Friday 30 July 2010

Chris Carter: Q+A

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.


David said...

Aw c'mon Chris why try to rationalise the actions of someeone who has lost his marbles. See it for what it is and see Carter for what he really is.
Carter has finally revealed the fragility and lack of real intellectual depth of Labour in the Helen Clark era.
This action is that of someone who has cracked under pressure which is scary considering the power he wielded when in Government.
Either that or it is the first shot in a war of attrition between the GLL faction and the Conservative Right of the Labour Party.
One thing is for sure, no amount of "move on" exhortations will help heal the rifts that have been opened.

Dylan said...

"In his own mind"

As you allude to, it's hard not to think that the guy is a little delusional. Maybe the poor guy just needs a holiday.

Anonymous said...

I wish Carter could blow Goff out of the water, but I think all he has done now is cement Goff in place as leader.

Carter is right- Labour were never going to win with Goff in charge. I was hoping one morning soon I would get up and find there had been a coup overnight and Goff was gone and Cunliffe was now leader. Then Labour would have had a chance at the next election.

The Labour caucus are in an unenviable position now. If they roll Goff it is going to make them all look like liars for swearing allegience to Goff yesterday. It will also vindicate Carter. But if they stay with Goff then they will be hammered at the next election.

Goff and the old guard need to go but it looks like Labour are going to make this a long, drawn out messy affair that will leave them in opposition for years.

Jonathan said...


Right as some of the opposition's attacks start hitting home on the government on mining & the unions gearing up (see the most recent roy morgan poll) what does Carter do? Decide to take over the headlines with his rubbish.

His sense of entitlement is both amazing & utterly ridiculous. We're better off without him. just wish he left quietly.

Anonymous said...

Carter had a point about the 4 weeks holiday.

MT1982 said...

"Goff and the old guard need to go but it looks like Labour are going to make this a long, drawn out messy affair that will leave them in opposition for years."

Go, go where, Anonymous? The old guard are the ones in the Party still committed to Labour's founding principles of social justice, rather than the grasping minority of "identity" activists. Those traditional principles are the answer to the Government's aggressive Right-wing agenda.

My hope is that the departure of Carter will result in a re-affirmation by the Party of its founding values - which are as relevant today as they were in 1935.

ak said...

Nup. You can debate the efficacy, but in their own minds suicide bombers literally lay down their lives for their friends.

Carter's more Judas: and if Goffy's current agony in the garden can forge the same character it did in Hels, there may yet be a resurrection.

The mob (the less than one-in-ten media-blown ideological flotsam that determines our governance)is emerging from the post-Helenhate hangover and tiring of the slippery, assuaging doughboy: it's time to release the inner Barabbus - ideally the rhetoric of Jim Anderton delivered by an articulate Jim Knox.

Winnie's already onto it.

Tiger Mountain said...

@anonymous. I smell a Nat!

Anonymous said...

I don't think any leader can win it for Labour for a few years, people are still too angry with them for nine years of quite arrogant power and control (near the end, anyway). Cunliffe reminds me of Key, and is far more pompous than Goff. National must be loving this, will their poll-rating now hit the outer-limits? Carter was a fool, but the Left wing of the caucus don't like Goff, or that's what one senses. Too straight, too nice, too Kiwi.

Madison said...

If what Carter is doing is truly a stand on principals to fix the party then more support for him. I've thought him quite arrogant in the past but I'm reasonably happy with his stand if he's willing to become a martyr to fix the party. We need more MPs who stand on their ideals and don't flip where the tide goes to keep getting votes and keep their power like Bill English, Jim Anderton, Brownlee and any other slime you care to mention. Even if I don't like their ideas and principals I'll gladly support someone who stands up to maintain their dignity than pander cheaply to keep power.
Here's to hoping he's done and is doing the right thing.

WAKE UP said...

Schadenfreude's a wonderful thing, especially when it involves an ego-tripping diva whose Mama isn't there to hold his hand any more.

Victor said...


"The mob (the less than one-in-ten media-blown ideological flotsam that determines our governance)is emerging from the post-Helenhate hangover and tiring of the slippery, assuaging doughboy"

Beautifully put! If there was an award for 'Polemicist of the Year', you'd get my vote! Cheers

Anonymous said...

Care to face the awful possibility Chris? That after Goff and Mallard's inept 'see a shrink' response to Carter's one-act farce, Carter may be kept by the Party's ruling Council? Sounds like it from the speed Little and chums are back-pedalling. Especially as they won't want an expensive byelection a year out from a general election, and during the local body/Supercity elections.

2 months sick leave now, with no decision til after? If Carter stays (and the public will see it as bitter to expel him after 2 months 'sanity break'), then Goff is further undermined - perhaps fatally.

Could it have even been Carter's ploy all along? Provoke an attempted expulsion, knowing he had enough 'identity politics' groups in Labour to stay, leaving Goff in an untenable position. Gives the leadership change Carter wanted.

Who to? 2 names not mentioned much so far are Grant Robertson and Charles Chauvel - from the same rainbow faction as Carter, and perhaps the only realistic leaders apart from Cunliffe. Robertson would be the best of all Labour's hacks, actually - a good clear speaker who can inspire on occassions, and may shift Labour fractionally back to worker values.

My how Helen C must be laughing (between texts to Carter, of course). Goff may not last 1 term as leader. If she has engineered this, it will confirm her iron-grip over Labour, and her antipathy to Goff. Neither a good sign for their future.

Mad Marxist