Lobbyist – PM Chief of Staff – lobbyist

No matter how it was being managed, this looks questionable for Jacinda Ardern’s office.

The Spinoff (22 February 2018):  Conflict of interest concerns over lobbyist turned chief of Jacinda Ardern’s staff

The government lobbyist who served for several months as chief of staff to the prime minister as the new government took office says he didn’t do any work for the lobbying firm of which he is part-owner while working at the Beehive. Nor, he says, was he paid by the business.

In response to questions on potential conflicts of interest, GJ Thompson, who advised the prime minister for five months ending last Friday, told The Spinoff he “declared the potential conflict at the very outset” and that it was for the Department of Internal Affairs to manage any conflict.

Before taking on the leading Labour position he was a partner at Thompson Lewis, the lobbying firm he founded in 2016. Having left the role, he has returned to Auckland and his firm to continue as a lobbyist.

His time advising Ardern leads in his promotional bio on the front page of the firm’s website, which boasts: “He spent five months as chief of staff to prime minister Jacinda Ardern, assisting the new government transition into the Beehive.” The firm’s blurb advertises its “strong political networks” and its partners’ “significant time in senior roles in Government and Opposition”.

The Spinoff asked the prime minister’s office whether Thompson’s clients were disclosed to the prime minister, how any conflicts were managed, and whether the prime minister knew Thompson remained a director and shareholder of his firm while we was working as chief of staff.

The PM’s office said these were questions for Ministerial Services as Thompson’s employer.

The Spinoff asked Thompson about these circumstances and how any conflicts of interest were managed, including whether the disclosure was about his role at the firm generally, or relating to particular clients.

Thompson responded: “Your questions are best directed to DIA [the Department of Internal Affairs] given they were the employer. DIA manages any potential conflict of interest. I declared the potential conflict at the very outset of my short-term appointment.”

“While I was temporarily working as chief of staff, I took a leave of absence from Thompson Lewis and did not work for the business at all”, he said.

Less than a month ago he transferred shares in the firm to another lobbyist, Sifa Taumoepeau, who is now also a director. And very recently the firm announced a recruiting decision likely to have been made some time during Thompson’s five months as chief of staff: the appointment of Wayne Eagleson, former chief of staff to John Key and Bill English, as a consulting partner at the firm.

Lobbyists mingling with Government and political parties has raised eyebrows for years.

The guidance for state servants explains: “Any commercial activities, investments or other personal interests must not influence the work we do, and we must be open in declaring where our interests may potentially conflict with our responsibilities.”

It remains unclear from the answers provided by Thompson, the prime minister’s office, and the Department of Internal Affairs whether Thompson disclosed his clients’ identities or simply that he was involved in Thompson Lewis, though that question was put directly to all three.

Without knowing who Thompson’s clients are, it would have been challenging for the department and the prime minister’s office to decide what steps should be taken to mitigate potential conflicts of interest, such as what information Thompson should have had access to, and whether he should have resigned his directorship of the firm.

Risks of corruption aside, political scientist Bryce Edwards, speaking to RNZ about his coverage of Thompson’s appointment, explained why he was concerned about changes in the lobbying industry: “There is increasing suspicion about what is basically a political class.”

“A lot of people — in especially the Wellington circles — that work in government departments, work in ministers’ offices, or are politicians, then work in the media, they work in PR, they work in lobbying. It’s all a bit too close, I think. It’s a very cohesive political class.”

This sort of public/private intermingling looks unlikely to change if politicians see advantages in it for themselves.

 

 

Johansson appointed NZ First chief of staff

Labour, Greens and National have all had changes of Chief of Staff, with one resignation after a long tenure (Wayne Eagleson) and two returning, to Labour (Heather Simpson) and to Greens (Andrew Campbell).

But the biggest change is at NZ First, where their chief of staff, David Broome, was ‘let go’ after assisting them through post-election negotiations.

And Stuff reports Political scientist Jon Johansson made NZ First chief of staff

I guess it’s a job, it could be very good pay, and it’s a change from being a political scientist at Victoria University, but Johansson always seemed more sympathetic to Labour and Greens (he has advised them in the past).

I presume this means he won’t be put on political commentary panels as a supposedly independent expert any more.

Victoria University senior political lecturer Jon Johansson has been appointed chief of staff for NZ First.

The party’s leader Winston Peters announced the appointment on Monday. It comes after the party’s former chief of staff, David Broome, was let go.

