A change in the Labour Party leadership to Grant Robertson
would have benefits for the two Dunedin MPs, Clare Curran and
David Clark, both of whom were strong supporters of Mr
Robertson in last year's leadership round.
Mr Robertson indicated yesterday he had ''no intention'' of
challenging leader David Cunliffe before the election.
However, another bad poll for Labour and Mr Robertson is
likely to feel his colleagues breathing down his neck, urging
Mr Cunliffe's actions are coming under increasing scrutiny,
particularly after it emerged this week he had written a
letter on behalf of wealthy Chinese businessman Donghua Liu.
The letter was written soon after Mr Cunliffe was elected New
Lynn MP, 11 years ago.
He claims to have no recollection of the letter or any
meeting with Mr Liu. But the first sentence of the supporting
letter indicates either he, or his office, had been
approached by Mr Liu.
Dunedin South MP Ms Curran was demoted by Mr Cunliffe after
he was selected as leader of the party, as his support came
mainly from the membership and trade unions, rather than
Dunedin North MP Dr Clark lost some seniority in the
reshuffle, but took it well by taking a long-term view of his
Both MPs told Mr Cunliffe of their support for Mr Robertson
before the Labour leadership forum held in Dunedin.
Dunedin born, raised and educated, Mr Robertson is a popular
figure in the South after taking an active role in the Otago
University Students' Association. Recently, he returned to
King's High School to talk to seniors, something he always
said he would not do - until now.
Changing a leader so close to the election is risky for
Labour. In 1990, Labour replaced former prime minister Sir
Geoffrey Palmer with Mike Moore in an effort to save seats.
Mr Moore's term was short-lived, as he lost the election and
was quickly replaced by Helen Clark, who went on to become
New Zealand's first elected female prime minister.
Mr Robertson is the only logical choice should MPs decide to
try to save some face on September 20.
Labour is polling around 23%, and the chances of winning
crucial seats and votes from National are becoming remote.
However, Mr Robertson needs to be aware of former
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union secretary and
list MP Andrew Little's intentions.
Before entering Parliament, Mr Little was touted as a future
leader. He failed to win New Plymouth at the last election
and the former Labour stronghold is now rated as a National
Party blue ribbon seat.
Mr Robertson will need to get some assurances from his
If he decides to challenge Mr Cunliffe from today, when party
rules give MPs the chance to roll a leader without resorting
to the lengthy leadership process, he will want to stay for
more than one election.
He may well point to Miss Clark, one of his mentors, who was
defeated twice before becoming PM.