Labour’s surge

Labour’s turnaround from a floundering mess of a party to a vibrant, confident and genuine contender in the election has been as dramatic as the Green crash.

Metiria Turei’s beneficiary mission gamble precipitated a crash in Labour’s support, but unlike the Greens they acted quickly and positively by installing Jacinda Ardern as leader.

Ardern stepped up with aplomb, aided by an adoring media. This instantly revitalised Labour, and caused many voters to quickly reassess their options.

Two polls have shown how much despair in Labour has changed to hope and enthusiasm.

Two poll results yesterday put numbers on an obvious turn around in support.

  • Newshub/Reid Research 33.1% (up 9.0)
  • UMR (Labour’s internal poll) 36% (up 13)

This only just covers the emergence of Ardern and the resurgence in Labour. It could be an initial surge that settles back, or it could be a snapshot in an ongoing trend upwards.

National have barely moved in both polls (44.45 and 43%), with most of the swing coming from the crashing Greens and also from NZ First – the attraction of Winston Peters as a protest or ‘no decent option’ vote seems to have diminished.

Ardern and Labour still have to campaign well, and Ardern will have to measure up in the leaders’ debates, which now look likely to be just head to head with Bill English. It is an interesting contrast.

Ardern has the advantage of looking young and fresh, but she will have to show she has a good grasp of the key issues, particularly economic matters and costings of Labour’s policies.

English is a contrast, generally regarded as steady and reliable and he has a very good knowledge of policies and issues. He also has a healthy economy to promote as a success.

Two weeks ago the election looked like National versus the rest.

But for the first time in years it now looks a real fight, a contrast between one strong party and one revitalised party. Voters have a lot to consider over the next month or so.

Labour have vitality and momentum and could easily improve more, as long as they don’t make any major mistakes. Keeping Kelvin Davis out of the spotlight could be a good idea.

However this has already been a fast changing and volatile campaign so anything could happen. And National could as easily trip up as Labour.

Labour’s predictable predicament

The Labour Party is in a dire situation. Dropping to 24% in the latest Colmar Brunton poll was bad, but Andrew Little admitting he had offered to step down, and no one else being prepared to step up, could be the death knell of their chances this election, and possible the death knell of the party.

This situation was predictable a long time ago. Last December I posted Is Labour a 19% party?

Colmar Brunton’s recent poll had Labour on 28%, and the just released Roy Morgan poll has them on 23%. One is bad, the other is an awful result.

But is it a surprise?

Andrew Little has failed to impress – this interview with RNZ yesterday is unfortunately typical, fumbles and bumbles interspersed with a few tired slogans.

That hasn’t changed.

‘True Labour’ seems to be a rapidly narrowing (but poorly defined) brand. The only thing that seems to be consistent is spraying those who walk away from the party with bitterness.

Shane Jones. Phil Goff. Clayton Cosgrove. David Cunliffe. Gone or going. There are calls for David Shearer to go as well as he is not seem as ‘true Labour’ by some on the left.

Josie Pagani and Phil Quin are often lambasted for not being ‘Labour’ enough, as are many people who get abused on Twitter, Facebook and The Standard.

 Is Labour heading for 20%? Little and the Labourites who remain seem happy burn off support as they turn the party to ashes.

It looks increasingly like New Zealand will remain dominated by a single party, with a few smaller ones yapping from the sidelines.

What will it take for the penny to drop within Labour? 19%?

The penny dropped for Little after last week’s 24% poll, with 19% or less distinctly possible now.

The Standard (where I’m not allowed to comment again) The Standard had largely given up on Labour and has driven away many people who could have supported Labour for years.

In reaction to yesterday’s poll result there was some lame protestation at The Standard, until ‘Sanctuary’ laid  things out things out brutally…

It isn’t just this poll. Labour are drifting to utter catastrophe. It is all well and good to talk about the undecided vote, but given the lack of inspiration and passion so far in this election campaign from Labour they’ll probably just not vote at all. I reckon we are heading towards a 65% turn out max.

What is it about neoliberalism that turns Labour PLPs into technocratic, out-of-touch, smug and entitled collections of careerists? They are too fucking arrogant to see what should be obvious – they are in deep trouble and need to PANIC, completely rethink their whole fundamental approach to politics and just… just fucking grow some balls and show us they believe in something other than muggins turn.

Their policy so far has been too technocratic and timid, full of thickets of ifs and buts and maybes. They’re thinking seems stuck in 1990s, wedded to neoliberal economic orthodoxy and, frankly, their main tactic at the moment appears to be relying on National losing.

