Brian Edwards Media

A Dissenting View on Chris Carter’s Expulsion from the Labour Party

In May 1996, six months out from a general election, the New Zealand Labour Party was in dire straits. Its poll ratings were in the low teens, while its leader’s ratings as preferred prime minister were around what is generally referred to as ‘the margin of error’.

In the same month Helen Clark received a delegation which she recalls as having included Phil Goff, Michael Cullen, Annette King, Koro Wetere and Jim Sutton.

“These people had rushed around the caucus counting numbers and then decided they’d come and confront me and ask me to stand down, and say there was a majority who wanted that to happen. And the line was, you’re a nice person, blah, blah, blah, but you can’t win the election and we don’t want to have to challenge you directly at the caucus, so it would just be better if you resigned. And I said to them, “Well, if you want a change of leader, you’re going to have to go into the caucus and move a motion.”’ 

The plotters declined to take that course of action. Clark’s decision to call their  bluff was not because she was certain she had the numbers, but because she knew that there was no-one capable of taking her place. Twelve years later there was still no-one capable of taking her place. Fourteen years later Labour is polling significantly better than in  was in May 1996, but its leader is languishing on single figures as preferred Prime Minister, while his predecessor, a non-candidate, still has support for the job.

In the interim, Helen Clark would keep the Labour Party in office for an unprecedented nine years. I’m uncertain which of the coup leaders had ambitions to wrest the leadership from her in 1996, but I’m willing to give  odds that, had he or she been successful, neither would be able to lay claim to that record today.

Even more interesting than the remarkable similarity between the situation in 1996 and 2010 – Labour miles behind National in the polls and its leader more than 40 points behind John Key as preferred prime minister – is the way Clark dealt with the mutineers in her party. Far from demoting or exiling them, she not merely brought them in, she promoted them as well. Better, as Lyndon Johnson observed, to have one’s opponents inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.  

It’s unlikely that Phil Goff and Chris Carter would ever have been great mates. Goff was on the conservative right of the party, Carter on the liberal left. And their personalities could not be more different – Goff serious, contained, rather stiff; Carter flamboyant, hedonistic, erratic.

Against that there is Labour Party President, Andrew Little’s summation of Carter’s contribution to the party: ‘An MP, a member of the party who has given extraordinary service, risen to very high ranks in Cabinet, has been an outstanding minister for Labour in government’. 

It’s perhaps worth looking back at what happened to this ‘outstanding minister for Labour in government’.

During his career as a Minister in the Labour Cabinet, Carter made numerous overseas trips. He took his partner, Peter Kaiser, with him on many of these trips. All of the trips were signed off by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of which Phil Goff was a member. Nothing that Carter did was against the rules. Nor was it unusual for Government Ministers from any party to take their partners with them when travelling overseas. Carter did, however, rack up thousands of dollars on his ministerial credit card for, inter alia, helicopter flights to tropical resorts, massages and spa treatments, and buying flowers for Peter.  He subsequently repaid the money.

The release of figures detailing the amounts spent on travel and credit card charges by  cabinet ministers in both the Clark and Key administrations had led to something of a public and media witch-hunt for the worst offenders. Carter was undoubtedly up there, but he was not alone. Yet, for some reason, the spotlight of blame seemed to shine most fiercely on him.

The commonest reason given for this was that Carter had displayed and was continuing to display ‘an attitude of  entitlement’ towards his ministerial spending and was reluctant to apologise.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to consider the real worth of the apology tsunami which has characterised public life in recent years, from sportsmen to entertainers to politicians. The reality is that most, if not all of these apologies, have been both insincere and self-serving. The prime reason for the apology has not been any genuine sense of regret, but to minimise damage to the careers of those who made them, frequently not voluntarily but under duress. In almost all cases, the sense of regret which the apologisers now claimed to be feeling resulted from being found out. Their consciences had clearly not troubled them at the time. Viewed in that light, refusing to apologise for something you really aren’t sorry for can be seen as the more principled position.

