The Dim-Post

February 27, 2014

Reality check

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:18 am

John Armstrong writes:

The biggest risk is that hiring McCarten is viewed by voters – especially those in the centre – as confirmation that Labour is shifting markedly and permanently to the left under Cunliffe’s leadership.

I don’t have any data to back this up but I’m gonna suggest that no one outside the tiny cohort of non ‘centrist’ politics geeks has (a) any idea who Matt McCarten is and (b) what a political party’s Chief of Staff does or (c) what the employment of someone they’ve never heard of in a role they don’t care about signals about New Zealand politics.

37 Comments »

  1. I used to get Matt McCarten and Matthew Hooten mixed up.

    Comment by pete — February 27, 2014 @ 11:22 am

  2. I would have though anyone who follows the union movement would know who McCarten is.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 27, 2014 @ 11:25 am

  3. That may be Danyl, but if that is the case then you can hardly (and you aren’t) claim that this is a ‘game changer’ as Labour and their proxies have been claiming since yesterday.

    Comment by whaleoil — February 27, 2014 @ 11:27 am

  4. If it’s going to be a ‘game changer’ then it’s because of his abilities and experience, not his fame (or infamy). Who the hell votes for a party based on who the leader’s chief of staff is?

    Comment by Hayden — February 27, 2014 @ 11:35 am

  5. John Armstrong always gets very worried whenever he thinks he has detected a disturbance in the neo-liberal force.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 27, 2014 @ 11:37 am

  6. Another beltway issue which won’t decide the election, but I guess Armstrong has to justify his existence.

    Comment by Ross — February 27, 2014 @ 11:54 am

  7. They can’t do worse than Nash or Pagani.

    Comment by George D — February 27, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

  8. I agree that not that many people know, or care very much about who Matt is.
    However the thing that is going to be a problem for Labour is that Matt collected PAYE from his employees and then spent the money on a political campaign rather than hand it over to the IRD. It appears that the money was never paid and the organisation concerned finally went into receivership.
    That will be hammered whenever a Labour MP tries to argue that “rich pricks” and “multi-nationals” avoid paying sufficient tax in New Zealand. How can one possibly argue that the right are doing this and it is wrong if you are quite happy to accept that your own staff did it? Can you really propose, in effect, that it’s wrong EXCEPT when we do it?

    Comment by Alwyn — February 27, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

  9. Surely a regular newspaper column will mean there’s a fair chunk of the op-ed-reading middle classes who have heard of him? Doubt many people will be aware of stuff to do with the Alliance or Unite, of course, and the rest of your post is still true. (What *does* a political party’s Chief of Staff do?)

    Comment by simian — February 27, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

  10. That will be hammered whenever a Labour MP tries to argue that “rich pricks” and “multi-nationals” avoid paying sufficient tax in New Zealand.

    But Matt isn’t an MP and isn’t responsible for formulating policy. And I haven’t seen where Labour are “happy to accept” anyone evading tax.

    Comment by Ross — February 27, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  11. The fact he wasn’t prosecuted for what it seems were quite serious issues maybe says they were more administrative issues rather than evasion or misuse. That said, the company was originally called Matt McCarten and Associates and he was always the sole director and shareholder, so he can’t claim as some have that it was really a Unite issue

    Comment by insider — February 27, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

  12. “That may be Danyl, but if that is the case then you can hardly (and you aren’t) claim that this is a ‘game changer’ as Labour and their proxies have been claiming since yesterday.”

    Well, actually you could, there’s no inconsistency there. McCarten as Chief of Staff could be responsible for a huge increase in Labour’s effectiveness which wins them the election, even if voters have no idea of who he is.

    Evaluating the the likelihood of this actually happening is left as an exercise for the reader.

    Comment by Thomas Beagle (@thomasbeagle) — February 27, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

  13. McCarten and Cunliffe looked into each others eyes and saw something others had not.

    I’m not really convinced by McCarten’s line that Cunliffe has changed Labour so dramatically from what it was under Goff and Shearer that he’s now all on board. Or that Cunliffe has changed so dramatically since McCarten called him a phoney.