The Labour caucus is – yet again – completely missing in action, 54 days out from the election. The current crop of Labour politicians are completely useless at politics.

The Greens have outflanked them on the left, exploiting the Corbyn-Sanders effect and showing they might actually understand ordinary folks problems.

NZ First is killing them in the provinces. There vote is is 3-4% higher than this poll, mark my words.



Playing musical cheers with the leadership is no good. The next losers up will be Gracinda, and they are lackadasical middle class careerists. All they represent is the inept PLP and their own technocratic ambitions. Little has got a useless caucus that is lazy and politically clueless. Labour has to re-think everything from the ground up, including how and who they select to be MPs, what they stand for and what the party exists to do.

At the moment, they stand for nothing and the PLP is full of under performing chumps like Ruth Dyson (remember her?) Jenny Salesa (who? never heard from her once, unforgivable when there are only 31 MPs) Megan Woods (Ever heard from her either? No? Me neither. Pathetically ineffectual on Canterbury issues and climate change), David Parker (last spotted in 2015 and heading for the exit), Trevor fucking Mallard (a burnt out political joke, it is a disgrace he occupies a valuable seat), Poto Williams (useless at scoring hits on the government, but that is OK because as far as i can tell, she was mainly selected to be spokesperson for political correctness and guardian of identity politics), Clare “vanishing majority” Curren, David Clarke, the invisible man in a caucus of hopeless invisible MPs, etc etc.

Labour has a caucus where six of their MPs are from Maori seats, and apart from Kelvin Davis none of them appear to do anything to justify their existence to the wider electorate. Given that these MPs represent fully 20% of the PLP, this is unacceptable. They need to pull their weight a lot more.

Labour only has 31 MPs. Only a handful seem to do anything, but with 31 MPs they ALL need to be working bloody hard. the rest are taking the piss out of their supporters and one can justly suspect they are lazy mofos in the best paying job they are ever likely to hold.

…and there was little argument to this from the stragglers left at The Standard.

Since Helen Clark and Michael Cullen left parliament and the party in 2009 went through three leaders before Andrew Little took over, each of them failing to inspire. Little has been disappointing to say the least.

But as Sanctuary says, Labour’s problems go much deeper than a string of hapless leaders.

Most Labour MPs have not been performing anywhere near a credible level. Most of them are unheard of most of the time.

The Labour Party has also been hopeless. Their lack of ability to fund raise has been both a symptom and a cause of their problems.

The McCarten intern fiasco showed either a party out of control or a party having no clue – and the media went very easy on them, choosing to obsess over the death of a National backbencher’s career and largely ignoring the death of what was once the main opposition party.

I’ve kept a close watch on The Standard for many years. It is the main representative of the Labour Party in the blogosphere. Actually that’s not correct.

The Standard was the main online voice of Labour, but they have abused and driven away a lot of support over the years. They have become as lame and hapless as the Labour Party, to the extent that they have become dominated by a Weka, a Green Party supporter intent on deterring or shutting down anything deemed to be not left wing enough.

Even the bloody Standard gave up championing Labour years ago. Most of their posts are anti-National and anti-Government, only a small proportion are pro-Labour and there are probably as many pro-Green now.  But this is just a symptom of a bigger, wider problem.

I keep getting banned at The Standard, and I have voted Labour more than any other party, up until 2008.

My local MP David Clark and the other Dunedin MP Clare Curran both block me on Twitter. @NZLabour also blocks me on Twitter.

The Labour Party has been withering away over the last nine years. Actually, since Labour won their second term in 2002 they have lost vote share every election. That’s fifteen years.

Andrew Little just happens to be it’s leader during what could well be it’s death rattle. Unless a miracle occurs Labour looks lost already, not just in this year’s election but as a political force. They have become a political farce.

All the Colmar Brunton poll has done is prompt Little to publicly admit defeat, but he, Labour MPs and the party have been in a slow death spiral for yonks.

The way things are looking Labour may end up doing well if they get 19% in September.

TRP Adviser 21 July 2017

This week we learned many things.

The Greens are not 100% pure, the NZ Labour Party has woken from its slumbers and, sorry, Shane, NZ First is still a one-man band.

Metiria Turei’s announcement that she bent the benefit rules was not in itself a particularly shocking revelation. I mean, who hasn’t indulged in some creative accounting, some under the table tax avoidance or some pilfered office supplies?

