Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear


US intern defends Labour’s ‘fellowship’ campaign programme from ‘sweatshop’ claims

An American student taking part in a “fellowship” programme for the Labour Party campaign has defended it, saying most of the 85 interns on it are happy.

The student spoke on the condition of anonymity because most in the programme had signed non-disclosure agreements before starting on the programme.

She believed the complaints and leaks to the media were driven by one or two interns who had a beef with the programme. She claimed one was dropped from a leadership position on the programme after allegedly taking bottles of wine from Labour MP Jenny Salesa’s house after Salesa hosted a meal for them.

“We sat down, we ate and he walked away with two bottles of wine. The organisers called him out for it. Since then it’s been a simmering pot.”

…ironically, the American intern who went to the media was originally involved in Union Busting campaigns in the US…

She said it was disappointing to read comments in the media about “sweatshop” conditions and “slave labour”.

“Three meals a day, every single day, were provided. The care they have provided is comprehensive. The one thing that has cause a bit of chatter is the cubicle situation, which I understand is not ideal. But the sweatshop conditions, where we were rallied into a line and forced to work, that’s not true at all.”

She defended Awataha marae, saying most were moved into proper living quarters on the marae which are “more than ideal”.

“The food is great and they are very accommodating.”

She said many others shared her view but could not speak because of the non-disclosure agreements.

When the Labour Party Student Intern story erupted this week, just as Bill English was in serious trouble, I thought “Well that’s convenient isn’t it”.

I was out to the Marae 2 weeks ago having a look around at what they were doing. I had a meal with the volunteers and talked with some of them about their experiences. They were fantastic young people who were loving the adventure of it all.

Watching that meltdown into the shameful scandal it’s being sold as by the media and Politicians desperate to move the attention from Bill English is as ugly as it is typical.

Firstly, let’s be clear of the timeline here. Bryce Edwards had mentioned this program 20 days ago on June 1st…

Finally, another type of resource is being utilised by the Labour Party this election – comrades from the US and UK. The party is currently importing dozens of young leftwing activists who are staying at an Auckland Marae, and pounding the streets for Matt McCarten’s drive to get the vote out. Some of this was foreshadowed in a Herald report back in April – see: Fresh from Kim Dotcom, Hone Harawira attacks Labour getting campaign help from foreigners.

…and Bryce’s mention was after a news story on the 20th of April – a full 2 months ago, where Hone was attacking Labour for doing this. 

The spluttering shock and hyperventilation of the corporate media at a story that is over a 2 months old right when English was getting screwed seems remarkably good timing for National.

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What Labour were doing with these interns happens every election. International Students come here to monitor and experience our elections, what was different about this year was how quickly over subscribed the programme became.

The plan to use international students who had worked on campaigns like Jeremy Corbyn’s and Bernie Sander’s were going to be matched by domestic volunteers who were going to target 60 000 Aucklander’s who had enrolled to vote but hadn’t voted and 60 000 Aucklander’s who hadn’t enrolled at all.

The campaigns focus was engagement and it had Labour Party sign off and Union buy in.

What happened however was Labour Party HQ Wellington become panicked by how big the Campaign had grown and despite green lighting it started dragging their feet until the thing fell over.

A whispering campaign targeting the funders strangled off money because Labour Party HQ Wellington’s preference is to win over voters who are exisiting voters because the policy platform doesn’t have to be particularly radical for that.

What Labour didn’t want was a huge campaign to the Left of Labour pressuring them for a Corbyn or Sanders platform.

Labour didn’t want this…

Campaign for Change Manifesto 
1: Free public transport for students and beneficiaries
2: 18month rent freeze 
3: 5% maximum rent rise
4: $20 per hour minimum wage
5: Artists and Volunteers benefit
6: Free condoms, contraceptive pills and sanitary pads available at schools and family planning
7: Universal Student Allowance for Tertiary students
8: Free public internet
9: Lower voting age to 16
10: Free school lunches 

…so the fear of a successful left wing agenda has once again managed to doom Labour. Just like the candidate selection fiasco and just like the Party List fiasco, this has come down to poor internal management by the Wellington arm of the Party.

