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Cunliffe accuses 'beltway babes' of plotting 'backroom deals'; Robertson says Cunliffe 'watching too much West Wing'; Parker has no confidence in Cunliffe and position 'untenable

Cunliffe accuses 'beltway babes' of plotting 'backroom deals'; Robertson says Cunliffe 'watching too much West Wing'; Parker has no confidence in Cunliffe and position 'untenable
Grant Robertson answering media questions outside Labour's caucus rooms in Parliament on Tuesday.

By Lynn Grieveson

Labour's Parliamentary caucus descended into an all-in political brawl on Tuesday as the main candidates traded insults and reopened old wounds about past leadership coups.

Labour's MPs held a three hour caucus meeting in Parliament where they voted David Parker as interim leader and Annette King as interim deputy leader. Parker told reporters after the meeting he expected the full leadership contest held before party members would be completed by Christmas and the details would be announced by the Labour Council on Thursday.

Earlier, David Cunliffe opened the hostilities in a Campbell Live interview in which he latched on to the criticism of rival candidate Grant Robertson and his likely deputy Jacinda Ardern as "beltway babes."

He offered Grant Robertson the position of Deputy Leader, but then went on to describe his opponents "as a group of beltway politicians" and that party members would not tolerate a leadership being "ushered in by some backroom deal."

Cunliffe explained his 'beltway politicians' comment on his arrival at Parliament for the caucus meeting where he formally resigned. Earlier, the candidates had traded blows in media scrums before entering caucus. Cunliffe's 'beltway politician' line was the focus.

"It refers to a political culture around the capital. It's a term that is used internationally and my comment is related for the need for us to look outwards, to connect with our base and to connect with New Zealanders," Cunliffe said. "I am not personalising it to individuals. This is about a political culture and the need for us to maintain connection with our base," he said, denying he was referring specifically to Robertson.

"I am not saying that people in the beltway are not good. I am saying that the culture needs to be outward looking."

Cunliffe said he did not necessarily need a majority of supporters in the Labour caucus to win the leadership contest, which gives 40% of the vote to party members, 40% to the caucus and 20% to union affiliates.

He went on to question the gap that had opened up between Labour's electorate vote and its party vote, which some had suggested was an implied criticism that Labour candidates had not campaigned hard enough for the party vote.

"I've seen for a while, and it is worse in this election than previously, a diversion between the electorate vote and the party vote. Just imagine we got 35% of the party vote, which is approximately what we got on the electorate vote, we would be in government," Cunliffe said.

Cunliffe rejected as "nonsense" the comment from Robertson that Cunliffe had effectively insulted Labour's volunteers by questioning their committment to winning the party vote.

"That's just not true. Because I have been at pains from election night on, in a speech that some thought was too positive, to thank and acknowledge volunteers and as recently as this morning on TVNZ Breakfast my very first comment was to thank and acknowledge the volunteers who are the backbone of our party," Cunliffe said.

Cunliffe denied that he had had anything to do with rolling David Shearer last year. Members of Cunliffe's camp have pointed to Robertson as the plotter behind Shearer's downfall. He said he would be willing to be deputy if that's what the caucus wanted.

"I've offered an olive branch if I am reconfirmed in the leadership role to have Grant Robertson or one of his supporters as deputy and likewise I would make myself available should people wish," he said.

Parker has no confidence in Cunliffe

Meanwhile, Deputy Leader David Parker told reporters he had no longer had any confidence in Cunliffe and that Cunliffe's position in bidding for the leadership again was untenable.

"I expressed the view to caucus last week that after the election loss we suffered I should tender my resignation. I also said David Cunliffe no longer had my confidence as leader. I don't think it is tenable David Cunliffe continue as leader," Parker said.

Cunliffe said Parker was entitled to his view.

"I respect him but we have different views about the options going forward," he said.

Asked why the rest of caucus would have confidence in him when Parker did not, Cunliffe said: "I can tell you from the literally thousands of messages that I have received in the last ten days that I have a lot of confidence still from, not only some caucus colleagues, but a lot around the party."

"At the end of the day I believe we need major reform to be a fighting force capable of winning the 2017 election. We have just had a drubbing. That is why today I am standing down as leader of the Labour Party. I also believe it needs strong, determined and experienced leadership to take the party through that change process. That is why I am giving the party the choice of either renewing my mandate for that change or selecting someone else."

