The polling and the empty seats and the poor crowds of people over 90 years old must be breaking Phil Goff's heart.

He's been a loyal servant of the people for decades, and now the people are walking away from him.

I've written before about his ferocious capacity for hard work, which I witnessed once right through an all-day flight to Tokyo.

Head down in hundreds of pages of dense stuff, probably meaningless outside of the bureaucratic world but stuff he had to read and familiarise himself with.


That's what politicians have to do: read endless screeds of boring stuff. But hard work alone doesn't do it. Such is life.

You can talk about policy until you're blue in the face, but in the end I wonder if people vote on policy. I don't think they do. Most people don't give a rats about policy. If we like the leader we vote for him.

When Holyoake was National leader, we voted for Holyoake. When Kirk came along we voted for Kirk. When Muldoon came along, we voted for Muldoon. Rowling had a silly voice, so people continued to vote for Muldoon.

The tragedy for Phil Goff was that when his time came, he'd been around too long and he'd been too many different things, projected too many hues depending on the vogue.

It's not his fault. It's the price of longevity. He does have a tendency to sound like the talking-book version of the documents he has to read, and there is a preachiness about him that the country has no time for.

The tragedy for Labour is the way in which Helen Clark stepped down. Defeated on the night, she announced she was off. Then at the next Cabinet meeting she quit and nominated Goff and that was it. They never had a leadership contest. Extraordinary, when you think about it.

The defeated leader chose her successor, but there were several fresh faces who impressed and who could have grown into the leadership and appealed to the people without carrying the baggage of two former Labour Administrations.

So Goff's heart must be sinking. It must be hard for him to look his colleagues in the eye. That would be one of the hardest things, knowing that because of the polling, so many colleagues are going to lose their jobs, their employment.

Labour knows it's going to get a hiding - more than just a defeat. It must worry that people might avoid voting for the party in the belief a vote for Labour will be a wasted vote. What a state of affairs.

And we're seeing the inevitable clutching at straws. Should Labour win, there will be a full independent inquiry into fluoride in local body water supplies. We had this argument in the 1960s, and fluoride was shown to be extremely effective for the development of dental health in children - especially in the way it impedes dental decay. That's why it's in so many toothpastes.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element. Nothing wrong with it. And most built-up areas in New Zealand have fluoride in their water.

But every decade the space cadets come along and utter the dark warnings about the frightful dangers of fluoride. Not that anyone's died yet, as far as I know.

And in a country that gives no public financial support for adult dentistry, the better we can make our teeth early on in our lives the healthier we'll be, I should have thought.

But suddenly there are the Greens talking about mass medication. Mass medication sounds like Nazi Germany and helps no one.

Having said all of the above, I do think Housing Minister Phil Heatley should be telling his Housing Corporation to pull its head in around Glen Innes until after the election is done. There is real anger and fear there, expressed vehemently at Grace Church the other night.

The Housing Corp wants to turf 157 people out of their state houses so it can build 260 new homes.

In other words, destroy the village to save the village. Those being displaced don't know if they'll get one of the new homes.

One woman has been in her house 47 years. You can't blame her for thinking it's hers, although, of course, it is not.

I'm sure the Housing Corp is doing a good job of renewal, but Phil Heatley must be saying, do you have to upset the horses now? Like, right now?

In the end, however, when all is said and done, history is well against Phil Goff. New Zealanders hardly ever turf governments out after one term. Goff knows this. They all know it.

But Goff must be wondering in his lonely moments, of which he will be having plenty at the moment, what plotting is already going on. As it most surely will be.