Key Points:

Phil Goff takes the term "media savvy" to the extreme.

He once called NZPA from an overseas trip at 3am, and finding nobody there, left an interview with himself on the answerphone.

It said: "I know it's early and there won't be anyone there, but here's what I did today" and left what was essentially himself talking to himself as a message.

Mr Goff's media skills are part of the package the politician will bring to the Labour leadership.

He is also a details man with political antennae finely tuned into the public mood - all similar attributes to his predecessor Helen Clark.

The 55-year-old yesterday said he wanted to lead Labour back into power at the next election in three years, then campaign "as Prime Minister" at the 2014 election, aged 61.

Mr Goff's working hours are described as "atrocious". He starts at dawn or before, goes off to play squash at 10pm, works until after 1am and is back at his desk in the morning.

He wants "his head around everything" so he can never be blindsided.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, he would not be satisfied with the reports of officials, but would want a selection of overseas reportage as well. Conversely, when working overseas, he gets staff to send up to 20 pages of news clippings from home each day.

Despite the pace and standards he sets, Mr Goff is a relaxed boss, although those who fall behind pick up his discontent "by osmosis".

Mr Goff was born into the Labour Party, officially joining at age 15. He put himself through Auckland University, where he gained a MA in political science and was a contemporary of Helen Clark on Vietnam War protests.

He won the Mt Roskill seat in 1981, and became a Cabinet minister in the Labour Government until he was turfed out by Gilbert Myles in 1990.

He was back after a three-year hiatus in 1993 and has held Mt Roskill ever since, where he is known to still go door-knocking despite the seat being safe and his busy schedule.

Mr Goff was Minister of Foreign Affairs until after the last election when he reluctantly had to relinquish the role to Winston Peters as part of his deal with Helen Clark. He kept his hand in the international arena with the trade and defence portfolios.

One distinction of Mr Goff's political career is that despite being high-profile, he has rarely stuffed up or got out of step with public opinion.

Once part of Mike Moore's crew in the Labour Party, he and Helen Clark have had their differences. While he came to accept her, ambition for the leadership role has always been there.

Mr Goff is a hardliner on law and order and how he pitches Labour against a National-Act Government with a similar philosophy will be interesting. If they fail, look out. If they work, Mr Goff may have nowhere to go. His weaknesses are said to be that he is a political loner, is seen to lack empathy and charisma and "lacks verbal discipline".

Mr Goff is a ready-to-go leader who will take John Key's new Government on from day one.

* Philip Bruce Goff

Aged 55.
Married to Mary, three adult children.
MP for Mt Roskill.
Lives on a small farm in Clevedon outside Auckland.
Likes rugby league, plays squash, has sold his Norton motorbike.