Carter, along with Shane Jones and Mita Ririnui, was subsequently demoted by Goff. He was taken off the front bench and lost Foreign Affairs. Noting that Carter’s lifelong ambition had been to hold that portfolio, Goff described this as ‘a severe sanction’. Referring to Carter’s spending on his ministerial credit card, he said:

‘These items by themselves might not warrant the removal of his portfolio responsibility. But they are seen against the background of public controversy over the frequency and the cost of his ministerial visits, often accompanied by his partner.’

The ‘severe sanction’ which he had imposed on Carter was therefore not for his overspending as such, but for the public controversy which the media had whipped up around it. It is not without significance that Goff thought it prudent to include the words ‘often accompanied by his partner.’

But the ‘severe sanction’ was not to be enough. Though he accepted that a written apology which he had received from Carter was genuine, Goff insisted that, after he returned from stress leave, largely the result of having been hounded by  a   posse of journalists, Carter should front the media again to explain his position and offer ‘a genuine apology’ to the public.  

In a post at the time I wrote:

‘The biggest news story in New Zealand at the moment is the good news story about the All Whites’ stunning performances in South Africa. The country is in a feel-good mood and the ministerial expenses issue has faded in the print media and been largely absent from our television screens for a few days. Goff ought to be breathing a sigh of relief, more especially since his disciplining of Carter, which the pundits said would win  him brownie points, has had no positive effect on his personal ratings as preferred Prime Minister… Leaving aside the fairness or unfairness of this latest demand, it is, in political and PR terms, sheer nuts. A dying issue has been brought back to life.’

Goff did not take that view.   Carter was therefore compelled to abase himself before his media tormentors and the country. I cannot think of a more humiliating experience  for any public figure to be forced to endure.

It was, in my submission, that experience which pushed him over the edge and led him to take the kamikaze action that followed.  His ousting from the parliamentary Labour Party was then inevitable.

So what was this really all about? It was about the leader of a political party, unable to gain traction with the voting public, facing almost certain defeat at the next election, suddenly given a unique opportunity to display that characteristic which we most admire in our political masters – toughness.

None of it was necessary. Some of Goff’s former cabinet colleagues had been a bit free with their credit cards, but did anyone really think the last  lot had been any different when they were in office a decade earlier, or would have been any different now, if the ministerial expenses shit had not hit the fan? There was already evidence that they would not.  A decent ticking off and a stern warning about the consequences of reoffending would have been enough.

But Goff saw the potential for electoral gain in all this through decisive action. Let the macho posturing begin. It began with his announcement of the demotion of the three offending ministers. And it is still going on today.

Clark was also a tough leader and it’s interesting to speculate how she would have dealt with the release of the figures detailing the excessive credit card spending of three of her ministers.  My guess is that they’d have received a very public telling off and been required to refund the over-spent amounts. When I was writing  Helen – Portrait of a Prime Minister,  I suggested to her that it was surprising that she had taken such an inclusive line with the coup leaders, she replied: ‘It’s just practical. When you’re talking of someone like Phil Goff, you’re talking of people with very considerable ability. And if you were to take an exclusive approach , you wouldn’t last long.’

David Lange observed: ‘She handled it in a way which was most original, quite novel in my experience of the Labour Party.  She promoted her enemies and put them on the front bench and that was quite extraordinary.’

That said, whatever led to it, I accept that the ‘anonymous letter episode’ was sufficient grounds for the Labour caucus to vote for Carter’s expulsion from the parliamentary party. But was it really necessary to expel, in Andrew Little’s words,  ‘an MP, a member of the party who has given extraordinary service, risen to very high ranks in Cabinet, has been an outstanding minister for Labour in government’ from membership of the Labour Party as a whole? I would have thought not. I would have thought it was gratuitous, small-minded, mean-spirited, petty. I would have thought this once great party, which I have supported for most of my adult life, would have been bigger than that. But it isn’t.

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  1. How on earth did it come to this?

    What ever happened to those powerful words,
    “I am so sorry. Is there someway we can work this out together?”

  2. A fair and balanced analysis, which is a rare thing in the media.

    The thing is, anyone should be able to see that Phil Goff is not the right leader for Labour (certainly any member of the public other than the 8% or less who support him).