Paula Bennett, that’s who!

Yes, it turns out that the Sainted Paula led a life of bleak austerity and blind obedience while a beneficiary and it never so much as crossed her mind to forget a flatty or two, get into a relationship without applying for permission from WINZ or start her fledgling property portfolio without fudging the figures.

So those of you thinking that Turei’s mea culpa was actually aimed at embarrassing the Deputy Prime Minister a mere week after a Facebook poster was threatened with legal action for allegedly defaming her should be ashamed of yourselves. Ashamed I say!

The Labour Party has finally come up with a policy that genuinely challenges National. Pitching themselves as the party that will spend our tax dollars on health, education and families rather than tax cuts for the well-off is genius stuff.

Ok, it’s not Sanders or Corbyn level radicalism, but it makes it really simple for voters. If you care for your country, you’ll be voting Labour this election. If you are that self-centred that $20 off your top tier tax bill is more of a priority, then you’ll keep voting National as usual. You heartless bastard.

Well done Labour. More of this, please.

Welcome to NZ First, Shane Jones. Please take a seat at the back and stop talking. In fact, stop anything that resembles a sign of independent thought and just remember this is Winston’s Party and he’ll make up any damn policy he likes any time he likes.

Winston’s brain fart on holding a referendum on the maori seats has backfired beautifully. He’s had to back track on who might vote in the referendum, hinting that it might be just those on the maori roll who get to decide. Then flip flopping on that, because he belatedly realised that maori roll voters had already made up their mind.

Being on the maori roll is a conscious decision. Nobody already on that roll is going to vote to do away with the maori seats. Nobody.

Ok, Winston might gain a redneck vote or two by bashing maori, but he seems to have forgotten that he gets a fair few party votes from those seven seats. Maybe not so much now.

I guess he’ll still get the tick from Shane Jones, who is, ya know, actually on the maori roll. But the message to the newest Peters protégé is clear; you’re not even in my thoughts, big fulla.

Unions using interns

The Labour Party got most of the limited attention given by the media to the intern issue. This is because it was clearly a Labour Party scheme – Andrew Kirton eventually acknowledged it was an ‘Auckland Labour Party’ scheme, but that isn’t a separate party.

But unions were intertwined.

Andrew Little has a union background but claims to have had no knowledge of the scheme, apart from hearing about the idea at the start of the year, and finding out an unauthorised scheme was  up and running in May, and then finding out in mid-June it had got out of control so he stepped in as soon as he knew. Or something.

Matt McCarten has been what someone described as a ‘voluntary scapegoat’. He certainly seems to have been a major player in the scheme, while working for Andrew Little in Auckland, while Little knew nothing about it apart from what he knew.

Before being recruited by David Cunliffe as the Labour leader’s chief of staff in 2014 McCarten was secretary of the Unite union since 2005.

Despite working for Labour for three years McCarten still seems to have kept his email address. He registered the domain using it on 15 May, when he was still working for Little. And he registered it under a Unite Union office address.

McCarten registered five days later using Little’s Auckland office address (postal and physical).

Unions were a major part of the plans for financing the intern scheme. A document obtained by Newshub had details (this is claimed to be an unfulfilled plan):


This refers to contracts with the Unite and First unions.

The project was said to be managed by “the project manager in paertnership with the Labour Party, CTU (Council of Trade Unions) and AUSA (Auckland University Students’ Association).

The document detailed three parts to the campaign:


So an aim was to recruit and support volunteers for union GOTV (get out the vote) campaigns. Unions were involved in trying to get votes for Labour last election too. I’m not sure that all their union members would be happy with that.

More on money:


But when this document was published unions distanced themselves. Newshub:  Labour’s botched intern scheme planned on union funding

Council of Trade Unions (CTU):

CTU national secretary Sam Huggard says the plan was never shared with them, and the CTU actually turned down a request to manage the interns.

“We’ve never seen this document and the CTU was not involved as described. I presume this was an early proposal document of some sort,” he told Newshub.

“Matt [McCarten] asked CTU to run the worker aspect of Campaign for Change on the 12th of May this year, but we declined.”

Note “the CTU was not involved as described”. That doesn’t rule out being involved, it leaves many possibilities.

The document describes “member recruitment contracts” with the Unite and First unions.

First Union:

Robert Reid, General Secretary of First Union, said it had not provided any funding: “There’d been discussions but no formal request.”

