Phil Goff is suddenly talking like someone who already has Auckland’s mayoral chains hanging from his neck.
Something has definitely changed. The focus, emphasis and tone of his remarks and replies have undergone a subtle, but noticeable switch.
He would deny it until the cow’s come home. But he now sounds like someone has made the transition from “if I become mayor” to “when l become mayor”.
This shift was apparent when he was questioned in depth during Monday’s edition of Morning Report on his call for the imposition of a stiff tax which foreign nationals buying a property would have to pay on top the purchase price.
The idea isn’t new. But there has been little debate here about the efficacy of what is otherwise known as stamp duty. National does not appear to be enthusiastic about a mechanism which might cool the Auckland property marker. Labour did not include the device in its recent-released housing package.
But Goff was very keen. Gone was politician’s caginess that can make him sound flat and underwhelming. He did not try to fudge the issues which would arise from the introduction of such a levy.
Goff spoke with the authority of someone confident of a decisive victory on Saturday. He is a man in a hurry. He cannot wait until he gets his hands on the levers of the most powerful job in Auckland.
He wasn’t being arrogant. Goff would be one of the very last politicians to say or do anything which might be misinterpreted as such.
Donald Trump might go on ad nauseum about being on the yellow brick road to certain victory in America’s presidential contest.
Such boasting in advance of the ballot papers being counted is as alien to Goff as the likelihood of finding life on Mars.
Goff suffers no such Trump-like delusions of grandeur. There is no time in his working day to indulge in bouts of self-glorification or self-congratulation. And we are talking about working days which make other workaholics look slothful.
Geoff’s capacity for work is legendary — so much so that he can seem robotic.
But presuming he is no robot, he would not be human were he not contemplating what needs to be done following the announcement of the winner of the mayoral contest.
He will have some kind action plan on hand to ensure there is no political vacuum following his election. He will list his immediate priorities, as well as setting out a broader agenda for change. One of the more essential tasks is to rebuild public confidence in the Auckland Council.
He would be derelict in his duty, not least to himself, if he had nothing prepared on advance. But that won’t happen.
It has been obvious ever since Goff threw his hat into the mayoral ring that he was going to win and win easily.
But the certainty of his victory will have had the effect of heightening voters’ expectations of what his mayoralty ought to be able to deliver.
Given that pressure will intensify, he will want the strongest mandate possible so that he can exercise maximum influence and leverage at the head of the council table.
There are two things which he cannot control ahead of Saturday afternoon. Those are the size of his majority and whether it would have been larger but for the endemic non-voting in local authority elections.
There is a danger that because Goff is a dead cert, people will not have bothered to vote.
But the same scenario applied in Len Brown’s in 2013, his popularity was such that movers and shakers on the centre-right did not put up a serious candidate.
John Palino thus became the default candidate. He got thrashed by Brown. But he topped the 100,000 mark in terms of votes.
That seems to have deluded him into thinking that in a multi-candidate contest like the current one, he could secure enough votes to come through the middle.
But Palino is not solely responsible for what will become very apparent on Saturday afternoon.
In a word, slaughter. Absolute slaughter.
The Charge of the Right Brigade has been an utter debacle from start to finish.
It is Auckland’s version of The Three Stooges, but without the laughs.
Together the three add up to much less than the sum of their parts.
To end up with three candidates fighting over the same segment of the vote requires a special kind of incompetence.
It was equally inept — and arrogant — try and impose a candidate on the electorate simply because he or she ticks all your ideological boxes.but has nothing that appeals to the mainstream voter.
Vic Crone might have a chance were the voting public confined to those who inhabit city’s corporate board rooms. Unfortunately for Crone, it isn’t.
Throwing someone with no experience of politics into the lion’s den against someone who has seen `all that can happen in politics several times over is almost an act of cruelty.
Mark Thomas is the only one of the three candidates who is politically savvy. So much so that he has obviously suffered great torment from the hopeless position that he, Crone and Palino find themselves.
Despite what would have been great pressure to pull out of the mayoral race, he has instead created a new political phenomenon — the candidate who isn’t a candidate.