    It’s an odd appointment – thinking outside the square, which in this case is the caucus.

    Comment by NeilM — February 27, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

  14. “no one … has any idea who Matt McCarten is”
    Eh? He got a press conference. Did H2?
    He’s been active in politics for a long time and his face and voice all over the tele and radio. And then there was some disturbance over taxes which made the papers.
    Just because people don’t think like you, nor masturbate over the politics section of the Dom Post, doesn’t mean they are stupid.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 27, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

  15. I was only a kid at the time, but I still remember Jim Knox. And some impression of what my small-business owning, Labour voting, parents thought of him.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 27, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

  16. I don’t have any data to back this up but I’m gonna suggest that no one outside the tiny cohort of non ‘centrist’ politics geeks has (a) any idea who Matt McCarten is and (b) what a political party’s Chief of Staff does

    just last week I met a centrist politics geek who would probably know who Matt McCarten was😉

    does the fact that most people don’t know what a political party’s chief of staff does make them less likely to be influenced by Matt McCarten’s appointment to this role? or does it make them more likely? just because they don’t know what a chief of staff does doesn’t mean they don’t have an image in their mind of a political party chief of staff – probably involving epaulettes and chevrons.

    Comment by kahikatea — February 27, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

  17. Just because people don’t think like you, nor masturbate over the politics section of the Dom Post, doesn’t mean they are stupid.

    I don’t think that people who don’t follow politics closely are stupid. Just that they don’t follow politics. And my experience is that not too many people follow politics.

    McCarten could be a ‘game changer’ because he is pretty amazing. He built a large low-paid workers union out of nothing during a time when organised labour was collapsing. What’s not clear to me is that those skills are transferable to being a chief of staff for a large political party, which mostly seems to consist of sitting in endless meetings and answering endless emails.

    Comment by danylmc — February 27, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

  18. Sanc #5

    John Armstrong always gets very worried whenever he thinks he has detected a disturbance in the neo-liberal farce.

    FIFY

    Comment by aj — February 27, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

  19. “However the thing that is going to be a problem for Labour is that Matt collected PAYE from his employees and then spent the money on a political campaign rather than hand it over to the IRD.”

    Rubbish Matt’s big fuck you to IRD is a major plus. Frankly I’m liking him a lot. You need MPs staff etc prepared to take on the State apparatchik.

    Comment by Simon — February 27, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

  20. If the IRD aren’t satisfied with any aspect of Unite’s tax affairs then they can probably find McCarten without too much difficulty.

    Comment by Hayden — February 27, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

  21. @Danyl: I imagine that building UNITE involved a lot of meetings and a lot of emails. And, really, if you’re looking for somebody to be Chief of Staff to a large political party, unless you bring somebody in from overseas, you’re never going to get anybody with prior experience, because it’s such a singular role. Running a large union may not be exactly the same, but it’s pretty close – about as close as you can get without somehow recruiting somebody who’s been National’s Chief of Staff. (Certainly closer than somebody whose main experience is running a for-profit corporation!)

    I agree though, the list of people who’ve ever thought to themselves “I’m going to vote for this party because I really like their Chief of Staff” probably only barely cracks the single digits.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 27, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

  22. McCarten’s appointment is not going to win or lose the election in and of itself. What happens as a result of his appointment might.

    Either way, I don’t consider myself much of a politics geek beyond reading a few blogs – I know his name but nothing else.

    Comment by caycos — February 27, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

  23. “Matt’s big fuck you to IRD is a major plus”
    Yep, left-winger’s do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude will be a winner with working poor faced with unavoidable PAYE on their meagre wages and GST on their everyday basics.

    “You need MPs staff etc prepared to take on the State apparatchik.”
    But the “State apparatchik” is how socialists get things done, wouldn’t that be a form of cannibalism? In reality “tak[ing] on the State apparatchik” is a John Gault, libertarian thing. Are you a troll, Simon?

