David Cunliffe has resigned as leader of the Labour Party after accepting responsibility for Labours election defeat.
Next Tuesday will be Mr Cunliffe’s final day as Labour leader before he seeks the leadership again. In the meantime, David Parker will be acting leader until Labour holds a leadership primary.
Directly after the election Mr Cunliffe expressed his desire to remain at the helm of the party and lead it through the 2017 election. But with intense opposition from inside his own caucus, he did not get the support he needed to continue his mandate.
Cunliffe now believes a leadership contest is the best way forward for Labour and New Zealand.
“Whatever decisions are made now must be made in the best interest of New Zealand to have a strong and vital Labour party. The party’s interest must come before any personal interests.
“I think there is a range of views right across the caucus and the party, as is proper. People are entitled to their opinions and I have great respect for other colleagues who might be interested,” Cunliffe said.
This will pit him against Grant Robertson, who confirmed yesterday he will be challenging the leadership.
“I think I have something to offer the Labour Party to reconnect with New Zealanders and for New Zealanders to see Labour as part of their future,” said Robertson.
Mr Robertson was the caucus favorite at the last leadership contest in 2013, but David Cunliffe managed to win with strong support from party members and unions. However, Cunliffe is now receiving mixed support from the unions.
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) has shown little faith in the idea of another Cunliffe-led Labour. Other unions refused to comment on the leadership contest and only the Meat Workers’ Union said it remained firmly behind Mr Cunliffe.
The union vote counts for 20 percent of the final tally in the leadership contest. The EPMU’s size means its delegates vote is worth 35 percent of that. The members’ caucus votes are worth 40 percent each.
Cunliffe has enjoyed the Labour leadership for just over a year now. His resignation comes on the back of several years of leadership pain for Labour and recent election results that can only be classed as disastrous.
It seems as if Grant Robertson is positioning himself as the logical replacement for Cunliffe in the upcoming leadership primary. However, the public polls suggest Robertson has practically no support. In a recent onenews.co.nz poll on who should govern the Labour party readers backed Jacinda Ardern as someone, who could sort out the wounded Labour party.
Ms Ardern polled at 41 percent with David Cunliffe lagging on 24 percent, followed by former leader David Shearer on 18 percent. Worryingly for Labour, Grant Robertson only scored 12 percent and Andrew Little 5 percent.
Whatever the polls may say, only one thing is set in stone at this point – Cunliffe will not leave Labour and their cause without a valiant fight.