Key Points:

Helen Clark wants Labour's up-and-coming talent to be placed in higher slots on the party's list - a move that could hasten the exit of some long-serving MPs pondering retirement.

In another clear sign the Prime Minister wants to freshen Labour's ranks, she told the Herald there were very good people waiting in the wings to represent the party in Parliament, but they hadn't got a look in.

That was because Labour's list recognised MPs who held electorate seats, meaning even if the MPs lost those seats they still made it back to Parliament through a good placing on the list.

"We're going to have to think about selection strategies," Helen Clark said before she flew to Antarctica.

"I think quality on the list is going to be a very important objective."

Her comments may be seen by some MPs as a hint they risk being given low slots on the list if they stand again.

Nine Labour MPs lost electorate seats at the last election but returned through the party list.

Some of them - such as Dianne Yates - are names that get regular airing in discussions about possible retirements and the need for renewal within Labour's ranks.

But others, including David Parker and Rick Barker, are Cabinet ministers.

Helen Clark said party loyalty was important and one reason for Labour's success over the past decade had been its support for people who "put in the hard yards".

"But there are good and able people coming through who have been in the lower ranks of the list, and would be quite legitimate in pursuing their aspirations for a higher slot."

She named North Shore-based Phil Twyford as an example.

The former journalist, union organiser and project director stood for an electorate seat in 2005 but lost to National's Wayne Mapp.

Mr Twyford missed out on Parliament altogether because he was placed number 55 on Labour's list.

Labour has already farewelled former Cabinet minister Jim Sutton in the present term. He was replaced by lawyer Charles Chauvel.

Georgina Beyer has said she intends to stand down next month and Marian Hobbs does not plan to stand next year. That leaves room for some of Helen Clark's up-and-comers.

Although not mentioned specifically by the Prime Minister, others who are widely tipped to be future Labour stars include Grant Robertson, a former adviser to Helen Clark, and Stuart Nash, director of strategic development at Auckland University of Technology and great-grandson of former Prime Minister Sir Walter Nash.

Unionist Helen Kelly and Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union secretary Andrew Little are also seen as potential Labour MPs.

Backdoor MPs

Labour politicians who lost their electorate seats but still returned to Parliament in 2005 via the party list:

* Dianne Yates.
* Russell Fairbrother.
* Ann Hartley.
* David Parker.
* Rick Barker.
* Jill Pettis.
* Dover Samuels.
* Mita Ririnui.
* Jim Sutton (has since retired from Parliament).