    Carter made a massive blunder in the way he went about his intent to create a change of leadership (and you have well ascribed the motive and traits of character that explain why he went so exceedingly wrong).

    The unfortunate consequence (apart from those for Carter) is that Labour may find it all the more difficult to make the changes required to get a fresh leader New Zealanders will support.

  3. In the interim, Helen Clark would keep the Labour Party in office for an unprecedented nine years.

    Just a little nit pick Brian. Labour was also continuously in power from 1935 to 1949.

    I concede there were two leaders during those years, but Fraser, who followed Savage, was prime minister from March 27 1940 to December 13 1949, which was a few months’ longer than Helen Clark’s December 5 1999 to November 19 2008.

  4. I have made it abundantly clear that I have no time for Carter, but I have to agree that expulsion on top of all the other humiliations was unnecessary. Whatever he may have done he could at least have been left with one shred of dignity. I do not think this makes Goff look any stronger; it just makes him look vindictive and weak; out to exact his pound of flesh. A strong person, once Carter had withdrawn his candidature, would have said, “that’s enough” and he would have been widely applauded had he done so.

    Sorry, Phil but in my eyes at least you are a weakling.

  5. I do feel chris carter was leaned on because phil goff had to appear tough. that being said though,here was a cabinet minister no less who appears bereft of that most uncommon of virtues,common sense.what are the rest of them like?
    cannot give him the gold in the delhi commonwealth games absurdity event,though (are you aware there is such an event??)
    paul henry finished too well,and the gold is his.
    P.S. whoops! sorry…paul has to settle for silver.I have just learned of te papa”s latest nonsense re pregnant women etc.
    that”s got to be gold !

  6. Brian, this is a considered alternative and I agree it may have been possible to keep Chris in the party at some point. However, and I too am a member, I an very disturbed that during the discussions last night Chris suggested he would misuse personal information about MPs if he was expelled. That quite serious threat, on top of the insanity of the leak to the Press, makes it very difficult to see past the credit card matters.

  7. Sick of all the media triva + rubbish in the headlines at the moment!. Can we turn the page please!

  8. Brian, why is my comment still awaiting moderation???

    • Brian, why is my comment still awaiting moderation???

      Because I have a life, Ben, beyond sitting at my computer waiting to moderate comments. As it happens, first time comments require moderation on this site. From now on your comments will appear automatically.

  9. I think you make a good argument for Chris, Brian.
    I do wonder why suspension as in the John Kirk case was not used rather than expulsion. Of course that was before the brain fart blckmailing attempt

    Serious question though, just what did Chris do that allows Andrew Little to say “Who has given extraordinary service, risen to very high ranks in Cabinet, has been an outstanding minister for Labour in government’
    A google search bring up nothing outstanding

  10. I agree with your point that it makes tactical sense to keep your enemies close/inside the tent, but really, Carter brought this on himself.

    I don’t think he was kicked out of the party for the inept letter to the press gallery, but for how he handled himself afterwards. Had he swallowed the dead rat required of him and just STFU, I suspect he would still be in the Party.

    What did he do? Whenever the issue died down, he brought it up in the media again. Everytime something looked to be going right for Labour/Goff or wrong for National, along came Carter, seeking attention and claiming how hard done by he was. It became a running joke. And now he is threatening to keep the thing going, right on the eve of the Labour conference this weekend, be hinting he might reveal the names of co-conspirators.

    What has Shane Jones done since his demotion? I have no idea, and that’s a good thing for Jones. By keeping a dignified low profile, he is paving the way for a comeback.

  11. I agree with you Brian that the second forced apology was completely unnecessary, and utterly humiliating for Carter. His threat last night to reveal personal information about Labour’s members, and the fact that he is still grinding a large axe about the way he has been treated, shows just how dangerous he is now to the Labour Party. Perhaps they should have given him a wee bit of hope of making his way back into the fold, rather than rejecting him outright. His actions with the anonymous letter show a worrying loss of control under stress, so I hope those closest to him are giving him lots of support right now.

  12. I think it was you that asked him something along the lines of would he have done it if Phil Goff hadn’t demoted him – and the answer was no he wouldn’t have? Perceptive question.

