Matt McCarten's appointment as Labour leader David
Cunliffe's chief of staff has reawakened a longstanding rift -
former Progressives leader Jim Anderton has withdrawn his help
for Labour in this year's election campaign.
Mr McCarten was confirmed in the role at a joint press
conference with Mr Cunliffe yesterday. He said he had taken
the job despite initially being critical of Mr Cunliffe
because he was "pleasantly surprised" by the direction the
leader was taking the party.
"We have got to know each other very well. The chemistry has
been extraordinary. We have a lot of similar beliefs, and I
thought this man could be the Prime Minister and should be
the Prime Minister."
Asked if he and Mr Anderton had reconciled since the then
Deputy Prime Minister split from the Alliance in 2002, Mr
McCarten said the differences at that time were "profound"
but "we will work together on this campaign".
Mr Cunliffe would not say if Mr Anderton had agreed with the
choice of Mr McCarten, "but Jim is showing by his actions
that he's coming home to Labour".
However, Mr Anderton made it clear he was not coming home,
saying he helped Labour in the 2013 Christchurch East
byelection and in his old electorate of Wigram in 2008 "but I
will not be helping in the general election campaign. I don't
want there to be any confusion."
He had not spoken about Mr McCarten publicly since the
Alliance split "and I don't intend to start now".
Mr McCarten split from Labour in 1989 in protest at
Rogernomics and joined Mr Anderton to set up NewLabour, which
merged with others to become the Alliance. Mr Anderton set up
the Progressives in 2002 after disagreements over the
governing relationship with Labour. Since then, Mr McCarten
has helped set up the Maori Party, the Mana Party and the
Unite trade union.
He has been critical of Mr Cunliffe in his columns for the
Herald on Sunday, including suggesting he resign from
politics for failing to pull his weight in 2012 and accusing
him of narcissism and "the same phoniness as the Republican
US presidential nominee Mitt Romney".
Mr Cunliffe said he did not want a "yes-person". He also
rejected claims by Prime Minister John Key that the McCarten
appointment signified a swing to the far left.