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Jim Anderton's frosty relationship with Labour's new chief of staff has not stopped him giving the party tips on how to win this year's election.
Anderton and his former political ally, Matt McCarten, both former Alliance Party members, had an acrimonious bust-up more than a decade ago and don't speak to each other.
McCarten's appointment as Labour's new chief of staff has placed Anderton on the outer, despite successfully running Labour's Christchurch East by-election campaign last year.
The former long-serving Wigram MP did not want to comment on McCarten or their relationship.
"I haven't talked about McCarten since the Alliance breakup and I don't intend to start now."
The by-election success had many predicting that Anderton would be back for the nationwide campaign, but it is understood he was disappointed that leader David Cunliffe picked McCarten as his chief of staff.
"I won't be actively engaged in this year's campaign. I don't want to say anything more if it's going to hurt them [Labour]."
McCarten's presence was clearly why Anderton had backed off.
"That has a bit to do with the present situation but I don't want to go there."
Anderton said the by-election was "no pushover", but his efforts helped avoid a potential disaster for Labour had it lost heading into an election year.
"If they had lost, that would have been a huge blow to Cunliffe and probably would have been the finish of any chance at the election. How can you go into a general election when you have lost one of your theoretically safe seats? It would have been difficult to come back from."
The "lessons" from Christchurch East should be applied by the party nationwide this year, he said.
"[In the by-election], we wanted clear relevant policy for the time. We had a package that was relevant, that was timely, that was well considered and I knew would be popular."
That same thinking was needed by Labour from a national perspective. "They've got to understand the New Zealand constituency, have relevant, timely policy . . . just four or five things that gel in people's minds."
Having the manpower and the ability to mobilise voters were other crucial factors.
"We had that in Christchurch East. The question is, has Labour got the firepower? That's the unanswered question."
Despite the Government holding firm in its popularity in most polls, Anderton said the election would be closer than most thought.
"Could Labour win? Yes. Will they win? I will tell you on election night."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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