Back in March, Investigate magazine carried a front cover story about the likelihood of a leadership spill within Labour this year and concluded there would not be one.
The reasons are spelt out in this extract, which other commentators have now picked up on:
"Goff and Cullen, on the other hand, come from Labour’s conservative political right wing, as does Police Minister Annette King, Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove and Health Minister David Cunliffe. For the Right to rebuild Labour, this group needs the Left-wing to be routed at the next election. Nothing less than a National Party blitzkrieg will sweep clean Labour’s stacked party list MPs like Wall, trade unionist Darien Fenton, Maryan Street (both gay and a former unionist), Lesley Soper or Charles Chauvel.
"For this reason, it’s in Goff and Cullen’s interests to leave Clark in place as the increasingly damaged political leader representing the increasing damaged Labour left, because the bigger the fall, the bigger the clean-out.
"While Labour’s backbench may want Goff to take over, and may even deliver him the numbers to topple Clark, Goff is generally considered too smart to accept the poisoned chalice of leading an unpopular three-term government into defeat.
"There is little doubt that Goff could probably save a few MPs from losing their seats, but the risk to him under the current party list arrangement would be the continued predominance of Labour’s left, who would then bide their time and topple Goff in favour of a more “suitable” leader from within their own ranks.
"And Goff will be wary, too, of senators offering laurels ahead of the vote, given that Helen Clark pulled the same stunt on Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer in 1990. The details are in Brian Edward’s hagiography of Clark published seven years ago, where former press gallery journalist Dick Griffin remembers Clark coming to see him:
It will require a near miracle for Labour to win this year's election, and Labour doesn't believe in miracles. But the jockeying for position on the list this year will be a battle for the future direction of the Labour party over the next ten years.
Goff's public decision to throw his hat in the ring is a signal to his supporters that they need to commence battle now behind the scenes, as a change of leadership in the New Year without changes in the MP line-up will be meaningless.
One final thing. History has a funny way of repeating itself. In April 1989, Labour's deputy prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer also refused to rule out a leadership challenge, for the first time.