Johansson is a regular political commentator on TV and radio and has written several books.

Johansson has this year been teaching second, third and fourth year political papers at Victoria University in Wellington and in 2009 he spent a semester in Washington DC as Fulbright’s Visiting Scholar to Georgetown University.

He’s well known for his political commentary over the last decade both in New Zealand and the United States.

Another political scientist, Bryce Edwards, comments on this in The surprising new power behind Winston Peters

Judging by reactions, everyone has been entirely surprised by Johansson’s shift from being a political scientist to a political player. And certainly, it’s quite unusual for a political scientist to go from teaching politics to practicing it.

But perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that Johansson has shifted into politics. He’s long been very close to many politicians and others around the Beehive. In fact, few university academics would know the corridors of power as well as Johansson – he’s a creature of the Wellington political scene like no other, and should have little trouble shifting from the classroom to the Beehive.

Knowledge of politics and of the Beehive scene doesn’t automatically mean Johansson  will be a good manager of a high profile political office, where he will presumably be required to keep a low profile.

That the Victoria University of Wellington lecturer has chosen to pin his colours to New Zealand First is a surprise for most political followers. After all, in the past he has been more associated with Labour and the Greens, and in the lead-up to the 2014 election he advised these opposition parties in their quest to project themselves as a coherent alternative government.

He also appeared to clearly lean that way when commenting on political talk shows.

In the past, as an academic and political commentator he has endeavoured to be as objective as possible. However, he has previously been forthright when it comes to what might be regarded as “socially conservative” ideologies or policies.

Johansson’s affinity with Winston Peters will make him a good fit with the New Zealand First leader. He will play the role of Peters’ right-hand-man. And because Johansson is a leading expert in political strategy and New Zealand politics, he will be very valuable to New Zealand First.

His knowledge will be useful. How he gets on with Peters and the other NZ First MPs, and how he manages staff and the NZ First office will also be crucial.

Johansson’s appointment is smart because the political scientist is also close to Labour and the Greens. His role as chief of staff is primarily going to involve coalition management, ensuring that the New Zealand First caucus and staff are working together with their counterparts. Because Johansson is already close to the two other parties, he will be well placed to ensure coalition stability and make sure that New Zealand First’s interests are looked after by Labour and the Greens.

Perhaps.

Of course, successful political management isn’t simply a matter of knowing all the theory, and Johansson is coming into this important management role with no proven record or experience in the nitty-gritty of how Parliament works.

…landing straight at the top of this empire – albeit beside Winston Peters – might still prove a difficult task. He will need to show that he has the temperament and diplomacy to deal with complicated and difficult coalition and internal-party problems.

As an outsider, Johansson may also not be in the best position to wield his considerable new power in a way that will protect the party. “Guns for hire” often don’t have the knowledge and emotional commitment that enables them to advance the party’s core interests, and inevitably they are readier to compromise on issues in a way that a “true believer” in the party might see as “selling out”.

Also, Johansson’s perceived closeness to Labour could be a problem. Those in New Zealand First might come to regard him as being too ready to give way to Labour and the Greens, or that in his liaisons with the coalition partners he is vulnerable to “Stockholm Syndrome”.

Much may depend on how well Johansson manages to dedicate himself to one party with a very strong leader with long established habits.

Talking of habits, he has shared one with Peters. From Noted on 2012: Kicking the habit

Jon Johansson made a pact with the devil in the New Year. Give up smoking now, he told himself, and you can light up again when you’re 65. “It was utter, complete selfishness. And cowardice. I’m an asthmatic, and I don’t want to get emphysema,” says Johansson, a lecturer in politics at Victoria University.

Johansson, 51, is an expert quitter. Since he started smoking as a 17-year-old, he has quit five times, for periods as long as six years. In 2008, an election year, he gave up the fags for nine months. “It was one night out with Winston Peters that ruined that attempt.”

He has known Peters for a long time – and smokers tend to gather and talk together. Some interesting comments (and a wrong pick) by Johansson leading into the 2005 election – NZ’s Winston Peters in danger of losing sea:

JON JOHANSSON: You just feel that the lights are starting to go out on Winston, and this is being picked up by the public.

…There seems to be far less tolerance by the New Zealand electorate, of him vacillating as to which of Labour or National he prefers. So there’s changed public perception about Winston at the same time as he’s being less effective as a campaign performer.

