16 Oct 2023

Election 2023: Labour heavyweights endorse Chris Hipkins staying on as leader

5:00 pm on 16 October 2023
Labour's Willie Jackson arrives at Wellington Airport on 16 October 2023 following the election at the weekend.

Willie Jackson arrives at Wellington Airport on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Senior Labour MPs Willie Jackson and Megan Woods are getting in behind leader Chris Hipkins as the party regroups after a shattering election defeat.

The preliminary election results showed its share of the vote had collapsed to just under 27 percent - with brutal consequences for Labour's caucus.

Twenty-one of the party's MPs lost their jobs on Saturday night - including former ministers Michael Wood and Nanaia Mahuta, who had been in parliament for 27 years.

The Hauraki-Waikato electorate was one of 27 the party lost on Saturday - including Labour strongholds Mount Roskill, New Lynn and West Coast-Tasman.

All 14 of the safe National seats Labour flipped red in 2020 have gone back blue.

Hipkins told supporters on Saturday that when the tide came in, it was in a big way but the reverse also applied.

Speaking to media after his address, the emotional leader refused to speculate on what the future held for him. "That's a question for another day," he said.

However, senior MPs including Jackson and campaign manager Woods expressed the hope on Monday that he would stay on.

"We've gotta find out what Chippy wants to do, and hopefully he wants to stay," Jackson said.

Woods said the leadership decision had not yet come up but constitutionally the party would need to vote on the leadership within the next three months.

"But I have no doubt in my mind that Chris will get that confidence vote.

"Everybody thinks Chris did a fantastic job. There's no question about the fact people have faith in Chris."

Labour's Megan Woods arrives at Wellington Airport on 16 October 2023 following the election at the weekend.

Chris Hipkins retains the confidence of his MPs, Megan Woods says. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Carmel Sepuloni, who was deputy prime minister in the last government, said the caucus would need to sit down and "regroup and reset".

Asked if she was feeling optimistic about the chances of Hipkins staying on as leader, she replied in the affirmative but said: "That will be a decision for Chris".

Former Education minister Jan Tinetti said there was a process to be followed, including farewelling some members and it was too soon to be thinking of the leadership.

She said "hand on heart" she had not heard any whispers of other candidates putting themselves forward for the leadership.

Asked if anyone blamed Hipkins for the party's poor results, she said every message she had seen since Saturday night was congratulating him for the way he performed during the election campaign.

Tinetti added stability was important for the party at present as members adjusted to playing their part in the opposition.

Labour's Jan Tinetti arrives at Wellington Airport on 16 October 2023 following the election at the weekend.

Jan Tinetti says the party needs stability. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

However, another former minister David Parker did not want to comment on Hipkins' leadership or his own future when he arrived in Wellington today.

"We've now got a process to go through ... We're still in the business of governing as a caretaker government at the moment and we'll do that dutifully. We won't take any contentious decisions but in the weeks to come we'll see what has to be done."

He said he has left Hipkins a telephone message but has not managed to speak to him.

Labour's outgoing MP for Ilam Sarah Pallett told RNZ on Sunday it was too early to say if Hipkins would continue in his role.

Pallett lost her seat in Christchurch's Ilam electorate to National Party's Hamish Campbell by 7847 votes.

"It's far too early for me to have taken part in any of those conversations.

"I think we're all just dealing with our own individual news. I'm not thinking about the the bigger future right now for the party is not on my radar at the moment."

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