Labour leader Shearer tries to take front foot in leadership stoush; Hints at caucus vote 'in the coming days' in bid to quieten Cunliffe speculation

Labour leader Shearer tries to take front foot in leadership stoush; Hints at caucus vote 'in the coming days' in bid to quieten Cunliffe speculation
David Shearer, Labour Party leader

By Alex Tarrant

Labour Party leader David Shearer has called an urgent caucus meeting for 4pm Tuesday where he will seek an endorsement of his leadership.

And despite only needing a simple majority of the vote to keep hold of the leadership - new party rules voted for in the weekend relate to a vote in February - Shearer said he will be seeking a vote of 60% in support of himself.

See the release from Shearer below:

Labour Leader David Shearer has called his caucus to a meeting in Wellington at 4pm tomorrow.

“I will be seeking the endorsement of my colleagues for the Labour leadership.

“The endorsement I’m seeking will be in line with the decision made by Labour Party members at this weekend’s conference that I must have at least 60% support of the caucus.

“A formal endorsement vote will also still be held in February in accordance with the new rules approved by Party members.

“I’m holding this vote tomorrow to demonstrate that I have the support of my caucus and to put recent speculation to bed.

“It is important that these matters are resolved so that Labour can lift its sights to focus on the serious challenges facing the country, including jobs, education and housing affordability,” said David Shearer.

Under new party rules, Shearer requires a '60% plus one' caucus endorsement to stop a party-wide leadership vote from taking place when a scheduled leadership confidence vote takes place in February.

His camp believes they have the numbers over Cunliffe supporters, who require just 40% of the caucus to vote in February for a leadership runoff to occur.

Shearer is trying to get back on the front foot in the stoush with Cunliffe, which flared at the party's conference over the weekend. He hinted this morning he would raise the issue when the party's MPs next meet for caucus, rather than waiting for the scheduled February leadership confidence vote.

And Cunliffe has said he would support Shearer if an early vote were held, although refused to say whether he would support Shearer in February. This has raised expectations Shearer will receive a 100% endorsement tomorrow, which would mask the clear divisions within caucus between MPs supporting him and Cunliffe.

Shearer this morning cancelled a planned visit to Hamilton to instead travel to Wellington to "concentrate on current issues."

This came as Shearer ally and senior party whip Chris Hipkins said Cunliffe's latest actions were dishonest and openly undermined the party leadership.

"Weasel words about supporting the leader for now simply don't cut it," Hipkins said on Monday morning.

Cunliffe's undermining of Shearer, and former leader Phil Goff had "made it impossible for him to continue in a senior role within the Labour team," Hipkins said.

New way to vote

A vote by party membership over the weekend means a leadership run-off can be triggered by the approval of only 40% of the Labour caucus - 14 out of 34 current MPs. In a leadership vote, new party rules give the caucus 40% of the final decision, 40% to members, and 20% to affiliated unions.

The vote was seen as a blow to Shearer. While he received the backing of the majority of Labour MPs in the leadership run-off with Cunliffe last year, Cunliffe was considered to be the favoured candidate amongst grass-roots members.

Speculation has been building that Cunliffe would try and trigger a leadership vote in February, when a confidence on the leadership vote is due to be held.

But on TVOne's Breakfast programme this morning, Shearer hinted at a caucus vote "in the coming days," saying he would “sort this out once and for all.”

This week is not a sitting week in Parliament, meaning Labour was not going to be holding a Tuesday caucus meeting.

“It’ll be sooner rather than later. I’m not going to go into the details about that, because that’s for me to decide. I’m the leader, I’ll call the shots, I call the timetable," Shearer said on Breakfast.

"What I can tell you is that it will be decided and put behind us. New Zealanders want the Labour Party to represent them. They don’t want us to be fighting amongst ourselves. That’s what we have to do, otherwise we’re going nowhere," he said.

Shearer brushed off the suggestion that changes to the way Labour elected its leader would be destabilising for him, saying a vote would only be held once in the course of a Parliamentary term.

“And look, that’s what the Labour membership came up with.”

