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David Cunliffe says he will support Labour leader David Shearer in any immediate caucus vote - but he will not rule out challenging for the leadership in February.
"It may very well be that I'm in a position to reconfirm my support then but I'll make that final decision in February," Mr Cunliffe told Radio New Zealand this morning.
He has left a February challenge on the table after Mr Shearer earlier said he would settle rumblings of a leadership spill "sooner rather than later".
"Leave it with me, we can talk about it next week and we can go over it then," Mr Shearer told TV3's Firstline this morning.
Mr Shearer said he never spoke with Mr Cunliffe except to exchange pleasantries at the weekend's Labour conference, where the topic of leadership was the dominant issue.
Mr Cunliffe denied this morning that he was playing games and said he had not derailed the conference by refusing to declare his support for Mr Shearer at any future vote.
"Mr Shearer does have my support. That's good for now, that's good for if there is a caucus vote any time soon," Mr Cunliffe said.
"I don't see any need to bring anything forward but if Mr Shearer wishes to do that he will have my vote."
Mr Shearer said today that he would lead Labour to victory at the 2014 election, but he would not comment on how he would settle the leadership challenge.
"I'm not going to say what I'm going to do. What I will say that I will do is it will be my decisions going forward," Mr Shearer told Firstline.
"It will be the way I want it set out, it will be me making those decisions. I'm the leader, it will be my timetable and when we do that it will be behind us once and for all."
Mr Shearer described the leadership rumblings as one of the "issues" raised at the Labour conference that "need to be put to bed".
"And that's what I'm going to do in the coming days ... and they won't resurrect themselves again," Mr Shearer said.
"What happens this week will be me deciding that, and I can tell you right now I will be here in 2014 talking to you about what Labour's going to be doing in government."