David Shearer and (inset) Maryan Street
A group of Labour MPs were planning a motion of no
confidence against party leader David Shearer at the caucus
meeting on Tuesday - a step pre-empted by his resignation from
the leadership yesterday.
Mr Shearer said he was stepping down because he had not
achieved the desired results.
After taking "soundings" from some of his colleagues, he
believed he had lost the confidence of many Labour MPs, and
it was time for a change before next year's election.
He said there was no challenge against him.
But the Herald has learned MP Maryan Street was preparing a
motion of no confidence in Mr Shearer for Tuesday's meeting.
Plans were also being made to send a delegation to him before
that to ask him to stand down rather than force the
The MPs involved were certain the motion would have succeeded
if it had been required.
Ms Street would not comment yesterday, but it is understood
she decided to front the motion because of growing concerns
among MPs over Mr Shearer's inability to fire as leader and
his poor poll ratings.
A source said there had been discussions for months, but
nobody was willing to force the issue until Ms Street stepped
One Labour source also said former Prime Minister Helen Clark
had been "active" on the issue while in New Zealand over the
past fortnight, speaking to some MPs about it.
It is not known if Mr Shearer knew the no-confidence motion
was coming, although some MPs close to him had heard rumours
Many of Mr Shearer's front-bench colleagues had confronted
him several weeks ago to tell him that he had to lift the
party's performance and that some MPs were getting restless.
Mr Shearer said he would stay on as an MP and whoever
replaced him would have his full support as leader.
"My sense is I no longer have the full confidence of many of
my caucus colleagues. From the soundings I have taken I
believe it is better that I step down so we can have a clean
change to a new leader who can take Labour through to victory
The resignation will trigger Labour's new leadership
selection rules for the first time, giving votes to party
members and affiliated unions, as well as MPs.
The most likely contenders are David Cunliffe and Grant
Robertson; both have said they will decide over the next few
days whether to run.
Mr Cunliffe said Mr Shearer's decision had come as a surprise
and he did not know what had prompted him to believe he had
lost the confidence of his caucus.
"We respect he has come to a decision he believes is in the
best interests of the Labour Party."
Mr Robertson said he had been a loyal deputy to Mr Shearer,
and had supported him throughout his 20 months as leader.
"Everybody in the caucus, as everybody in the wider Labour
Party, would like to see us doing better in the polls and
David has obviously reflected on that. He made his own
Andrew Little would not rule out seeking the leadership, but
because he is a first-term MP he may be wary of making the
run before he is ready.
Shane Jones is also unlikely to contest it because he
believes he would not get the support. David Parker and Phil
Goff both ruled it out.
Although Mr Cunliffe lost to Mr Shearer last year, the rule
changes could work in his favour because he is considered to
have strong support among party members, especially in
He may struggle to get the caucus vote, but one anti-Cunliffe
MP said yesterday the sentiment against him was not as strong
as it had been, and many MPs would be happy with either of
the two men as leaders.
Although Mr Shearer will stay on as leader until his
replacement is elected, it is understood he is now on leave
for the next few weeks - about the same amount of time the
leadership contest will take.
Labour MPs yesterday said they were saddened by Mr Shearer's
decision, and described him as a man of integrity who had
done his best. But none said he had made the wrong decision.
- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald