29 Sep 2014

Top job could be settled before review

11:31 am on 29 September 2014

The race to pick the next leader of the Labour Party could be done and dusted before the party has completed a review of its dismal showing at the election.

David Cunliffe will officially resign as leader tomorrow and so far he and senior MP Grant Robertson are the only contenders for the top job.

David Cunliffe said he was not going to resign.

David Cunliffe will seek re-election as leader Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Labour's ruling council yesterday released the terms of reference for the review, which will consider most aspects of the 2014 campaign, including leadership. A team of about five reviewers from both in and outside the party are due to report back by 7 December.

Party president Moira Coatsworth said that meant a new leader could be in place before that review is complete.

Ms Coatsworth said she would consult the Labour caucus at its meeting tomorrow on their thoughts on when a contest should be held, and the party's ruling council would decide on Thursday when it will take place.

She said there was a variety of opinions, ranging from those who want to get it over and done with, and others who want to wait until after the review's complete.

"Do we have a long internal conversation and then select a leader and be well into the first year of a campaign? Do we actually move ahead and do both (at the same time)?"

David Shearer.

David Shearer. Photo: SUPPLIED

However ex-leader David Shearer has voiced his opinion that any leadership contest should wait until after the review, and former party president Mike Williams, agrees.

Mr Williams said it was illogical to hold a leadership contest before the review had reported back, and suggested Mr Cunliffe had his own motives for wanting an early contest.

"(David Cunliffe) thinks if there's a fast leadership contest that will benefit him, but I think as people sit and digest the magnitude of the defeat, his support will fall away."

Mr Williams said he could not vote for Mr Cunliffe as leader again.

Mike Williams.

Mike Williams. Photo: RNZ / Dru Faulkner

Labour's former general secretary, Mike Smith, said it would be most sensible to delay the roadshow and election until after the review is complete.

"I'm much more interested in the party getting it right, rather than getting it over ... rushing to judgement in my view is not a wise thing to do at this stage."

But Labour Party activist Lynn Prentice said there was no reason to delay the contest, as the review should focus on the party's positioning more than its leadership.

Mr Prentice owns the Labour-orientated website The Standard. He is backing Mr Cunliffe and thinks most party members feel the same way.

"Probably doesn't seem to have the confidence of a large number of his colleagues in caucus ... basically the caucus are just going to have learn how to work with who the party and affiliates give them."

Former Labour MP Darien Fenton said says the party had spent too much time looking inwards and so must reach out and talk voters.

"I've heard people say we went too far to the left. I've heard people say we went too far to the right ... Look, the bottom line is the New Zealand public did not see us as a viable alternative government."

Ms Fenton voted for Grant Robertson at the last leadership contest, but is reserving her judgement this time until after the timeline and candidates are finalised.

Follow Craig McCulloch on Twitter @rnzgallerycraig

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