By Bernard Hickey
Labour's bitter internal fight for the leadership looks set to drag on for months after David Cunliffe refused an attempt by caucus colleagues to get him to step aside and let Grant Robertson become leader.
David Cunliffe has announced he will resign as leader from the end of Labour's Parliamentary Caucus meeting on Tuesday, but he said he planned to stand again for the leadership in a wider vote by party members, the caucus and affiliated unions.
"The party has suffered an historic election loss and in resigning as leader I take responsibility for that," Cunliffe said to reporters in Auckland on Saturday afternoon.
Cunliffe said he supported a full review of the defeat.
"Labour’s values are New Zealand’s values. But the election result has reinforced that the Labour Party must change in order to uphold and communicate those values. I was elected one year ago with a mandate to lead change," he said, adding he tried to pull the party and caucus together over that time.
"Clearly there is much more to do, and the party’s direction must be respected. There is no room for division or airing differences through the media despite agreement to the contrary," he said.
"The recent election confirms that Labour needs a more comprehensive overhaul. We need to renew and rebuild our culture, accountabilities, how we do things and present to the world," he said.
Cunliffe said that would require experienced and determined leadership with a broad mandate.
"The Party’s interests must come before any personal interests. I have thought carefully before responding to the calls to re-offer myself for the leadership of the party. Consultation with colleagues, members and affiliates has affirmed that the whole party must participate in this choice, and not just one part of it," he said.
"Therefore I am announcing today that I will nominate for a primary contest, which will be held across the caucus, the party membership and the affiliates as the party constitution requires."
Cunliffe's decision to stand again removes the prospect of an orderly transition to Grant Robertson-Jacinda Ardern ticket that many in the caucus are thought to want.
Labour's constitution specifies a vote on the leadership be decided 40% by members, 40% by caucus members and 20% by affiliated unions.
Cunliffe said he expected Deputy Leader David Parker would become interim leader between next Tuesday and the leadership vote, but that would be a decision for caucus. He said he now planned to go on a family holiday and would not comment again until next Tuesday.
Reporters at the news conference tweeted that Cunliffe believed he could effectively lead the Labour caucus if voted in by the wider party.
He denied that his supporters inside the Labour caucus had abandoned him. He also denied that Labour had lurched to the left before the election.
"I'm sure I retain the bulk of the support of the people who supported me in the past," he said.
He said he believed Labour was not out of touch with New Zealand, but that it needed a refresh and better marketing.
Members and unions supported Cunliffe in 2013
Robertson may face a tough fight against Cunliffe in a full vote before party members and the unions.
Data from Labour's leadership vote last year was leaked to Hamish Rutherford at Fairfax on Friday . The data showed Cunliffe won votes from 3,243 party members, while Robertson won 1,440 and Shane Jones won 709. Cunliffe was even more popular among the union delegates, winning 113 votes, while Robertson won just 12 votes.
(Updated with more detail, background, quotes from news conference.)