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No Way Back For Carter, Says Labour President

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Andrew Little
Andrew Little

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, NZPA - The damage Chris Carter's "furtive, sneaky letter" caused, his ongoing criticism and lack of remorse were behind the Labour Party expelling the MP for Te Atatu from its ranks last night.

The "ultimate sanction", as party president Andrew Little described it, was taken by the party's national council after a meeting that lasted more than seven hours, over half of which Mr Carter spent arguing his case. He left at 9.30pm by a back entrance to avoid journalists.

The council found he had breached rules by acting in a misleading manner likely to cause internal discontent and encourage external ridicule.

While Mr Carter last week accepted he would not stand again in his Te Atatu seat he hoped to remain a party member. He has already been thrown out of the parliamentary wing of the party 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. He was quickly outed as the letter's author.

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

Mr Little said Mr Carter's arguments were considered and the 17 members in the meeting -- six by teleconference -- did not have a predetermined position.

"When it came down to it, the council considered that the actions that he took were very serious, had the author of his letter to the gallery not been revealed or disclosed it would have caused considerable harm to that caucus and the way it operates and there's no question that the publicity that the whole enterprise generated in the days following caused damage to the party," Mr Little said.

The meeting started at 5.30pm and ended just before midnight.

On his way in a tense Mr Carter said he was still committed to the party and hoped his record of more than 20 years with the party would be considered.

"I hope that I will retain my membership."

Mr Carter argued that others committed similar infringements without being severely punished by the party.

However, Mr Little said in the past leadership challenges and coups had seen direct confrontations either to the person concerned or the party caucus.

"That didn't happen on this occasion. All there was was a furtive sneaky letter sent around the press gallery, the authorship of which was only revealed after investigation. That's the issue."

Mr Carter's ongoing criticism of Mr Goff's leadership when he was revealed to be behind the letter and comments in interviews in the past few days; "raised an issue too about just really he accepted magnitude and the gravity of what he'd done on the 29th of July...The last few days has shown that he has no compunction about making negative comments about the party and its leadership".

Mr Little said what Mr Carter did from now on was up to him but there was no way back into the party.

Legal action was possible: "It would be silly to rule out anything from Mr Carter in this regard but I am confident that the approach we've taken and the way we've made the decision will stand up to any scrutiny."

The decision was "extraordinarily difficult" Mr Little said, especially because of Mr Carter's long history with the party and record in Cabinet where he was "an outstanding minister for Labour in Government".

"...that partly I think goes to the question why people could just not understand how this could have happened.

But it has happened."

The party would now get on with rebuilding and focus on next year's election.

NZPA

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