The McCarten appointment

February 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports:

seems to have burned off one of its most effective campaigners after leader David Cunliffe confirmed former Alliance president will be his new chief of staff.

Former deputy prime minister Jim Anderton yesterday said he would not help Labour at the general election, after managing the party’s campaign in the Christchurch East by-election last year and working on the 2011 general election campaign and for Megan Woods in Wigram.

That is a big loss to Labour in Christchurch. It may not be the last.

Matt is very high profile and has fallen out with a fair few people, and criticised a lot of them also.  He’s even said on the record:

There’s no doubt Cunliffe is a gifted performer. What is discomforting is his every nuance and action seems calculated.
With Shearer you can sense his real character. With Cunliffe, I can’t escape the feeling that he has the same phoniness as the Republican US presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

There’s an old quote about Rasputin along the lines of “You can be a famous poisoner or a successful poisoner, but not both”. I tend to think the same applies to being a Chief of Staff. 99% of New Zealanders do not know who John Key’s Chief of Staff is, and that is a good thing.

Matt has great campaign skills, but his relationship skills are not so strong. And the Chief of Staff role is 90% about releationships. You have to manage relationships with the caucus, the relationship with the party, manage a staff of 20, and also manage relationships with other political parties.

I wonder if Labour would have been better to make David Talbot Chief of Staff, and have Matt as the Campaign Manager.

If Labour do win the election, then would Matt become the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – a key role basically running the country. With no disrespect to Matt (whom I personally like a lot), but that would make me very nervous.  Vernon Small thinks not:

He may or may not stay on after the election, if Labour wins, but it is hard to see him running the back office in government.

Maybe what Labour have done is bring McCarten in as the de facto campaign manager, but in a taxpayer funded role (as they have so little money). So McCarten may be 90% working on the campaign, and they’ll just have a deputy chief of staff do the back office stuff. That may work, but it is a risk.

The real risk for Labour is the signal it sends that they are heading towards the far left. Matt left Labour because it was not left wing enough and with Jim Anderton set up the Alliance. He then left the Alliance because under Anderton it was not left wing enough and ended up in Mana – a party that gained 1.1% of the vote in the last election.

John Armstrong notes:

He has been brought on board to inject much-needed pre-election urgency, fresh thinking and attention-grabbing strategic audacity into a party whose political reflexes and energy – with the exception of Shane Jones – are on a par with a sloth on tranquillisers.

Heh.

McCarten’s campaign skills should help draw voters back to Labour in its metropolitan strongholds. The real test is whether his input can break National’s stranglehold on provincial New Zealand, as well as broaden Labour’s appeal among lower middle, middle and upper middle income earners.

Given the country’s present conservative disposition, the initial impact may be the reverse. Regardless, winning over those voters to Labour’s cause is likely to require him to compromise personal beliefs, something that has not been part of the McCarten fabric.

Indeed.

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38 Responses to “The McCarten appointment”

  1. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    McCarten will see his role more in the nature of a Deputy Leader and I suspect Cunliffe does too which enables Cunliffe to step right around Robertson. To have poor relationship skills in such a key role really is a mistake. McCarten cannot do everything and people are not robots. if McCarten sees the function of Government is to look after the poor and the rest get taxed so they too are poor is not something NZers will accept. Hence the political appeal of the National something McCarten simply does not understand. He is so blinded by hate for the tories he cannot see the wider picture. And if he so hates the Tories (as he calls them) then the Tories will hate him.

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  2. iMP (2,150 comments) says:

    I think something is being missed in all this. Despite the most recent poll, generally speaking Labour (with the Greens) has been neck-and-neck with National, despite a woeful performance and leadership changes. We all acknowledge 2014 will be a cliff-hanger.

    I therefore see the McCarten appointment as a strategy to “get the undercooked 2011 Labour vote out.” This is sound strategy. Cunliffe I think recognises no-one can re-aline and unify the ever fractious Left, anyway. So, he does not have to grow the vote that much. But focussing, as Obama did, on getting every Lab. supporter out in Sept/Oct may very well be the difference.

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  3. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    The real test is whether his input can break National’s stranglehold on provincial New Zealand,

    :lol: LOL yeah, because farmers tend to be pretty far left.

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  4. Roflcopter (397 comments) says:

    The new H2… be afraid NZ, look at what the last one did to us.

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  5. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    But unlike H2, this one is more like wanting to be M1.

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  6. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    McCarten could have been brought into Labour to strengthen Mana ties and squeeze Greens out into insignificance. Maori Party also. Cunliffe has also sounded like he wants top be cosy with Winston.

    rroberto at WO:

    Definitely would be part of Matt McCartens strategy to bring in another 2 for man, maybe another 3. These will be the rort seats, if he can get the mana Voters in the apartheid seats to party vote labour, and candidate vote for Sykes and Minto.

