Phil Goff to resign as Labour leader

Labour leader Phil Goff is expected to announce his resignation Tuesday to the Labour caucus, after failing to make a dent against National in the New Zealand election.

Prime Minister John Key won almost enough seats to govern alone, while Labour’s support splintered away to the Greens and New Zealand First, which have gained 13 and 8 seats respectively.

Addressing the media after the NZ election result, Phil Goff has said he’s “made a clear decision” on his future, which he will announce to the caucus Tuesday. “I will advise them of the decision I have reached,” he told journalists.

It’s expected Goff will stay on as a senior Labour MP. Commentator Chris Trotter says he “implores” Goff not to resign Tuesday but to wait until February when Labour’s had more chance to prepare for a leadership change.

Mainstream media reported surprise at the return of New Zealand First, but an Investigate magazine poll in February this year picked NZ First at that stage with nearly 6% of the vote. Tonight they hit 6.8%. Among the new NZ FIrst MPs is Investigate columnist Richard Prosser.

National with 48% are expected to gain 60 seats
Labour 27%, 34 seats
Greens 10.5%, 13 seats
NZ First, 6.8%, 8 seats
Maori 1.3%, 3 seats
Mana, 1 seat
Act, 1 seat
United, 1 seat

Apart from Phil Goff, another leadership casualty tonight was Act leader Don Brash, who has stepped down in favour of the lone remaining Act MP, John Banks.

Clues to the rise of NZ First can be seen in the analysis we published after the February poll:

Winston Peters’ political fortunes have been dealt a flush hand in the first HERS magazine poll for 2011, with nearly 37% of those surveyed favouring a return by Peters to Parliament. Peters was tossed out at the last election after his party just failed to make the five percent threshold to secure proportional seats.

The NZ First leader blamed his political enemies and the news media for his downfall, which came on the back of a donations controversy involving Labour party financer Owen Glenn, and a very public refusal by John Key to work with Peters if elected.

So after three years in the wilderness, Peters will be grateful to get results like these. Of the total sample, 19.4% said they’d like to see the New Zealand First leader return to the Opposition benches, after a three year stint in political purgatory. A total of 17.5% of respondents felt Peters should form part of the next government.

Worryingly for Prime Minister John Key and his refusal to deal with the mercurial elder statesman, 11.2% of those identifying as National voters supported Peters return as a governing coalition partner, while a further 16.3% of National voters want to see Peters at least in parliament on the opposition benches. That’s a grand total of 27.5% of National voters who want to see the New Zealand First leader back in politics.

Intriguingly, nearly ten percent of New Zealand First voters said they would prefer to see their leader return to the opposition benches, rather than holding the reins of power.