BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: Matt McCarten to be appointed Cunliffe’s Chief-of-Staff – the revolution will be televised



For the Left, Matt McCarten’s appointment as David Cunliffe’s Chief-of-Staff is like Yoda turning up with Gandalf in the Red October.

TDB is calling the Chief-of-Staff position for Matt McCarten.  Turns out that much maligned gut feeling of mine was right, but who had any idea how far out of the loop Helen Kelly had become? She seems as far out of touch as the Parliamentary Press Gallery and any twitter pundit living in Wellington. Sounds like the CTU needs new Auckland mates.

Matt McCarten’s appointment as David Cunliffe’s Chief-of-Staff suddenly makes all the recent proclamations of doom for the left seem a tad hasty. Maybe Bryce spends far too much time reading Ruminator and Dim Post because ‘feeling left out in Wellington’ doesn’t equate to the Left failing at the ballot box. At least Danyl’s new hate affair with Matt will be a welcome respite from all the blogs he writes fantasising about killing Chris Trotter’s family. Danyl’s immediate negative review does however highlight just how nervous the Greens will be at this appointment.

The thing Cunliffe’s Labour needs is a Chief-of-Staff not afraid to bang Caucus heads together and force some unity into the Party. In Matt McCarten the Right have a political operator unlike any they have encountered. His ability to out-mobilise, out-organise and out-argue them has been demonstrated time and time and time again in a political career that is unmatched.

He is a ruthless strategist and brilliant tactician. His ascendency should cheer every genuine left wing and progressive heart in NZ. The mainstream media may like to try and paint Cunliffe as an ideological chameleon, but let’s see the NBR, John Armstrong. Patrick Leyland or Kiwipolitico try and claim McCarten is secretly a right winger.

The only sadness about the appointment of Matt McCarten as David Cunliffe’s Chief-of-staff is that I didn’t get to see John Key’s or Cameron Slater’s or Jane Clifton’s or Trevor Mallard’s or Matthew Hooton’s or David Farrar’s faces when they heard the news.

Game on National. If you honestly thought the forces for political change in NZ would just allow you to decide the result of the election in February via flaky landline opinion polls in the mainstream media, you have another thing coming.

TDB Recommends

Matt’s appointment is a game changer.

Game on.

UPDATE: The bore of Babylon – David Farrar’s blog attacking Matt’s tax issues while Matt was diagnosed with terminal cancer reminds us all what a hateful little piece of work Farrar is.


    • A shrewd appointment, but careful with the hyperbole. His political credentials are hardly “unmatched”. The best appointment in the circumstances. A big finger to the naysayers in caucus as well.

  1. When I heard about Matt’s appointment this morning – it confirmed to me my belief that we will see a change in government later this year.

    David Cunliffe and Matt McCarten will be a strong team.

  2. While some on the left may cheer the appointment of Matt McCarten, I am sure there will be even more cheering on the right. While Matt is a very good operator! the fact remains he is extreme left. How on earth can labour get the votes they need to win the election when the Cheif of Staff is extreme left. This will mean the middle ground is again ignored and left wide open to national. I am very happy about this. labour will fight for votes on the extreme left ( greens and mana).

    So much fun

    • The reason why I think you are so full of shit Peter is the following:

      When a far right hate speech merchant Cameron Slater is an advisor to the PM – the right are in no position to claim the centre ground.

      When a conservative crypto-fascist clown like colin Craig is being seriously considered a possible coalition partner, the right are in no position to claim the centre ground.

      And the biggest reason what you have to say is full of shit is that because of the yawning chasm of inequality that exists in NZ – there is no middle ground. 70% of National Party voters don’t know anyone unemployed, talking about social injustice that is invisible to them is a pointless waste of energy.

      If the right are cheering, it’s because they don’t understand the magnitude of McCarten’s appointment. I’d put you in that column McKeefry

      • I think there is a middle ground.

        The middle ground is the people who are relatively well-off. Not rich. But not poor. They have a wide circle of friends and might know and be friends with people who are down on their luck. They still believe, by and large, that the current economic system is best but with a lot of tinkering and oversight. They’re also generally liberals or at the very least apathetic to conservative ideals.

        These are the floating middle voters. As National talk up Craig and Act talk about repealing all employment laws, they’re going to be looking to vote away from National.

        But I think if Labour goes too far left, those people are going to be too afraid to leave their “capitalism is bad but it is the least bad system” bubble.

        And so maybe they grit their teeth and hope that National won’t need Crazy Craig because their votes might be crucial in stopping that.

        • And yet the great centrist party that is United Future couldn’t keep 500 paid up members. There are those who are doing well (baby boomers) and then there are those who are not doing well (Gen x & Gen y) – there is no middle ground in a country with the inequality NZ now has.

          • You keep repeating that with little proof.

            United Future’s failure isn’t proof. It’s proof that Peter Dunne isn’t a good politician and that hitching your wagon with the Christian-wing is never a good idea.

