For over thirty years Labour leader Phil Goff has been a loyal and committed supporter of neoliberalism and the free market.

And he hasn't changed. He hasn't thrown up his hands and admitted that, in the light of the global economic crisis, he might have got it all wrong.

Indeed he is on record as dismissing Labour's mild social democratic heritage as some kind of historical anachronism and he argues that there is no alternative to the free market. That the free market has dismally failed to deliver seems to be entirely irrelevant to Goff.

He didn't say any of this at the Labour Party conference though. Instead he made a speech where he tried to fool people into believing that he is a man of the people and not the neoliberal zealot that the socialist left have been attacking for more years that it cares to remember.

Of course at a Labour Party conference you can fool most of the people most of the time and as long as they get a nice cup of tea and a couple of gingernuts they'll swallow just about any old garbage. They'll even forget that you introduced users pays into the education system

Labour MP Claire Curran loved Goff's speech. Like most Labourites she regards herself as 'progressive' although she is vehemently anti-socialist.

Curran writes:

It felt as though Labour was becoming more Labour. Don’t know if that makes sense but it’s how I feel.

No, Clare - it doesn't make sense.

Blogger Martyn Bradbury appears to have been frothing at the mouth while Phil 'Che' Goff made his 'I have a dream' speech. Here's Bradbury wetting his pants in public;

Wow. I mean. Wow. I have not heard a left wing speech like that from a Political leader in my lifetime. I'd scammed a media pass and got to watch the best speech of his life. With that one performance, Phil Goff just proved that he can be the Prime Minister. He was on fire and it was an extraordinary shift to the left. National promised no more 'Labour Lite' after 2011 with the promise that we get the full bodied National Party free market privatization agenda. With this speech, Phil Goff clearly gave NZers a clear and utterly different kind of Government.

Bradbury, an inconsistent radical who has morphed into a consistent Labour cheerleader, must of been listening to a different speech to the one I've read because there's absolutely no evidence that it represents a fundamental break with neoliberalism. To further claim that it represents a return to Labour's roots is not only nonsensical -its intellectually dishonest.

Incidentally there was a lot of talk last year about Labour 'returning to its roots'. Obviously it was a false start.

A more reasoned and calmer observation about Phil 'Trotsky' Goff comes from commentator Chris Trotter. Although he supports Goff (on the grounds there's no superior replacement waiting in the wings) he is not blind to Goff's obvious political shortcomings . He writes of Phil 'Lenin' Goff:

He has had no "Greenspan Moment". No dramatic public admission (as there was by the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve) that the economic policies he and his colleagues adopted to secure the backing of big business, Treasury and the nation’s editors have now been tested to destruction.

On the contrary, Phil still believes that: "a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy".

For those on the left of New Zealand politics, indeed for all those who’ve voted Alliance, NZ First or The Greens because they simply could not bring themselves to vote for the party of Rogernomics, this is profoundly disappointing.

Trotter briefly mentions that the CTU's Alternative Economic Strategy was floating around the Labour conference.

While the media focus has been on Goff's speech the CTU's economic manifesto deserves to be widely debated and discussed.

While its not a socialist strategy it does represent a major attempt to map a way out of the neoliberal straitjacket that the country finds itself in.

I notice that while the Alliance Party has wholeheartedly endorsed the CTU's economic strategy no such endorsement has come from Phil Goff and the Labour Party.

Given Goff's continued loyalty to neoliberalism I doubt that any such endorsement can be expected.


  1. May I make a modest suggestion, Steve?

    Next year apply to the Labour Party for Observer status and actually attend its Annual Conference.

    You might be pleasantly surprised.

    Martyn Bradbury certainly was this year (and he is by no means a "Labour cheerleader").

    Your commentary is so hackneyed, so far removed from what is actually happening on the ground, Steve, that you should really cease and desist until you've paid reality a visit.

    Oh and BTW, Clare's name is Curran - not Currie.

    In the credibility stakes, I always find it helps if you spell people's names correctly.

  2. Wonderful choice of photo to accompany this article, Steve, with Cunliffe waiting in the wings. He won't be in the shadows too long after Goff's inevitable electoral failure in 2011...

    Goff's speech was cringe-worthy, with his utterly unbelievable attempts to connect with the common-man (Kiwi battler, hard working New Zealander, yada yada yada), with his so-convincing talk of fish 'n' chips of a Friday night.

    Goff is so far removed from the common-touch that even multi-millionaire John Key manages to fake it far better. It's just so painful even watching Goff attempt to smile for the cameras. He's so incapable of expressing real emotion that all he can manage is this sort of strained baring-of-the-teeth.

    I recall marching in protest in 1989 where the resounding call from the crowd was "Fuck off Goff". He was happy then to institute huge tertiary fee rises on the same common people with whom he now professes to empathise. At least the succeeding National government realised that such fees required a loan scheme if people were to pay for them. Until that came in, I had to sell my dunger of a Ford Cortina just to stay at varsity. Baby-boomer Goff, meanwhile, had taken his free education all the way to the corridors of power.

    I know for a fact that people at the Labour conference were also at those same protests. How do they feel now, attempting to push that hypocritical git as some sort of champion of the people?

  3. I come from a long line of working class labour voters - who all ditched Labour when Labour ditched us - this is a party of out of touch right wingers who had AMPLE opportunities to move away from the RIGHT when they were in power and chose not to - Goff is a Right Wing Wolf in ( badly made) sheeps clothing. This Party is out of touch and so sheltered in Wellington that they have lost touch with ORDINARY WORKING PEOPLE - so are their breathlessly sycophantic followers - ...y'all spend too much time feeding at public troughs and drinking with "powerful" people to know whats what at GRASSROOTS ... have your conferences, get paid for your opinions on tv and radio, ponce around in flash suits and chauffeured cars and buy water for $10 a bottle ( Lianne ! ) ..meantime , my teeth are fallin' out because I can't afford the dentist and I have to think twice before I buy a block of frickin' cheese !

  4. Reading Curran's blog post I'm left wondering: do politicians speak from the heart anymore or is it all just carefully contrived bullshit about how wonderful certain local and national icons are?

    As declarity points out, it's the Labour Party that is completely removed from what's happening on the ground.

    Do Labour MPs (with cushy beehive salaries) know what it's like to see their wages evaporate through GST rises? Or know what its like to stare down the barrell of saving for several years for just a modest home? Or despair about the economics of having kids?

    A chest beating from Phil Goff isn't fooling anyone.


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