14 Dec 2011

Labour elects Shearer as new leader

4:49 am on 14 December 2011

David Shearer says his election as Labour leader is a fresh start for the party.

The Mt Albert MP, who only came into Parliament in a by-election two-and-a-half years ago, saw off David Cunliffe in a secret ballot of 34 members at the party's caucus on Tuesday morning.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson was elected deputy leader, winning the caucus vote over Mr Cunliffe's running mate Nanaia Mahuta.


The new line-up follows a decision by Phil Goff and his deputy Annette King to resign following Labour's poor election result on 26 November.

David Shearer believes he can be as popular as Prime Minister John Key, but told Checkpoint on Tuesday he knows he has work to do on his performance, including in the House where he will come up against the National Party leader.

"That's right, and I think I can be equally as popular. And I think the Labour Party can be equally as popular as the National Party - and that's the goal.

"I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can, and I've said that to my caucus colleagues. I will go for broke."


Mr Shearer asked colleagues for a mandate for change and says this is the beginning of a fresh start for the Labour Party.

David Cunliffe, the MP for New Lynn and a more experienced politician, says he believes the vote was close, but Mr Shearer says he thinks it was a wider margin than just one or two votes.

Mr Shearer will allocate portfolio responsibilities before Parliament sits next week. He says he did not promise those positions to anyone during his campaign, but has indicated that Mr Cunliffe could have a senior role.

Mr Cunliffe told reporters on Tuesday he is disappointed and can't explain why he lost.

"That is a matter for the people who cast the votes and I can't place myself in their shoes. I think it was close, and I've been very heartened by the support that we've received up and down the country.

"I think he will be a very good leader and he will have my unconditional support."

He says he has no further leadership ambitions at this point.

Labour's whips were also elected on Tuesday. The new senior whip is Chris Hipkins, while junior whip is Darien Fenton.

Labour's share of the vote at the election on 26 November dropped to 27% from 34% in the 2008 election. It was the party's worst result under the MMP voting system.

Competition good for party - Goff

Phil Goff says the competition to replace him has been good for the party.

Mr Goff, the MP for Mt Roskill, says it was a hard-fought contest between David Cunliffe and David Shearer.

"That's the start to a new leader's career that is far preferable to the process that I went through without a contest.

"I think it was good for the party, good to have that discussion and there's a real determination in caucus to go forward from here."

Mr Goff has restated his commitment to seeing out this term in Parliament and says he intends to stand again in 2014.