Labour leader David Shearer's position is on precarious
ground and his rival David Cunliffe is refusing to endorse him
after a change to Labour's rules which will mean a challenger
will need only 14 caucus votes to mount a challenge next
In changes to Labour's rules at its conference today, the
delegates made a surprise decision to allow 40 per cent of
caucus to force a vote on the leadership in what is to be a
regular confidence vote in the three months after an
election. At other times, a majority vote is needed.
Mr Shearer will face his confidence vote on February 13 next
year and the change means that only 14 of Labour's 34 caucus
members can force a full vote on the leadership.
That would mean Labour's members and union affiliates voted -
which could be enough to give the leadership to Mr Cunliffe.
Yesterday after the amendment was passed, Mr Cunliffe refused
to rule out a challenge and would not say if he would support
Mr Shearer next February.
Mr Cunliffe - who supported the amendment - said the leader
did have his support but would not commit to endorsing him
"I have not made any comment or decisions about what might
happen next February because we don't know what's going to
happen next year. We don't know what the future holds."
Mr Shearer said he was confident he could get the 60 per cent
of caucus support to retain the leadership. He would not rule
out disciplining Mr Cunliffe for any disloyalty, but said Mr
Cunliffe had committed to him last week.
"I can only take him at his word, on what he said last week."
Asked if he believed Mr Cunliffe was being disloyal, he
repeated his claim that he would be leader in 2014.
He would not discuss whether he would discipline Mr Cunliffe
if he was openly disloyal.
Mr Shearer said he did not believe his position was more
precarious and was confident he would pass the confidence
vote in February.
He said he did not know what the gap between himself and Mr
Cunliffe was in last December's leadership contest because it
was a closed ballot, but was confident caucus backed him.
"I am confident I will have the numbers next year to ensure I
am the leader going into 2014 - I can guarantee that."
He said overall the changes made the party more democratic
and transparent by giving members a greater say in how the
party was run.
"It is one of those things the membership decides. When we
started this process that was the whole point of the opening
up of the party and you take what the membership decides and
you run with it - that's the way it goes."
He said he did not intend to dwell on the leadership issue,
preferring instead to "focus on what New Zealanders are
really concerned about, which is jobs and the economy".
Mr Shearer did not vote on the amendment, citing conflict of
Mr Cunliffe said he had voted in accordance with his local
electorate committee's wishes but he did personally support
"I think it's logical as well. This is simply the threshold
which allows the three tranches - the membership, the unions
and caucus - to all participate should the need arise in
Other Labour MPs had opposed the amendment, including Maryan
Street, Chris Hipkins, and Andrew Little while Lianne Dalziel
supported it. Ms Street said it would effectively allow "a
tyranny of 40 per cent" to overthrow a leader who had been
elected by a majority of the party.