    Shane Jones to have no Mana opponent in Tamaki Makaurau to try and squeeze the Maori Party out. Mana Backing Labour in Tariana Turias seat .

    Apatheid seats split 3-4 between Mana and Labour, with Mana geting near zero parytyvote .No Maori partner coalition Partner for John Key.Bingo 3 birds with one stone,

    That’s what Bradbury is promoting, he thinks he’s significant again (and seems to have dumped Internet Party hopes).

    http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/02/27/mccarten-cunliffe-political-survivors-and-how-theyll-use-mmp-to-win/

    More: McCarten move a Green squeeze?

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  7. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    Pete George

    McCarten would seem like a cosy fit with Winston – both show contempt for public money using it in their own best interests.

    As an aside … Having circa $100,000 (PAYE) written off by IRD without criminal charges – how does one do that ?

    Did he make a commitment to IRD that he would join the Labour party if they let him off ?

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  8. kiwi in america (2,335 comments) says:

    I forgot about the McCarten/Anderton stoush – the two super sized egos couldn’t function together and I forgot how venal and elephantine Anderton is about his enemies. His categorical refusal to assist Labour in Christchurch will hurt. His finger prints were all over the reasonably successful Labour GOTV effort in the Chch East by-election. Labour needs to turn out disgruntled centre left voters in Christchurch who are weary with coping post earthquakes. Anderton’s public refusal to help because of the McCarten appointment will put a dent Labour’s efforts in a city that should be rich for vote pick ups for them.

    John Armstrong echoed of all people Mike Williams who was putting a brave face on the appointment calling it either an act of lunacy or a brilliant masterstroke. His lukewarm comments said all you needed to know about which of the two he really thought. Matthew Hooten, despite his personal friendship with McCarten, was clear about the electoral damage to Labour that will be done from the signals sent by another leftward lurch.

    Its clear that McCarten is there to steal votes of the Greens and Mana and get out the stay at home Labour vote. Cunliffe has all but abandoned the centre to National despite still uttering centrist mumblings to Kathryn Ryan. Will Waitakere Man/Woman be more likely to vote Labour if Cunliffe veers back to the blood red Labour line he promised in the primary? Short answer: No.

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  9. peterwn (2,933 comments) says:

    I see Matt’s appointment as very worrying and one which Jokn Key and Stephen Joyce will need to give much thought as how to counter Labour’s possible campaign techniques.

    I agree Labour do not want to be beholden to the Greens, nor would they to Winston. It is difficult to see how Labour (plus Maori and Mana) can win an absolute majority with the Greens OR with Winston

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  10. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    @iMP

    Labour devoutly believes that there are enough hard-core lefties out there to win, and that energising the base is the key to victory, aka Obama and indeed Karl Rove too. That is the only staregy you can believe in if you don’t want to reach out to the centre.

    It is a strategy that could work, but only if the opposing base is NOT energised to come out and stop you: that is what nearly cost National the election in 2011 – the complacence of its potential voters, who, lulled by the polls, failed to vote or amused themselves with symbolic votes for NZ First or the Conservatives.

    I think the flaw in the strategy is the assumption that the low turnout was what cost Labour the election in 2011. I think it was the reverse: the low turnout actually hurt National much more. And this is probably the most critical issue for National’s campaign: making sure that National sympathisers DO actually get out and vote.

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  11. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    Tens of thousands of impoverished kids (and adults) will be devastated to learn of McCarten’s appointment.

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  12. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    As an aside … Having circa $100,000 (PAYE) written off by IRD without criminal charges – how does one do that

    I dunno, how does a failed businessman like Terry Serepisos lead the high life?

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  13. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    Ross, that’s a complete red herring. Terry was bankrupted, right? I’m pretty sure that Matt wasn’t. There are a set of laws around what happens when you are bankrupt, and it’s pretty well known territory. But even when bankrupted, there are severe consequences for having misused money held in trust.

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  14. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    There’s been talk about McCarten’s appointment being in part to deal with the ABC club. They are hardened battlers, and this may be a battle for their surviival. They are unlikely to give up easily or quietly.

    Where do Labour’s ABC’s fit in?

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  15. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    Anderton versus McCarten:

    Anderton steps away from Labour campaign

    Cunliffe yesterday said Anderton had returned ‘‘‘home’’ to Labour and would help campaign for the party.

    McCarten dodged questions about whether he had reconciled with Anderton, but he too said he would be campaigning with him.

