Te Atatu MP Chris Carter has joined a select group of sitting parliamentarians to be expelled from the Labour party.
The party’s council last night expelled Mr Carter, saying his "furtive, sneaky letter" criticising Phil Goff’s leadership and lack of remorse were damaging.
Some reports say he is the first MP to be expelled since John A Lee in 1940, though others such as John Kirk have been suspended.
Party president Andrew Little announced the council’s decision just after midnight after a meeting in Wellington that lasted more than seven hours, more than half of which Carter spent arguing his case. He left at 9.30pm by a back entrance to avoid journalists.
The council found he had breached rules by acting in a misleading manner likely to cause internal discontent and encourage external ridicule.
While Carter last week accepted he would not stand again in his Te Atatu seat he hoped to remain a party member.
He has already been thrown out of the parliamentary wing of the party after sending an anonymous letter to the media on July 29, which said a coup was planned against Mr Goff because he couldn't win the next election. He was quickly outed as the letter's author.
At the time Mr Carter was smarting from criticism of excessive spending on travel while he was a minister and in opposition.
Mr Little said Carter's arguments were considered and the 17 members in the meeting – six by teleconference – did not have a predetermined position.
"When it came down to it, the council considered that the actions that he took were very serious, had the author of his letter to the gallery not been revealed or disclosed it would have caused considerable harm to that caucus and the way it operates and there's no question that the publicity that the whole enterprise generated in the days following caused damage to the party," Mr Little said.
On his way in, a tense Mr Carter said he was still committed to the party and hoped his record of more than 20 years with the party would be considered.
He argued that others committed similar infringements without being severely punished by the party.
However, Mr Little said in the past leadership challenges and coups had seen direct confrontations either to the person concerned or the party caucus.
"That didn't happen on this occasion. All there was, was a furtive sneaky letter sent around the press gallery, the authorship of which was only revealed after investigation. That's the issue."
The decision was "extraordinarily difficult" Little said, especially because of Carter's long history with the party and record in Cabinet where he was "an outstanding minister for Labour in government."
Mr Carter will effectively end his political career as an independent and has indicated he will not stand at the next general election.
NBR staff and NZPA
Tue, 12 Oct 2010