Cunliffe considering future

Defeated Labour leadership contender David Cunliffe will not say if he will accept an invitation to be on the party's front bench, as he needs time to "work out what's in my gut''.

New Labour leader David Shearer was expected to talk with Mr Cunliffe yesterday about potential roles including a front bench position, which Mr Shearer said was in recognition of Mr Cunliffe's talent as well as a unifying gesture.

Yesterday, a clearly bruised Mr Cunliffe would not say whether he would accept a place on the front bench, saying he needed a bit of "headspace'' to decide what to do.

"I am early on in the process of thinking about what the next steps might hold and I'm in no position to make comment about it whatsoever. I'm at a very early stage of, number one, catching up on sleep; number two, trying to work out which way is up, and number three, trying to work out what's in my gut.''

Asked if he was considering leaving politics, he reiterated he was considering what to do and would not comment on the future.

"But no, I'm not about to run and get a job on a ship as a journeyman or something.''

Mr Cunliffe also rejected reports that the leadership vote was about 22 to 12, indicating his opponents were trying to make it appear Mr Shearer had won convincingly.

He said his best guess on the numbers was 19 to 15, unless some of his supporters had "welched'', which he doubted.

The party president and secretary were the only two who knew the results of the secret ballot and he was certain they had not revealed it to anybody "so whoever has tried to propagate their theory about where the numbers lay is basically blowing smoke.''

Mr Shearer is expected to announce his new lineup on Monday - the day before Parliament returns.

Mr Cunliffe's previous finance role was tipped to go to David Parker. Possible roles for Mr Cunliffe included education, economic development or environment - a portfolio Mr Shearer was keen to boost as part of his vision for a "clean, green and clever'' New Zealand.

Mr Shearer is also likely to talk to some of his colleagues about their future in politics, including some who have already indicated they might have other ambitions. However, he will retain some experienced hands.

Former leader Phil Goff intended to stay for the full term and stand again in 2014 unless he was no longer enjoying the job.

"My intention would be to stand again in 2014 but that will depend on how I find the next two years. If somebody offers me $2 million a year to take on some business enterprise in trade, I would probably consider it seriously. But at the moment, I'm happy in politics.''

Yesterday the Dominion Post reported Annette King would not rule out running as Wellington's mayor in 2013 - something she had previously ruled out.

Trevor Mallard said he had no intention of stepping down this term and would decide over the 2012 summer whether to stand again.

One of those who lost out at the election could get back in another way - Mr Shearer is setting up his office and Stuart Nash, who did not make it back into Parliament on Labour's vote, could be an option for a senior role such as chief of staff. Yesterday Mr Nash said he had not yet been offered a role "but if David was to offer me something, I would have to very seriously consider it''.

Another possibility for Mr Shearer's office is Marcus Ganley, a former adviser to Michael Cullen.

POTENTIAL FRONT BENCH

Likely candidates are:

1. David Shearer, leader.

2. Grant Robertson, deputy.

3. David Parker, finance.

4. Jacinda Ardern, social development.

5. Shane Jones, economic development.

6. David Cunliffe, environment/education.

7. Maryan Street/Sue Moroney, health.

8. Clayton Cosgrove, law and order/Christchurch recovery.

9. Nanaia Mahuta, Maori affairs.

For promotion: Phil Twyford, Su'a William Sio.

- Claire Trevett, NZ Herald

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