Zealand voters?

Well, if the polls are right – and there is no great difference between one and another – then the answer to all of these questions would seem to be Yes. But are they right? The extremity of their findings – the adulation of John Key and the seeming invisibility of Phil Goff; National having twice as much support as Labour  – seems curious, given the parlous state of the economy, the high level of unemployment and the near-Third-World conditions in which so many of our citizens, both adults and children, are currently living.

As a nation we seem to have closed our eyes to these realities, so dazzled are we by the luminance of the Prime Minister. The mirror image of ourselves as a people which the polls present seems to me less than flattering. Are we really a nation more impressed by style than substance? Are we really that shallow?  Read the rest of this entry »


A Curious Omission by the New Zealand Herald

Last Friday the Herald published its latest DigiPoll survey. The poll brought good news for Labour. It was up 2.4% since the previous poll, while National was down 3.2%. The gap between the two had narrowed by 5.6%. The Herald’s headline “Poll: Labour gains, but Nats would still govern alone” fairly represented the situation.

At 70.6%, John Key’s rating as preferred Prime Minister had gone through the roof, the result, a sceptic might suggest, of more photo-ops in the press and on television than I have seen in more than 40 years of politician watching.

And Phil Goff? Still languishing in single figures? Another depressing 6 or 7 percent? Well, and this really is curious, that was the one figure from its DigiPoll that the Herald didn’t give us. So I had to find out for myself.

In the latest Herald DigiPoll, the Leader of the Opposition scores 12.4%, an increase on the previous poll, which in turn was an increase on the poll before that. And yes, it isn’t huge but it’s a lot higher than Helen Clark was polling at the same time in 1996, the year she would have become Prime Minister, were it not for the treachery of Winston Peters. 

What pollsters always tell us is that what matters is the general trend rather than any individual poll. Well, both Labour and Goff are trending up with almost 5 months to go before the election. So I wouldn’t write them off quite yet.

In the meantime, I’d really like to know why the Herald didn’t publish Goff’s rating which would have brought a degree of comfort to him and his supporters.  

Probably just an oversight, eh?


Who won? A question by question, answer by answer, analysis of Sean Plunket’s ‘The Nation’ interview with Phil Goff. [Spoiler Alert: Definitely not the viewers!]







Sean Plunket is an intelligent and informed interviewer but seems more preoccupied with confirming his reputation as a tough  interrogator than with asking questions  that are relevant to voters six months before a general election. It would be hard to imagine a week in which the political pendulum has moved so quickly or so far, yet in his interview with Phil Goff on Sunday’s The Nation, Plunket spent almost 90 percent of the time nitpicking his way through the Labour Leader’s past history.

Like all interviewers of this stripe – and we have more than our fair share of them in New Zealand – what Plunket was looking for was ‘the king hit’, the knockout question that leaves the interviewee floundering and defeated. As I indicated in a previous post, Goff is no great television performer, but his stubborn refusal to yield to any of Plunket’s propositions, combined with Plunket’s seeming inability to provide supporting evidence for those propositions, left the interviewer with only one avenue of attack – to keep repeating the  question in the hope, one presumes,  that Goff would eventually tire of denial and give way. He didn’t.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with my comments. I identify seven basic propositions which Plunket puts to Goff:  Read the rest of this entry »


A sympathetic but essentially dire analysis of the past, present and future of Phil Goff


 The likely end of Phil Goff’s political career has all the hallmarks of a personal tragedy. The fates appear to have conspired against the Member for Mt. Roskill with singular vindictiveness. A 27-year apprenticeship for the top job may well end in November with the arguably more qualified candidate pipped at the post.

Yet Goff’s political CV could scarcely be more impressive:

Boy from poor Auckland family leaves home at 16; puts himself through university by working as a freezing worker and cleaner; gains a first class honours degree in Political Studies at the University of Auckland where he lectures while completing his MA; stands for Labour in Roskill in 1981 and wins the seat.

Becomes the youngest Minister in the Lange/Palmer/Moore administrations (1984-1990) holding portfolios as diverse as Housing,  Labour, Youth Affairs, Tourism and Education; loses Roskill in the landslide against Labour in 1990 and takes up a teaching position (along with yours truly) at what is now the AUT; accepts a scholarship to study for six months at Oxford University.

Is re-elected MP for Roskill in 1993; Labour Leader Helen Clark whose early parliamentary career runs parallel to his, appoints him shadow Minister of  Justice; is part of a failed coup to replace her in June 1996 but Clark does not demote him; under her administration (1999-2008) holds portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Justice, Defence and Disarmament; is widely respected as an intelligent, hard-working, reliable and highly competent Minister.

