Little's first test as Labour leader

6:44 am on 25 November 2014

Power Play with Brent Edwards - Andrew Little faced his first major test this week since becoming Labour Party leader.

Labour Leader Andrew Little announcing Labours new caucus.(LR) Grant Robertson and Andrew Little.

Labour Leader Andrew Little announces Labour's new caucus with Grant Robertson (right). Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Just days after narrowly winning the leadership from Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, Mr Little had to decide who would get the plum jobs in his new line-up.

He had to weigh-up a range of complicating factors.

Firstly, he had to reach out to those who had stood against him and their supporters.

Secondly, he had to ensure his front bench reflected both the gender and ethnic make-up of New Zealand.

Finally, he had to appoint on merit.

To a large extent he has managed to achieve that difficult balance.

More on this story

  • Annette King new Labour deputy
  • Grant Robertson, the man who came so agonisingly close to being leader, is now finance spokesperson.

    If you are not Prime Minister the next most powerful person in Government is the Finance Minister and Mr Robertson is now a step closer to that position.

    Once David Parker - another losing leadership contestant - had stated he did not want to retain the finance portfolio, Mr Robertson became the obvious replacement.

    Grant Robertson

    Grant Robertson Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

    It gives him a position of kudos and will help alleviate any lingering disappointment among his supporters.

    Just as important, though, is that Mr Robertson will make a good fist of the job.

    He will quickly come to grips with the intricacies of the finance role and says the Finance Minister Bill English is vulnerable to criticism.

    Mr Little has also sought to shore up the caucus by appointing well-respected MP Annette King as his deputy.

    Annette King.

    Annette King. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

    Mrs King's appointment, which has to be endorsed by Labour MPs, is for one year and it is expected she would then stand aside for a younger replacement. It gives likely candidates 12 months to prove themselves.

    MPs jump in seniority

    Three MPs who have made big jumps in seniority are David Clark, Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni.

    Mr Clark takes on economic development, Mr Davis police and corrections and Ms Sepuloni social development.

    Another of Mr Little's opponents in the leadership contest, Nanaia Mahuta, has been ranked at number four and is the Maori development spokesperson.

    The recognition of her seniority and the promotion of Mr Davis represent a positive signal for Maoridom.

    In the same way Pasifica communities have also been rewarded with Ms Sepuloni at number seven and Su'a William Sio placed at number 11.

    Labour's top ten also includes four women, with Jacinda Ardern at number nine.

    None of the former leaders - David Cunliffe, David Shearer or Phil Goff are on the front bench but they all have serious portfolios.

    Mr Cunliffe is responsible for regional development, tertiary education, research and development and science and innovation, Mr Shearer retains foreign affairs and Mr Goff defence.

    Mr Parker picks up trade and Treaty of Waitangi negotiations.

    What of those who have been dropped off the front bench?

    Jacinda Ardern moves from 19th to the front bench.

    Jacinda Ardern Photo: LABOUR PARTY

    Clayton Cosgrove still retains his portfolios and Sue Moroney picks up immigration, ACC and women's affairs.

    Ms Ardern also drops from fifth ranked MP to number nine.

    Ms King says she is pleased with Mr Little's reshuffle and confident Labour MPs will be more united than they have been for some time.

    Mr Little will be a much more hands-on leader than Mr Cunliffe.

    He will set clear expectations for his MPs and measure their performance.

    After a review at the end of next year changes are likely as Mr Little fine tunes his team for the lead-up to the 2017 election.

    Labour MPs, particularly those on the front bench, are on notice. If they fail to perform they will be dropped.

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