Labour’s “souls for the polls”

Media got back to Labour’s embarrassing intern scheme yesterday.

Stuff:  Two on Labour’s intern programme may have broken immigration rules as council member stands down

Two of Labour’s interns may have broken immigration visa rules, the party says.

Party secretary Andrew Kirton said in the course of sorting out the international volunteer programme the party had become aware two of the 85 interns may not have held the visa necessary to take part in the programme.

That seems to be a relatively minor issue.

One curious aspect of Labour’s intern programme was an attempt to turn out votes from church goers.

McCarten had also floated the idea of bringing in a reverend from the United States – dubbed “souls for the polls” to unify the Ratana and Pasifika churches and turn out voters.

“I can’t imagine Al Sharpton coming down,” Mr Little said.

Interns in the programme had been working on targeting ‘religious Labour votes’:

InternPak3

Little said McCarten’s plan – which he has named a “Campaign for Change” –  was one of those “ginger groups” that pop up from time to time. He described McCarten’s ideas as “fantasy world stuff”.

It was originally promoted as “Labour Party Fellowship” and was also referred to as”Movement for Change” (a document that gave details about the scheme referred to ‘Movement for Change Ltd’ but there is no registered company of that name).

Bringing out a bunch of US students to campaign for them was criticised as hypocritical due to Labour’s recently announced policy aimed at substantially cutting down on student visas.

If they had brought out a US pastor to campaign for them it is likely to have raised more eyebrows. Is there a shortage of Kiwi pastors?

Newshub:  McCarten may have left Labour in debt after intern scheme

Labour leader Andrew Little says Matt McCarten’s botched student scheme may have left a debt for the party.

“There is a potential for it [debt], yes,” Mr Little said. “We take moral responsibility and that means and creditors and suppliers have to be looked after and we will have to do that.”

They may need a few pastors with collection plates

 

 

Little and Labour MPs with interns

Andrew Little appears to have misled and not been honest about the extent of the Labour Party involvement with the Labour Party Fellowship scheme, also known as the intern scheme, Movement for Change and Campaign for Change.

Little said “people closely associated with the Labour Party were involved. Without without approval or authority or any mandate they went ahead and did stuff.”. But he admits:

This started out as an idea at the beginning of the year. I certainly became aware of it, um when it was raised with me.”

The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students about to arr… within days of arriving, um, ah, the party stepped in straight away to people associated with it saying what is going on, there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing.

The party was given assurances, “we’ve got funding, we’ve got a programme sorted out, nothing to worry about”.

But it is obvious it was a party thing. And if the party stepped in straight away then Little hasn’t admitted it, he has denied it.

Some of the interns say in LinkedIn profiles they have been in the scheme since April. See Links between interns and Labour from April.

The right approach was once we got notification of complaints, or the party didn’t, I was told about it, I said we get up there straight away. The general secretary Andrew Kirton and his team did an outstanding job, he was there on Monday…

The party (Little and general secretary Andrew Kirton) didn’t step in until Monday 19 June.

There was, yeah, we got the complaints this week and the minute that happened, because we were aware that the Labour Party name was associated with it.

It’s not about legal technicalities. I take a very dim view of those who hide behind legality and say it is moral responsibility that is the most important thing.

There is a moral responsibility to be truthful and not to mislead. It was not just the Labour Party name that was associated with it.

Little, Jacinda Ardern, other Labour MPs, and Auckland candidates were associated with it.

The week before Little claimed to have acted immediately:

LabourInternLubek1

As well as interns, included in the photos:

  • Labour leader Andrew Little
  • Labour deputy leader Jacinda Ardern
  • MP for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis
  • Labour candidate for Rodney Marja Lubeck
  • Labour candidate for Northcote Shanan Halbert
  • Labour candidate for North Shore Romy Udanga
  • Labour candidate for East Coast Bays Naisi Chen

LabourInternsCandidates

That shows a Labour party banner, interns (with Movement for Change ribbons around their necks), and Labour candidates Halbert, Lubeck and Udanga.

