Clark in move to heal rifts

Attempts to heal some deep rifts in the Labour Party's Dunedin South organisation are expected to be made during the visit to Dunedin by Prime Minister Helen Clark today and tomorrow.

Labour supporters in the electorate remain divided over the dumping of three-term MP David Benson-Pope as the party's candidate this year in favour of Dunedin public relations consultant Clare Curran.

Moves have been planned to provide Miss Clark with an opportunity to meet members of the South Dunedin branch, which remains controlled by supporters of Mr Benson-Pope.

While it remains uncertain whether the busy schedule of the Prime Minister will allow a visit, the branch has been one of the party's largest financial contributors.

It would not be unusual for Miss Clark to ask for an election-year contribution during her visit.

The Prime Minister will be the guest at a party fund-raising dinner tomorrow night, providing another opportunity for party supporters in the city to mend bridges.

Mr Benson-Pope is not planning to attend the dinner.

He is understood to be mulling over whether to stand as an Independent Labour candidate, urging voters in Dunedin South to give him their electorate vote and tick Labour in the party vote.

He has not publicly ruled out standing as an independent MP.

Some informants say supporters of Mr Benson-Pope are gradually moving their backing to Ms Curran as the reality of trying to win the election for Labour sinks in.

Ms Curran said she hoped to spend most of a day with the Prime Minister to learn as much as she could about campaigning.

"She is fantastic and I am really looking forward to it.

''It is a boost for morale."

The National Party's leader, John Key, will visit the city on Wednesday to boost local candidates.

Dunedin North candidate Michael Woodhouse, hopes to receive a lift to his profile by spending time with Mr Key.

Either Mr Woodhouse or second-time Dunedin South candidate Conway Powell could expect to be elected to Parliament on the party list.

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