Chris Carter had to go - Williams

By Derek Cheng, NZPA, NZ Herald staff

Chris Carter. Photo / Richard Robinson
Chris Carter. Photo / Richard Robinson

The former president of the Labour Party says MP Chris Carter's position was "untenable" and he had to be kicked out of the party.

The Te Atatu MP was expelled from the party during a six-hour meeting of the party's national council yesterday, after he sent anonymous letters to journalists in Parliament's Press Gallery undermining leader Phil Goff on July 29.

Former party president Mike Williams told National Radio's Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon this morning Mr Carter could not have remained in the party.

"The position Chris was advocating was untenable," he said. "He's saying 'I support the Labour Party but not the leader'."

Mr Williams said Mr Carter could not campaign for Labour at next year's election when he did not support Phil Goff to become Prime Minister.

He said the council and current president Andrew Little had grounds for getting rid of the rogue MP.

"The only real over-arching reason [for dismissal] was for bringing the party into disrepute."

He said while there was nothing wrong with questioning the party's leader, "subterfuge" was not the way to go about leadership change.

"He should have moved a notice of motion in caucus ... do it all democratically," Mr Williams said.

"If you lose, you lose and get on with it.

"There were a lot of people in the party who didn't support Helen Clark - you don't voice your opinions [to the media] on that."

Expulsion 'petty' - Carter

Mr Carter, who has the right under the party's constitution to appeal against his expulsion, made his case to the party's council for four hours last night.

He then left the party's headquarters in Willis St, Wellington, at 9.30pm out the back door, avoiding waiting reporters.

Today he told Radio New Zealand he heard about his expulsion on the radio this morning.

"I just think it's a ridiculous over reaction to make Phil Goff look strong."

The council did not listen to his defence and he felt as though he was appearing before the inquisition, Mr Carter said.

He said he would decide next week whether to appeal the decision.

"I did a stupid thing, it was born out of anger, it didn't happen for no reason - I felt as though I'd been used as a scapegoat by Phil Goff over this whole travel business."

Mr Carter said the party had been unprofessional and petty in its handling of the situation.

"Nothing I put in my letter was incorrect, the way I did it was ridiculous, stupid."

He said he would not do it again.

Mr Carter said he would talk to family and friends about his future but planned to serve the rest of his term as MP for Te Atatu.

Little on expulsion

Last night, party president Andrew Little said Mr Carter's actions on July 29, when he sent anonymous letters to journalists in Parliament's Press Gallery undermining leader Phil Goff, were likely to foment internal discontent and encourage external ridicule.

"They were deceptive, they were clearly calculated to cause damage to the caucus and foment discontent and disharmony in the caucus and cause damage to the party's reputation," Mr Little said.

"At no time has there been an acceptance of the gravity of [the actions] or a display of contrition."

The council debated until close to midnight and all members supported expulsion.

Mr Little said: "Had the author of his letter to the gallery not been revealed, it would have caused considerable harm to that caucus and the way it operates, and there's no question that the publicity in the days that followed caused damage to the party."

He said that in other leadership challenges, there had been direct contact with the leader, not a "furtive, sneaky letter".

"It has been an extraordinarily difficult decision because this has been 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, and that partly goes to show why people couldn't understand how this could have happened."

Mr Little said: "What we were looking for as an indication that he understood the impact of what he had done, that he regretted it and was contrite about it, and that he understood that if he was serious about his affections for the party and his support of it, [he] would not make comments that would undermine the leadership of the party and the party itself. But that was not evident tonight."

Mr Little said the council has trod carefully and its action would withstand any legal challenge over employment processes.

Mr Goff said he was pleased with the decision, which showed that Mr Carter's kind of behaviour was not acceptable.

Mr Carter was elected MP for Te Atatu in 1993, and was New Zealand's first openly gay Cabinet minister.

- With NZPA and NZHERALD STAFF

Labour Party statement:

Decision regarding Chris Carter

The New Zealand Council of the Labour Party met tonight to consider the disciplinary proceedings it raised against Te Atatu MP Chris Carter, following his actions of 29 July 2010.

After hearing from Mr Carter and deliberating for several hours, the New Zealand Council resolved to expel Mr Carter from the New Zealand Labour Party, effective immediately.

The Council held that Mr Carter had brought the Party into disrepute, in breach of its rules, by acting in a misleading manner that was likely to foment internal discontent and encourage external ridicule, including by:

a) Preparing the written statement in the terms that he did, and circulating it to the Press Gallery;

b) Initially denying, including to colleagues, that he was responsible for the anonymous circulation of the document to the Press Gallery, and suggesting that named others were likely responsible for its circulation;

c) Eventually admitting (after being confronted with the evidence) publicly that he prepared the written statement and circulated it to the Press Gallery;

d) Purporting to disclose in the written statement that the Party is broke, by which it is understood that the Party is unable to meet its financial obligations, and further implying that the Party is incapable of withstanding the costs of a by-election;

e) In television interviews first broadcast on Thursday 29 July, calling for the resignation of the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party without having sought at any stage to invoke the Party's internal processes to advance that view; and

f) Giving an overall public impression through his actions and comments that the Party is divided, unprepared for and unlikely to win the next General Election.

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