4 Jul 2014

Labour Party faithful to gather

6:07 am on 4 July 2014

The Labour Party goes into its annual congress this weekend after weeks of poor political poll results.

Labour leader David Cunliffe and senior MP Grant Robertson.

Labour leader David Cunliffe and senior MP Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Despite that, leader David Cunliffe's message to members will be that Labour can and must win the election.

National dropped on average about 6 or 7 percent during election campaigns, and Labour's work on the ground to get people to polling booths must add 2-3 percent for it, Mr Cunliffe said.

That put Labour well within striking distance of forming a coalition Government, he said.

But Mr Cunliffe does not expect to face any hard questions about his leadership at the congress, as it is a policy-driven conference rather than a constitutional one.

He said it would be about honing Labour's campaigning machinery, training candidates and campaign teams to go out and do battle.

There would be a number of announcements during the weekend, focussing on education policy, he said.

Already this week it had announced it would pay $100 a student to schools which stop asking parents for donations.

Prime Minister John Key agrees education is an important and critical issue.

He said the Government's $359 million investment in professional development was an important step forward, and it had invested heavily in new schools nationwide.

But Labour had not supported any of that, and chucking $100 at parents and telling them they did not have to pay a donation was not going to lift the performance of the country's schools, Mr Key said.

Labour's election year congress is being held in Wellington, with announcements on Saturday and Sunday and Mr Cunliffe giving his leader's address on Sunday afternoon.