The perception of political hypocrisy is a mainstream media generated one, the real story is Labour’s fear of a courageous left wing platform.

Blaming Matt McCarten and leaving him to twist in the wind is expected but it certainly isn’t honourable or justified.

Everytime the Labour Party & Unions say they’ve never heard of Matt McCarten, a rooster crows three times.



  1. Seems odd that the organisers wont make an exception to the non-disclosure agreements if they have overwhelming support? And taking on a union buster? In a supposedly left wing party? I like Matt McCarten but somethings not right here (apart from the labour party, they sure have drifted right)

    • I’m assuming the non disclosure agreement is to protect policy here says prior to media release. Guessing but likely

  2. I can see why Labour is running from your 10 point list of “free” things. It is a way to lose the election. Because it is all paid for by taxpayers – who unlike the recipients of your “free” stiff, actually vote in numbers.

    lol@ rent freeze. You think distorting markets will deliver housing for the poor?

    • @SRYLANDS Do you think distorting the markets by having massive taxpayer welfare for landlords is delivering affordable housing to anyone?

      • The market isn’t delivering anything except additional unnecessary costs which are all aimed at the lowest income earners…

  3. The drive to encourage more of the non-voting sector to vote was admirable, but if it was associated with a radical programme of “Free” stuff, it was misguided.

    Young people are by nature idealistic and the only effective way to confront inequality and disadvantage must ultimately be couched in making necessary services available with community resourcing, but to base a motivational push on currently unrealistic goals was only going to foment dissatisfaction and division.

    Referencing a whole lot of “Free” stuff plays straight into the hands of the “sober” proponents of do-nothing elitism. Nothing is free, so the financing of much that will be necessary can only be enacted by establishing the bona fides of a return to a progressive attitude to taxation along with some version of wealth or inheritance tax. (Not a universal income, typically coupled with a flat tax, which will only profit the top percentiles as usual, since it would be funded by those who do not receive an advantage.) This is an advance that must depend on an argument won, not on some draconian “Progress by Edict”.

    It would have been so much better to predicate a call to the international community of young activists on their basic altruistic orientation and more general concepts of push-back against the neo-liberal projects, rather than this kind of over-reach, no matter how effective it may be in the (very) short term.

    Those who might wish to dispute this assertion, need only look to the consequence of an easy appeal to extreme daydreaming.

  4. I can only but agree. Very convenient and I definitely smell a rat. Notice nothing from Seymour and Fox on Barclay but it is as if they already had speeches made on this issue, as if they already new this story before it even came out.

  5. If I was the Labour Party I would be suing Media Works for slander .
    Using the terms “slavecamps” and “sweatshops” to describe the situation is outrageous inflammatory language and an out and out lie.
    Everyone’s talking about tightening up on fake news but here we go again.
    The only way to stop this crap is a trip to the courthouse !!

    • Totally agree Grant.

      I wish somebody would take these bastards to the cleaners and make a landmark case out of it in the interests of professional journalism.

  6. If I was the Labour Party I would be suing Media Works for slander .
    Using the terms “slavecamps” and “sweatshops” to describe the situation is outrageous inflammatory language and an out and out lie.
    Everyone’s talking about tightening up on fake news but here we go again.
    The only way to stop this crap is a trip to the courthouse !!

  7. Yes.
    Interesting how Morning Report was telling us that the Labour Party was in “damage control”.
    I don’t remember any such term being used in their coverage of the Todd Barclay coverup saga.
    Clearly an attempt by the National philes in RNZ to deflect.
    It took stuffyou.co.nz a couple of days to realise that it wasn’t actually organised by Labour, although Labour did have some input.
    But it did what it was supposed to do – give the rabid right trolls something to vent their pent up frustrations on.
    The fact that most of the reported “facts” were wrong obviously didn’t matter to get stuffed.co.nz, their low standards don’t allow them to see beyond the most basic right wing rhetoric
    A badly organised conference vs National Party coverups over spying, payoffs and witness intimidation.
    Which one is worse?
    stuffedup.co.nz apparently think it is the first one.

