Leaving out the utter incompetence of how Chris Carter’s abortive coup — and I hope I’m the first to coin it the “Par Avion Putsch” — was conducted, his egregious damfoolishness for following such a course of action in the first place guarantees that Phil Goff’s leadership of the Labour party is now safe, though it is critically wounded. The caucus has had to close ranks around a lame duck leader, and all the ambitions of the younger and more vibrant contenders previously mentioned here and by many others must now be shelved for the sake of party integrity. By seeking to artificially accelerate the ordinary and necessary process of leadership selection, challenge and renewal, Carter’s actions have in fact retarded it.
I agree with him that those systems were working too slowly in this case, and on the substantive point that Phil Goff can’t win the election without a fantastic political deus ex machina such as that which benefited George W Bush. But the system is what it is, and you either work with it or you cut yourself loose from it in a fashion which places the system — rather than your own conduct and the competence of the sitting leader — front and centre as the object of critique. By doing neither Carter has snookered any nascent leadership challenge and undermined Goff’s leadership into the bargain, and that practically ensures the outcome he claims to oppose.
Two possibilities present themselves. Either Carter was and remains oblivious to this, in which case he’s a fool whose long experience of party politics has taught him nothing. Or, like everyone else with a functional knowledge of NZ politics, he’s perfectly aware of this fact and has cynically exploited it in an effort to establish a lasting legacy for himself: the final ability to say, post-2011, that he was right, and Phil Goff was a dead man walking, and to be remembered for that, rather than for his taxpayer-funded jetsetting and general uselessness. Ordinarily I would assume the former — incompetence is usually a more apt explanation than malice — but I’m sorely tempted in this case to believe that, as Chris Trotter says, Carter has seen his own political end, and determined to take the rest of the party down with him (update: I think this is a more accurate assessment than Tim Watkin’s suicide by cop).
This course of action could not be more different to that taken by Helen Clark who, with her swift acceptance of the political reality in which she found herself, ensured that the party retained its dignity after the 2008 election defeat. I don’t know anything about the personal relationship between Clark and Carter, but from what I know of her political mind I suspect this will cause it considerable strain, with the episode perhaps costing Carter not only his credibility, his job, and his party membership, but the only political friend and ally he had not already alienated.
“No proceeding is better than that which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it. To know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than anything else. Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many. Discipline in war counts more than fury.” Machiavelli – The Art of War
I think it was, and still is, a mental health issue that has been developing since Labour lost. Perhaps Helen protected Carter from scrutiny during Government, but some people can become very irrational under pressure. I suspect Carter acted on impulse because he was alienated and desperate to do something.
He’s just not robust enough to cope with the media donkeys braying for even more blood after he provided them with such entertainment last time by running from them. He clearly needs a caring minder, and I hope somebody will grab him and get him into a mentally-safe place.
Labour don’t come out of this with any credit. If parliament was a workplace, rather than a children’s playground, Chris would have been given guidance and support, and encouraged to look at options after his first performance, and his manager would have been reprimanded by HR after the second.
Mallard’s cynical disclosure of the Tibetan trip, and then raising mental health concerns, along with Goff’s failure to realize that Carter’s alienation could trigger disloyalty, doesn’t reflect well on Labour’s leadership.
Just another reason why Labour, as it presently exists, should not even be considered a viable political alternative. Maybe Labour requires another H2 to protect the flock and minimize consequences of their regular shooting themselves in the foot.
I got canvassed for my opinion by a nice girl from Radio NZ last night at the Te Atatu Foodtown. (It was a mercy dash for taco shells to rescue dinner. Those taco shells with the flat bottoms are in fact filled with a solvent-like starch which seemed to let off a toxic gas when heated in the oven. Never buy them, ever!)
Mischievously, I said that since everyone knows Helen and Chris are best mates, Helen probably gave Chris the idea, but he was not smart enough to pull it off. RNZ girl had a good gaffaw and we swapped taco recipes. (OK we didn’t swap recipes but she had a good bend-over gaffaw).
Actually, I do wonder if Helen suggested he leak something “to get the ball rolling” as Carter said, but Carter was simply too imcompetent to do it covertly.
I had never taken any notice of Carter until the epsode a few months ago over whaling and his attacks on Palmer. What struck me very quickly from looking at what Carter was saying and checking the records of the IWC and what Palmer was saying was that Carter was a devious liar.
It’s good that he’s gone but he should have gone long ago but it suited Goff at the time to have Carter be a devious liar over whaling. Goff and th erest of the Labour MPs must have know Carter was being dishonest and none of them spoke upo and none of them came to the defense of Palmer. Disgraceful all round.
Actually Chris Carter’s actions are a celebration of free speech and should be celebrated for rebelling against the stifflig conformity of top-bottom party managerialism.
Chris Carter’s actions – although arguably motivated by personal concerns was a democratic gesture.
To quote a poster in our blog:
Indeed, Chris has raised a very difficult yet important problem, we have a Labour leader who is completely incapable of winning the next election yet no visible desire from the rest of the party to face up to this problem. Anyone who has spent anytime in the Labour party of course knows of itâ€™s members blind devotion in place of critical self reflection. A church if there ever was one.
Chris might be crazy, he might have lost it, he might be a horrible vindictive man, none of this however changes the validity of the problem I raised above.
CFC, that would be true if Carter was external to the party, or was a backbencher with a clean record of conduct whose actions had been undertaken within the proper and established channels for airing such concerns rather than a half-arsed attempt at anonymous sabotage in retaliation to a perceived political slight. While not disputing that Carter has the right to air his views by these means, doing so as consequences, both for himself and the party.
I’m very sympathetic to the concern that Labour has stopped taking counsel which does not accord with its leadership’s preferred views. I’ve been railing against this very thing since well before the election (and you can read some of my railings here. But the reality is that this is a party, and its integrity must be retained at all costs. The business of challenging the government is too important to be exploited by entitled self-promoters looking to secure (or salvage) a political legacy.
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