…One is loathe to write-off Winston, because he’s been down in the… he’s like one of those, you know, Russian dolls that every time you think it’s gone there’s another one appears.

…Well, that he was mercurial, charismatic, but really was never a team player, and as such, in terms of legacy, there’s really not much of a record there at all. It’s always in a sense been more of a style over substance.

That was 12 years ago, and soon after that NZ First got 5.72% and Peters negotiated a governing deal with Labour (and shut the Greens out).

Can Johansson add the substance to Winston’s office? He is unlikely to change the old campaigner’s style.

Chief of Staff turnover

Change of government elections always bring about changes of personnel, and not just of MPs. Some Parliamentary staff no longer have jobs, and new ones are appointed.

John Key’s long time chief of staff Wayne Eagleson also worked for Bill English when he took over, but announced he was quitting after the election – NZH: Bill English’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson quits

The man who’s often been referred to as the most powerful non-elected politician in the country is quitting.

Wayne Eagleson has been Sir John Key and Bill English’s chief of staff for 12 years, but says it’s time to look at other options.

Mr Eagleson will stay around until the new Government is formed, which is expected to be around mid-October.

Eagleson formally told Bill English last week he planned to resign after the election but insiders say it has been known by the Ninth Floor for several months that he planned to go, no matter what the election result.

It is a very demanding job, and of vital importance to the functioning of Government.

Helen Clark’s stalwart chief of staff is back helping Ardern : Helen Clark’s top advisor returns to Labour Party

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s top advisor, Heather Simpson, has returned to advise the new Labour Government.

Ms Simpson has a three-decade working relationship with Ms Clark, working as chief of staff to the Labour Party before spending eight years advising Ms Clark at the UN.

Her return is seen as a sign of Labour’s move to strengthen its management team behind the scenes.

She is assisting with the staffing of minister’s offices and ‘reviewing the review’ of the campaign.

She was known as H2 alongside H1 (Clark) – Grant Robertson has been refereed to as H3 when he worked in Clark’s office.

The Greens have also had a change:

Andrew Campbell is leaving New Zealand Rugby to take on the role of chief strategist. He was previously chief of staff for the Greens. He was involved during the campaign, before joining the negotiating team.

Greens announced in April last year:

Green Party Chief of Staff Andrew Campbell has announced his resignation from the position after five and a half years with the party.

Andrew Campbell has overseen the recruitment process for his replacement, and it is anticipated an appointment will be made within the coming weeks.

“Andrew indicated his intention to leave the Greens after the 2014 election, but offered to stay on to oversee the transition to our new male Co-leader James Shaw, and lead the internal change management process after James was elected,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

“Andrew ran our communications through our two most successful election campaigns and has been a real asset to the Party,” said Mrs Turei.

Campbell seems to have been lured by the Green’s elevation to a position of power. NBR on 12 August (just after Turei resigned and Greens crashed in the polls – The man who could save the Greens:

I gave Mr Campbell a call at NZ Rugby, where he’s now working as a communications manager. In short forget a political comeback.

“I’m really enjoying my work here,” he said. He had no desire to return to politics, or indeed even comment on recent events.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the change of Chief of staff for NZ First – that warrants a separate post. See Johansson appointed NZ First chief of staff

 

Eagleson quitting PM’s office

Wayne Eagleson, who has been the Prime Ministers’ chief of staff for nine years (for John Key and Bill English), is quitting after coalition negotiations are complete.

Stuff:  National Party’s most senior adviser resigns

National leader Bill English’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson has resigned.

Eagleson has been a pivotal figure for the past nine years in the National government, and Stuff has been told he will stay on for the next few weeks while negotiations carry on to form a government.

Eagleson was particularly close to former leader John Key and stayed on after English asked him to do so following the change of leadership.

But he had been widely expected to go after the election.

So it’s no surprise, and a logical time to quit – unlike the Green chief of staff and also their political director who both quit with their party in crisis heading into the election campaign.

Once private secretary to former Prime Minister Jim Bolger Eagleson was often said to be the one running the country when Key was out of town.”When Eagleson says it, Key says it,” many an insider has been known to say, and the MPs believed it too.

Eagleson was one of the earliest appointments English made, before he himself was formally appointed in fact – a testament to just how much his strategic mind is valued by the National Party.

He has been hugely influential behind the scenes in National and his attributes of being calm and unflappable were seen as contributing to the Key Government’s success.

It’s an important position. Helen Clark also had a dependable and long serving chief of staff, Heather Simpson (H2).