    So I see him as more concerned with himself and what he personally gets and much less concerned about the Labour party, its principles and the quality of its leader.

    It seems like he would like to bring the Labour party down in his quest for vengeance – again it says to me he is more interested in the personal than the principle.

  13. I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Labour has done itself a disservice by appearing so vindictive, and one wonders what awaits our electoral fortunes with Goff so firmly at the helm.

  14. Brian,
    thanks for the insights. Your comments seem fair.

    Carter is a sacrificial lamb and the sacrifice was done with a blunt knife…

    He’s still flopping round in a pool of blood in the paddock…threatening to survive as some sort of Peter Jackson zombie.

    We all know he’s going to come crashing thru Goffs front door at the most inopportune time…Phil, you’d better make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel in your motor mower.

  15. I have to ask again; where is Merv? His views may not have always been popular but they were entertaining. I hope you have not red carded him, Mr Edwards.

    Come out of hiding, Merv!

  16. Yes similarities there are with 1996 but there are a greater number of differences. The prime ones relate to the basic requirements of a good Labour MP.
    Being a good team player
    Understanding the ‘Greater Good’ is essential
    and of course political perception skills
    [these are just some of the required assets]

    It might be a case that when historians review the Clark years that despite her talent and obvious gifts to New Zealand, she
    promoted some MP’s above their level of ability.
    I think that Chris Carter is displaying many characteristics that
    put him into that camp. Dorothy.

    • It might be a case that when historians review the Clark years that despite her talent and obvious gifts to New Zealand, she promoted some MP’s above their level of ability.
      I think that Chris Carter is displaying many characteristics that put him into that camp. Dorothy.

      No, I don’t think that’s right, Dorothy. There is general agreement that Chris was a very good Minister of Education. What he is displaying now are the symptoms of being pushed too far. And I agree it hasn’t been great. As I’ve said in a ocuple of media appearances, he needs to stop talking now.

  17. I agree with your summation and Helen Clark’s philosophy in this matter.Perhaps Phil Goff is suffering a little agrophobia.National should be wallowing at the moment(Keys PH gaff,Preschool education cuts,Gst increase,)yet everytime Labour hands them a free pass!

  18. Agree with Mr Francis: Mr Carter was a reasonably good Minister of Education (tho’ how much of that was due to his officials?), and probably a good electorate MP, but I fear Mr Little is being overly charitable.
    From his behaviour there is no way Carter could have handled being Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    I would have suggested that Carter stand down at the next election, but would not have agreed to his expulsion from the Party (remembering the hoo-ha over the Lee expulsion).
    But there is one thing which would have decided me for expulsion – his reported clumsy attempts at blackmail. Would Helen have put up with that?

  19. A tragedy.
    A hardworking and loyal Labour Party member, perhaps too loyal as he put the interests of the party before his own livelyhood and unfortunatly paid the price for it, he was betrayed plain and simple.

    Lets get this straight, there is no doubt in anyones mind that Chris Carter wanted the Labour Party to win the next election. He like every other human being with a ounce of common sense saw that this would not happen with phil goff as party leader.
    So he took on the situation himself and tried to turn it around by outlineing this problem so that phil goff could be replaced.
    The strange thing is he gets punished by the Labour Party for this – for attempting to fix the problem they were facing, for highlighting what was wrong and how it could be sorted out.
    Should he have not spoken up ? Should have let the Labour Party lose by a landslide under phil goff ?
    Surely if he failed to stand up for his beliefs he would be disloyal to the Party ?
    Instead for trying to help he is accused of being disloyal ?
    How does this make sense ?
    By loyaly of course I mean to the Labour Party, not phil goff, the Labour Party is more important than one man, and one man should not be allowed to destroy it by refusing to step down from its leadership, there is more at stake here than petty politics which phil goff and those that voted against Chris Carter seem to realise.
    A tragedy

  20. Whatever talents Carter had as a Minister are not at issue (for me at least). I’m worried that Labour avoids a prolonged and divisive internal row that’ll help no one – not Carter, not Goff, not any other caucus or party member – except the PM. Giving the PM the opportunity to talk up internal disagreements will limit next year’s campaign (not least of all since Key’s shown he lacks critical judgment).

