A senior government minister has for the first time acknowledged that the Labour party faces the prospect of losing the election.
The minister, Phil Goff, has for the first time ruled in the possibility of a leadership tilt if Labour lost the election, Helen Clark stood aside as leader, and he was the best person for the job.
Mr Goff made the comments in an interview with Oliver Driver for the Alt TV show Let’s Be Frank two weeks ago. The interview will air tonight at 8:30 pm.
Trade minister Mr Goff said he would look at the leadership in the event of an election loss “If I felt that I was the best one [candidate] in that position and that Helen had stood aside voluntarily.”
Pressed on whether he felt he was the best candidate, Mr Goff demurred.
“Well, I don’t know yet. I don’t know who’s going to put their hand up,” he said. “And I’m not going to think in a defeatist way about the next election.”
“Sure there’s a prospect of defeat,” he said when asked about polling between the parties. But, he said, “I’m not thinking about the future.”
The comments are pragmatic, even banal, and reflect recent polling. But it is rare for a government minister to depart from the strong media lines out of the Beehive that polling under-represents government support.
The comments were made before a weekend poll which showed Labour’s support at 29 per cent, a low during its time in government. That poll result has re-ignited speculation from commentators about the future leadership of the Labour party.
Prime Minister Helen Clark told media she didn’t believe the poll was accurate, and that the government would remain competitive in the election.
Privately, most within Labour believe the party will win fewer seats than the opposition National party, but hope that Labour will be able to deal better in post-election talks with coalition partners and remain in government.
When asked earlier in the interview whether he was the leader in waiting Mr Goff said “I don’t know – that’s a decision made by caucus.”
Asked by Mr Driver if leadership was an ambition, Mr Goff responded “It’s not an overwhelming ambition.”
“I like the job I do. I’ve done it for the best part of 25 years. That’s been a very long sentence, that one.”