Unite Union:

Gerard Hehir, Secretary of Unite, said: “We had some discussions with Matt but there was no funding and no promises.”

Neither ruled out a contract or agreement for them to pay on recruitment results.

Despite Hehir’s statement there (that Newshub article was dated 23 June 2017) on the same day NZ Herald reported in Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who quotes Unite’s National Director Mike:

“Matt is ambitious, and where there is a will there is a way is often his attitude. He may have tried to reach too far in this case. We thought there were positives and are a little bit sorry to see it’s all fallen on its face.”

Treen said the union had taken part in the programme and planned to use the interns for a programme to enrol Unite members, but had not provided any direct funding.

So Unite and First both say there was no direct (up front) funding but Treen says Unite planned to use foreign students to recruit union members with the proceeds to be channelled into funding a Labour party election campaign.

Reid and Hehir may have been technically correct if they hadn’t yet handed over any money to Labour’s campaign.

This suggests a plan for unions to use foreign workers to recruit for them, with the bounty going to Labour, rather than using New Zealand workers earning wages for themselves.

Unite Union’s Mike Treen said unpaid interns were common around the world. “It’s stupid to call it ’employment.’ I know the difference between people being taken advantage of and volunteers and being looking to be political agents in the long term. It was probably a very useful experience for many.”

It may be common use to use unpaid interns to campaign for political parties, but is it common to use unpaid interns to work on union recruitment at the same time?

The document refers to Unite/First contracts to “recruit 800 additional members – $40,000”.  That’s $50 per recruited member.

This sounds like an odd campaign – targeting people trying to get them to vote for Labour and join a union at the same time.  It’s either just a crazy mixed up scheme, or it could be a way of trying disguise campaign donations to Labour as commission for services rendered – by foreign volunteers.

Andrew Little said “Somebody had an idea earlier this year that we could get some people down here from other parts of the world. It looks to me like it’s gotten wildly out of control and people have found they can’t manage it” – Intern scheme got ‘wildly out of control’ – Little.

McCarten’s plans as “fantasy world stuff” and an “embarrassment” – see McCarten may have left Labour in debt after intern scheme (27 June)

In this I think Little’s comments are credible. I can imagine he might have turned a blind eye to McCarten bringing in foreign interns to campaign for Labour, but I can’t imagine him or Labour’s head office agreeing to including union recruitment in the same scheme.

But the Labour Party in Auckland seems to have been very much involved in the scheme, possibly with some Little/Head Office plausible deniability distancing from  the machinations of the scheme.

Auckland Labour’s NZ Council representative Paul Chalmers (also with a union background) has “stood down” from his party responsibilities so the inference is that he was involved with McCarten and at least Treen on this.

A bad look for some Auckland unions and the Labour in Auckland at least.

There are plenty of questions still unanswered by Little and Kirton.

Balance in the Newsroom?

Newsroom have been praised for their investigative journalism after a series of revelations and articles on the Todd Barclay issue.

Questions have also been raised over their possible collusion with a dirty politics campaign, seemingly not just designed on damaging Todd Barclay.

After he has lost his political career over it the attention turned to Bill English, who was placed a very difficult position by drip fed Newsroom revelations. English was strongly criticised for not being open about things, but there was a confidential employment agreement involved, and also a secret recording that it would have been illegal to reveal existed let alone the contents.

There was the potential to bring down English, bring down the Government, and swing the election (that could still be a consequence).

It is very important that media holds power to account, and holds elected people and Governments to account. But media have power of their own, and that also needs to be held to account.

Newsroom are an Auckland based media organisation. They must have put considerable resources into a story about as far from Auckland as you can get, in Clutha-Southland.

There is a big contrast between their handling of the southern story and the other big political story of the past couple of weeks where it was important to hold another bunch of politicians to account – the Labour Party Fellowship/intern story. This is very much an Auckland story.

Newsroom is new and relatively small, so can’t be expected to cover every story in depth, but some balance should be expected.

Integrity and truthfulness of leading politicians were involved in both the Barclay and intern stories.

How did their coverage of the two stories compare?

