David Cunliffe withdraws from Labour leadership race; says supports Andrew Little's candidacy; Race left to Robertson, Little, Parker and possibly Shearer

By Bernard Hickey

Former Labour Leader David Cunliffe has withdrawn from the race for the leadership and has thrown his weight behind former union leader and list MP Andrew Little.

Cunliffe made the announcement at a news conference in Auckland. His move followed growing calls from party leaders for him to pull out in the wake of the September 20 election result and his widely criticised decision to initially stay on as leader.

"It has been a hard decision to make but it is one that I believe is in the best interests of the wider Labour Party," Cunliffe said.

"To truly serve New Zealanders we must first win government.  To do that we need a united caucus and party.  I believe that although I retain broad support around the party, the time has come to step aside," he said.

"Which is why, in withdrawing I am throwing my personal support behind Andrew Little’s bid for the leadership.  I have enormous respect for Andrew and his integrity. I believe he is the right man for the job."

Little announced his candidacy for the Labour leadership on Friday. He called for a review of all of Labour's policies, in particular its Capital Gains Tax, extended NZ Superannuation age and NZ Power policies. See our story here from Friday.

Cunliffe said he would stay on as the Labour MP for New Lynn.

"I believe Andrew will achieve greater cohesion across the caucus, and get the process of listening to New Zealanders underway quickly - both with voters and those hundreds of thousands who chose not to vote in the September election," he said.

Cunliffe said he made the decision to stand down last week, but had been occupied looking after his mother and brother, who were both seriously ill.

Little was later reported to have said that Cunliffe was unlikely to be his deputy and that he was instead looking at including a woman as his deputy, potentially a Maori or Pacific Island woman.

Little said he had made no arrangements with Cunliffe for any other role.

Parker in too

After previously saying he would not seek the Labour leadership, David Parker threw his hat into the ring on Sunday.

"I genuinely did not intend to seek the leadership, preferring to let the process play itself out and to take on the role of moderator, along with Annette (King), to keep the contest seemly. However, over the past 10 days I have been approached by many people from all walks of life, across the spectrum, asking me to stand," Parker said.

"Without a broadly-based, social democratic party, with wide support, we effectively face the prospect of a ‘one party parliament’ propped up by crony satellite micro-parties. Labour cannot be a subset of a subset of a subset in the political arena. If we’re not aiming for more than 50 per cent, then we’re going to lose," Parker said.

"Leadership is also about being brave. And that includes accepting that some of our policies are unwanted. Voters make up their mind on a mixture of people, policies and presentation – and they didn’t choose us. We can have the best thought out, the best researched, the best costed policies on the planet, but unless we can get the public on side it’s meaningless, because they will never be implemented," he said.

Parker said all of Labour's policies should be up for review, including its tax policy, its NZ Power policy and its policy to extend the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.

"We lost badly and I get the message," he said.

Voters had rejected Labour's tax policies and its solutions for growing electricity and Superannuation costs, he said.

"Our tax policy scared some people," he said.

Parker said he would not have Cunliffe as his deputy.

Grant Robertson formally filed his nomination for the leadership on Friday. Nominations close on Tuesday. David Shearer has yet to declare.

(Updated with more detail)

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11 Comments

David Cunliffe endorsing Andrew Little.I'm not sure if it's a positive or negative .

All are nice people no doubt and will have the required integrity. I am just not sure how lawyers, a career politician/burocrat and possibly a previous leader who did great work for the UN are going to connect with the Labour backbone. I know that the same could be asked from Helen Clark and she managed very well but then she was up against a National party who had  done  it's time and  proceeded to have the same problems as Labour has now. Not sure if we can say the same of National this time around but 3 years is a very long time in politics.
Labour can't get it wrong this time if it seriously wants to have a chance at the next election. It is not exactly that the right side just scraped in and the left block is close behind. We are talking two thirds of the electorate voting right of centre.
Who ever is going to get the job, I wish him all the best. A good opposition party and leader are vital for a functioning democracy.
The fact that there are no women in the race can be interpreted as them being too smart to get involved at the moment.
 

Mostly fair comments. You could debate whether National have governed well, or as David Chaston implied elsewhere today, have ridden the positive effects of the highest terms of trade since Britain joined the EEC. Regardless, they were going to be tough to beat. Depending on where relative to the centre line you put NZ First, the final score looked more like 55-45. Still convincing nevertheless, and Labour need to make it clear that they want the party vote; not that anyone but National or its artificial sidekicks will do. 
David Parker has made the most sense to me of any politician in the house, while he also has a very calm reasoned demeanour, so I would personally back him, although I know little of Little.
If I were Labour in a modern world I would focus on the idea that many New Zealanders do not wish themselves or their children to be tenants in their own land, and that that is the inevitable result for most of National's current policies. (Some rhetoric since the election suggests the Nats may try and address this despite their stated policies, but let's see.) Parker's priorities as finance spokesman seemed to target this area. You would then focus on policies that would still grow wealth, but also keep more of it in New Zealanders' hands.
Credit to Cunliffe for recognising he was toxic in the media and therefore to the public, even if in my view, somewhat unfairly so. If he's happy to play a strong advocacy role in opposition, then fine; if not he may be best using his talents elsewhere.

I look at the Nats, NZ First, Act, United and the Conservatives which adds to about 64%. Winston can not be regarded as centre or left of centre in my opinion. Peter Dunne possibly more centre then right of centre.

Does anyone feel inspired by the choice of possible Labour Party leaders ?
 
... would any one of them take the battle directly to John Key's face , to front the boy wonder , or would they do a " Cunliffe " and confine themselves to announcing policy from a safe distance away from the enemy lines ....
 
Only Shane Jones had the chutzpah to approach the government head on . ...
 
... Little Johnny & the Gnats  look mildly good , because the post-Clark/Cullen Labour Party has been a shockingly poor opposition , a disorganized rabble , at each other's throats more often than tackling the Gnats ...

Inspired? Jesus. Wouldn't have any of them employed to clean my pool.
They want to get anywhere,  they need a proper leader.

rather they tackled politcal and economic opportunities that teh "Gnats"

Only one thing wrong with NZ Labour party; too many chiefs and too few indians.

... too many Moas , not enough mowers .... or pool cleaners ?

Well my dear friend, Mr Tor, took a hit, Haha,  Moa's are indeed endangered species.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTjTuzrvAKU

Yep, you are 100%, too many (Labour) chiefs are trying to pxxs into the pool to mark their territory