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Carter Reluctantly Bows Out From Labour

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chris Carter
Chris Carter

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 7 NZPA - Chris Carter held out hopes until last week that he could return to the Labour fold but today finally accepted his future with the party is over.

Mr Carter was expelled from Labour's caucus after sending an anonymous letter to the media on July 29 which said a coup was planned against leader Phil Goff because he couldn't win the next election.

At the time Mr Carter was smarting from criticism of excessive spending on travel while a minister.

He was quickly outed as the letter's author and now has to face the party's national council on Monday, when it will decide whether to suspend or expel him from the party. He has already been ejected from the parliamentary wing of the party and is considered an independent MP.

Mr Carter told NZPA he agonised during the last few weeks on leave over his decision to pull out of the contest to stand as Labour's candidate for Te Atatu, a seat he has held from 1993-96 then since 1999.

"My initial response to the incident at Parliament -- which was born out of rage and frustration rather than cleverness and cunning -- was to go."

However, he said his local committee and constituents wanted him to stay and he approached the Labour Party to ask for another chance.

He proposed an ACT Party-style press conference where leader Rodney Hide appeared alongside Heather Roy after she was demoted.

"I would admit to a moment of madness and Mr Goff would admit to not providing support to me with the very unfair and ridiculous allegations around expenses and travel which I found extraordinarily stressful -- he hung me out to dry over it -- he wasn't prepared to do that."

At the end of last week he was told that would not happen through an intermediary.

"I realised at that point in spite of my between clenched teeth, if you like, willingness to do a reconciliation with the Labour Party... he was not prepared to do that... that was the final straw and that's why I made the decision today."

He will not stand as an independent, saying he fully backs Labour and what it stands for. However, that backing does not extend to what he wrote about Mr Goff. He is embarrassed, though, by the way he handled it.

"I snapped. My actions were irrational, stupid and were born out of anger and frustration after a year of this nonsense and a sense I was just being abandoned and used by the leadership.

"You do stupid things when you are angry... how it was done was ridiculous."

He said Mr Goff was in Cabinet when his travel spending was approved and it was all work related.

"Did he ever raise an issue about me travelling too much? Of course not... I just felt that he got spooked by the media and so I was sacrificed and I feel very angry about that.

"I felt I was hung out to dry."

Caucus members had visited him and offered sympathy.

The Labour leader was "not a bad person" but did not know how to compromise.

"How would he manage to negotiate with coalition partners if he was Prime Minister?"

Mr Carter did not accept blame for sucking up the news oxygen and making it hard for Labour to get messages out.

"I think that the leadership has been responsible for not getting our message out because they haven't been decisive enough in defining the difference."

He criticised Labour's handling of the cashing in leave issue and the GST increase.

Mr Goff's handling of TVNZ presenter Paul Henry's racist gaffe was also weak, he said.

"Again it seemed to be a bob each way, let's not attack Paul Henry but let's be a little critical of the issue.

"An astute politician and, dare I say it, Helen Clark would have been a good example, would have jumped in straight away knowing that what Paul Henry said was totally unacceptable."

Looking to the future Mr Carter will write his book about the last Labour government but he said it would not be a spiteful kick at the Labour Party.

"It will be an explanation about how decisions were made by a government that I am full of admiration for, of which I was part."

Then he is hoping to find work in conservation -- the portfolio he most enjoyed as a minister.

Until next year's election he will carry on with electorate work, whether as an independent or Labour MP will be decided on Monday.

Mr Goff said he had dealt with Mr Carter and the party had moved on.

"I've dealt with Chris Carter and his behaviour. New Zealanders are more worried about their family budget and jobs than this sideshow."

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