After Clark steps down in the wake of National’s win in the 2008 election, is unanimously elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  Read the rest of this entry »


“Photo-Op PM” (revisited)

Hawkes Bay Tribune

I have only met John Key once. He was either standing for parliament or recently elected. I can’t remember. A prominent television newsreader, whom we were helping to add ‘interviewer’ to his range of skills, had invited him along as a guest. It was usual for trainee interviewers to rope in politicians as interview subjects. The would-be interviewers could practise their interrogation skills and the politicians could practise fending them off.

We knew little or nothing about Key at the time, so the impressions we had of him were first impressions which, they say, are the most lasting. Key was easy, engaging, pleasant, a man seemingly comfortable in his own skin and a good listener. If he was indeed going places, he displayed neither arrogance nor self-importance. You would have said, as the country has been saying for two years now, that he was ‘a nice bloke’. We may have given him a couple of tips on how to improve his on-camera performance, but not enough to constitute disloyalty to our #1 client.

I was reminded of this occasion by John Armstrong’s column in the Weekend Herald,  ‘Politician of the year: John Key’, sub-headed ‘Get used to it, Labour, he’s the man the country wants in charge’.

The column was as much a critique of Labour and its leader Phil Goff as it was  a paean of praise for the Prime Minister.

The left dismisses the most popular Prime Minister in New Zealand’s recent political history as Smile and Wave John Key, Do Nothing John Key and Lucky John Key. The left’s fatal error has been to constantly underrate Key in terms of ability and the fact that though he is of centre-right disposition, he is firmly at the moderate end of that broad spectrum. Key does not fit the left’s mould, which assumes or even dictates that someone as wealthy as him must be an acolyte of the old New Right. In short, Key’s critics on the left still don’t get it. Maybe the Mana byelection will remove a few scales from a few eyes. It should. That result was a gruesome preview of the slaughter that may well be inflicted on Labour at the end of next year.

Armstrong went on to list Key’s achievements and Goff’s failings.

But has Key been as good a Prime Minister and Goff as bad a Leader of the Opposition as Armstrong – whom I regard as our most astute political writer –  suggests?

Goff, it must be remembered, faces the same problem as every other Leader of the Opposition – he has to work much harder to get coverage than the PM or even a middle-ranked Cabinet Minister. Governments act, oppositions react. And generally the reaction is carping and negative. Put slightly differently, governments do, oppositions just talk.

The advantage of being in power is never more evident than during times of national crisis. Though it may seem cynical to say so, disasters, handled well, are a boon to politicians in power, while their opposition counterparts are largely sidelined. Who wants to talk to Phil Goff about the Canterbury earthquake or the Pike River mining disaster? He can do nothing  about either beyond expressing his concern and sympathy for the victims and their families.  Key, it must be said, handled the two events superbly, both in terms of being there and offering his personal and his government’s support. Goff, through no fault of his own, was conspicuous by his absence from the media coverage. If anyone doubts the role which a disaster can play in shaping a political leader’s fortunes, they need look no further than Jim Anderton and Bob Parker.   Read the rest of this entry »


A Dissenting View on Chris Carter’s Expulsion from the Labour Party

In May 1996, six months out from a general election, the New Zealand Labour Party was in dire straits. Its poll ratings were in the low teens, while its leader’s ratings as preferred prime minister were around what is generally referred to as ‘the margin of error’.

In the same month Helen Clark received a delegation which she recalls as having included Phil Goff, Michael Cullen, Annette King, Koro Wetere and Jim Sutton.

“These people had rushed around the caucus counting numbers and then decided they’d come and confront me and ask me to stand down, and say there was a majority who wanted that to happen. And the line was, you’re a nice person, blah, blah, blah, but you can’t win the election and we don’t want to have to challenge you directly at the caucus, so it would just be better if you resigned. And I said to them, “Well, if you want a change of leader, you’re going to have to go into the caucus and move a motion.”’ 

The plotters declined to take that course of action. Clark’s decision to call their  bluff was not because she was certain she had the numbers, but because she knew that there was no-one capable of taking her place. Twelve years later there was still no-one capable of taking her place. Fourteen years later Labour is polling significantly better than in  was in May 1996, but its leader is languishing on single figures as preferred Prime Minister, while his predecessor, a non-candidate, still has support for the job.

In the interim, Helen Clark would keep the Labour Party in office for an unprecedented nine years. I’m uncertain which of the coup leaders had ambitions to wrest the leadership from her in 1996, but I’m willing to give  odds that, had he or she been successful, neither would be able to lay claim to that record today.

Even more interesting than the remarkable similarity between the situation in 1996 and 2010 – Labour miles behind National in the polls and its leader more than 40 points behind John Key as preferred prime minister – is the way Clark dealt with the mutineers in her party. Far from demoting or exiling them, she not merely brought them in, she promoted them as well. Better, as Lyndon Johnson observed, to have one’s opponents inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.  