“The main thing is, they decided, I live with it. But the bottom line is that now we have to be moving forward as the Party. And we’ve got great policies, we are signalling a big change in the way that Labour goes forward, about it being a very hands-on government, and that’s the way I’ll be leading it," Shearer said.

Asked whether he was angry with Cunliffe, Shearer said the party needed to be able to put the debate “behind us.”

“It has been rumbling on every now and then. It needs to be stopped, finished, and we focus on what people want us to focus on. That’s what we’ll be doing in the coming days. I’m not going to say exactly when, but it’ll be me that determines how that happens, when that happens, and we’ll let you know," Shearer said.

Cunliffe will vote for Shearer, but perhaps not in February

Also this morning, Cunliffe said he would vote for Shearer if an early vote was to take place.

"I don't see any need for an earlier vote but if there is one he'll have my support and I wouldn't be surprised if it's unanimous," Cunliffe said on Radio New Zealand.

"I've given David Shearer an assurance of my support," he said.

But asked whether that support would be there in February, Cunliffe said: "I can't give you a commitment for a future vote that hasn't yet occurred."

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


“It’ll be sooner rather than later. I’m not going to go into the details about that, because that’s for me to decide. I’m the leader, I’ll call the shots, I call the timetable," Shearer said.
Mmmm.. the price of democracy?

Well you have to interpret there Stephen H....what Shearer was actually saying there was.
I am in charge, I now need at crisis point to behave agressively in charge, I am utterly convinced I will put down this coup with ruthless efficiency and  the confidence of numbers among my colleagues.
I shall not give you the timetable for the rout at this point , as I will need to verify the previous statement and get back to you ....
or not as the case may be.


he wants men around him who are loyal enough to kiss his ass and say it smelled like a rose.
lyndon johnson

there is no Labour leadership - so whats the crisis !?
It is   H1 and H2 that are still the real leaders -  and  watch out for ex- union boss Mr Little,because he has big plans to get the top job too...

yippee - who will get the haircut then , Shearer or Cunni

Labour's new leadership rules are very confusing.
It seems Shearer only needs a simple majority tomorrow.
However, in the February vote (voted for at the conference over the weekend) he needs '60% plus one' to stop a leadership run-off.
Were any readers at the conference over the weekend? What did you think about it?

Paralysis, thy name is politics.

bit lame Ralphie....?

Well perhaps, but is it true?
They do appear to be digging themselves a hole in which to fall.

Oh sorry Ralph , it was one of those replies you had to think about, you know like what do you call a man in the bushes with no arms or legs...?

;)  -- the result of working and commenting at the same time.  Being a humble bloke my multi tasking has it's limits.

From the Standard
If there is a leadership motion this week under the old rules, I expect that Cunliffe and his supporters will turn it into a nullity by voting for Shearer on the grounds that any leadership votes from now on should be under the new rules. [Update: as predicted, Cunliffe has said he will support Shearer if there is a vote this week or next]
It’s important to remember that Cunliffe hasn’t launched any coup and all this talk from Mallard and co of Cunliffe destabilising Shearer is rubbish. The membership voted itself a greater say, not Cunliffe. There has been nothing that Cunliffe has done that can be reasonably construed as an attack on the stability of the party. All he has done is left open the possibility of a challenge at the anointed time next year but that’s only fair given Shearer’s weak performance to date (one good turn in front of the autocue notwithstanding).
All this malice towards Cunliffe simply isn’t justified. He has done a bloody good job as Economic Development spokesperson (eg the manufacturing inquiry); he only did his duty as delegate, along with a majority of others, in supporting democracy in the Labour Party; and he has launched no coup or otherwise sought to undermine Shearer.
If anyone is trying to exploit the situation of the members voting for democracy, it’s the old guard trying to beat it up as a story of disloyalty to, in Mallard’s words, ‘head Cunliffe off at the pass’ rather than wait until the proper time and, if there is a challenge, let the members have their say. And the old guard are just a small minority in the party. The problem for them is, they know it.
Let’s hope that they now realise that their best interests, along with Labour’s and the Left’s lie in them turning their guns off Cunliffe and on to National for the next three months.

David Shearer and David Cunliffe are just two deck chairs amongst 34 on the Titanic.