    ““I’m going to vote for this party because I really like their Chief of Staff” probably only barely cracks the single digits.”
    However the ““I’m not going to vote for this party because they have a smarmy leader and a dirty party-hopping, tax-doging Chief of Staff” vote probably DOES crack the single digits, kalvarsen.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 27, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

  24. I’m not going to vote for this party because they have a smarmy leader

    If you think the leader is smarmy, chances are you won’t be voting Labour…but then you probably won’t be voting National either.

    Comment by Ross — February 27, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

  25. You take that back right now Ross!

    Unlike that evil commie Darren Cunlips and the ecoterrorist Wussel “lets print money” Borman, John Keys is a millionaire everyman who has generously taken time off from making money to save us all from a socialist hell full of energy efficient lightbulbs and water-saving showerheads.

    He is a selfless and humble financial genius who only wants to make us all rich! Don’t you know he donates his salary to charity?

    Comment by Rob — February 27, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

  26. @Ross: Formally, a Chief of Staff has no role in formulating policy. In practice, though, the most successful Chiefs of Staff can be influential far beyond their formal role, in the policy arena as in others.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 27, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

  27. Armstrong’s view is paid for the corporates who own the Herald and therefore worthless.

    Comment by Paul — February 27, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

  28. McCarten was instrumental in the setup of 3 political parties so far. Not aware of anyone else in NZ who can claim that.

    Comment by Sacha — February 27, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  29. Another way of phrasing 28 is: McCarten was instrumental in dramatic and brutal splits in three political parties so far. Not aware of anyone else in NZ who can claim that.

    I mean, I like the guy, and I think it’s a good move, but really.

    Comment by Keir — February 27, 2014 @ 9:42 pm

  30. @Keir: Four if you count New Labour and the Alliance as separate entities. It has to be noted, though, that the most recent political party he was involved with didn’t exactly take off like a rocket.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 27, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

  31. His experience is broader and more directly relevant than trade unions. And considering what Labour has managed to do over the last 6 years, they have stuff-all to lose.

    Comment by Sacha — February 27, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

  32. Jim Anderton could perhaps be written off as the old guard but is McCarten really the new guard and Anderton did actually achieve things as a minister in the Clark govt.

    I just get the feeling that this Cunliffe McCarten combo is ego driven nonsense.

    Comment by NeilM — February 27, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

  33. The scary thing is, compared to Anderton, McCarten actually is the new guard. McCarten got involved with politics in 1987, organising Richard Prebble’s reelection campaign in central Auckland (I know, right?). In 1987, Anderton was already a grizzled veteran of both Parliament and the Labour party’s extraparliamentary organisation.

    1987 isn’t exactly recent history, but there are plenty of Labour pollies with a similar vintage, and it helps that McCarten was very young when he first started dabbling with politics – mid 20s IIRC.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — February 28, 2014 @ 1:04 am

  34. I thought the Herald’s editorial today on this was delightfully pompous. It is as if they get Pete George to write the occasional editorial for them.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 28, 2014 @ 9:07 am

  35. But the “State apparatchik” is how socialists get things done, wouldn’t that be a form of cannibalism? http://tinyurl.com/o5wy8gm

    Comment by galena5651 — February 28, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

  36. LOL. Thinking of the Chief of Staff I know best, you also need to be endlessly discrete and have endless patience. It is a difficult role because you work for the MPs but straddle the line and act as a conduit for information (and sometimes punching bag) between Parliament and Parliamentary staff, the Party and their paid staff, and, finally, the members and volunteers. Not sure quite how Matt McCarten will deal with that.

    Comment by Amy — February 28, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

  37. Oh come on Danyl, Matt is a well known (columns, tv and radio coverage) union hack of course this signals a sharp veer to the left by labour and Joe public will understand this to one degree or another.

    Round 7 of the labour hunger game begins

    Comment by bart — March 2, 2014 @ 7:25 am


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