Rodney Hide: Fence-sitters watch out

56 comments
The two sides of politics agree that McCarten's appointment signals a hard swing to the left. Photo / Michael Craig
The two sides of politics agree that McCarten's appointment signals a hard swing to the left. Photo / Michael Craig

What you see with Matt McCarten is what you get. He's upfront and honest in his beliefs and approach.

Video

McCarten is a hard-left, political head-kicker. He's been on the frontline of what he regards as a class war his entire life.

I first met him when he was Jim Anderton's enforcer and organiser. McCarten had ditched Labour as too free-market and, with Anderton, built a new political force. The resulting ragtag bunch of Alliance MPs regarded him in awe and fear. I found him at once charming and aggressive. I learned a lot from McCarten, mostly at a distance but sometimes up close.

We had our differences but also worked together, most notably in the Taranaki-King Country by-election. Our opponents were Labour and National, not each other. National and Labour had previously worked together to squeeze the Alliance out in the Tamaki by-election.

As McCarten said: "My enemy's enemy is my friend."

The Alliance came within 1,000 votes of winning Tamaki. Act came even closer in the Taranaki-King Country. Both times Labour was beaten into third place.

And now Labour leader David Cunliffe has appointed McCarten his chief of staff. Both the left and the right are ecstatic.

The two sides of politics agree that McCarten's appointment signals a hard swing to the left.

The one thing McCarten doesn't do is compromise.


The left believe he will motivate hundreds of thousands of non-voters. The right believe that McCarten's strategy and style will drive centre voters to National.


He split the Alliance asunder and forced Helen Clark to an early election rather than play along with Clark's safe and centrist politics.

To keep McCarten on board Cunliffe must take Labour back to its socialist roots. There can be no more wish-wash from Cunliffe. Not if he's serious about keeping McCarten.

Both left and right agree Labour MPs are in for a fright. McCarten can't stand time-servers and fence-sitters. The Labour caucus is chock-a-block with both. Cunliffe, by appointing McCarten, has fired a rocket at his own MPs.

Where the left and right disagree is on McCarten's impact. The left believe he will motivate hundreds of thousands of non-voters. The right believe that McCarten's strategy and style will drive centre voters to National.

My pick is that it will all blow up with a bang. Cunliffe already lacks the support of his MPs. Plus the Labour MPs strategically want to hug the centre. McCarten, and now Cunliffe, want radical.

McCarten's response is always to bang heads. He will be reading the long-serving Labour MPs the political equivalent of the Riot Act: back the leader, get with the programme or get out.

But these very MPs have already seen off McCarten twice. They are nothing if not tough and cunning. McCarten's appointment makes left-wing politics way more interesting.

Where's the popcorn?

- Herald on Sunday

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 20 Dec 2014 10:08:31 Processing Time: 540ms