Saturday Synopsis – Can Labour win in 2014?

It is hard to imagine any a scenario where Phil Goff becomes Prime Minister after the 2011 election, unless a sex scandal or ethics scandal completely undermines National.

The Election result will determine how effective Labour can be in opposition in the next term. If Goff leads them to ruin like Bill English did to National in 2002, it will be 2017 before Labour can seriously contemplate winning an election. Too few MPs means an inability to put a government under real pressure, and too many challengers to incumbents which makes winning votes expensive and difficult.

If Labour continue to track within a band of 27-33% of the vote they are going to struggle in the next term not just because of the size of their caucus. More worrying for Labour is the deadwood that will be preventing new blood coming through and connecting with the electorate.

There are two types of deadwood, those who have limited contributions to the Labour caucus but keep out good people. In this category fit Rick Barker, Steve Chadwick and Ross Roberston. MPs like this can be safely ignored, because though they potentially hold up someone good they do not get in the way of senior Labour MPs connecting with the electorate.

The bigger problem for Labour is the second group of deadwood, deadwood that thinks it is still alive long after it has died in the minds of the public. Labour still have a large number of reasonably competent people from the Clark regime exerting huge impact on the culture and direction of Labour. These people represent the failures of the last Labour government, and have continued to recycle Clark era policies in a totally changed world. They still have expectations of making it back into cabinet, but realistically they are past their used by date and will never again be able to connect with voters on a mass scale.

Included in this group are Phil Goff, Annette King, Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson, Trevor Mallard, Maryan Street, and Parekura Horomia, all assured of a place in the next parliament. While they are still around it will be difficult for the very grey men, Parker & Cunliffe to change the culture of the party, even if these people will leave Parliament in 2014.

These seven MPs will likely retire or be pushed in the next term, some potentially forcing by-elections, but while they remain in caucus they provide a huge barrier to Labour successfully rebranding and reconnecting with the public.

As a party Labour have failed to regenerate, and failed to make a clean break with the messy past. The likely outcome of this is another messy term where they are unable to make National look inept or corrupt, the key role of an opposition wanting to win back power.