          • When did the middle ground disappear exactly? It has been important in elections prior to now and yet inequality has hardly budged in the past 20 years.

        • They still believe, by and large, that the current economic system is best but with a lot of tinkering and oversight.

          That’s because they don’t understand the basic economics of the welfare state.

          An honest talk about economics would be a game changer.

          • I think they understand all too well the basic economics of the welfare state…that is exactly the reason they believe that the current economic system best represents the wishes, hopes and aspirations of the majority.

            I too believe that an honest talk about economics would be a good thing, but I think that there are very few people who would be willing to accept or understand the truth.

      • I am unsure that cam Slater is an advisor to John key. That would be placing cam well above his status in life.

        Like most I think it is advisable to ignore Colin Craig. I do not think he will be gifted or win a seat and I do not think he will get over 5%.

        The problem the left have is the perception that Matt McC will take labour further to the left. Reality may be different, and I do acknowledge he is a smart operator, but will he put off the middle voters who labour needs and are currently owned by the Nats?

        True he will work hard to get the south Auckland vote out, but will that be enough?

        • Again. 70% of National Party voters don’t know anyone unemployed. Pitching towards National voters isn’t the way to win, winning back any of the 800 000 voters who didn’t vote is what Labour need to do.

        • Peter McKeefry: “True he will work hard to get the south Auckland vote out, but will that be enough?”

          He’ll be aiming for the 800,000 who didn’t vote at the last election. Some of them are in South Auckland; all of them are votes Labour needs.

          Labour’s policy plank must reach the non-vote, who stayed home at the last election not because they agreed with current government policies, but because they didn’t think that their vote could bring about change.

    • Peter, you’re missing the point entirely. Matt’s appointment is not for the benefit of self-centered, rightwing zealots .

      This sends a clear signal tothe struggling middle class as well as Labour’s core support that, come the next election, we have a very real choice.

      You can vote more more of the same if you like. God knows why, what with high unemployment, increasing child poverty, and National signing off on policies to make home ownership even harder than before.

      The rest of us will look for positive, proactive alternatives.

      If that means pounding a stake through the heart of your beloved neo-liberalism, then I’ll gladly chip in to help.

      I think thirty years of trialling neo liberalism is long enough. Time to call it quits.

    • the middle nz swinging voter is a myth, there is a small group of wannabes and me me voters that dont have a bearing on election results, there is however 25% plus of the population that were too disgusted at the antics of both labour and national over the last 30 years they stayed away from the polls in droves. this is where the election will be won or lost, not with the pathetic little band of voters that fence sit waiting to see what is in the goody bag

      • I’m with Lloyd on this. People didn’t vote because they don’t see any difference between the two major parties. Neither of the 2 main parties have any policies that are going to make a difference as to whether you and your wife have to hold down 3 part-time jobs on the minimum wage each in order to feed the family. And who can blame them!

        Labour are still not to be trusted so long as you’ve got Goff and Mallard and King in there, those who brought in neo liberal policies that screwed manufacturing and jobs and made people scrap around on pathetic benefits through no fault of their own that are barely enough to live on.

      • Care to explain why these people don’t vote either Mana or the Greens then? That wouldn’t be a wasted vote either.

    • You’re so right Peter, read the right wing blogs and they are all cock – a -hoop about this appointment. It’s official, Labour abandoning the centre and swerving hard left. Good luck.

  3. Thank goodness for that – some actual left wing change in Labour. It felt like Cunliffe was heading down the Shearer route, too afraid of our media to get angry, and too scared of embracing Labour’s roots.

    Great move, stoked they finally have done something actually in the interests of the people who couldn’t stomach voting for them last time.

  4. Brilliant choice.

    Matt McCarten has some genuine street cred about him, coming from a background dealing with ordinary working Kiwis. Just what Labour needs get it actively moving towards becoming government this year.

    Matt’s previous experience I’m sure, will open up the way to direct some positive media focus on Labour and David Cunliffe for a change! In this respect, he will have his work cut out given the time frame, to undo the negative MSM attention the party has received so far this year. But if anyone can, Matt is the man to turn this around.

    This appointment will keep Key’s new bestie Cameron Slater busy, digging for dirt on Cunliffe’s new Chief-of-Staff!

  5. The levy has now broken expect a flood of previous Labour activists to flood back to the party. I’m totally relieved Mc Carten has been given the nod. He will counter a bias media trying to twist things. The caucus will be given a critical ‘eye over’ and any nosense from the likes of Mallard, Goff and any other MP trying to undermine the efforts of the united effort will be quickly put in their place.

    If indeed Helen Kelly was so far out of touch and there is any push back, perhaps in light of the part Unions will play in overthrowing the current National Government, especially on the pleading employment law changes, she needs to hand over that particular fight over to someone else to front, someone with alot more inspirational spark!

  6. To add to my previous post, it’s interesting to note at the time of posting this, msm Fairfax and the NZH, have not publicized this news yet! Unbelievable!

