The beginning of the mid-term break marked 100 days until Election Day, and during the recess we also entered the three-month period regulating political propaganda; a significant milestone as we approach November 26.
Despite the imminence of the election however, Labour continue to languish in doldrums. The latest Herald-DigiPoll survey has the opposition party at its lowest levels of support so far this term (31.5 per cent), with a Fairfax Media-Research International poll recording a far more significant slip to 25.7 per cent. Unsurprisingly the cracks in the Labour façade are beginning to widen.
In a thinly veiled acceptance of the near-impossibility of defeating National, Goff suggested it would take something along the lines of “Ruth Richardson running the finance portfolio” to bring down the Key Government in 2011.
Moreover, while bemoaning that “people aren’t focused on the issues”, Goff has had to once again reassert to media, with uncharacteristic irritability, that he will indeed be leading Labour into the next election.
“I’m the leader of the Labour Party. I’ll be taking the Labour Party into the next election. You all know that. It’s about time people stop flogging that dead horse and just accept the fact.”
The media’s inquiries derived from a leak that Phil Goff had offered to step down at a meeting with his front bench. Although as the NZ Herald’s Audrey Young has explained, apparently it wasn’t so much a case of fatigued concession.Rather, Goff had asserted that if anyone on the front bench had concerns with his leadership they should speak up.
It’s clear that most, if not all the front bench accept the inevitability of a National victory in November, and those who harbour leadership ambitions are already working to position themselves for a post-election leadership contest. As John Armstrong argues, “The only motive for the leak would be to undermine Goff before the election campaign to ensure he loses.”
In an interview on The Nation, Shane Jones, who has been clear about his own aspirations, appeared to level the blame squarely with Labour’s finance spokesperson, David Cunliffe, pointing out that perhaps Cunliffe isn’t anything like the team player he professes to be.
Denying the leak, Goff has asserted there is a price to pay for such behaviour: “Everybody in caucus knows that there is a rule of confidentiality. Somebody broke that rule. His name was Chris Carter, and he was expelled immediately.”
However, I suspect that if the leak were found to have come from Cunliffe and Goff tried to eject him from the Shadow Cabinet, Labour would be looking down the barrel of a situation reminiscent of the Lange-Douglas power struggle of 1988-89, where Lange impelled Roger Douglas to resign his ministerial positions, only to have the Labour caucus subsequently vote to return the Finance Minister to Cabinet.
As such, even with the Carter-saga warning, Goff will no doubt see any concerns over caucus disloyalty swept under the rug this time around.
Meanwhile, way across on the other side of the political spectrum, ACT are also in a state of stagnation, despite some media interest surrounding the release of the ACT Party list, with its mysteriously unnamed third-place holder. Former ACT Party president Catherine Isaac is tipped to have had the seat held for her, but meanwhile, the lack of surety has come off as amateurish.
More confusingly, sitting MP Hilary Calvert has been left off the list, which features only seven names from the 2008 list. Calvert has accepted this with an air of nonchalance—uncommon for an ACT Party MP—and a show of loyalty ACT doesn’t deserve, especially considering it was Calvert’s vote that clinched the leadership for Brash.
Of course, based on current polls, even Brash doesn’t look like he’s going to cut it. With the party’s continuing abysmal performance, John Banks would be ACT’s sole MP post-Election, and only if he wins Epsom. Even in the party’s electoral stronghold, surely voters are starting to question the party’s validity, looking instead toward National.
We can only hope.