Andrew Little’s leader’s office appointments

The leadership roles in Andrew Little’s office have been confirmed.

  • Chief of Staff: Matt McCarten
  • Political Director: Neale Jones
  • Director of Media and Communications: Sarah Stuart
  • Director of Research and Policy: Martin Taylor

McCarten’s background is well known, both political and union. His appointment by David Cunliffe last year raised a few eyebrows as he had close associations with Mana. His re-appointment by Little also surprised some.

Neale Jones also has a union background, he is ex comminucations manager for EPMU, the union Little used to head before switching to Parliament. Martyn Bradbury on Jones in 2013:

Cunliffe’s new head of communications is likely to be Neil Jones, currently doing a similar job for the Engineering, Publishing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU). Jones has been out of the country for the last few years, working on a contract basis for a number of progressive, campaigning NGOs. Also in his early 30s, he is highly thought of by his peers in the trade unions who describe him variously as “really on to it” and “an impressive guy”.

(Neale) Jones was appointed by Cunliffe as head of communications. This is a different role for him.

Last year Josie Pagani named Jones as a Labour staffer who blogged at The Standard but that hasn’t been confirmed (or specifically denied as far as I’m aware). It would be surprising if Little allowed staff to blog anonymously directly but it would be normaly for the communications directory to communicate with bloggers as well as journalists.

David Farrar on Sarah Stuart in Labour’s new chief press secretary.

Sarah is a former Deputy Editor of the Herald on Sunday, during its start up phase when it went from no customers to winning many awards. Since then she went on to be managing editor of the APN regional and community papers and then two years editing NZ Woman’s Weekly. She has a formidable media background, as both a journalist and an editor.

I think this is a strong appointment for Labour. Her background in both hard and soft news will be useful as they try to get Little’s brand set as a positive one. She should also be able to manage relations well with the press gallery. I’ve not had any dealings with Sarah for many years, but all my experiences has been she is very pleasant and likeable (which helps in dealing with a diverse caucus).

Social media may be a challenge for her, but that is what you have staff for.

On Martin Taylor from Hamish Rutherford at Stuff.

From time to time political parties are accused of giving plum jobs to party faithful, but it appears Labour has not done so in its appointment of new research director, Martin Taylor.

True, Taylor (according to Beehive people) used to work in the office of former Attorney-General and Labour Minister Margaret Wilson, but since then, Taylor has been been chief executive of the Aged Care Association. A carer of the elderly he may be, but he is not an obvious supporter of the union movement.

Check out this release from Taylor in 2011:

“The Labour Party’s Aged Care policy released today by Steve Chadwick has ignored the findings of a 2010 national review into the Aged Care sector and instead proposes policies they rejected themselves when in Government. The policy also mirrors the Nurses’ union ‘Aged Care Charter’ released to Parliament today and which also ignores the critical issues facing the sector.”

Weeks later Taylor wrote that both Labour and National were in a “state of denial” over the issues facing the aged care sector.

Last year the Aged Care Association issued a series of statements warning about the implications of the Kristine Bartlett vs. Terranova Homes and Care Ltd case (a test case for aged care workers fighting for higher wages.

“For the aged care sector it is a big concern. The majority of the sector is standalone SMEs or not-for-profit providers, and they will not be able to survive if caregiver wages increase by 15 per cent without a supporting increase in government funding,” Taylor said.

Admittedly, Taylor said in another statement on the case that the organisation acknowledged that “caregiver wages are too low” as it pushed for the government to increase the amount it paid aged care providers.

That’s an interesting appointment in an office with strong union representation.

Farrar on the team:

Little has also confirmed former EPMU staffer Neale Jones as the party’s political director in Parliament and Martin Taylor as their research director. A good staff team don’t win you an election (the leader does that), but a non performing team can stop you winning. Little’s picks are looking quite sound.