    But Anderton denied that and said he would not be assisting Labour in any way.

    ‘‘I won’t be helping in this general election.’’

    Asked if had made the decision before or after McCarten’s appointment, he said he had no other comment to make.

    He had not talked publicly about McCarten in the last 12 years and he wasn’t going to change that now.

    ‘‘I might write a book one day and it would spoil it wouldn’t it?’’

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/9769605/Anderton-steps-away-from-Labour-campaign

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  16. Manolo (12,618 comments) says:

    Has anyone asked Mallard, King or Goff how they feel after McCarten’s appointment?

    The old troughers cannot be but unhappy with a radical left-winger (read communist) taking the reins of Silent T’s campaign.

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  17. dime (8,750 comments) says:

    “:lol: LOL yeah, because farmers tend to be pretty far left.”

    whats the fonterra payout his year? $8.50? they will be voting greens :D

    then again, with giant payouts they should all be voting cunliffe – he did invent fonterra!

    “With no disrespect to Matt (whom I personally like a lot)” – really? take politics out of it and i struggle to like any communist a lot. they are different in almost every way to me.

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  18. Kimbo (398 comments) says:

    “Anderton versus McCarten”.

    Or is that the People’s Front of Judea vs. the Popular Front of Judea?

    SPLITTERS!

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  19. Manolo (12,618 comments) says:

    With no disrespect to Matt (whom I personally like a lot),…

    Really? The tax cheat is a loathsome, bitter, envious individual. What is there to like?

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  20. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    But isn’t this just typical Labour. This huge debate about personalities and minimal discussion about policy. With national the exact reverse is the case. Labour is grappling with a dud philosophy of socialism which they keep refining with new personalities. But the public do not like big Government and big taxes.

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  21. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    ross69

    I dunno, how does a failed businessman like Terry Serepisos lead the high life?

    Right … so you’ve got no issues with Serepisos and his behaviour then ?

    Tell me ross69 – would you be happy if Key put Serepisos into a senior role in the National Party ?

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  22. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    ross69

    Oh as an aside, perhaps Serepisos lives the high life because he’s neglected his responsibilities paying tax – IE: Other people are going without state assistance so he can carry on his ways… just like Matt has done !

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  23. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    PaulL

    I wonder if IRD said to him : We need to brand you for life as a tax cheat and an abuser of public funds – Joining the Labour party will do that nicely – Or we’ll drag you through bankruptcy – your choice !

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  24. Duxton (544 comments) says:

    I’m sick of hearing about McCarten’s bravery in winning his fight with terminal cancer.

    Where is the proof that he ever had cancer? And how does someone survive terminal cancer?

    Unless he releases the medical reports that support this, and names the doctor who clearly misdiagnosed his cancer as ‘terminal’, I refuse to believe that he ever had cancer – terminal or otherwise.

    He is a filthy, venal liar.

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  25. Ed Snack (1,535 comments) says:

    Funny too that McCarten should say that about Romney. No doubt the democrat lock on the MSM helped spread that meme successfully, but of course just is is the real lying fake in that contest has been exposed, and it sure as hell ain’t Romney ! I’m sure McCarten really admires Obama’s technique, the ability to lie like a flatfish, have it exposed, and yet still have people believe in the hype. It’s like there’s some sort of Steve Jobsian “Reality Distortion Field” that the left have tapped into, I’m sure that will be Matt’s hope as it fits him to a T.

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  26. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    This sounds odd:

    The Unite Union he set up for low paid workers alongside a company four years ago, owed more than $130,000.

    Mr McCarten says he’s still paying off the tax bill on behalf of the company and that’ll be done by the end of the year.

    He says the union’s obligations to the taxman have been cleared.

    http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/1059737185-mccarten-still-paying-off-overdue-tax-bill

    Did he take over the obligation himself?
    If so, when?

    I think I saw it described as McCarten has no compulsion to pay but feels he has a moral duty to pay. Odd.

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  27. Keeping Stock (9,788 comments) says:

    @ Pete – there are two debts; Unite Union’s debt for unpaid PAYE etc (around $130k), and the debts of Unite Social Services Limited, a company set up by McCarten who was sole director and shareholder. USS Limited was put into liquidation by IRD in 2011 with debts of the order of $150k; check this out:

    Inland Revenue is chasing unionist Matt McCarten’s Unite Support Services for $150,750 in unpaid taxes after the department forced the company into liquidation last month.

    McCarten’s vehicle, which supplied administrative support services to the youth-orientated union Unite, was put into liquidation by a High Court order last month after the IRD pursued it for “failure to provide for taxation,” according to the first liquidator’s report.