On the National/Barclay Story:

  • Politicians, police, and the payout
  • Todd Barclay’s file of denial 19 June
  • Barclay payout raises questions over leader’s fund 19 June
  • Setbacks derail National’s election plan 23 June
  • Todd Barclay responds: ‘I did nothing wrong’
  • Barclay sorry for ‘misleading’ comments
  • Police to review Todd Barclay case
  • Privacy Commissioner may probe Barclay claims
  • Allegations Barclay invented complaints
  • Fall from grace for Baby of the House
  • How Barclay’s career went up in smoke
  • PM accused of cover-up
  • Hughes stonewalls Dickson questions
  • Barclay affair: What the board knew
  • English: Barclay offered to play rec
  • Officials knew details of Barclay tapes

On the Labour/intern story

  • Labour under fire over volunteer ‘hypocrisy’

No investigations on their own turf, no investigation about funding of the scheme, no questions about Andrew Little’s  integrity and truthfulness. Little slammed English’s morals while claiming the high ground over the interns, but media has barely touched on his lack of openness and on his varying and vague explanations.

Perhaps Newsroom are doing an in depth investigation and will publish soon.

Perhaps the Auckland Labour Party and the New Zealand Labour Party will still be held to account.

Labour’s minimum wage policy

Yesterday Labour announced their workplace policy which included a modest bump in the minimum wage, from the current $15.75 an hour to $16.50.

There has revived arguments over the effectiveness of a higher minimum wage.

Andrew Little says it is just a start.

Maori Television: Promise of minimum wage hike “a start” – Labour

It’s more of a stroll to the dairy than a hike.

The Labour Party promises a boost to the minimum wage as part of its Workplace Relations Package announced today. It says the working class is missing out on economic prosperity, but will $30 extra a week make a real difference?

Labour promises and extra 75-cents an hour, in its first 100 days if elected.

Party leader Andrew Little says, “It’s a start. We’ve still got a heap of work to do in getting people onto the living wage, we’ve got a heap of work to do to get our employment framework in place with the fair pay agreements and every other device we can use.”

Little says in addition to this Labour would increase the minimum wage year-on-year like it had done while in government.

“Starting with the immediate increase to $16.50 an hour in our first one hundred days [we would then] work towards a long term goal of two-thirds of the average wage.

But there is debate over what the overall effects of a higher minimum wage can be.

Chrism56 cites a new study from the US:

Here is proof of what will be the effect of Labour’s minimum wage policy – more unemployment.

Minimum Wage Increases, Wages, and Low-Wage Employment: Evidence from Seattle
Ekaterina Jardim, Mark C. Long, Robert Plotnick, Emma van Inwegen, Jacob Vigdor, Hilary Wething

NBER Working Paper No. 23532
Issued in June 2017

This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016.

Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent.

Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.

Washington Post: A ‘very credible’ new study on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals

When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they’d hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect.

The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They’ve cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found.

The costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one, according to the study, conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city.

On the whole, the study estimates, the average low-wage worker in the city lost $125 a month because of the hike in the minimum.

The paper’s conclusions contradict years of research on the minimum wage. Many past studies, by contrast, have found that the benefits of increases for low-wage workers exceed the costs in terms of reduced employment — often by a factor of four or five to one.

The situation in New Zealand is different to that in Seattle and the US. How a small increase would affect take home pay for low waged workers is difficult to predict.


‘Auckland Labour Party’ responsible for intern scheme

The ‘Auckland Labour Party’ has now been named by Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton as responsible along with Matt McCarten for the intern scheme.

Kirton has also said that “it started off as a Labour Party project”. So Kirton, and one would expect Labour’s leader Andrew Little, would have known more about the scheme than they have admitted.

When the Labour intern story broke it was obvious that Little and Kirton were not being open about what they knew about the scheme.

Little has said he had heard about the scheme as an idea at the start of the year, has admitted finding out it was running as an unapproved scheme in May, and he says he stepped in when they started getting complaints around Monday last week (but there are variations in that story too).

Matt McCarten quickly became the scapegoat. He was employed (by Parliamentary Services) to work for Andrew Little in Auckland, and no campaign work was allowed. However it is clear that McCarten has spent some time (months) working on the intern scheme aimed at campaigning for Labour.

The scheme was advertised overseas in February as a “Labour Party Fellowship”, with email addresses for contact. It became ”Movement for Change” in May and changed soon afterwards to “Campaign for Change”.  With McCarten leaving his Labour job it seems there was an attempt to distance the scheme from the party.

Little in particular has talked as though it was not a Labour Party scheme.

But that position was untenable. Other Labour Party people were connected with the scheme.