@youngnzlabour and MPs @raymondhuo and @Damien O’Connor liked the tweet.

Shanan Halbert retweeted the tweet. “Shanan Halbert has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Northcote in the 2017 Election. Authorised by Andrew Kirton, 160 Willis St, Wellington.”

He also tweeted:

Little wasn’t taking responsibility for the Labour Fellowship Scheme. He was avoiding responsibility for the scheme prior to last Monday, but he, Ardern, Labour MPs and Labour candidates were all associating with the interns.

Like this:

LabourInternsLubek2

Little needs to show actual leadership and take full responsibility for and some ownership of Labour’s involvement in the scheme. Some questions could do with answers.

Why did Little say that in May he discovered “people closely associated with the Labour Party were involved  without approval or authority or any mandate” but say he took no action until 19 June?

Why did Matt McCarten suddenly announce on 11 June that he had ceased working for Little in May?

Why did Little say the first time he did anything with the interns was on Monday 19 June when he attended a Labour Party event with the interns the previous week?

Why did Little say of the intern scheme “this is not the party thing” when it is obvious that the interns have been working with Labour candidates in Auckland in a number of electorates?

There’s nothing wrong with using foreign students to assist with campaigning (apart from a bit of hypocrisy), but there does appear to be something wrong with Little avoiding taking responsibility for a scheme that had some minor issues with intern complaints.

The much bigger issue is what Little and Labour appear to be trying to hide.

McCarten has been dumped on by Little, Kirton, and by Clayton Cosgrove – seeCosgrove bus follows Labour over McCarten.

Certainly McCarten seems to have driven the scheme, but it has been suggested that he is a “voluntary scapegoat”.

His sudden departure from the Labour Party job was before the intern complaints happened – he says it was in May. Why did he leave, whether it was in May or in early June when he announced it?

McCarten launched the supposedly non-partisan ‘Campaign for Change’ that also involved Mike Treen and according to himself Martyn Bradbury, people associated with the far left and not with Labour.

This was launched on Saturday 17 June – New Zealand launches ‘Campaign for Change’.

Little says he stepped in to deal with problems two days later.

I don’t think Little has been straight on Labour’s involvement in the fellowship/intern scheme, with his own knowledge of the scheme, and what went wrong that led to McCarten’s sudden departure from his Labour job and sudden intervention by the Labour leadership and head office even though Little, MPs and candidates were involved with the interns and they were clearly involved with the Labour Party in far more ways than using the name.

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Interns worked with Labour MPs

Andrew Little and Andrew Kirton have tried to distance themselves from the Labour Party labelled fellowship/intern scheme, blaming it on Matt McCarten and as Little said ” people closely associated with the Labour Party”.

But some things don’t add up about Little’s claims of what he knew about the scheme.

The interns have been busy scrubbing any references to the scheme from their social media but some snippets have been found that suggest that the interns were working with Labour MPs in Auckland.

If that’s the case it would be remarkable if the Labour leadership and head office were largely unaware of what was going on.

Little has claimed the high ground saying it was a moral responsibility to step in and sort out the problems that were revealed last week, but he also has a moral responsibility to be up front and honest about what he knew about the scheme.

If he knew more about the scheme than he is saying then he is being evasive, some call what he is doing as lying by omission.

If Labour in Auckland were running an unapproved and unauthorised scheme that Little and Labour’s head office knew nothing about then that also looks bad.

On Q+A yesterday:

Jessica Mutch: Let’s talk about that then. How did it get out of control? Was it a lack of organisation on the part of Labour?

Little: No. This started out as an idea at the beginning of the year. I certainly became aware of it, um when it was raised with me. I said it’s a campaign issue, it’s a party issue, you’ve got to deal with it as a campaign issue.

Jessica Mutch: But it had Labour’s name on it though.

