Hubbard slips the knife in

Anthony Hubbard is a true pinko. Today he starts the dirty, but necessary work of spilling Labour’s leadership blood.

Phil Goff has a wretched life. Here he is, a few months out from the election, having to deny rumours about offers of resignation. “Bloody rubbish,” he tells the journalists, and then the journalists report the rumour again. Did he ask his front bench whether he should quit? Maybe, maybe not, but either way, Goff can’t win.

Goff can’t win and his entire caucus know it. Thus far they lack the courage to act. Hubbard is the start, but he too suggest they wait. I suggest this part of the softening up strategy.

Goff should not resign. It wouldn’t do Labour any good. It would seem to be exactly what it would be: a panic in the face of likely defeat. Labour panicked in the run-up to the 1990 election, replacing Geoffrey Palmer with Mike Moore less than eight weeks before the poll. That didn’t prevent the massacre.

All choices are hard for Labour now. Another leader might not lose as badly as Goff, but the party would be stuck with him (nobody thinks the next leader will be a woman). And a choice made amid terror and despair is unlikely to be the best bet long-term. That means: stick with Goff until the election.

The problem with that scenario is that a lot of talent is certain to be dusting off their CV if the rout becomes a massacre. The thinking needs to be to save the talent. Only a change of leader can do that. If labour sticks with Goff then they are seriously handicapped for the 2014 cycle.

The best hope for Labour is a narrowing of the gap with National and a not-entirely-dishonourable defeat. The party could then choose a new leader and start a new political race. National in its second term will be much weaker than it is now. And Labour could then present itself as a new model and not just a panel-beaten old one.

I disagree. They should start the changes now. I asked several Labour back benchers over this week if they would keep Goff as leader if they won. The silence was telling, the only sound one could hear was the shuffling of feet.

Above all, Labour can never claim to be a new party while it is led by Goff. Goff has many strengths. He has an excellent grasp of policy across the board, the result of many years in government and of his own high seriousness. He is a policy wonk, with a grasp of detail that Key could never match. He would make a splendidly competent cabinet minister.

Although he naturally belongs on Labour’s right, he has been leader at a time when its policy has shifted left. He has worked to become less robotic in his manner and has partly succeeded. He is a friendly enough bloke and can mix with high and the low. He has the egalitarian manner required of New Zealand leaders. But Goff can never be a symbol of new Labour. He’s been around for too long. He’s a reminder of a past that Labour needs to leave behind.

This is Labour’s problem in general. A look at their front bench shows many tired old faces. The so called “talent” to back them up is missing, rather Labour have presented us with a list that resembles tokenism and mediocrity at best, party hacks and flakes at worst.

The second to last paragraph is why I believe Hubbard’s article is a softening up for some blood letting.

Labour will then have a much better chance. Does it have a new leader in its ranks, ready to grab the new opportunities? Certainly it will have talent. Andrew Little, the former union leader, will be a genuinely new face, and nobody can blame him for past Labour errors. David Parker was a Cabinet minister under Clark but was hardly well-known. And he is the man most responsible for Labour’s new policies. Parker’s heart is on the left, although he has also been a successful businessman. He has cross-over appeal. Shane Jones appeals to Maori and Pakeha alike and has a bodgy charm, although Labour’s women might have trouble forgiving him for the blue movie thing.

Until now no mainstream media person has mentioned Shane Jones as a contender, yet this is the name that has constantly been surfacing int he past two weeks form my Labour sources. Hubbard’s article puts the proposed leadership team to replace Goff and King front and centre. This article by Hubbard is the softening. After tonights poll results the rhetoric will become harsher.

Nobody knows whether any of these blokes could do it for Labour next term. But one thing is certain. All would be a better bet than Phil Goff.

Actually those blokes do know, they are just counting and waiting. The only thing holding David Parker back is his messy personal life. He may well get ignored unless that gets sorted pronto.