    • RNZ/Espiner this morning were exceedingly disappointing – to put it charitably. The Garner-Espiner bromance seems to be lasting a lot longer than a lot of marriages – including the latter’s.
      Pretty shoddy journalism really.
      t+hrrr=EE/New Scrub’s AM ‘show’ exactly as expectorant oops expected – (Richardson at one point having to disguise the orgasm he was having under the table goeeen forwid), and live from Queenstown a struggling actress feigning outrage).

      Never mind…..in some ways I hope the Gnats continue to try and push this ‘cos it has risks they never imagined.

  8. Maybe the people attending from overseas had no idea they would be staying on a marae. Perhaps they were expecting four star hotels. Sounds like more of an organisational and communications stuff up than a scandal.
    But since the National Party is under a lot of pressure at the moment, their mates on the media absolutely have to work it up to deflect some of the attention to National’s ultra dirty politics.

  9. I would like to see a senior member of the Labour Party offer a serious and honest answer to the central charge you are making here – that they withdrew their support from the project because they saw Matt as trying to build a grassroots movement with the aim of pushing them leftward, a la Momentum, and were spooked by it.

    I would like to see such an answer because the claim, since Andrew Little became leader, has been that internal left-right conflicts are over, and I would like to know that by this they do not been that the left has at last been put in its place. Moreover, potential voters need assurance that policies like the one on housing are more than pitches, and are accompanied by conviction and determination. You do not get much out of a neoliberal economic setup unless you are willing to fight for it, and any attempt to shut out the left, supposing your analysis is correct, smells of appeasement.

    Look at Hillary Clinton. “Ooh, Bernie has already done his job…she is taking on some of his policies,” people said. Except everything in her demeanour said business-as-usual, and she lost the election. Labour should avoid falling into the same trap.

  10. Possibly a dirty politics smear campaign from the right, considering what’s gone down with the Natz this week. Too conveniently timed to be anything else.

    Another diversion to take the heat off the Natz!

    • No doubt Mary.
      The manner in which this story has been contrived by TVNZ is desperately obvious. I use the word “contrive” advisedly, after seeing ONE “NEWS” this evening.
      Absolutely no mention of the very serious allegations against Bill English and Glenda Hughes from the Barclay coverup.
      One of the most serious political scandals of recent times to actually see light of day, and poof……..gone. Doesn’t rate a mention within 48 hours.

  11. My favourite part is Bryce Edwards’ faulty logic when he claims it’s an attempt by Labour to emulate the success of UK Labour. My understand is this campaign was hatched long before the UK election was even called.

    The shock of what happened over there must have skewed some people’s perspective on things.

  12. Labour hasn’t changed nor learned the Brexit, Corbyn, Saunders lesson. The Labour party as it stands now is irevant!

  13. Why would labour want to emulate Corbyn or Sanders they both still lost.
    The problem is not just the conditions the fellows had but the fact labour announced an immigration policy about reducing student comming into the country while doing the opposite.

    • “Why would labour want to emulate Corbyn or Sanders they both still lost.”

      Sanders never had a opportunity to run, thanks to Clinton’s corruption of the Democratic primary process. Polls consistently showed he had a better chance of beating Trump, so considering how close the result was, it seems reasonably to suggest he would have won given the chance.

      Corbyn didn’t win a clear majority, that’s true, but the Tories to swallow a whole sackful of dead rats (the DUP) to keep hold of power. If the Tories weren’t that desperate, Labour could have formed a coalition. This was an election that nobody won, but under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour did much better than under Milband, and much better than the Tory landslide all the Blairites predicted. If they had shut their pie holes, and rallied behind their leader, those centre-right maggots might have been government backbenchers by now, instead of opposition backbenchers, who will soon begin to get culled by the party in preparation for when the Con(servative)/ DUP alliance goes to custard.

