*don’t freak out that this is a tad edgier than DPF – yes, it is Jadis!
So, we are months out from an election. Labour are doing ok but need to lift their game a bit in the polls. They’ve released a couple of policies that they thought were great only to find the support for them isn’t as strong as expected (partly due to poor rollout). Labour have a couple of strategic decisions to make. They can create a ‘new’ Labour with a ‘new’ direction and ‘new policy – albeit more to the Left. Or they can get a bit pragmatic in some policy areas and work the middle ground. Bizarrely, with just months to the election Labour have firmly decided to go Left, very Left. So Left that the last Colmar Brunton poll shows Labour losing ‘middle’ vote to National and gaining ‘very Left’ vote from the Greens. Today’s appointment of Matt McCarten confirms just how Left they will go.
I think we need to get one thing out of the way… could someone please put to bed the rumours that the UNITE union donated heavily to Cunliffe’s leadership campaign? I’m just thinking of caucus unity here. Imagine how Robertson and Jones might feel about the idea that the head of UNITE is now Chief of Staff.
Matt is as Left as they come. Let’s not kid ourselves that Matt has some special ability to be pragmatic or go after the middle ground. He wants to tax as hard as he can and he’s said many a time that while he thinks Key is clever he’s also said that Key is too pragmatic and has no ‘big ideas.
So, Matt is there to do ‘big ideas’ just like Cunliffe – big ideas mean big tax and big government.
Matt doesn’t play nicely with others. McCarten will not be some wonderful uniting influence within Labour. We’re all aware of the history between McCarten and Jim Anderton. Some might think “What’s the big deal? Anderton is a retired MP and not in Wellington any more.” Here’s the wee problem. Anderton, along with Ruth Dyson’s lovely husband run Christchurch (and the wider Canterbury area). Some reports say that Anderton has give Cunliffe his blessing for McCarten to be employed while Duncan Garner’s sources suggest that Anderton is pretty wild about McCarten being in the mix. The only way I can see Anderton giving his blessing would be with the proviso “as long as that prick doesn’t step foot in Canterbury.” Well then, that’s a lovely start to that relationship.
Matt is talented at divide and rule. The last thing Labour needs is another ‘divide and rule’ player. Labour should be looking at a Heather Simpson or Wayne Eagleson type. Both stayed in the background, worked with everyone, had great political instincts and insights, knew when to tell some to pull their head in and knew when to make deals within the caucus. They also always had their Leader’s back. Always. The whole idea of McCarten in a room with Tim Barnett, Moira Coatsworth, Cunliffe, Talbot and ‘senior MPs’ fills every right winger with delight. Matt won’t be a team player. He’ll want it his way and he’ll get very upset if someone wants to take the pragmatic path. I predict now that he may well walk out of a meeting before the election and never return.
Why should it matter though? Matt is Chief of Staff. With clearly defined boundaries he won’t be involved in Party business. Except that we know this isn’t the case when Cunliffe himself extols the virtues of McCarten’s organisation skills at the grassroots level. The mainstream unions have been in a fight with UNITE over members for years so don’t go thinking that the union angle is going to be all lovely. We know now that the CTU’s Helen Kelly had no idea of Matt McCarten’s appointment. Oh dear, so she isn’t in Matt’s circle is she?
The Greens should also be worried about this. Going this far Left means their ground is very unstable. What will they do to compensate? The Greens know McCarten well so they know what a threat he is to them.