He conceded it was “inevitable” Goff would win “unless the community gets more engaged”.
Rather than quit, he would instead use the remainder of his campaign to “make people aware of the lack of change a Phil Goff mayoralty will bring”.
It is more likely the community — which tends to punish disunity in all its forms — will have become disengaged from Thomas.
Whether Thomas’s de facto withdrawal of his candidacy will have helped Crone is very much a moot point.
She is further handicapped by a fourth candidate who will further split the centre-right vote — Goff.
He is a liberal when comes to economic management; he is a conservative on law and order.
He has handled the many and varied ministerial portfolios with such competence that it is difficult to remember anything going off the tracks under his watch. Having been Trade minister, he knows how to negotiate deals. That is a vital attribute for the mayor of the country’s biggest city, given the priorities of local and central government do not always coincide.
In short, Goff is someone who can be trusted to do the job no matter how difficult or daunting.
His opponents have tried to turn the argument around by saying his experience counts for little. They claim that the length of time he has been in Parliament renders him incapable of providing the fresh ideas desperately needed to lift the aspirations of Aucklanders and turn the metropolis into what Chrone calls”a world-class city”.
True, Goff lacks the X factor when it comes to being a source of inspiration. That was clear during his relatively brief stint as Leader of the Opposition.
But the former Labour leader remains a very skilled politician — as was shown by his backing for the introduction of stamp duty.
A lot could be read into Goff’s positioning on how best to slow the rate at which prices are rising, if not bringing them to an abrupt halt.
His remarks about stamp duty were designed to show that what he says about resolving Auckland’s housing crisis is not just talk — and that he is open to any idea which might ease the pressures on the demand side of the house price equation.
More than anything, however, he was sending a message to the National-led Government.
Legislation would have to be passed by Parliament to enable such a levy to be imposed on foreign buyers. Local authorities do not have the power to do so.
National has been most reluctant to curb demand-side pressures by drastically cutting immigrant numbers or bringing in measures which would make property speculation not worth the bother.
But Goff is flagging that he is not going to be silent when government actions — or the lack of them — are detrimental to Auckland’s interests.
Likewise, Goff is unlikely to put up with Cabinet ministers rubbishing the Auckland Council’s planning and resource consent procedures as a scapegoat for them taking so long to realize the number of new houses being constructed each year was woefully short of that required to cope with Auckland’s fast-rising population.
The claim that Goff is someone who is past it cuts no ice with voters. They see someone who is reinvigorated by the new challenges he will be facing.
The time had come for him to leave the Labour caucus and Parliament altogether. That was not because he was doing a bad job. Goff always gives his all and more no matter what task lands on his desk.
It is fact of political life, however, that party leaders have to freshen up their line-ups on a fairly regular basis by reallocating portfolio responsibilities and rewarding those who are doing a good job by moving them up the caucus rankings.
Long-serving MPs can get in the way of that process. A change in personnel means a break from the past. In Goff’s case, his support for the free-market policies master-minded by Sir Roger Douglas has been the one thing in his past that political opponents have let him forget.
But it has not disadvantaged his mayoral campaign. For Aucklanders, it is a thing very much in the past. The far more pressing matter is what happens tomorrow.
Goff will clean up in west Auckland. He will likewise capture vast swathes of the mortgage-belt elsewhere across the city. He will soak up what votes are cast in low-turnout south Auckland. He will do very well when it comes to securing middle-income voters who play a large part in determining the victor in any election,
He has a good chance of making deep inroads into territory which is the preserve of the centre-right; areas whose inhabitants would rather be stretched on a wrack than cast a vote for anyone who has even the slightest whiff of Labour about them.
Geoff has made it a little bit easier for the affluent to depart from their ingrained voting habits by running as an independent.
He will be trusting them to return the favour. They will have to have good reason not to have done so. Why? The answer is because Goff is the most capable candidate by more than a country mile regardless of what ever measure you choose to use.
Crone might argue Goff is long past his use-by date. But she nay well discover the shelf-life of a failed candidate can turn out be rather short.


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