Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Goff really needs to go... to labour a point

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Only one in nine voters supports Goff to be prime minister. Photo / Jason Dorday
Only one in nine voters supports Goff to be prime minister. Photo / Jason Dorday

I can't see how Labour can keep whistling in the dark over its dismal public support.

I don't know how its leader, Phil Goff, can keep pretending he has a chance of winning in November.

Two polls this week showed the gap between National and Labour remaining at a yawning 20 per cent. When was the last time a government polled consistently so far ahead of its opposition?

Every poll these days seems to tell the same story: John Key and his party can rule alone. People like Key and trust him.

We have a prime minister whom two out of every three New Zealanders prefer.

That means even voters of other parties support him over their own leaders. Extraordinary but true.

Goff, in contrast, can muster a derisory one in nine voters who support him for the job.

You would think Key's "do nothing" Budget would start to reveal he is running this country with smoke and mirrors.

His boast that his Government would create 170,000 jobs over the next four years isn't based on any reality - particularly as in last year's Budget he was predicting employment creation of, you guessed it, 170,000 jobs.

Even the economic growth forecasts are virtually the same as last year. The Government didn't even come close to any of last year's forecasts. Now we are asked to swallow the same fantasy this year.

Obviously the political clanger in this year's Budget is that Key wants to raise up to $7billion by selling off our most productive public assets to help close the deficit.

Labour has latched on to an anti-privatisation agenda as an election winner, given the fact that more than 62 per cent of New Zealanders oppose those asset sales.

We would normally expect a lift to Labour after this Budget.The party should also have hoped for additional positive profile from its national congress last weekend. But neither opportunity has made an iota of difference.

Mind you, the congress was insipid, at best. Labour barred media from most of the event and spun to a resentful press three policies that didn't create much excitement.

Replacing the Families Commission with a Ministry for Children isn't fooling anybody, given Labour was happy to govern for most of its nine years with the present arrangement.

Even Labour's major policy of massive investment in research and development would have gone over the heads of most people except, of course, the farmers who are being tapped to pay for it.

I imagine the cockies will be adding an extra zero to their cheques made out to the National Party's re-election campaign fund.

However, I am very supportive of Labour's commitment to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15. It's a good seller to low-paid workers.

For some reason, though, Goff isn't connecting. I've come to the conclusion that voters have taken their phones off the hook and aren't listening to anything Goff is saying.

I've said it before in this column, but Goff has no choice but to step down and let a fresh face have a go as leader.

He has had two years as leader and the gap between the two main parties has widened. No one, surely, believes that a Goff-led party has any show.

It is clear the whole Labour caucus is made up of a bunch of gutless wonders, resigned to coast along for the next six months and lose, rather than get a backbone and make the change.

Labour needs a new messenger if it has any chance.

Frankly, it's a dereliction of duty for the current caucus to flag this election away. If it does then it doesn't deserve any support from its core constituency.

It would have a better chance in November if it put the names of its current MPs on a wall and then have some kid throw a dart at it.

Whoever gets their name lanced by the dart gets the job.

It's a bit over the top but it's a better strategy than the one Labour's running now.

- Herald on Sunday

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