    It’s not three years since Helen left the leadership having resolved the disputation that spoiled the election in 1996. Let’s not return to those old divisions.

  21. “I have to ask again; where is Merv?”

    He’s lying in an induced comma somewhere…

    Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

  22. Very nice, Don

  23. I would not put too much emphasis on the Little eulogy either. It’s entirely predictable, basically inevitable that those who brutally end a political career eulogise the victim even as the still warm body is being dragged away. Witness Julia Gillard’s crocodile tears over Kevin Rudd just months ago.

    I feel a little sorry for Carter, he wears his heart on his sleeve to an extraordinary degree and you’d have to be pretty cold hearted to not feel any sympathy for someone who is obviously suffering horribly. Having said that, his behaviour has been increasingly bizarre. In particular, by effectively threatening to pull skeletons out of the cupboard I’m not sure he left the Labour leadership much choice in the matter. You need to effectively call a blackmailer’s bluff and take one clean hit rather than allow ongoing agony.

    I also think that Carter absolutely owed the electorate an apology for his excesses, and it speaks poorly of his judgement and character if he continues to be in denial of that.

    Finally, it’s not so obvious to me that Phil Goff can’t possibly win the next election anyway. I think Carter was/is being self serving by insisting that this an obvious truth. One of the
    realities of MMP is that uncertainty and frailty is effectively baked into the equation. Key has an obvious problem with his support partners. In retrospect courting the Maori party after the previous election has turned out to be a brilliant move (remember that it was a surprise at the time that had many scratching their heads). But still, his position is too fragile for any real comfort, and this represents an opportunity for Labour as long as they can avoid totally self destructing.

    • I would not put too much emphasis on the Little eulogy either.

      I agree with pretty well all of that, Bill. But not that he “owed the electorate an apology”. As I suggested in the post, we’ve really gone nuts with this apologising business. Few if any of these apologies are sincere.

  24. Sans loyalists, we must all acknowledge Goff ain’t got it. Without doubt he is praying for a 2-dip recession and by default he may have a midges chance of inseminating the butterfly. But please, would charisma plus ability minus overt popularism please make him/her self known. I fear Carter has done us all a favour by exposing Goff as the non-event he is.

  25. By November 2011, Chris Carter will have been completely forgotten about, unless he wishes to be a nuisance to Labour during an election campaign. Phil Goff has had to deal with the near perfect storm during the National governments first 18 months in office – a belt tightening recession, the media who have been prepared to give a new government and Prime Minister some leeway and middle New Zealand who want to forget as much as they can about some of the wierd policies of the Greens from the last 9 years. At this stage there is no one with real charisma who stands out for labour that is a threat to Goff in the lead up to the 2011 election.

  26. I fear that Chris Carter has not done anyone a favour, least of all
    What I observe from Phil Goff is that he has ability and experience, is energetic, keeps his focus on what needs to be done, and maintains his optimism despite all the naysayers Tap and Hum
    [ whoever you are!]
    Helen Clark was regularly dismissed as lacking charisma [what ever it is to you] before she became Prime Minister but she proved that she was a leader with ability and her contribution was very significant. New Zealanders will want a leader with ability again.

    • Helen Clark was regularly dismissed as lacking charisma [what ever it is to you] before she became Prime Minister

      From the Greek. I think the original meaning was a gift from the gods, a grace or favour. There are different types of charisma, a commanding quality which draws admiration. There’s “smooth charisma” (Bill Clinton, Tony Blair). Helen certainly didn’t have that, but she sid have a commanding presence and she was wonderful with people face to face.

  27. Looking ahead it’s very early days but Kris Fa’afoi is a future Labour leader. He’ll win Mana hands down, then give him a couple of terms and he’ll be a serious contender.

  28. I do wish Carter would just shut up. His constant bleating is causing any sympathy I may have felt to evaporate.

    I also have contempt for anyone who ‘threatens to tell all’ but will not back up their innuendo.

    I find it hard to understand why Helen Clark had any time for this hysterical creature.