    Some good news for Labour obviously isn’t worth recording and advising the public it seems!

    I guess Fairfax and NZH had to consult National et al as to how Mr McCarten’s appointment should be presented and how far down on the page should it appear!

    National/Key feeling threatened already perhaps?

  7. I think the glue that will cement Labour support will be made out of the carcasses of the old Noe-Lib war-horses left in the caucus.

  8. “Danyl’s immediate negative review does however highlight just how nervous the Greens will be at this appointment.”

    I don’t think the Green Party will be nervous. What makes the Green Party nervous is when Labour can’t get its act together. If this helps Labour, then it’s good for the Greens. Apart from anything else, one has to remember that a large percentage of Green voters, vote for the Labour candidate in their electorate. The more electorate seats Labour wins, the better. We are all on the same side when it comes to getting this government out.

    • Yes I agree, the Greens just want Labour to get its dam act together and to be the front runner at the next election. I doubt they are scared of Matt’s appointment at all.

    • And Danyl’s review is by no means negative regarding Matt, let along hateful. What he says about Matt seems spot on.

  9. To be honest, he’s being hired as a strategist so his political leanings aren’t entirely the issue here: he is a great organiser. He built a Union from scratch in a sector that has been hostile to organising.

    Peter has a point: it is unlikely Peter will vote Labour with McCarten on the team. Of course, Peter wasn’t going to vote labour anyway so I doubt Cunliffe is crying into his beer about it.

  10. This is an excellent appointment and signals, to me, that Labour is trying to regather its members from the wilderness. Labour has been bleeding votes to the further Left – not just the middle or the right. I haven’t voted Labour in years, but you know what? Matt’s appointment makes it more palatable to me as an option and something to genuinely consider.
    People want a choice and Labour has looked like National-lite for the last two terms. A quarter of the voting population didn’t vote and I think a lot of it has to do with not having a marked point of difference. Well, Matt is a marked point of difference. Congratulations, Labour. You’ve actually made me sit up and take notice.

    • If only they knew, cancer jokes are much funnier. Every time I go to hospital I learn some new ones, and I laugh. The thing is, those inhabitants of the sewer are so socially inept and nasty that they can’t see the difference between the black humour of cancer patients (or stutterers) and their vile attempts at kindergarten comedy.

    • @Acemcwicked: I hope that those making fun of speech impediments don’t include DPF himself: pot calling kettle black if he is.

    • Agreed. The number of thumbs-down on many of the pro-McCarten comments is interesting, possibly suggesting traffic from the Right to the The Daily Blog to read a perspective of this appointment from the Left.

      Interesting times ahead.

  11. UPDATE: The bore of Babylon – David Farrar’s blog attacking Matt’s tax issues while Matt was diagnosed with terminal cancer reminds us all what a hateful little piece of work Farrar is.

    Oh. So being a tax cheat is acceptable if you’re sick. Thanks for that. I intend to use it.

  12. On this appointment I will take a cautious position, and wait and see how it will all play out. While Matt McCarten has heaps of experience, is a smart and decisive organiser and activist, some who know him well also know that he has some flaws.

    But I will not go into that and hold it against him.

    What the appointment of Matt to Chief of Staff shows though, is that Cunliffe is definitely committed to lead Labour as a left of centre party, and to try and bring it on a course that is truly different from the moderate kind of neoliberal “light blue” Labour Party it had become since the mid to late 1980s.

    This is also a signal to those in caucus, who still oppose or do not cooperate with Cunliffe. They will now be getting told to either work in the team as David Cunliffe prefers to have it, or they will be getting the hints, to shape up or ship out.

    David Cunliffe is preparing Labour to have access to the wider left activist base, which in too large numbers abandoned Labour over the years. So he and Labour will not need to depend too much on donations, and can rely on volunteers doing a lot of the work in the streets, at public meetings, and in communities.

    It is in that regard a smart move, and combined with social media campaigning and more, at least some of the previous non voters may be motivated to go voting for Labour next election.

    But I fear that some in caucus, and in the upper party leadership, may not be happy with this appointment, and that we may see some nasty attempts of undermining, back stabbing and the likes over coming weeks and months.

    Getting rid of some “old wood”, some of whom are not going to vacate their “secure” electorate seats, that will not be that easy.

    Most definitely we are looking ahead to very interesting times, and this election year is going to be an extremely intense and ruthless one, with Richard Prebble also volunteering to lead the campaign for ACT, and with other players pushing to get into the arena.

    Get ready, we are going to get roller coaster polls also. But as long as we keep on course, and keep steady, it can still be won this time.

  13. @ Marc: “some who know him well also know that he has some flaws.”

    So he isn’t perfect? Well, hold the bus! Sounds just like the rest of us: human. Albeit with far greater strategic nous and better organisational skills…

    Whatever those flaws may be, so long as Labour is aware of them, and isn’t about to be blindsided by unpleasant surprises, Cunliffe should just shrug and say “so what?” if he’s challenged by the media about them.

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