Earlier this week it was reported that Labour’s Auckland/Northland Representative on their NZ Council, Paul Chalmers, had stood down. Stuff on Tuesday (27 June): Two on Labour’s intern programme may have broken immigration rules as council member stands down:

Labour Leader Andrew Little on Tuesday said Paul Chalmers, who was connected with the scheme, had voluntarily stood down over the weekend “and he is not involved in the governing council of the party at this point”.

Chalmers is still named on Labour’s website as an Auckland/Northland representative.

Little said it was also possible the party would have to cover some of the costs of the plan masterminded by Little’s former chief of staff Matt McCarten, who more recently was Little’s Auckland organiser but stood down from that role in mid May when his contract ended and was not renewed.

An eight month contract terminated four months before the election seems odd.

Also on Tuesday in an RNZ interview Little’s story was starting to wobble over what he knew and who was responsible. From More details emerge of Labour’s intern scheme:

Suzy Ferguson: Are you saying you don’t know where this money’s coming from?

Little: I don’t know any details about the organisation of it apart from what we now know, I think 85 young people here staying on a marae, and helping out in various parts of the Auckland campaign. Beyond that I don’t know, I’m not sure if the party knows or knew at the time, and we’re in the process now of getting the detail about the organisation behind it.

Suzy Ferguson: …are you saying you don’t know where the thick end of two hundred grand has come from?

Little: Well, um, no one in the party is responsible for what Matt and others, and let’s be fair, it wasn’t Matt alone, there were at least four people involved in driving this, three on the party side…

Suzy Ferguson: …while this was being done Matt McCarten was in the pay of the Labour Party wasn’t he.

Little: Um, he was the, he was my, he was the director of the Auckland office, um, which is funded out of the Leader’s office, my office, um he was working for me (a) to open and run the office and (b) to run my Auckland programme, outreach programme.

Suzy Ferguson: Ok, so he’s working for you, but you’re saying you didn’t know what he was doing, you didn’t know about this?

Little: I didn’t know about this. I didn’t know the extent to which he was organising stuff.

That didn’t sound convincing.

Even more details emerged yesterday. Newshub ‘It’s not a good look’ – Labour fronts up on intern visa problems

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton told The AM Show it’s “not a good look,” but said as soon as he heard of the programme’s problems, he stepped in to sort it out.

“My team arrived on Tuesday to sort out this programme of Matt McCarten’s and the Auckland Labour Party.”

“It’s been a bit of an effort but we’re getting on top of it now. The young volunteers are now really excited to get out and learn about MMP environments across the country.

“It started off as a Labour Party project – not too dissimilar to what we’ve done in the past. The problem with this though was it was expanded out quite significantly by Matt McCarten with support from the Auckland Labour Party.

“[It] got out of control, the management got out of control, and that’s why we stepped in straight away.”

So after about a week of trying to distance Labour from the intern scheme Kirton has admitted that it was an “Auckland Labour Party” programme, along with McCarten who was effectively Little’s chief of staff in Auckland.

Little and Kirton appear to have been somewhat frugal with the truth over the last week.

They have either deliberately misled and lied about the extent of their knowledge of the scheme, or the Labour Party in Auckland and Little’s Auckland employee were running an unauthorised scheme without telling them anything about it and without them finding out about it until last week. Or the week before. Or in May, depending on which explanation you listen to.

A number of Labour’s Auckland MPs and candidates have been involved with the interns in their campaigning – seeLinks between interns and Labour from April.

Alongside Little’s claimed lack of knowledge of the scheme it is also curious that deputy leader Jacinda Ardern, Auckland based and with a special interest in young people and getting them out to vote, seems to also have had no knowledge of an international and local student get out the vote campaign in her own city.

Labour still have major questions to answer about who the mysterious anonymous donor was, and why McCarten and possible other Labour staffers were running a campaign scheme when their employment terms didn’t allow that.


Has this Actually Been Andrew Little’s Best Week as Leader?

Guest post by TRP

I’d happily concede that the amateurish intern scheme cockup would have been just another Labour Party mess of the kind we on the left have regularly endured since Helen Clark said cheerio in 2008.

Except … it’s not.

It’s actually been Andrew Little’s finest moment since taking the reins.

Let me explain my thinking.

Andrew is a calm, organised man. His legal training and methodical management method obviously determined that the best option was to front foot it, accept responsibility and clean the mess up.

Now, that approach alone would not normally have been enough to divert the derision.

But Andrew had an ace up his sleeve.

He just had to deal with the matter by watching Bill English and doing the exact opposite of everything the Double Dipper from Dipton did.

Instead of drip feeding information, Andrew was up front and honest.