Labour staff appointments

Andrew Little has made two appointments to vacant positions in the Labour leader’s office.

Chief of Staff – Neale Jones

y4tf-xem_200x200

Jones has been upgraded from his current job of Political Director in Little’s office.

Te Reo Putake has some detail at The Standard:

Excellent appointment for Chief of Staff. I’ve known Neale for years and he is a top bloke and good value for the job. I know he also worked with Andrew Little at the EPMU, modernising that union’s comms, and, clearly, they both work together well. I predict good things for Labour.

TRP has been predicting good things for Labour for years. He might be right about it one day.

Modernising the Labour Party may be a lot bigger challenge than modernising union’s comms.

Labour stalwart Greg Presland:

Neale is really good. Safe pair of hands and dedicated to the cause.

So Jones strengthens the EPMU influence in Labour. Some, especially those with union connections, will like that. Others may be less enthusiastic.

Now shunned ex-Labour member Phil Quin tweeted:

The appointment of Neale Jones, a dyed-in-the-wool loyalist, is testament to Andrew Little’s utter impregnability as Labour leader.

Also from Twitter Stephanie Rodgers (who works in union comms):

Nice one, comrade

Little became Labour’s leader due to the crucial Union vote (affiliate unions have 20% of that vote).

Chief Press Secretary – Mike Jaspers

photo

From NZH Labour confirms senior positions including chief press secretary

Mike Jaspers will be chief press secretary, filling a position that has been vacant since Sarah Stuart left in May after little more than a year in the role.

Jaspers works in communications for New Zealand Rugby including when New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

He has experience in Parliament – previously working as a press secretary for Sir Michael Cullen in 2006/07, and before that in Parliament’s press gallery for TVNZ.

It’s understood Little previously tried to hire Jaspers after he became Labour leader.

From a different sort of union, the Rugby Union.

Jaspers has been given the most attention by journalists and media who seem to rate him highly. The Standard reaction was more wary. Bill:

Fair to say “Neale Jones good, Mike Jaspers…jury out”?

Jaspers was very effective with the Rugby Union. This may pose a bigger challenge. He has to fill a void and somehow transform how Little and  Labour are presented.

One thing both Jones and Jaspers will need to try and overcome is the negativity that has oozed from Labour from the top down. On his return from a visit to Canada Little indicated that he was keen to follow Justin Trudeau’s positive methods.

Party comms can’t control what is said in social media but they can try to influence it. It desperately needs a positive makeover.

A comment on The Standard’s New lineup for Labour Leader’s office thread is a symptom of an entrenched problem of Labour’s image of vicious intolerance.

He is a semi-literate, trolling muppet, like Pockish Rogue and Maninamuddle. Their new tactic is to derail by being friendly and matey. Why else are they constantly cackling away on nearly every thread on this site?

A new form of Peter George.

Don’t respond to their apparent friendliness. Study the ways of One Anonymous Bloke. He identifies these sleazebags early in the piece and gives them hell. We all need to. Tell them to fuck off.

Friendly bad, fuck off good, so ‘In Vino’ and others seem to think.

Little recently very publicly branded ex-Labour members Quin and Wellington mayoral candidate as right wing traiters and and effectively told them to “fuck off”.

Enticing people like them, like me, and like thousands of other ex-Labour voters, to consider ticking Labour again will be a big challenge for Jones and Jaspers.

While some at the Standard are enthusiastic about these new appointments, hoping they finally have a ‘game changer’, shit continues to be thrown around their nest and elsewhere in social media.

Jones needs to reform the attitude of the party from within and from the top down.

Jaspers needs to present to the public a far more positive Labour, and to somehow paper over the crackpots.

McCarten moving to Auckland

Matt McCarten is leaving Wellington and his job as Andrew Little’s chief of staff, and is moving to Auckland to apparently head a new Labour office there. Things seem up in the air with an expected official announcement later in the week.

Stuff: Little’s chief of staff to head new Labour office in Auckland

Labour leader Andrew Little’s chief of staff Matt McCarten is poised to quit the job and head up a new Labour office in Auckland.

Little said he had not finalised who would staff the Auckland office, though he had been looking at setting it up for some time.

But the move there by McCarten was “voluntary, willingly and with agreement, not in high dudgeon”.

Asked if he had anyone in line to take over as his chief of staff, after McCarten shifted north, Little said: “That’s part of the detail that is to be finalised”.