Robertson returns serve

Robertson rejected Cunliffe's characterisation of him as a 'beltway politician' "It's an American political term isn't it? So perhaps someone's been watching too much West Wing," Robertson said.

"Every member of the caucus I know works hard for the constituents in their electorate where they're from and it's not a term I use. I think our party is about all the people of New Zealand."

Cunliffe later denied having the time to watch television.

Robertson said he would be unlikely to offer Cunliffe the role of deputy leader. He said he thought he had good support in caucus.

"My colleagues have worked with me other the past couple of years I think have got to know me well. They see me as someone that's got good judgement and can lead and unify the team so I have very strong support," he said.

Robertson described Cunliffe's comments about the gap between electorate votes and party votes as "an insult to the thousands of volunteers who put in time in the wind and the rain, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, on election day getting out the vote."

Robertson said Cunliffe was "absolutely wrong on that." Robertson rejected suggestions from the Cunliffe camp that he had undermined Shearer last year or had plotted for his removal.

After the event

Parker said he was looking forward to being the leader on a short term basis.

"The caucus was clear that they wanted someone who was beyond the pale in terms of their neutrality and, of course, Annette's done it before and she's almost the mother - the grandmother - of the party now," Parker said.

Parker said Labour could get through its divisions.

"I think we are mature, we are a 98 year old party. We ain't going to disappear." he said.

Caucus had recommended to the Party Council that the leadership contest be finished before the Party's review of the election result was completed, but that an interim report was requested before the leadership vote was held, Parker said.

Parker reiterated his decision to not stand for the leadership himself.

"I am sure just about everyone in that room has been asked by someone to stand as leader. We've all got our supporters," he said.

Parker said he hoped the debate would be civilised.

"You can't have a contest without people robustly defending their views but I hope we'll keep it seemly."

King said the fight was not the worst she had seen.

"The 1980s were much worse than this. Whenever there is a loss by a party there is going to be a time of turbulence. I have to say I have been there and seen that before. There is turbulence, and I know it is exciting for the media, all this turbulence, but we will get through and we will come out of it and we will be a strong party," King said, adding she had seen more brutal caucus meetings.

Asked if Labour would be effective in Parliament, Parker said: "We are the same people that we were before the election, sadly, because we haven't brought many new people into parliament."

(Updated with caucus meeting vote result. The caucus meeting ended midway through the afternoon with David Parker appointed interim leader and Annette King appointed Deputy Leader, more comments from news conference.)

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Updated with caucus meeting vote result. The caucus meeting ended midway through the afternoon with David Parker appointed interim leader and Annette King appointed Deputy Leader.


Registrations of Interest are invited for the following activities:

  • Disposal of biohazardous waste (BHW)
  • Collection systems for aforesaid waste
  • Monitoring and regulation of collection and disposal


Nature of BHW

  • Blood
  • Small body parts
  • The occasional head (may or may not contain brain cells)


Nature of collection systems envisaged

  • Gutters, holding tanks and wash-down
  • Settling and recovery/recycling facilities
  • Lifting and carrying equipment


Monitoring and Regulation - objectives

  • Ensure overall facilities present a safe working environment
  • Ensure collection and disposal activities do not attract MSM attention
  • Ensure survivors have access to counselling, fresh clothes and transfusions


Site  of activities

  • Labour Party Headquarters
  • Such other places as may be deemed necessary or expedient

Cheers Waymad.

We did notice Worksafe NZ staffers prowling the corridors of Parliament wearing their brightest high viz gear...




David Parker and Annette King ... it does seem appropriate that the 98 year old NZ Labour Party be led by two of it's original founders ...


... speaking of flounders ... is there no one other than Cunny or Robbo in the running for the leadership ?


Gor blimey .... what a shower !


Are the Nats selling tickets to this show yet?


Labour should get Duco involved. Might make it a popular event.



Parker is one of Labours best assets. 

He has a good manner, communicates in a down to earth manner, & thinks outside the square economically. 

Probably not best for leader, but they should give him more media time etc,  he should be critiquing national and showing the NZ public the alternatives.   


Agree with that. Personally I think they should make Parker leader for the next election. He won't win, but he's tough, will give Key a good run and will claw back some ground. Then install a populist like Nash for 2020. They need to think beyond 2017, they probably don't have a hope of winning that.