Little: And it did.

Jessica Mutch: It was called 2017 Labour Campaign Fellowship.

Little: Yeah because people closely associated with the Labour Party were involved. Without without approval or authority or any mandate they went ahead and did stuff.

The person most involved appears to have been Matt McCarten. He was supposed to be working for Little in the Labour Leader’s  Auckland Office – from last September when McCarten left his job as Little’s Chief of Staff:  Labour leader Andrew Little says his adviser Matt McCarten’s taxpayer-funded salary is within the rules because McCarten will be doing “outreach” work for Little rather than campaign work.

Little: The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students about to arr… within days of arriving, um, ah, the party stepped in straight away to people associated with it saying what is going on, there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing.

The party was given assurances, “we’ve got funding, we’ve got a programme sorted out, nothing to worry about’.

Interns were being confirmed in April and arriving in mid- May:

InternChatfield

Little was at least partially aware of this but then said:

Jessica Mutch: But then there was something to worry about.

Little: There was, yeah, we got the complaints this week and the minute that happened, because we were aware that the Labour Party name was associated with it.

It’s not about legal technicalities. I take a very dim view of those who hide behind legality and say it is moral responsibility that is the most important thing.

It wasn’t just the Labour Party name that was associated with it.  There seems to have been quite a bit of direct Labour party involvement in the scheme, in Auckland at least.

David Farrar posted in Of course this was Labour’s scheme:

And the five people named are all Labour Party.

  • Matt McCarten organised the scheme out of the Labour Leader’s Office, being paid by the taxpayer to do so
  • Caitlin Johnson and Kieran O’Halloran are paid staff for the Labour Party, It’s ridiculous to think they were doing this independently and without approval of the party.
  • Paul Chalmers is on the Council of the Labour Party and is a regional chair
  • Simon Mitchell is a longtime Labour activist

To argue this scheme was independent of Labour when it was called a Labour fellowship, and run by staff from the Leader’s Office and Labour field offices, plus a member of Labour’s National Council is beyond credibility.

But information from an intern suggests that Labour MPs in Auckland were also involved.

InternPak2

InternPak3

InternPak1

From that:

“worked directly with North Shore MPs to craft specifically altered campaign strategy”

“worked directly with MPs to craft specialized strategy that matched their electorates”

This may or may not be embellished, but there is a clear indication this intern was working directly with Labour MPs in Auckland.

This is how things look:

  • Little “certainly became aware of” what he says “started out as an idea at the beginning of the year”.
  • Interns were advised of being accepted in the scheme in April.
  • Interns were arriving in mid May.
  • Little: “The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students”
  • In May “the party stepped in straight away to people associated with it saying what is going on, there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing.”
    The party was given assurances “we’ve got funding, we’ve got a programme sorted out, nothing to worry about”
  • McCarten, who was supposedly doing “outreach” work for Little was involved
  • Labour Party staff were involved
  • Labour MPs appear to have been directly involved
  • Little “we got the complaints this week [he says Monday 29 June] and the minute that happened, because we were aware that the Labour Party name was associated with it.”

A number of things don’t add up, and Little is not being honest about what he knew about the scheme.

Why did Little do nothing about a scheme involving the election campaign in the crucial Auckland region despite saying “there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing”?

Why did Andrew Kirton not act until Monday last week?

Why were Labour MPs and Labour Party employees involved in an unauthorised scheme in Auckland that the Labour leadership and party head office claim to have only become involved in  one week ago?

Why is Little claiming the moral high ground when he is not being open and honest about details of his knowledge of the scheme?

It looks like either Little is hiding a lot, or Auckland Labour has been acting independently of the Labour leadership and Labour’s head office with Little having some knowledge of it.

If Labour were to succeed in September’s election they would not only need to have  their Wellington leadership and head office working with their Auckland MPs, they would also need to work with the Green Party and probably with NZ First.

What confidence can voters have in their honesty and confidence?