Instead of hiding behind a supposed confidentiality agreement, a long-finished Police enquiry, a brand new Police enquiry, a failed memory, mumble, mumble … privacy issues … it was all a long time ago … young man learning the ropes etc etc … the leader of the Labour Party took control of the embarrassing situation he found himself in and quietly diffused it.

In two words, Andrew Little looked Prime Ministerial.

The leader of the National Party? Not so much.

Bill English (or #CrookedBillary as I’d like to think twitter calls him) looks like a rabbit in the headlights.

English must be wondering now if he’s going to go down in history as the first National Party leader to lose two elections. Ok, it won’t be the 22% drubbing of 2002, but it’s still going to hurt.

In short, in the last week, the NZ voters got to see both candidates for Prime Minister behave under extreme pressure. One cracked, the other turned a lump of organisational coal into an electoral diamond.

This has been Andrew Little’s best week as leader just because, in comparison with bumbling Bill, he looked calm and competent.

Bill English has huffed, puffed and perspired through the last week. Andrew Little has shown he’s got what it takes … no muss, no fuss.

I’m calling the election now. Stick a fork in it, she’s done.

More details emerge of Labour’s intern scheme

Media paid attention to Labour’s intern scheme yesterday and eked out some more details from Andrew Little. There are still a number of gaps in information and credibility.

The key issues are where was the money, if there was any, who was responsible, and how this happened under Andrew Little’s nose. And did it also happen without deputy leader Jacinda Ardern being aware?

She is Labour’s most prominent Labour M with a special interest in young people and getting them out to vote, exactly what the scheme was designed to do.

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.

Mr Little admitted today that Mr McCarten, one the scheme’s organisers, might not have the funding he had claimed and that the party would have to pick up the bills.

Internal documents obtained by Newshub show that Mr McCarten claimed to have over $100,000 funding from unions.

The unions named have all denied this, raising questions about where Mr McCarten got his money from.

There has been talk of a substantial private donor but no amount has been revealed. If it was over $30,000 then Labour have a responsibility to identify the donor. That could be awkward, especially if the aim was to finance things on the sly to try to sneak around electoral law.

While it sounds like debts have stacked up some money must have already been required.Was this handled through Little’s Auckland office? Or through the Labour Party Auckland branch?

Following McCarten being thrown under a bus – Cosgrove bus follows Labour over McCarten – the Auckland Representative on Labour’s NZ Council, Paul Chalmers has “stepped down”:

He said a senior Labour council member, Paul Chalmers, stepped down over the weekend because of his connection to the scheme and there would be an internal investigation.

Chalmers has a union background (like McCarten) and has also been campaign manager for Jacinda Ardern.

He featured in this from February 2016: Revealed: 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.

So Chalmers was already on notice, as was Little and the Labour Party.

Andrew Little was aware of the idea of the intern scheme in January but says he told McCarten then that it had to be a party campaign thing. He then says he found out about the unauthorised scheme in May and said “this is not the party thing”.

Little would have us believe even though his Auckland organiser McCarten was operating a scheme in Labour’s name purportedly without Little’s knowledge, and in breach of Parliamentary staffing rules, did nothing about it until some students complained about their accommodation last week.

And where does Jacinda Ardern stand in all of this? She has been a strong promoter of young people vote.

Just last week in The Spinoff:  Chlöe and Jacinda go back to school

Arden flattered them. “You’re the most powerful voters,” she said. “The 18-24-year-old age group, it’s the most powerful because it votes the least. Did you know there were 125,000 young people registered to vote last time, who didn’t show up. If you all vote this time, the impact will be enormous. You change the government on your own.”

So it’s hard to believe that a student get out the vote campaign being organised by Ardern’s campaign manager and Auckland’s representative on Labour’s NZ Council would not at least have said something about the scheme to Ardern. Other Auckland MPs and candidates were involved with the scheme.

And back to Little’s claims of knowing nothing about what McCarten and Chalmers and the interns were up to.

RNZ: Labour’s intern programme wasn’t authorised by party

The Labour leader says he wasn’t aware an internship programme to help with the election campaign had gone ahead as it wasn’t authorised by the party.

The party’s leader, Andrew Little, told Morning Report he had been left in the dark.

“This isn’t something that has been sanctioned or approved or authorised in any way by the party organisation.

“I think what we all discovered last week when the party got the complaints, [and] the rest of us got involved trying to sort it out, is there’s a whole heap of details we’re just trying to work out,” Mr Little said.

