If anyone really believed that Phil Goff, a politician who has enthusiastically embraced neoliberalism throughout his parliamentary career, was about to set Labour on a new course, they would of been sorely disappointed by the content of his 'Keynote' speech
Some of Labour's more uncritical supporters have praised the speech but they would of still praised Goff if he had stood up and done some magic tricks and told a few jokes. There is not a lot of intellectual vigour at work here.
For the rest of us Goff's speech was more about political posturing in the hope of reviving Labour's flagging fortunes. Goff comes across as not a particularly good second hand car salesman trying to sell us a clapped out old Cortina. It might have had a new lick of paint but its still a clapped out old Cortina.
That's the Labour Party for you - its running on empty while being driven by a leader who thinks socialism is an infectious disease.
Goff wants us to believe that Labour has 'gone back to its roots' and that it has rediscovered the working class. But if you look at the Labour Party you will see its basically the same old crowd that pursued such vehemently anti-working class policies while it was in government.
Let's consider some of the names. Trevor Mallard. Clayton Cosgrove. Lianne Dalziel. Pete Hodgson. They hardly conjure up images of a reinvigorated Party storming the citadels of capitalism. But they do conjure up images of chummy meetings with business 'leaders'.
It was during the nine years of the Clark Government that New Zealand's level of inequality actually accelerated. Goff didn't seem particularly bothered about it at the time. In fact you can probably Google up Phil Goff defending the Clark Government's economic policies.
Now Goff, a champion of the free market, wants us to believe that he's on the side of working people.
Goff says he wants am economy that 'serves the needs of the many and not the few' but there was nothing in Goff's speech that says that Labour is going to reject neoliberalism. Goff might have had a go at social liberalism but neoliberalism remains off-limits.
Indeed, why should we expect anything else? Goff is on record as saying that he thinks there is no alternative to the free market and he regards Labour's traditional Keynesian-based social democracy as an historical anachronism.
All he wants to do is tinker around the edges: a bit more investment here, a little rejigging of monetary policy there. That's all, folks.
But - wait - there's more! Well, actually, there isn't.
If this speech is any indication of things to come, Goff's strategy is to cherry pick a few populist issues (like capping the salaries of public service CEOs) in the hope it'll attract back some of the working class vote that has deserted Labour.
During its nine years in office, the Clark Government implemented a few cosmetic 'reforms’, such as meagre increases to the minimum wage, and changes to industrial law. Fundamentally though it did nothing to upset business interests. As a result New Zealand's level of inequality rose rapidly with some of the highest levels of poverty in the OECD.
There has been no acknowledgement of any of this by Goff and nor will there ever be because he plans to pursue the same economic policies again - if he ever gets the chance that is.