Sounds like the story got out before things were sorted out.

His move to Auckland will leave Little searching for both a new chief of staff and a new chief press secretary after Sarah Stuart quit the latter role in May.

And more sorting out to do too.

NZ Herald says:

Labour leader Andrew Little is to open a new Labour Party office in Auckland and re-deploy his chief of staff Matt McCarten as Labour prepares for battle in 2017.

Little said Labour’s new office in Auckland would open by the end of September and McCarten had offered to head it.

It was part of the planning for election year, including how to target the voter-rich Auckland.

Little said he would be spending a lot of time in Auckland and needed a base there. It would be formally announced at a Labour function for Auckland businesses, interest groups and movers and shakers on Wednesday.

McCarten had volunteered to take on the role and was not being pushed.

“He wanted to do it. His strength is in the networks and setting up programmes and places for me to go to and getting stuff organised. And that is what I need.”

Labour currently does not have a party base in Auckland other than its MPs’ electorate offices.

That’s odd. From early July and the Taxpayers’ Union – Speaker’s Warning To Labour Over Parliamentary Funds:

Some weeks ago Labour sent an email in the name of Paul Chalmers, the Project Manager at Labour House, to Labour’s Auckland supporters detailing how Andrew Little had opened a Auckland office that will be “the centre of the Labour and progressive movement in Auckland and the place to co-ordinate the local government and General Election campaigns.”

The email also called on “like-minded partners” to share office space and other facility resources.

It appears that Andrew Little and his MPs are pooling together taxpayer resources to open a campaign office in central Auckland for the Party and Phil Goff’s campaign for the Auckland mayoralty. Use of taxpayer resources in this way is clearly against the rules.

This says that Labour had already opened a campaign office in Auckland.

Does anyone know what is actually going on here?

Green staff turnover

Another significant change in Green party staffing today with the announcement that chief of staff Andrew Campbell is leaving.

While Campbell says that he had planned to leave after the 2014 election he stayed on longer when Russel Norman announced his retirement to assist with the leadership transition.

This sounds quite plausible, but it is the third significant staff member loss.

Stuff: Green Party’s chief of staff becomes latest to resign from party

The Green Party’s chief of staff has announced his resignation – becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the party.

Campbell had been with the Greens for nearly six years, and was promoted to chief of staff after James Shaw became the party’s new male co-leader in 2015.

The party’s communications and policy director, David Cormack, resigned in March – just six months into the job.

Chief press secretary Leah Haines has also announced her resignation to spend more time with her family. She will leave after the party’s AGM in June.

Whatever the reasons and however coincidental the resignations this creates some challenges for the Greens as they work towards next year’s election.

In response to the announcement journalist Toby Manhire tweeted:

Wow. Huge loss.

A triple blow for the Greens at a time that they seem to be struggling to get any significant publicity or traction.

Labour rumblings and reshuffle

Rumours are reported to be rumbling in the Labour camp, but Andrew Little denies there will be any major changes when he reshuffles his caucus following the the announcement that Clayton Cosgrove won’t stand again next election.

Cosgrove seemed to be in semi-retirement anyway.

Heather du Plessis-Allan reports on some insider moans in Labour needs a hero and a cause:

For a while now, everyone in the party has bravely kept painting their faces, putting on their party frocks and pretending life was peachy.

That’s the line that’s been spun. But…

I was killing time around Parliament, waiting for a minister. A Labour Party insider was killing time too. We got talking.

Andrew Little said this. Andrew Little said that. Tired of his cock-ups. Tired of being blamed for his mistakes.

It wasn’t a surprise morale in the Labour Party was low, it was a surprise someone was being honest about it.

It would have been surprising if there hadn’t been concerns expressed, privately at least, about Labour’s and Little’s performance. And this was before last week’s poor poll result and before Little’s flailing attacks on John Key this week.

Later that day, I walked through the arrivals gate at Auckland airport next to a well-connected political mover and shaker. We got talking. Trouble’s brewing in the Labour Party.

They’re talking of cutting Grant Robertson. They’re talking of cutting the chief of staff. Watch this space.

While the political buck stops at the top chief of staff Matt McCarten was recruited by David Cunliffe and that didn’t work well. Little retained McCarten in the critical role and that hasn’t worked out well.

If Little isn’t going then McCarten has to go. Something drastic has to change and that’s one of the few options Little has.

