H2 and "Fat Tony" to leave?

Gathering storm beneath Beehive’s quiet – Columns and commentary – The Dominion Post

Vernon Small has an article in today’s DomPost that has some interesting rumours if true plus he covers the deja vu feeling seasoned politico’s are having with 1990 and 1999.

Even so, the public is not as black on the Government as it was during other recent sea-changes, in 1990 and 1999.

In 1990 the policy prescription was so hated, and the incoming Government was hinting at ? but in the end not delivering ? a turn away from the Rogernomics revolution.

In 1999 it was the nature of the Government ? propped up by discredited defections from NZ First ? and a general lack of trust that propelled National out of office, though it is a closer parallel with 2008 than is 1990.

Like the Shipley Government, the third-term Clark administration has a serious image problem. As I noted in this column last week, changing perceptions and image is a harder ask than changing laws. But National’s clothes-swapping race to adopt Labour’s most popular policies ? expect a near-complete acceptance of Kiwisaver and Working for Families soon to complete the wardrobe ? suggests it is not the policy mix that is at issue. In a funny way it is not the personnel either, despite Miss Clark’s slide in popularity in the Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll at the weekend.

She was still on 29 per cent as preferred prime minister and no other Labour politician was on the radar. Phil Goff may be the heir apparent, but he does not register in the way John Key did before the coup that took out Don Brash.

Is John Key the problem?, probably not as Vernon notes because his own popularity although higher than any previous opposition leader is still not above his own party’s popularity. Now Vernon get’s to the delicious rumours that are swirling around Wellington.

Could it be that Labour’s biggest problem is that it has lost its ability to sell its own message? Or is it, as most commentators have come to believe, just the unstoppable demand for change? If it is, then the game is up. If it isn’t, then an improved election-year sales effort and a new range of sausages (could somebody please get me out of this metaphor) give some straws for Labour to clutch at.

Excuse the indelicate segue, but last week’s events have left a large number of straws still blowing in the wind for Labour. Why did Labour president Mike Williams fuel the piffling Glenn story by offering his resignation ? then let his offer seep into the media, where it could only add to the sense that there was something seriously wrong?

When asked last week if he was staying on, he said, “In the short term”, before quickly catching himself and saying, “In a short conversation” with the prime minister. Is he planning to step down at the election (or as is rumoured even earlier), along with the expected retirement of party secretary Mike Smith, to allow a new leadership team at both the party and caucus level (assuming Labour does not recover the Treasury benches)?

Add to that Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union secretary Andrew Little’s decision not to run for Parliament this term ? but his continued interest in politics at the highest level ? and it is easy to see who might be lining up as the next Labour president.

Even if there is not a new president, there are mounting calls within the party for a change of campaign manager. Some still blame a flawed start to the 2005 election fight on Miss Clark’s chief of staff Heather Simpson ? and there is no desire to repeat the experience.

It may seem quiet in the Beehive, but there is a gathering mood for change at the very apex of Labour’s tree.

Williams, Simpson . . . only Clark seems immune at the moment.

I smell blodd and quite a lot of it. The thing about Labour Party coups is that they are always messy and never help the party. Certainly there is the scent of blood about them now.

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