Sunday, August 21, 2011

Phil Goff, career politician

In yesterday’s Herald, the second part of Claire Trevett’s examination of Phil Goff’s career includes this revelation from 1984, when Labour under Lange had defeated National under Muldoon:
Goff  remembers the first Cabinet meeting, when Treasury showed the new Government the nation’s books.
“I remember just having that sinking feeling: there’s no way on God’s earth with this situation that we’re going to be able to be re-elected.”
One wouldn’t mind if his sinking feeling had been “there’s no way on God’s earth with this situation that the country can survive” or “we’re all fucked” or similar. But no, his first thought was of how this would affect his party’s electoral chances.

Politicians really are different from the rest of us. It’s all about power.


Penny said...

Yes, I had the same reaction.

Anonymous said...

'Politicians really are different from the rest of us. It’s all about power'.

How are politicians different from us? Aren't most people seeking power/ status?

Chad Taylor said...

From an article on politicians' awkwardness by Jill Lawrence:

'...Renshon describes such remarks as a clueless reach for common ground by politicians more accustomed to relating to affluent people in Washington or the business world. “You have to ask the question of what’s behind the tone-deafness,” he says. “It’s the adult experience. They just don’t spend much time in those kinds of circumstances. It’s sort of like visiting a foreign country.”'

The article is on The Daily Beast:

Unknown said...

I'm in the middle of Ferdinand Mount's autobiography - he was a UK journalist who went to work for Margaret Thatcher, a time he calls 'my longest holiday from irony'.

Although he clearly admires Thatcher, he says the only time he saw her turn into a bag of nerves over a decision wasn't over decisions to spend billions, or make budget cuts, or sent troops into action, but over when to call an election.

He says it was then he realised what mattered most to her, and all politicians, was getting and hanging onto power, and everything else paled into insignificance.

BTW, I recommend the book: Mount is a brilliant writer and it is a great mix of humour, sadness, and insight.

There's a great line about Graham Greene's famous comment that a writer needs "a sliver of ice in the heart". To be a good editor, Mount says, "you need an iceberg".

Stephen Stratford said...

@ Chad, thanks, will go read it.

@Rob, is that Cold Cream? That's a book I want to read. I discovered him when he was political columnist for the Spectator before he worked for Thatcher. Yes a fine and civilised writer and a very sharp mind. There are some novels too, I think.

Kiwicraig said...

It's the inherent underlying flaw in politics: the most important thing for almost any politician is to get back in again. It's all about gaining power, and then keeping power.

I have no doubt many, perhaps even most, go into it with some ideals about helping the country (in the way they think is best), but even those things are then filtered through the 'will this help us or hurt us get back in' screen...

Actual progress is almost incidental to (despite of, rather than because of) such fundamental motivations.

Unknown said...

@ Stephen: yeah, that's the book, I got it out of the Wellington Library.

Its got some fascinating stuff, on some fairly well known people, and its a great read.

Two reservations: one is the snobbery. I get this with a lot of British...well, English... writers of this kind. While I admire and revere them as writers the presumption of privilege grates, at times. Residual Kiwi egalitarianism on my part, perhaps.

The second his one of the things that makes it a good read (and perhaps reflects the sliver of ice mentioned above). Mount is as revealing about the foibles and failings of the people close to him as he is about his own.

It produces some great stories, but also the occasional wince, when one considers how the subject of some of the tales might have felt about seeing them in print.