Could Helen get rolled?

The latest polls paint a truly bleak picture for Labour. Which has some thinking the unthinkable. Could Helen get rolled by her own party?

My short answer, like David Farrar’s, is no. This is for three reasons.
1) Helen Clark is still the best Labour has. Despite the bad polls, and a few lapses in her political judgement, she still is a formidable political leader.
2) The Labour leadership is a poisoned chalice. If Goff or King wanted to be PM they would be well advised in waiting until after the election and focusing on 2011 or 2014.
3) At the moment Clark appears to have the numbers, so a coup would fail anyway.

I also have strong doubts about the idea that changing leaders will save you. Every time since 1940 that a New Zealand political party has changed leaders while in office, it went in opposition at the next election (Shipley 99, Moore 90, Rowling 75, Marshall 72 and Holyoake 57). While much has been said about Howard staying on too long, there is no proof the coalition would have done better with Costello, and now that Nelsons leader has doing far worsein the polls than Howard ever did (admittedly, partly because Rudd is still new and having a honeymoon).

For the fun of it, lets assume that Labour’s caucus looses faith in Clark, or Clark resigns/dies/is somehow removed from the political scene. Insolent Prick looks at the options here. Goff is competent, but has the support of only a few on Labour’s right, some of whom are leaving. He would, despite his lack of support, be the best choice. Cullen is getting old, and his well earned reputation for opposition to tax cuts will not help him. King will be largely new to the electorate, and will please the Labour left more than Goff, but is she up to the task? IP mentions Gosche, but he looks more likely to leave politics than lead Labour. And we can forget about Trevor Mallard. Shane Jones could be a good choice longer term, and could be our first Maori PM, but since he’s only just made it to cabinet he’s not ready yet.

This is an issue Labour probably won’t have to face until the December. Who they choose will depend on the size of their defeat (and in the unlikely event of a win, as Clarks been around for a long time they may still have to face the issue). If they loose by a small margin Clark might stay an extra year and choose her sucessor. If they loose big Goff will be the favourite for the job. My hope is Labour gets thrashed (on present polling this might happen), Goff becomes leader after a civil war within Labour, and a wave of national euphoria after a 2011 RWC (a big if, given we haven’t won one in 20 years, but at home should help us) win drives Key home again. Goff is pernamently stained by the loss in 2011 (in a similar way to English is by 2002) and (getting more hopefull) Labour spend the next 20 years in opposition. Looking shorter term, I can’t wait till the election, especially with current polls. But I wouldn’t want to write Labour off just yet.

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