24 Sep 2014

Cunliffe clings onto Labour leadership

2:00 pm on 24 September 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe is refusing to be drawn on discussions about his leadership after a marathon caucus meeting yesterday.

David Cunliffe after the seven-hour caucus meeting.

David Cunliffe after the seven-hour caucus meeting, with newly-appointed senior whip Chris Hipkins behind. Photo: RNZ

The party is licking its wounds after its worst defeat since 1922. Unsurprisingly, Labour MPs have agreed to review their 2014 election campaign, and the terms of reference will be decided this weekend.

But David Cunliffe is showing no sign of standing down after the party's devastating drubbing at the polls. Emerging from a seven-hour caucus meeting last night, he said their discussion about the election and its aftermath had been long and useful.

"It is likely that the party council will engage two or more senior and qualified people to independently review the data and feedback on the election'' he said.

"That's for them to describe the process but I understand it will include a submission process as well as an analytical process, and they are tasked with reporting back as quickly as possible."

However, the caucus meeting made no decision about whether to go immediately to a leadership vote.

The meeting did decide on two new whips: Chris Hipkins will be senior whip while Carmel Sepuloni will take the junior role. Clare Curran will be caucus secretary.

Newly appointed Mr Hipkins is toeing the party line. He told Morning Report a proper process should be followed to find problems in Labour's election campaign.

A former critic of Mr Cunliffe in the past, Mr Hipkins told Morning Report he was no longer a critic.

Mr Hipkins described the caucus meeting as productive and said all MPs now needed time to reflect on the campaign.

Chris Hipkins said there were no problems with Labour's leadership election process. He would not speculate about whether David Cunliffe would win a Labour leadership contest.

After talking to Morning Report, Mr Hipkins used Twitter to reinforce his loyalty to Mr Cunliffe's approach:

Meanwhile former Labour MP Dover Samuels has said David Cunliffe needed to take personal responsibilty for the dismal election result.

Dover Samuels told Morning Report Mr Cunliffe needed to step aside.

Mr Samuels said the honourable thing David Cunliffe should have done was tender his resignation when the election results were made clear.

He said Labour's vote has gone down because the party has moved to the left.

But another former Labour MP, Darien Fenton, cautioned those calling for David Cunliffe's resignation, saying fresh wounds needed to heal following the party's dismal election result.

Darien Fenton, who stood down at the election, said time was needed for the review to find problems within the party.

She said cool heads needed to prevail and thought out decisions needed to be made, and she recommended that Labour spoke to a selection of voters to see why the party recorded its worst result since 1922.

Tuesday

Mr Cunliffe yesterday said he wanted the party to hold a primary style contest for the leadership soon, but steadfastly refused to resign in the interim.

At a news conference early in the day, he criticised other senior caucus colleagues for speaking out in the media. He said the front bench and senior leadership of the party had a meeting on Sunday at which they agreed no one would talk to the media.

Despite several questions, Mr Cunliffe refused to say exactly how a primary contest would be sparked. Under party rules, one way the contest could occur would be if there was a confidence vote and 40 percent of the caucus voted against him.

He said he wanted the vote to be taken sooner rather than later, and not necessarily to wait until the final election result has been confirmed in a few weeks.

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