… has been announced. It is Matt McCarten.
Matt has a huge amount of experience in NZ politics. He started off in the Labour Party but like many of us (me included) he left the party because of Roger Douglas and the fourth Labour Government’s right wing drift. He became President of New Labour and then the Alliance. He has continued to be heavily involved in party politics of the left.
More recently he has headed the Unite Union and its performance in looking after the interests of poorly paid workers is impressive. He also has links with the Mana Party as well as the Maori Party.
The right will no doubt claim that this shows a leftward move by Labour. The reality is that McCarten’s position is an operational not a policy formation one. His job is to make sure that the leader’s office operates effectively.
Matthew Hooton has already started the right wing spin exercise, claiming that McCarten is an extreme left winger and that his appointment is evidence of a “move to the far left”. Hooton lives in a strange world where the likes of Prebble and Douglas who inflicted so much damage on the country are considered mainstream but someone like McCarten who is genuinely concerned at the effects of poverty is considered to be an extremist. He also claims without evidence that Cunliffe is critical of the Clark Government. Keep on spinning Matthew.
I have always been impressed by Matt’s ability to deal with people from a diversity of backgrounds. He is affable and pleasant but has a backbone of steel, ideal characteristics for the role. And his organisational abilities are very strong.
The decision is in keeping with David Cunliffe’s tendency to do what he thinks is right rather than safe. With the party planning a mass movement on the ground campaign this year Matt’s organisational skills will have set him apart from the other contenders. And the job is important. Labour’s membership has surged over the past six months. Organisationally there is a real need to get this new membership involved and working. The best way to counter clear media bias is to have people on the ground talking to their neighbours and friends about why a change in Government is vital.
Overall this decision is one that will cause considerable debate. And use of the words “game changer” seem very appropriate.