Monday, March 28, 2011

Phil Goff has no virtù

I thought I had little to add to what Lew and Russell have said about Phil Goff's disastrous leadership of the Labour Party. But actually, I do. And its right there in the title: Phil Goff has no virtù.

For those who don't know: virtù is a key concept in Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince. Roughly translated it means "political virtue", competence in political management and the application of power. The other key concept is fortuna, or as Harold Macmillan would put it, "events, dear boy, events". A politician with virtù is able to manage events to their advantage, or at least to avoid serious disadvantage.

Helen Clark had virtù. Whatever else people may think of her, she displayed consistently good political management, making the right choices for the maintenance of her power (and then fell because, lets face it, a third term is a tough enough hand to play, without throwing in the complicating factor of coalition with Winston). I initially thought Goff was cast from the same mould, only a weaker model - an uninspiring managerial politician, but a safe pair of hands. Since then he's established a consistent pattern of poor decision-making, failing to seize opportunities and act decisively; trying to seize the moral high ground and then failing to follow through; ruining his big policy launch by failing to do the maths; and now a ham-fisted mushroom strategy on Darren Hughes which has left his caucus and party president in the dark and looks like a shoddy attempt at a coverup. Machiavelli warned that

It makes him contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate ["weak" - I/S], mean-spirited, irresolute, from all of which a prince should guard himself as from a rock
Goff has managed to make himself appear all of those things. His default response of echoing John Key with an "and my wife too" just makes him seem pathetic.

Phil Goff has no virtù, and without it he cannot possibly win the upcoming election. The question now is whether anyone else in Labour does, and wants to make a go of it.