For three years, Phil Goff has tirelessly pushed his boulder Sisyphus-like up the hill, only for it to roll back down each time. Now, however, the rock may have slid down the hill one too many times.
Over the past couple of weeks, cracks have appeared in Labour's united front, giving National added reason to believe it can secure the electoral equivalent of El Dorado - winning enough seats in an MMP election to govern alone.
Labour's legendary self-discipline seems to be crumbling under the relentless pressure of bad polls.
Witness the unfortunate outburst from Dunedin South backbencher Clare Curran, flaying the Greens for having the temerity to encroach on territory which apparently belongs to Labour as of right.
Of more serious note, some senior Labour MPs clearly think November's election is a foregone conclusion, and are now focusing on what happens afterwards leadership-wise, positioning themselves accordingly.
The net effect of this is to leave Phil Goff marooned exactly where National wants him - in an ineffectual limbo with his leadership destabilised, but not so much that he must be removed before the election.
That last paragraph really nails it; Phil Goff is in a no-win position. Even though Labour's CGT "game-changer" policy was reproted by 3News this week as more popular that National's proposed partial asset sales, Labour trails by some distance in every poll that comes out, and Phil Goff's personal popularity is lower still.
Shane Jones has been at the forefront of the post-election wrangling. Gotcha yesterday featured a video of Jones' appearance on Maori Television earlier this week where what he didn;t say was more telling than what he did say. Of more interest though was John Tamihere's emphatic confirmation of the view that Phil Goff did indeed offer to resign. Given that Tamihere was not at the meeting, one can't help but wonder who's been talking out of school. Would Shane Jones be so openly disloyal to his leader? Or does someone else have Tamihere's ear? Jones' media tour continues this morning with an interview with Duncan Garner on The Nation on TV3.
Armstrong continues on this theme:
Most damaging has been the leaking of suggestions that Goff offered to resign as leader during a recent meeting of Labour's front-bench MPs.
What Goff apparently said was that he had put everything into the job for the past three years, and anyone who wasn't happy with his performance should stick their hand up. No one did.
The only motive for the leak would be to undermine Goff before the election campaign to ensure he loses.
Blame is being levelled at those backing the post-election leadership aspirations of Labour's ultra-ambitious finance spokesman, David Cunliffe.
Worse, the leak was followed by a 3 News Reid Research poll which found that even among those intending to vote Labour, many do not believe Goff can win the election.
This really is devastating stuff for Goff, less than three months out from the election. Not only is he not considered capable of winning the election by a good proportion of his party's support base, but moves are already afoot to replace him after the election. Which begs the question; why wait until after?
There's quite a bit more to Armstrong's piece, and his historical comparisons are worth a read, but he's made his main point; there is a solid body within the Labour caucus that has seen the writing on the wall, and that has more interest in individual survival than the bigger picture. He concludes:
When the positioning going on within Labour is taken into account, what is happening is that the early stages of the 2014 election campaign are being played out before this year's one has started.
All rather bizarre, to say the least.
He's not wrong; it's bizarre indeed, and at the moment, it gets more bizarre with every Shane Jones television appearance. It's an interesting and very public game he's playing; at Phil Goff's expense.