  29. It’s not that Goff lacks charisma, it’s that he has its polar opposite charisn’tma. He reminds me of the line once used about a British politician (John major, from memory) by a rival (Austin Mitchell, I think) who said: “An empty taxi pulled up outside the House of Commons and John Major got out.”

    Whereas Helen Clark had a genuine personality (whether you liked her or not) and a real authority, Goff seems to be mere filler, unable to manage populism, pragmatism or idealism. He comes across as an empty vessel.

  30. Oh hang on, that empty taxi quote was by Churchill about Atlee. Sorry ’bout that.

  31. I agree that we’ve gone nuts with this apologising business, and that few if any of these apologies are sincere. But some apologies were definitely due, and I think Carter was right up there. When an apology is owed, it’s a pity if it’s not delivered. And it’s also a pity if it is delivered but is insincere.

  32. Helen Clarke’s charisma…

    I had the pleasure of meeting her once in an office full of cynical mostly conservative journalists. She filled the crowded room with a charm that shocked everyone there.

    Phil Goff’s charisma…
    I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Goff when he addressed a bunch of disinterested council labourers…he had the charm of a Cyberman…a malfunctioning smiling Cyberman.

    I gotta say I feel sorry for him – cos you’ve either got it or you haven’t. I don’t think it’s anything media training or hours in front of a mirror can fix…and I’m sure his minders have tried.

  33. Yep, I’d agree that the ministerial spending “scandal” was something of a media beat-up. Interestingly, there were clear signs of public fatigue with the issue once the media moved on to detailing (in ever more pathetic minutiae) the credit card spending of various Mayors and local body councillors.

    The most tragically pathetic involved Palmerston North Mayor, Jono Naylor, having to defend buying a cheap $10 baseball cap on his mayoral credit card by desperately telling the reporter that he only wore it on strictly official occassions. The poor bloke obviously thought his re-election chances were now hanging by a thread and depended entirely on whether or not he’d worn the cap informally. Commentators were apparently evenly divided over the electoral consequences of a more ambiguous situation: for example, if say a nextdoor-neighbour had witnessed Naylor putting the cap on his head on an entirely informal occassion in his backyard, before changing his mind just before it reached his head and putting it back down on the picnic table. Some pundits felt that the mere intention – the malice of forethought – would have been enough to destroy his election chances, while others argued that those crucial second thoughts (and the fact that the cap never quite touched his hair) would have placated most Palmerston North voters.

    I was in the UK for most of the first half of 2009 – a time when the UK Parliamentary spending scandal was in full rage. I get the feeling the New Zealand media’s eyes lit up as they watched from afar (like kids in a sweet shop), juicy scandal, more viewers, more newspaper sales…

    @ Aroha: Labour’s Fa’afoi “will win Mana hands down.”

    Here, Aroha, you’ve hit on a sore point with me. As a Lab supporter and Mana voter, I’m a little concerned about complacency and triumphalism, especially given the media’s utter nonsense that Mana is one of the great Labour strongholds.

    The reality is that:
    – two-thirds of current Electorate MPs actually have majorities larger than Winnie Laban’s (Lab) 6155.
    – Of Laban’s 6155 majority, 4452 votes were cast by people who split their vote (including 1757 Green Party voters, 1091 Nat voters, 695 NZ First voters and 909 minor-party voters). Without the luxury of two votes, it’s not entirely beyond reason that these 4452 could return to their preferred Party in the (one-vote) by-election (for example, the 1757 Greens voting for the Green candidate rather than Fa’afoi and so on). Arguably, then, the Party-Vote may be a better reflection of Mana’s political complexion than Laban’s Candidate-Vote. And Lab’s majority over the Nats in the Party-Vote in Mana in 2008 was just 2508. Relatively marginal.
    – Compare recent nationwide opinion poll averages (Nats 50%, Lab 32%) to the nationwide party-vote at the last election (Nats 45%, Lab 34%). If we assume that these differences (Nats + 5 percentage points, Lab – 2 percentage points) are true across every Electorate, then Lab and the Nats would be neck-and-neck in Mana on about 42% each.
    – And, on top of all that, by-elections almost always involve a much lower turnout. And, more often than not, those staying at home are lower-income Labour voters. It’s true that Mt Albert (with a very similar Party-Vote to Mana in 2008) worked out extremely well. But given Melissa Lee’s constant faux-pas, Labour really shouldn’t get too complacent.