But shuffling Robertson out of the Finance role? That’s less likely for a couple of reasons. Dropping Robertson from Finance would be an admission of a failed gamble with Robertson and would threaten his whole Future of Work thing, something Little is probably reluctant to do.

And demoting Robertson from the most demanding of portfolio roles would give Robertson more time and a reason to reconsider his leadership ambitions.

In any case little says he is not including Robertson in his shuffle plans.

Claire Trevett writes in Labour to ‘rejig’ caucus:

Labour leader Andrew Little will do a “slight rejig” of his caucus this week after Clayton Cosgrove’s decision not to stand next year, but has ruled out changing key personnel such as finance spokesman Grant Robertson.

Little said he had no plans to replace Robertson.

“There will be some slight rejigging in the next week or so, but I’m not anticipating any significant changes.” There was speculation former finance spokesman David Parker could get the finance role back, but Little and Parker denied it had come up.

Little said nobody had suggested he change the finance spokesperson, and when he set up his Shadow Cabinet in 2014 he made it clear Robertson would be in the finance role until at least next year’s election. “I’m totally satisfied with Grant’s performance and have no intention of changing him out of the finance role.”

After stating that Little can’t drop Robertson.

So were the rumblings about Robertson discussed by Labour’s leadership?

Or does it reflect dissatisfaction further down the ranks?

Either is a potential problem for Labour.

What Little has committed to is a minor tweak of caucus roles. Cosgrove is ranked 18 and has hardly been seen over the last eighteen months, but relatively low profile responsibilities…

  • Spokesperson for Commerce
  • Spokesperson for Veterans’ Affairs
  • Spokesperson for Tourism
  • Associate Finance Spokesperson

…so re-assigning those will probably not give any indication that Labour are doing anything different.

So Little’s best option to vitalise (you can hardly revitalise something that has been on life support for nearly a decade) his leadership is replacing McCarten.

Chief of staff is a vital role in a party leadership team. Little is noticeably struggling. If he can find someone who will do the hard work for him behind the scenes, and who will give him frank and helpful advice, then he might (just might) find a way of looking like a future Prime Minister.

Little said the poll was “disappointing” but had not spooked him or the caucus. “We are struggling to get clear messages through on our priorities. We’ve got to work harder at that.”

But this week Little’s priorities seemed to be muddy messages dirt mongering, pretty much the opposite of what he says Labour should be doing.

It’s not a matter of working harder, it’s more a matter of working smarter. Much smarter.

And it would be a smart move to appoint a smart chief of staff.

But the biggest problem may be finding some one willing to try to sort out Labour’s mess.

McCarten retained as Little’s Chief of Staff

It has been confirmed that Matt McCarten has appointed Matt McCarten as his Chief of Staff, continuing on from holding the position under David Cunliffe’s leadership and a post election temporary continuation of that.

Audrey Young reports Labour leader appoints new-but-old chief of staff Matt McCarten

Labour leader Andrew Little has appointed left wing strategist Matt McCarten as his chief of staff.

Mr McCarten was chief of staff for former leader David Cunliffe and was kept on in a temporary basis after Mr Little won the leadership a month ago.

McCarten’s appointment by Cunliffe raised many eyebrows. McCarten had formely been involved in the Alliance Party (with Laila Harre) and had close connections to New Zealand socialists (there’s still a few hopeful reds) and to the Mana Party. And…

Mr McCarten’s appointment in February stunned the Labour caucus because as a founder of the break-away Alliance, he had spent years opposing Labour.

One of his strengths was his supposed campaign ability, but Labour’s campaign was an embarrassing failure. Little mustn’t blame McCarten for this, or he may think enough has been learned to turn things around for Labour.

McCarten also has strong union links, like Little.

Mr McCarten helped to found the militant Unite Union for low paid workers and Mr Little is a former national secretary of the Engineers’ Union.

Some have claimed the reappointment is a condition of union support for Little  for the Labour leadership – the unions helped Little win the contest by a whisker.

There are signs that the Labour caucus is happier, more confident and more united behind Little than they have been since Helen Clark left a vacuum.

This will make McCarten’s job easier, but there are significant risks, which will be touched on in the next post.

What a Chief of Staff does

Amy’s account of what a parliamentary chief of staff does.

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.

If that’s what he was employed to do. It’s hard to see him fit in as a manager and a conduit between a number of demanding groups.

And if he is a different job specification Cunliffe will need someone else to do this.

Or his office and his party will struggle to lift itself out of apparent chaos.