There is some speculation at the moment that Phil Goff is weighing up his chances of replacing Helen Clark as Labour leader.
The prospects of a palace revolt led by Labour’s dwindling centre-right will just get Clark’s and Labour Party president Mike Williams’ backs up further. The only way Goff will succeed ahead of the election is to persuade Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen to lead a deputation to persuade Clark to step aside. In the meantime if Moore continues to scratch Clark’s wounds she will fire back.
Clark patiently rebuilt Labour, with the aid of Williams, into a tight political machine. They made sure the selection process was geared to ensure that only MPs of “left persuasion” who would stay loyal to Clark would get into Parliament.
The upshot is the Labour caucus is stacked with former unionists and severely lacking in business people, farmers and others who would provide more balanced views, or even dare to challenge Clark.
This means Goff must persuade Labour’s left he has the right stuff to ensure the party can maintain mainstream support. If the polls continue to move against Clark, the prospect of losing their parliamentary positions and salaries will concentrate MPs’ minds.
If Labour’s so called “right” could not stand up to Helen Clark over the anti-smacking bill, (when they were under huge public pressure to do so), from where will they get the balls to depose NZ’s preferred Prime Minister?
Labour’s strategy is to stay left, keep Helen Clark and try to discredit National’s leader, John Key.
The left-which is most of Labour’s caucus would rather lose the next election under Helen Clark, than lose under Phil Goff.
If they stay with Helen and destroy John Key, they may yet win. If they lose, at least they will preserve the left’s iron grip on the Labour machine.
The left plays for the long term.
Demographics and society in general are moving their way.
If they have to let National in for a term or two to clean up and take the blame for their economic disasters, so be it.
Of course, some Labour MPs desperate to retain their seats may try something, but I will be very surprised if they can muster the numbers.
I think the next election will be fought between Clark and Key, but if only one leader survives up to that point, I’m betting it will be Clark.