There will be no Kim Dotcom next time round to see to it that people are scared off voting for Labour or Greens 

He is the only answer I can come up with as to how voters could put a Labour candidate into an electorate yet the National party vote topped.

Next time also, Labour and the Greens will probably get more strategic about the electorates as well. Nothing could be as cynical as David Seymour in Epsom, not even Peter Dunne who does at least quite possibly have the affection of the people of his


Oh, try looking at a few things.  Labour's lurch to the left, its fixation with minorities leaving a big % of its possible vote concluding Labour is un-interested in it. The likes of mana party and other "hard" lefties like the Internet party scared ppl, with their spend, spand mantra, it sure scared me.

"get more startegic" yes they should, Act have an MP with 0.7% of the vote, the left needs to get off its high horse and work with the MMP system, they just look stupid when they do not, Dunne could have been long gone 2 elections ago at least.





Agree with Mark`s agreement.If my perception that Labour support is 35+ years old,then a

Parker, along with Annette King leadership, provides a stronger opposition for the

Nat`s.They`re not given to excess and their experience in the rough and tumble of parliament

would provide a sound platform for Labour to return to representing the working class(thats

most of us),along with Winston.For those bloggers who say they`re a past generation, look

at population figures,and factor in the youth vote that can be brave and vote for the Greens

and Dot Com.Because thats the age group that I fall within the saying, "age and cunning

trump youth and skill "resonates.


Agree...I think however he's astute enough to realise he only has one shot at Leader and PM and given the backstabbing David Shearer said he had to deal with may well be bideing his time until the left and other minorities are cleared off the deck. 

"not best" dont agree there. As the public face of Labour I think he he might well have what it takes.






Cunliffe is one of National's best assets ...


... in lieu of him , Labour might actually choose a leader with a decent set of baubles under his beltway ..


These are the people that wanted to run our country...  Just imagine the chaos if Labour, Greens, IM and Winston were all in the same room trying to make decisions. 


Labour party, pick up the phone and call either Julia Gillard or K Rudd.  Both are looking for opportunities and way more capable than any Labour's current bods.  Else, ask Winston to pay $10 to become Labour Party member and het him to do the job!


One word to describe Labour's future "Goodbye"


The Greens should be having a field day. They should be mopping up all those disapointed Labour suporters and become the opposition party.


Not that i support the Greens. I am not opposed to their environment poilcies its just those sickly liberal policies they have. Like must have a male and female leader.


If i build a new house then the Greens policy is. The first spiders to find my house and build a web shall have special privilages over all other spiders that come later


We have too many nonsence parties. We needs the likes of Bernard to start a new party for Real people.



Labour is a bit like a dead cat, it will bounce a few times then gets pretty smelly..  


Beltway.  A great descriptive word.   Grant Robertson might want to bat that away as quickly as possible, but it ain't so easy Grant.

1.   There is such an enviroment as 'inside the beltway'

2.    There are people who inhabit that weird world, with little appreciation of the outside. 

3.     We do have a beltway in New Zealand, and it has inhabitants.

4.    Grant Robertson is one of them.

New Zealanders will see that about Grant in 2017, even if all of those other beltway inhabitants give him the leaders job.


More importantly, how do prospective leaders relate to the MortgageBelt? 

Wage earners with Mortgages in the suburbs comprise a majority of voters....


Neither of these individuals are suitable leaders.  They are putting there own political egos and ambitions ahead of what the party needs right now.  That is, a sensible delay under an interim leader while the party figures out what is going wrong (ongoing) and the best way to move forward.  These are the last people who should be leaders and really just evidence of part of Labour's many problems.  The leaders that they should be looking fo rare  the people who are trying to stand back from the fray and advising analysis and thought before action.


Dirty Tricks on Twitter : David Cunliffe's wife has been running a Twitter account under her nickname " Tarn " , calling for the expulsion from the NZ Labour Party of any "ABC" MP ...


... she reserved some vitriole for Clayton Cosgrove and Trevor Mallard ... who she described as " beyond their use by date " ... and gave Grant Robertson a swift knee in the baubles for good measure ...


Go Mrs C. ... way to boost and elevate your man's chances of redemption .... haaaaa deeee haaaaaaa ....