Why is the Labour opposition so hopeless? I had assumed that leader Phil Goff was competent enough, albeit lacking in charisma, to survive until the November election.

Now I don't. His performance this week has been appalling.

I reluctantly swallowed the line that he was the best of the bunch after Helen Clark's departure and was handed a poisoned chalice to do the best he could to rebuild his party.

In retrospect, maybe the Labour Party should have picked someone else as a break with the past.

Goff's leadership mandate has always been weak, given that he got the job without any input from the party or the consensus of wider Labour voters. That's because Clark quit immediately after the last election and, while her caucus was dealing with their massive election losses, she anointed Goff as her replacement with no time for anyone else to be considered.

Though I find Goff personally affable and decent, I've always had a jaundiced view of him given he was an enthusiastic right-winger of the neo-liberal coup in 1984 that gave our country to a bunch of gangster capitalists. Goff and most of his old guard, still hanging on to their parliamentary perks, were complicit in the crime and can never 'fess up.

So when Goff tries to put up policies that contradict his former right-wing beliefs, he always looks awkward. For example, how is supporting a rise in GST as long as we take it off food ever going to be credible on any level?

Frankly, neither Labour or National have any intention of changing the fundamental neo-liberal dogma that steals from the poor and gives to the rich. Their differences are on the edges. As a result, our political news seems to be more about a smiling, hand-waving Prime Minister in a series of photo opportunities.

If Labour was doing an effective job, Key and his ministers would be under pressure to explain why we borrow billions to cover up the fact there is no economic plan. They would rather put the boot into the 350,000 Kiwis on benefits who are expected to compete for the 20,000 mostly minimal-waged jobs on offer.

Any fool can see it's not the people on benefits who are to blame but this useless Government, which hasn't got a single decent idea on creating employment.

Yet Labour has made no traction. And just when the first chink appears in Key's Government, with their admission that this year's Budget will have the biggest deficit ever and there won't be any new spending, Goff messes it up. It was supposed to be the ticket to get Labour back into the game big time.

Instead we are now discussing Labour's internal problems with one of its MPs - again. The handling of the Darren Hughes incident exposes Goff's hypocrisy, his lack of judgment and, more importantly, his political smarts. You couldn't get a more inept management of a crisis.

It was always a long shot for Labour to win November's election, given the dismal polling of the party and their leader.

Goff's mismanagement this week has taken any chance now. The Hughes affair will now dominate the media and cloud any positive profile Labour was sure to get in the period leading up to the Budget.

The failing economy and a record deficit budget is a gift for Labour. Goff had two weeks, for goodness sake, to work out a strategy over Hughes - and he blew it. He appeared confused and then changed his mind about Hughes staying on, probably under pressure from his caucus. Because of that, Hughes is certainly a goner whether he's charged or not.

Labour has no chance in the next election if Goff remains. Labour needs more urgency, more mongrel and more seriousness about its obligations to its supporters who are really hurting under this Government.

They desperately need a circuit breaker.

I'm sad to have to say it but Labour needs to face the reality that its leader is now a liability and has to go.