Labour leadership

by Jake Quinn

It doesn’t bode well for NZ Labour when the headlines on my stuff and nzherald politics RSS feed read “Robertson a man for Labour’s future”, “Quietly ambitious Labour MP bides his time”, “Phil Quin: the anatomy of a failed Labour coup”, “Labour: We want to move on”, “David Parker: MP who could be Labour’s King”, and “Judith Tizard makes Labour party wait”.

Regardless of all the media speculation it is unlikely that Labour will have a change of leadership before this year’s November election. Until recently Labour has managed to hold its 1/3rd support in opinion polls, a solid position for any party undergoing a period of rebuilding following a decade in office.

The position in the polls will be interesting to watch in the coming months, as we will see how strong that 30+% Labour base really is – especially given that the wheels do seem to be coming off the Goff wagon, highlighted by the recent controversy over the Darren Hughes affair. That said, I don’t believe this will lead to leadership change pre-election. If someone had wanted to challenge Goff, they would have done it by now.

What we’ve seen in terms of rejuvenation has instead focused on the Leader’s office and the party Presidency. Moira Coatsworth, previous Labour Party Vice-President and long time Waikato Labour campaigner from the Coromandel, takes over from EPMU boss Andrew Little who will now focus on his election to Parliament through the New Plymouth seat.

Moira will, I imagine, be less outspoken in the roll than Little has been (more of a behind the scenes work-horse), nor will her tenure be marked by speculations about her ambitions, as Little’s on occasion was. Moira is widely liked and respected within the Labour Party and will no doubt focus most of her attention on fundraising, something that all opposition parties struggle with after a long term in office or when facing a strong government likely to be re-elected.

Moreover, the replacement of John Pagani in the Opposition Leader’s Office will be an opportunity to breathe some strategic fresh air into Goff’s speeches and public appearances.

So, while there will continue to be many musings in the blogosphere about leadership change and the media are working themselves into a lather about possible candidates for this, the bottom line is that it’s more than likely a lot wasted keystrokes and newspaper ink. That’s my feeling anyway, but time will tell.