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MP Who Was `Born Into The Labour Party' Takes The Reins

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

NZPA political reporters

Wellington, Nov 12 NZPA - Phil Goff's new job started today.

The veteran Labour MP has taken over the leadership of the party from Helen Clark and says he's going to shape it into the most effective opposition New Zealand has seen for a long time.

The transition was flawless.

Mr Goff and his new deputy Annette King were yesterday elected unopposed by the party's 43-member caucus.

Miss Clark and former deputy leader Michael Cullen, the formidable duo who ran the government for nine years, are staying on in the new Parliament to guide 13 rookie MPs and help the new leadership team.

Miss Clark will be Labour's spokeswoman on foreign affairs and Dr Cullen shadow Leader of the House, a key organisational role.

Mr Goff, who came to Parliament in 1981, the same year as Miss Clark, was bubbling with enthusiasm after the caucus decision.

"I was born into the Labour Party, it took me 15 years to start paying subscriptions. I can think of no greater honour," he said.

"We will be in a very strong position to challenge National in 2011, if not before."

Miss Clark, who announced on election night she was standing down, threw all her political clout behind the new leaders.

"I've made the right decision for the Labour Party and for myself, now I'm looking forward to giving the new team my total and unconditional support," she said.

Dr Cullen explained why he had known it was time to stand down.

"I've been the finance spokesperson for the Labour Party for 17 years, the minister of finance for nine years, deputy leader for 12-1/2," he said.

"We've got the best and strongest intake since 1984...our message to the National Party is: three years and you're out."

David Cunliffe, health minister in the Labour cabinet, is the new finance spokesman.

Miss Clark and Dr Cullen held Labour's caucus together through an unprecedented nine years of unity, and Mr Goff said he and Ms King were going to do the same.

"In government, Labour succeeded because it had a united, disciplined and motivated parliamentary team," he said.

"The outcome of today's caucus demonstrates Labour is committed to being strong, united and determined in opposition."

The new leaders' first task is to sort out their shadow cabinet and Mr Goff said there would be changes to senior and junior positions.

Then the caucus is going to hold an election post-mortem.

"Clearly we will reflect on why we lost," Mr Goff said.

"We accept the judgment of the people that it was time for change but there will be factors that contributed to that.

"We will think, in particular, how there came to be a disconnect with a significant proportion of the electorate."

Mr Goff said Labour in opposition would work with the National-led government if what it was doing was in the best interests of New Zealand.

But if its actions were detrimental, then Labour would fiercely fight it.

NZPA PAR pw kn

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