    The Official Assignee rated the prospect of a dividend as “unlikely,” and is looking into the company’s possible interest in an Onehunga building lease, the report said.

    The liquidator will contact McCarten to verify Unite Support Services’ interest in the building, which may have outstanding arrears owed on the lease.

    IRD is seeking almost $4000 costs, $97,000 in a preferential claim and a further $49,800 as an unsecured creditor with proof of debt.

    The Unite union assigned an interest in a lease and the provision of educational activities to McCarten’s company, according to its 2009 financial statements, the latest lodged with the Companies Office. The union has the right to take action against McCarten’s company if there’s a default on the lease agreement.

    The union ran afoul of the IRD after failing to pay tax on revenue accrued between October 2007 and March 2009. After racking up $134,000 in unpaid tax, it agreed to repay that at a rate of $8000 a month.

    The company reported a net deficit of $33,700 in the 2009 year and made a loss of $15,500 the year before.

    Unite union recognised Unite Support Services as a related party, but didn’t pay any charges for its services in the 2009 year.

    Former Alliance Party President McCarten, who has been recently linked to Hone Harawira’s Mana Party, is the sole director and shareholder of Unite Support Services.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/5342791/IRD-chasing-Matt-McCarten-company

    The Liquidator’s reports which DPF linked to yesterday showed that there were no assets and no cash in USS Limited’s coffers. So why is no-one asking the obvious (obvious to me, anyway) question; how does a company with no cash and no assets run up a tax bill of $150k? Was USS Limited asset-stripped before the tax man petitioned for its liquidation, and if so, what part did the sole director and shareholder play in it?

    There are far too many unanswered questions here. Who from the MSM is actually going to put them to Matt McCarten, and publish his replies?

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  28. big bruv (12,328 comments) says:

    I’m with Manolo on this. From what I can work out there is nothing at all to like about McCarten. A more odious individual it would be hard to find.

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  29. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    Has McCarten been employed as Matt the Uniter or Matt the Knife?

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  30. burt (7,085 comments) says:

    Keeping Stock

    <sarcasm>I’m sure a lefty like Matt would not do anything dodge with tax as lefties think it’s a responsibility to pay tax and he’s a man of principle.</sarcasm>

    I’m not holding my breath waiting for the MSM to hold McCarten to the same standards unions like his demand others be held to.

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  31. notrotsky (32 comments) says:

    Matt’s appointment has been universally approved of over on the standard….. therefore I expect it to be an unmitigated failure.

    I also note that Greg Presland applied for the job……… why would he think he had the any of the necessary skills required apart from sucking on Cunners knob ?

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  32. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    Quite revealing and also sad – a profile from Metro in 2011: Matt McCarten: better red than dead

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  33. Richard Hurst (710 comments) says:

    “With Cunliffe, I can’t escape the feeling that he has the same phoniness as the Republican US presidential nominee Mitt Romney.”

    Clearly Mr McCarten understands the product he is selling very well. All he has to do is make sure no one else does….

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  34. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    Cunllife seems to have become a better rehearsed phony.

    Good cartoon on this: A hard sell?

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  35. hmmokrightitis (1,458 comments) says:

    “I also note that Greg Presland applied for the job……… why would he think he had the any of the necessary skills required apart from sucking on Cunners knob ?”

    Oh god, really? And your Fearless Leader said no gweggy? butbutbutbut (sniffle) Oh god the humanity, rejection, right from the very top. You poor poor man.

    Maybe that’s because you couldn’t organise your way out of a cul-de-sac? Stick with chardonnay and conveyancing gweggy, and the regular red flag song contest, there’s a love ;) When Silent T is in his ultimate hour of need, he’ll call. For that remortgage…

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  36. wreck1080 (3,522 comments) says:

    OK, lets crowd source some ideas for labour.

    Not that I want them to get back in based on their lunatic policies but what should they do to get back into tune?

    Firstly, I say , divorce the greens.

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  37. noskire (797 comments) says:

    s.russel

    I think the flaw in the strategy is the assumption that the low turnout was what cost Labour the election in 2011. I think it was the reverse: the low turnout actually hurt National much more. And this is probably the most critical issue for National’s campaign: making sure that National sympathisers DO actually get out and vote.

    This is precisely why JK has been entertaining a deal with NZF. The majority of National supporters won’t stomach it – hence the recent polling. Very clever.

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  38. Pete George (21,804 comments) says:

    Putting it on record:

    mickysavage

    Just to clarify I never applied for the position and my being suggested as a candidate was a surprise to me and a shock to a close relative!

    http://thestandard.org.nz/breaking-exclusive-allies-win-world-war-two/#comment-779325

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