    End of lecture.

  34. I agree that the whole spending minutiae thing got completely ridiculous. Doesn’t excuse Carter though. He abused the system to pursue his own hedonistic agenda pure and simple.

    I spent some time in the UK when their scandal was in full bloom too. I remember some unfortunate MP getting an absolute excoriation in one of the papers. I remember that in the online version, at the time I looked, their were something like 162 comments added by members of the public. Every single one of them was condemnatory of the MP. I carefully double checked and this was literally true, the score was 162-0. Most of the commentary was excessively angry in my view. I remember at the time thinking this was a sad reflection on an angry society and culture, and feeling that the NZ public would be more restrained and less inclined to throw stones and put the boot in. When the time came I wasn’t (too) disappointed.

  35. Although I agree with your summation of the media beatup over expenses Marcus,I would have thought the Mayor of Palmerston Nrth could have managed to put his hand in his own pocket to buy a non essential item of small value.What I hope happens over the expense debacle is that all involved will think twice before using public funds for what is essentially private purchases.

  36. @Donald Duck: “Sorry, I’ll get my coat”.

    Dude, no need to apologise — especially, as the only “coat” you own, is the one you’ve peeled off from the ‘commatose’ drunk, lying on the pavement, outside the Salvation Army’s refuge centre on Hobson St.

    @ Ben: Not “in hiding”, I’ve just come back from 3 weeks in the Americas — USA, Mexico, and Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama). And Colombia. You know about Colombia, don’t you? The comma capital of the world. Or is it, “cocaine”?

    Can’t understand why Brian is continuing to wring his hands re Carter. In Mafia parlance: “He’s gone”. Not only is he “gone”, he’s a bleached pile of ossified bones; not even good for being crushed into fertilizer.

    “But was it really necessary to expel, in Andrew Little’s words, ‘an MP, a member of the party who has given extraordinary service risen to very high ranks in Cabinet, has been an outstanding minister for Labour in government’ from membership of the Labour Party as a whole?

    Yep, it sure was: because the “extraordinary service”, Grinning-Boy rendered, was entirely unto himself.

  37. Nothing better than being an MP to bring out the eternal vagaries of human nature Merv.

  38. Welcome back, Merv.

  39. I’m going to take something back…and I am very surprised.

    Phil Goff, over the weekend, managed to come across…less cyberman, more…human…I’m shocked…

    A shallow observation when considering the shift in policy…but possibly just as important…unless I was just imagining it of course.

  40. Today’s Herald pic: One of Rejection and Dissolution.

    Ever since, I’ve had an interest in NZ politics, I’ve never harboured quite so much ‘contempt and-loathing’ for any of our politicians as I have for Chris Carter. He is the absolute ‘pits’. The Worst-of-the-Worst.

  41. “Phil Goff can’t win” – Chris Carter (paraphrased)

    Right message, wrong messenger.

  42. Thank you Brian for presenting a side to the story that ought to heve been included – if not the reportage, at least in the analysis – by the main news media.

    In my view, Helen Clark is the only politician in this country since Norm Kirk who could come anywhere near a claim to statemanship. Her handling of opposition within the party was the way the Stuart Kings used to handle similar dissent. Maybe Michael Cullen tought her some history? But she is right: political (is that the word I want) talent ain’t so thick on the ground in this country we can afford gratuitously to toss it aside.

    Personally, I don’t like Labour much, not after their wholesale betrayal of their polity during their 4th Adminstration. I always thought, and I believe I’ve been proved right in spades, that selling off the the State assets would leave us soon enough with neither the assets nor the money.
    What I didn’t know was that I would be correct in large measure the moment the assets changed hands.

    But it is a pity to see the only credible alternative to the even more loathesome Nats rendered almost voiceless in Tory attacks upon what once was the working class.