Read the rest of this entry »


10 Questions and Answers About What Chris Carter Did


Q.   Were you surprised by Carter’s  action today?

A.    I think ‘gobsmacked’ is the only word to describe my reaction.

Q.   Why do you think Carter did what he did?

A.    A mixture of two things, I suspect: a genuine belief that Labour cannot win under Goff and bitterness at the humiliation he suffered when Goff forced him to make a second public apology over his travel spending. At the time I described this as Goff ‘taking his pound of flesh”. That is still my view.

Q.   How would you describe Carter’s actions?

A.    Utterly stupid and hugely damaging to his personal reputation.

Q.   Is he right that there is widespread dissatisfaction in the Labour caucus with Goff’s performance as Leader?

A.    My understanding is that there is widespread dissatisfaction with his performance in the polls.

Q.   Is Carter right that a majority of the Labour caucus doubt that Labour can win the next election?

A.    That is my information.

Q. Doesn’t the unanimous caucus vote to suspend Carter indicate that the entire caucus is behind Goff?

A.    Not at all. Anyone who voted not to suspend Carter would effectively have been declaring that they agreed with his view that Goff could not hope to win the election. Anything other than a unanimous vote would have had the Press Gallery hunting to find the disaffected.

Q.   Can Goff win the next election?

A.    Probably not. But the honeymoon is definitely ending. The electorate is beginning to see Key’s shameless, give-them-anything-they-want populism as weak leadership. And the promise of ‘catching up with Australia’ already looks hollow.

Q:   Did Goff do the right thing in sacking Carter?

A.   Yes, it was the only thing he could do.  Carter’s action was disloyal to the party and intended to be damaging to  its leader.

Q.   Will these events be damaging to Goff’s leadership?

A.    On the contrary, they will probably strengthen his position as Leader and his image in the eyes of the public. He will be seen as decisive and strong.

Q.   What chance has Carter of winning Te Atatu as an Independent or Independent Labour candidate?

A.    None. Labour voters are Labour voters. Their loyalty is first and foremost to the Party.


Goff Totally Loses The Plot

Herald/Paul Escourt

Herald/Paul Escourt

Either Phil Goff is getting appalling advice from his media advisers or he is ignoring good advice. Either way, his recent handling of Chris Carter would suggest that he has totally lost the plot.

One of the most basic tenets of public relations and of politics is that the ultimate goal in handling any problem is to make it go away. Our training mantra – be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes – is undoubtedly the best way to achieve that result. But however you handle the problem, the silliest thing you can do is to prolong bad media coverage by giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dying issue. That is precisely what Goff is doing by demanding that Carter front the media on the issue of his alleged abuse of his ministerial expenses, if and when he is allowed to return to parliament.

The biggest news story in New Zealand at the moment is the good news story about the All Whites’ stunning performances in South Africa. The country is in a feel-good mood and the ministerial expenses issue has faded in the print media and been largely absent from our television screens for a few days. Goff ought to be breathing a sigh of relief, more especially since his disciplining of Carter,  which the pundits said would win  him brownie points, has had no positive effect on his personal ratings as preferred Prime Minister. He is barely above the non-candidate Helen Clark.

In summary, publicity around the Carter affair has damaged Labour, and Goff’s handling of the affair has not done him or the party any good. So, with the country obsessed with soccer and the Carter issue moribund, if not actually dead, the smart thing to do would have been to get back to business as usual. Goff, however, appears to want his pound of flesh. Why?  Read the rest of this entry »


The Prince Charles Syndrome


I assume Phil Goff would like to be Prime Minister of New Zealand. He has every reason to think he deserves the job. He’s served a lengthy apprenticeship, having come into Parliament in 1981, the same year as Helen Clark. And he’s had a distinguished career as an MP and Cabinet Minister. He’s highly intelligent and well-informed on a whole range of portfolios from Justice to Foreign Affairs. And he comes from good Labour stock.

Goff and his party are languishing in the polls at the moment, but their figures are actually better than Helen Clark’s and Labour’s were in early-mid 1996. Both the party and its leader then looked like dog-tucker. In my book, Helen, Portrait of a Prime Minister, she takes up the story:  Read the rest of this entry »


Incoherent Rave about Smoking, Nanny State, Spring, Phil Goff, Obesity and Low Self-Esteem



Photo: Greg Bowker/Herald

Photo: Greg Bowker/Herald

I read that New York’s Health Commissioner, Thomas Farley, has said he wants to take the Big Apple’s war on smokers to the city’s beaches and parks. There will be the inevitable cries of ‘Nanny State’ from smokers and possibly even from some civil libertarians. My own view is that the only right smokers have consists in the freedom to very slowly take their own lives, as uncomplainingly and as far away from the rest of us as possible. This may seem harsh, but there really is no difference between the smoker and the heroin user. Both are drug addicts. I hear no argument in favour of junkies having the right to shoot up in public places, whether indoor or out. Read the rest of this entry »