NZ's Goff to quit after poll defeat

2011-11-29 11:19

Wellington - New Zealand opposition leader Phil Goff said Tuesday he would resign as head of the centre-left Labour Party following Prime Minister John Key's crushing win in Saturday's general election.

Goff said Labour needed to rebuild after the election, in which Key's National Party won a second term and increased its vote to 48.1%, the best result by any party in 60 years.

The 58-year-old said he took responsibility for the defeat, Labour's worst election showing since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996, and would step down on December 13.

"I believe the Labour Party can and will fight back," he told reporters after a five-hour meeting of Labour parliamentarians, whose numbers were reduced from 43 to 34 in the election rout.

Goff, who will see out his parliamentary term as a backbencher, became opposition leader in 2008, after Key ended nine years of Labour rule under former prime minister Helen Clark.

He failed to gain traction against Key, who enjoys enormous popularity among a New Zealand electorate that was in no mood for change after a tumultuous year that included February's Christchurch earthquake, which claimed 181 lives.

A new Labour leader will be elected on December 13.