Meg Munn interviews Phil Goff, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.
Posted by progressivegovernance09 on March 27, 2009
We have recruited some roving reporters for the blog – here Meg Munn MP interviews Phil Goff, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party:
At the New Zealand General Election in November 2008 Labour lost after three terms in government. Phil Goff has taken over as leader of the NZ Labour Party, and as the parallels with the UK are strong I was keen to learn from Phil what happened.
Phil told me that it’s unusual for any NZ government to have more than three terms, even where they have been seen as having done a good job. All governments have to make difficult decisions which alienate some of the electorate.
He told me that there were three key reasons for their defeat. Although the government was generally well regarded, there was a powerful sense that “it’s time for a change” after three terms in office.
An area of policy which went against Labour was law and order. Phil felt that he had done a significant amount on being tougher but this was still not enough to stave off criticism.
Thirdly, the opposition party portrayed a number of Labour’s policies as being support for a nanny state.
Also the opposition leader, John Key, moved the National Party to the centre. Despite not having supported many social changes introduced by Labour, he reversed his party’s position which reassured the public, while offering change in a new refreshed government.
Many Kiwis listened and many Labour supporters stayed at home.
Does this mean that the overwhelming pressure of “it’s time for a change”, inevitably mean that Labour in the UK is heading for defeat at the next General Election?
Phil responded that it isn’t necessarily the case. The public have to feel confidence in the alternative and they won’t support a party and a leader they’re not sure about, preferring to stay with a known quantity. NZ Labour felt there were good reasons for the electorate not to trust John Key, but efforts to try and demonstrate this backfired with the public suspecting a dirty tricks campaign.
I asked how NZ Labour is doing now.
The Government are having a honey moon period, and have not yet been tested with difficult decisions. The budget is not until May. However he remains positive about the state of the party. The leadership change was smooth and achieved without dissent – something that is rare in NZ Labour’s history. He added that the parliamentary party is in a good state. A quarter of the Labour MPs are new, and they have lots of energy.
There are no ideological splits – previous Leader Helen Clark left a legacy of a united party, and New Zealand parliaments only last three years. So, although Phil Goff ruefully points out that it will not be easy having been elected leader of the opposition 2 weeks before the Government took power, he has every reason to be optimistic about the future.
His advice for the UK Labour Party?
“It’s time for a change” is hard to fight against, but the population has to be convinced that the alternative will be better. UK Labour has a record to stand on. Defeat is not inevitable if the alternative offered is politically unconvincing, or if the personalities in charge aren’t trusted.
Incidentally, the NZ Labour Party’s previous Leader and Prime Minister, Helen Clark, is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s preferred candidate for the role of head of the United Nations Development Programme.
Meg Munn MP