Suicide Bomber? Te Atatu MP, Chris Carter.
CHRIS CARTER’S extraordinary self-immolation will prompt many questions. What follows is my first, best guess at the answer to the most obvious.
Why did he do it?
Up until 2008, Carter’s entire parliamentary career had been spent in the Helen Clark-led Labour Party. It was an environment in which a gay MP could feel that he was valued and to a certain extent protected from the less tolerant elements within Labour’s ranks. Clark liked Carter and welcomed him into her inner circle of friends and confidants. Her sudden departure following the 2008 defeat, and the installation of Phil Goff, from the party’s more conservative faction, as Leader of the Opposition must have been hugely upsetting for Carter. No longer in the inner circle, and aware of the unmistakable shift away from his former patron’s social-liberal priorities, he became a politician adrift, and no amount of text-messaging from New York could get him back on course.
This made Carter especially vulnerable to feelings of persecution and rejection when the Ministerial Expenses Scandal broke. Rather than see Goff’s moves for what they really were – sops thrown to a ravenous media Cerberus – Carter interpreted his leader’s pro forma reprimands as deliberate personal slights. His paranoia levels climbed to new heights when Goff seemed to side with his media persecutors by forcing him to publicly apologise for sins he considered himself entirely innocent of committing.
He no longer felt comfortable in the party, and Goff was the man he held responsible for what he now saw as his inexorable marginalisation. In the weeks since his public humiliation and demotion he has obviously come to the unalterable conclusion that his own and the party’s restoration can only be achieved by Goff’s political destruction.
In his own mind, he is the only member of the party willing to say out loud what everybody else is whispering; the only member of the Labour caucus ready to sacrifice his own political future for the sake of the party.
Carter has put on the white robes of the martyr. Goff is his target, and he’s not about to let anyone prevent him from blowing Labour’s leader to Kingdom Come. He has become the political equivalent of a suicide bomber.