Party unity, Nationhood speech and Foreshore and Seabed repeal

by Jake Quinn

An interesting piece by Vernon Small in today’s Dominion Post suggests that Labour MP’s will be ‘taking it’ to Goff, over his recent nationhood speech, at next week’s Caucus meeting.

Small notes that “Discontent, especially on the Left of the party, has centred around Mr Goff’s comments on the foreshore and seabed policy”, which Goff has signalled Labour will now oppose the repeal of.

One can’t imagine that much discontent, I mean these are the MPs that voted for the legislation in the first place. (I do wonder however, what Party President Mr Little will be thinking, having unilaterally announced that Maori should “have their day in court” at this year’s Labour Party Conference).

It is clear why certain MPs feel the need to publically take a stand on these issues (particularly the speech); as Farrar notes, “Grant [Robertson] will just be doing his job as a local MP. Wellington Central is a very liberal seat, and Labour activists there are very liberal. I have no doubt Grant will have been bombarded by supporters asking what the fuck is going on”. Indeed.  It would be fair to say that similar sentiments have resonated from a few Labourites around Auckland University.

While they’re on the topic next week, Goff might like to remind his MPs that such discussions are best undertaken in caucus however, and not in the Dominion Post.  The image of party unity is important to staving off leadership discussions, and as many have noted, the lack of descent dissent from the party and its MP’s was the hallmark of Clark’s years.

That said however, Goff has made it quite clear that he wishes to have a different managerial style from Helen (which has, for instance, lead to the creation of the Labour MP’s succesful blog Red Alert).  The question remains though: will Goff’s hands-off style work during what is a pretty serious rebuilding phase for Labour.