By 3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner
Labour's decision to hang on to Leader Phil Goff after his woeful management of the Darren Hughes affair shows the caucus is clueless, gutless and talentless. And most of all, they have no collective balls.
If there was ever a time to roll Goff, it is now.
They have seven days before the next caucus to find a runner and present Goff with a letter saying he has lost the support and confidence of the caucus. If necessary, put it to a vote.
But it seems the caucus has chosen not to do that. It's a defeatist and hopeless position to be in. Labour MPs appear divorced from reality.
Labour now faces the very real prospect of its vote collapsing, in the same fashion as Bill English took National to a record defeat in 2002.
The Labour caucus has opted to go down in 2011 without a fight. If this was the Australian Labour Party Goff would have lasted just 6 weeks two years ago. They'd be on their third opposition leader by now.
Why on earth should Labour's grassroots supporters now sell sausages and raffle tickets in the lead-up to the election? They probably won't.
It's clear the caucus has decided Goff can take the bullet at the 2011 election.
I have spoken to most of the senior MPs, they say - while disappointed with the management of the Hughes scandal - no one is of a mind to roll Goff. Why not? Not one MP is defending him. Goff is now Labour's biggest liability.
He has to go so Labour can put a line under this affair and let Hughes fight it from the outside.
So who are the options? In no particular order; David Cunliffe, Shane Jones, David Parker and David Shearer.
Annette King is no longer an option - she is too tied up in the scandal.
The caucus needs to choose one of those names, get the support over the next seven days and present Goff with a done deal on Tuesday.
Goff has so many questions he can't answer. He looks like he's stumbling around in a pitch black bedroom trying to put on his pyjamas. He's got more positions than a King's Cross hooker.
He put his friendship before leadership. And while in many eyes that's honourable, it's also short sighted. He never saw the bigger picture. He either didn't ask enough questions - or he did and thought, "shit, this can't get out".
The Hughes scandal was always going to be a train wreck - 18 year old teenager, senior whip, alleged sexual encounter, Annette King's house, police investigation, naked man etc.
Come on - what leader in their right and sane mind could think for one second that in Wellington that would stay secret?
I know this is written in hindsight, but the obvious thing to do was to front foot it, stand Hughes down, send him away, strip him of his duties and wait for the cops to rule.
That way Hughes may have been able to keep his job in the short term and do some kind of mea culpa around what happened if the police were not to lay charges.
But Goff decided to keep it secret. He kept it far too secret. My understanding is only he, Annette King and their Chief of Staff, Gordon Jon Thompson knew about it.
Goff says no one else knew. And that seems true. Party President Andrew Little is rightly furious, senior press secretaries in the party, fielding calls from the media, have been left in compromised positions because they apparently knew nothing of this.
They should have. So much for Goff and King having more than 50 years experience in politics and political management. And who let Darren Hughes appear in the Press Gallery debate, 'politics is a grubby business'? Surely Hughes, Goff and King who appeared in the debate would have thought, 'hey we better lie low over the next few weeks eh?'
But if all that wasn't bad enough, enter a voice from the past.
At the weekend, next on the list and potentially soon to be Labour MP again, Judith Tizard, told the country Goff was effectively a crap leader and could never win. If that wasn't a message to the caucus from New York - then I don't know what is.
So Labour needs to choose a runner to take Goff out. They need to get organised and stop pretending they're in Government. They're not. They're in a parlous and paralysed state in opposition and Phil Goff is now to blame for that. For the sake of all their grassroots members and other Labour voters - they need to go into the election with a new leader.
I've come across people who want to vote Labour because they don't like National - but they say they won't because of Goff.
Surely they are not isolated comments. If that attitude is widespread, and I believe it is, it is now the moral duty of Labour's MPs to change the leadership and draw a line under this hopelessly managed scandal. They need clear air. And they need it fast in the run up to the Budget.
As I said earlier - if there was ever a time to roll Phil Goff, it is now. What other evidence do Labour's MPs need?