How could he not have known something about it? He has admitted knowing an unauthorised scheme was operating in May so his claim defies belief.

Suzy Ferguson: Are you saying you don’t know where this money’s coming from?

Little: I don’t know any details about the organisation of it apart from what we now know, I think 85 young people here staying on a marae, and helping out in various parts of the Auckland campaign. Beyond that I don’t know, I’m not sure if the party knows or knew at the time, and we’re in the process now of getting the detail about the organisation behind it.

Suzy Ferguson: …are you saying you don’t know where the thick end of two hundred grand has come from?

Little: Well, um, no one in the party is responsible for what Matt and others, and let’s be fair, it wasn’t Matt alone, there were at least four people involved in driving this, three on the party side…

Little wouldn’t say, but McCarten, Chalmers and one other presumably.

Suzy Ferguson: …while this was being done Matt McCarten was in the pay of the Labour Party wasn’t he.

Little: Um, he was the, he was my, he was the director of the Auckland office, um, which is funded out of the Leader’s office, my office, um he was working for me (a) to open and run the office and (b) to run my Auckland programme, outreach programme.

Suzy Ferguson: Ok, so he’s working for you, but you’re saying you didn’t know what he was doing, you didn’t know about this?

Little: I didn’t know about this. I didn’t know the extent to which he was organising stuff. I mean he doesn’t work for me 24 hours a day. He he has a job to manage, put together my programme when I’m up there every week, and arrange the visits that I do, um he does that.

Suzy Ferguson: But is it his job to put this kind of thing together though, when he’s working for you?

Little: No.

Suzy Ferguson:When he’s being paid for by taxpayer money?

Little: No he’s not. When he first floated the idea to me at the beginning of the year of an internship programme I said to him then that’s a party issue, that’s a campaign issue, that has to be dealt with by the party. Um, I was not aware that he was involved in ah dealing with this.

McCarten floated the idea to little at the start of the year, was effectively told he couldn’t do it but went ahead anyway without saying any more about it to Little?

Little: Um now he can deal with this stuff in his own time, as I say he doesn’t work for me 24 hours a day…

Moonlighting on a Labour labelled scheme alongside Labour people seems remarkable for someone in McCarten’s position.

Suzy Ferguson: But is it clear he did do this in his own time, or was he doing this while he was being paid by the tax payer?

Little: Well I certainly wasn’t aware of him being involved in this in the times that I was in the Auckland office and he was with me as I was going about my sort of Auckland visits and programmes.

Suzy Ferguson: Why do you think this was kept from you by someone who’s essentially your Chief of Staff in Auckland?

Little: well, um, I go back to the fact that this this wasn’t anything, this programme or project wasn’t authorised by the party at all. It wasn’t part of any formal party organisation.

Suzy Ferguson: Would you not expect that he would talk to you about this kind of thing though, because otherwise it ends up coming out in a pretty surprising sort of fashion, I mean in terms of a no surprises thing wouldn’t you expect ‘oh by the way, you know in my own time, in the evenings whatever I’m doing this?

If it was as Little stated it was a remarkable situation for his main man in Auckland not to speak to him about a significant campaign project.

Little: Um yes I don’t keep a track of everything he’s doing in his own time. I think the fact that this was, if that document was to be believed about anything at all, he was clearly considering involving unions in all this, it wasn’t just a party thing…

“Wasn’t just a party thing” – but it was in part a party thing?

…so he, it looks to me like he, and whoever else was involved with him, was embarking on a project that that wasn’t just a party thing, so he was going beyond that.

So he doesn’t tell me absolutely everything he does, I’m not sure I want to know…

Sounds a bit like plausible deniability.

…I certainly wasn’t aware um this project was being organised in the way that it was, and was as advanced as far as it was before we got notified of the problems with it.

Little let a few things slip especially towards the end of the interview.

“I didn’t know about this. I didn’t know the extent to which he was organising stuff”.

He didn’t know at all, or not to the extent it was organised?

“So he doesn’t tell me absolutely everything he does, I’m not sure I want to know”.

This sounds like a nudge nudge, wink wink sort of arrangement. Little obviously knew if McCarten worked on Labour’s campaign it would breach Parliamentary rules. Did he turn a blind eye deliberately>

And it got out of control, with the unions and McCarten overreaching when they tried to push Labour policy left as well as run the intern scheme?

Little almost certainly is being frugal with the truth here.

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’:


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