20 Nov 2012

Shearer likely to get full support in leadership vote

4:44 pm on 20 November 2012

Labour Party MPs have spoken in support of party leader David Shearer as they arrive at Parliament for the leadership vote on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Shearer called the urgent meeting, starting at 4pm, to head off speculation of a leadership challenge from senior MP, David Cunliffe.

Mr Cunliffe turned to smile and wave to waiting media when he went into the caucus room at Parliament.

Mr Shearer and his deputy Grant Robertson strode into caucus a short time later.

Policy announcements and remits at Labour's annual conference in Auckland at the weekend were overshadowed by arguments about the leadership.

Mr Shearer says he called Tuesday's meeting to demonstrate that he has the support of his caucus so it can focus on the serious challenges facing New Zealand.

It is expected Mr Shearer will receive unanimous support from the caucus, though not all MPs are saying whether they will support him again in February when the leadership will come up for review.


One MP willing to commit is list MP Darien Fenton.

She says she will support Mr Shearer as leader at this meeting, and in February.

Ms Fenton says the leader was right to call the meeting. "We've got a couple of months before February, when there will be another vote, and we need to make sure that we get on top of the agenda and deliver for the people that expect us to deliver."

Labour Party MP for Mangere, Su'a William Sio, also affirmed his support for the party leader.

"I'm armed with some very strong messages that I'll convey to the caucus but it shouldn't be a surprise what the vote will be today."

Mr Robertson says he expects Mr Shearer to be endorsed.

"David's very confident. I think the caucus is well and truly behind him. This is an opportunity to put that to the test, put it behind us, draw a line under it and get on with taking it to the Government."

Mr Robertson says MPs will be told the caucus must be united, and work as a team.

He says they will be reminded of the expectation that it's their job to promote party policies, and back the leader.

After the vote, it is likely that Mr Shearer will demote David Cunliffe to the backbenches.

The New Lynn MP is currently ranked 5th in the caucus, and is the party's spokesperson on economic development and associate finance.

He is expected to be stripped of the economic development portfolio, but may hold on to associate finance.

However, it is not expected that any of Mr Cunliffe's supporters will be demoted, as that would risk splitting the caucus.

Mr Robertson says decisions about portfolios will be made by the leader.

MPs Shane Jones and Phil Twyford were tight lipped about what would happen ahead of the meeting.

Leadership vote a mistake - Prebble

Former Labour MP Richard Prebble says it was a mistake for David Shearer to call the leadership vote because it looks like weakness.

Mr Prebble, a Cabinet minister in the 1980s and then leader of the ACT party, told Morning Report it will not stop another leadership battle in February.

He believes that David Cunliffe will put himself forward at that time as leader and lose to a third candidate, possibly Grant Robertson.

But former Labour Party president Mike Williams believes Mr Shearer gave an exceptionally good speech to the conference and should now reflect on his next move.

Mr Williams told Morning Report that it is not necessary to punish Mr Cunliffe.

"My advice to him would be do not send David Cunliffe to the back bench - he's very talented. But I'd keep a close eye on him."

Mr Williams says Mr Shearer has enough momentum to put an end to leadership challenges and calling a ballot is not a sign of weakness.