The “I” thing

iAs much as there are great expectations on John Key’s statement to Parliament today, the pressure on Phil Goff is only slightly less. He may not have the responsibility of running a country, but that’s the problem: little or nothing indicates he will have a country to run in the foreseeable future, the optimism of the activist left notwithstanding. Goff’s reply needs to be a game-changer; it needs to reframe the past year, foreshadow the coming “middle year” when the policy engine runs at full noise, and it needs to demonstrate that Goff has got some game and is willing to bring it.

It looks like Labour have just such an event in mind, but I have substantial misgivings about Goff’s planned reply to Key’s throne speech.

If the article in the Sunday Star Times is to be believed, the speech’s greatest asset will also be its greatest weakness: it’s to be delivered in the first person. There’s going to be a lot of “I have failed to” and “I should have” sort of statements coming out of Goff’s mouth which will undoubtedly be taken out of context, and on a more subtle level, it will reiterate the fact that Goff is in a pretty impotent position at present. Labour is disconnected from key constituencies, and there remains a perception that it still doesn’t really get why it lost. People will more naturally associate “failure” and “sorry” and so on with Labour than with National. The task of this speech and the coming months is to turn that around, but it will be hard work to sufficiently remind the audience that these things relate to Key rather than Goff himself, given that they’re coming from Goff’s mouth and because it runs counter to the established narrative about Key and what people want to believe about him.

He’s staking his own personal and political appeal against that of the PM. It’s a big risk, but hey, boldness is what’s needed. It’s not as if Goff has much to lose, and if he can make it work, it has potential to reframe the debate from being about the opportunities of the future to the missed opportunities of the past.


12 thoughts on “The “I” thing

  1. yes lew i saw that report of the proposed speech and i shuddered. I think of it in ‘positioning’ terms. Goff cannot beat key on keys playing field, goff has to actually make a new playing field where he can win. He needs to stike out on a different path. My preference would be to go left but i can’t imagine he will do that because they believe the ‘middle’ is the territory – but i think they are wrong.

    To beat key he has to do what key is not doing and do it visibly – but sadly his minders have set him up like a velcro doll so that he can take all of the sticky-negativity related to the previous labour mob and when he is full they will kick him into touch and the new leader will be free from those previous associations.

    Ah well at least he will get a nice job overseas eventually for the sacrifice.

  2. I think it was Guyon E this morning saying that Goff has decided not to deliver that speech, and instead will deliver something else.
    I understand he gets a copy of Key’s speech in advance, so I presume he plans to deliver something more attacking and perhaps more statesman-like, and less smart-alecky.

  3. Or maybe King and Mallard are passing copies of Key’s speech arouund with post-it notes saying “Boo or Hiss here”

  4. Pat, interesting, I missed that. Not long to wait, now.

    And hey — surely you don’t really think the Labour caucus needs post-it notes to know when to boo and hiss.


  5. I’m glad to hear Goff isn’t delivering his speech. It was a terrible idea.

    I think that one of the huge problems within the Labour Party is that there’s no one asking basic questions like: ‘why are we doing this?’ or ‘won’t we look like idiots?’. So it’s encouraging to see evidence of that kind of feedback emerging – although Goff changed his mind after leaking his speech to the SST, so the appeal to reason could have come from outside his circle of advisers.

  6. To be honest, Key’s speech demonstrated how NZ politics has painted itself into a corner. Nobody has the political will to confront property owners, and so the NZ economy will sink further into the morass.

    I give up. They’re all stupid. A military coup would be preferable to these clowns. ;)

  7. Ag, it does leave the issue of CGT taxation on the table for election year.

    The option that has been passed over, is a land tax on income earning assets (rental property, commerical property and rural land) – a land tax with an option of not paying it until the property is sold, allows those with marginal operating profits (because of unrealised CG) to defer tax until they have realised their profits.

    It is the option I would recommend to Labour/Greens.

  8. From John Armstrong in today’s Herald:

    “…A simple political axiom is responsible for that distinction. The lower paid largely don’t vote National. Those who earn more do. A land tax would have been political suicide in mortgage-belt New Zealand. Likewise a capital gains tax. In contrast, lifting GST should provide enough revenue for large enough tax cuts to keep middle New Zealand voting National…”

    So there you have it. New Zealand now officially is a two step economy and has a third world political environment, South American style. A (largely white) shrinking middle and upper class will treat the rest of the population as if it lives in another world and vigorously protect it’s privilege by waging a copnstant class war on a poor kept voiceless and invisible by a corporate media drawn from the same ruling classes.

    Wonder what Pablo’s take is on when they first right wing politician will be assassinated by organised and avowed political violence in NZ? How long until the soical contract is completely excposed and unravelled?

  9. Tom, as usual, there’s a gaping hole in your reasoning. In this case, it’s that we in NZ — unlike in South America — have a robust, fairly honest and reasonably representative political and judicial system, so any attempts by a “shrinking middle and upper class” to unduly oppress and suppress “the rest of the population” will be resolvable by peaceful democratic means. The nature of our democracy being what it is, where such demand exists a political party will no doubt emerge to cater to it.

    As to the canard about media oppression — if your proletariat is so dependent on the existing organs of privilege that it can’t mobilise a significant chunk of the population for a democratic revolution despite the media’s opposition, and must resort to political violence, sincere questions need to be asked about whether it has the capabilities required of an effective mass movement, and indeed whether it would be any use in power if it did manage to gain any.


  10. The trouble with your Class War that you so crave, Tom, is that when I’m down at the (West Auckland) mall I can’t tell which side everyone is on. Is the ememy just men in suits? Cause I think I saw Chris Carter wearing one.

  11. Lew: Your reply is a such a perfect example of complacent smug middle class socialism that it should be framed and put on a wall somewhere.

  12. Tom, I’d really rather you didn’t call me a socialist. I think the socialists would prefer it that way, as well.

    But as long as you just want to put it up on a wall, and not me up against a wall as an enemy of the people — go right ahead.


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