      “The problem is not just the conditions the fellows had but the fact labour announced an immigration policy about reducing student comming into the country while doing the opposite.”

      These people came here as volunteers to gain election campaigning experience, and this is standard practice in elections around the world. They didn’t come come here as “international students”, and then using that as a foot in the door for getting a job and residency, which is what Labour’s policy actually addresses (rightly or wrongly). Try reading the story you’re commenting on before you start typing, unless of course your purpose in making this comment was to parrot misleading NatACT PR messages, in which case your comment fit this purpose brilliantly.

  14. This is all very disappointing, but not surprising. The opposition, as usual, are busy ankle-tapping each other over fears of how things might smell from the POV of the news media, and the state-corporate poppy-chopping PR machine is busy making hay while the sun shines. Meanwhile, everyone is once against distracted by scandal and trivia, and nobody is talking about policy.

    Props to Bomber for including the Corbynesque policy list in his piece, in an attempt to refocus us on what matters; policy, policy, POLICY! The “mission million” are more likely to make the effort to turn up and tick a box if they keep hearing about policy platform that is *both* radical and realistic (ie things that are not business-as-usual but can be done in 3-6 years). Scandal-mongering, regardless of who the target is, just encourages cynicism (“they’re all as bad as each other”) and disengagement. It’s a politics of desperate power-grabbing, not a politics of vision and pathways to achieving that vision.

  15. Also, a “Campaign for Change” tried to the apron strings of Labour always risked coming across as a red version of the cynical 2005 anti-Greens campaign cooked up by the NatACTS, and fronted by the Exclusive Brethren, and these chickens have come home to roost. I think a “Campaign for Change” type campaign is necessary, but it needs to be a genuinely non-partisan grassroots effort based on a coldly rational analysis of policy offerings. The VoteForPolicy.org.uk website set up for the recent UK election is a good example of what’s needed, here’s Jonathan Pie explaining it in his typically polemical way:

  16. Combining the above manifesto with a bunch of imperialistic idealists going around in a foreign country telling its citizens how to vote, I find rather chilling.
    And bah humbug to all the outrage this week coming from both sides of the spectrum. This is an election year and the game is politics.

  17. I can not be bothered reading MSM anymore, but the Intern situation sounds like a storm in a tea cup to me to take the heat off the Natz.

    BUT, my concern is that the left wing media pick it up and start doing the damage for the Natz. Similar in open mike, in the Standard yesterday.

    Articles like this could be more supportive of a change of government, rather than the divided Labour policy angle included.

    The Natz win because they destroy any right minor parties and consume their voters, mimic Labour and Green policy, while under the covers it’s anything but, and constant diversions and smears against opponents.

    With only a short time to go before the election it would be good to see both the left media and the left voters calling a truce and trying to actually concentrate on the problems of the Natz, their 9 years of terror and what their legacy has been and FUTURE legacy will be if they get in again.

    That’s a lot more terrifying than worrying about 2 interns that didn’t like staying at the Marae and trying to make a scandal out of it.

    Don’t give oxygen to the fake fire left media!

  18. I would like to see any evidence at all that this was signed off by Labour HO. just saying it is so doesn’t make it so. Show me the evidence.

  19. National AND Labour will be shitting bricks at the thought of an aggressive alternative party rising up for the election. Not some ding dong, twee, wheedler of a thing but a genuine direct action party looking for a proper scrap.
    Enthusiasm for that kind of Party is more likely to rise up out of a Marae than anywhere else and it’d be wise of those less than Maori to connect and offer any support.
    The status quo defending confederates will be scurrying about like cornered rats and bricks will be dropping out of Bill English like shit from a cow.

  20. I don’t know why Little doesn’t just smile at the reporters and say “fake news” before heading off.

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