1 Oct 2014

Labour leadership contest hots up

11:18 am on 1 October 2014

Any chance of a clean fight for the Labour leadership is looking slim after David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson yesterday took pot-shots at each other.

After a disastrous showing at the election in which Labour got just 24.7 percent of the vote, Mr Cunliffe has resigned the party's leader and both he and Mr Robertson are now after the top job.

David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson.

David Cunliffe, left, and Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

David Cunliffe has labelled some of his opponents inside the Labour Party 'beltway politicians', but insists he is not talking about anyone in particular.

Grant Robertson says the beltway is not a term he uses, and Mr Cunliffe has been watching too much TV.

And he's not happy about David Cunliffe saying that some Labour MPs did not work hard enough campaigning for the party vote.

"I think that is an insult to the thousands of volunteers who put in time in the wind and the rain knocking on doors, delivering pamphlets and getting out the vote on election day."

David Parker on election night in Auckland.

Acting leader David Parker. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Labour's acting leader David Parker said he still hoped it will be a clean contest, despite reports in the Dominion Post that a Twitter account was set up by David Cunliffe's wife that carried disparaging comments about the former leader's rivals.

"Look I don't like that sort of thing ... I want us to rise above that sort of thing in politics, I think most people do.

"I can't control the actions of individuals but I know that both myself and (acting deputy) Annette King will be doing our best to keep it seemly."

Mr Parker said people had asked him to stand for the leadership job but he has no intention of doing so. However he refused to rule out changing his mind about becoming a candidate.

Mr Parker said he did not think things were getting out of hand between the two leadership hopefuls.

Labour's National Council meet tomorrow to discuss the timetable for the leadership election.

Mr Parker said the caucus will ask for an interim report before the final leadership vote is taken, and that is expected to be done by Christmas.

The party's chief whip, Chris Hipkins, said the leadership contest is not about creating a media spectacle.

"We're not going to have MPs debating amongst each other in public. Members are welcome to make comments, as they will, but they are not going to be doing live televised debates where we have caucus members sitting around getting stuck into each other ... that's not going to be good for the Labour Party and it's not going to happen."

Candidate threatens to leave

A Labour Party candidate has published an open letter to David Cunliffe saying that if he wins the leadership he will leave the party.

James Dann stood for Labour in the Christchurch suburb of Ilam, and is 51st on the party's list. He said he worked hard during the election and the Christchurch East by-election, but people in the electorate did not connect with Mr Cunliffe.

In the letter, he tells Mr Cunliffe that the Labour Party is not a vehicle for him to indulge his fantasy of being Prime Minister.

He said it is time for a new generation of leadership in the Labour Party - one that is closer in both age and understanding with the people it needs to represent.

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