Goff resignation sparks leader race

By Herald Online staff, APNZ

Phil Goff confirms he is stepping down as the Labour Party leader. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Phil Goff confirms he is stepping down as the Labour Party leader. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The contenders have been named, the date has been set, and the race is on for the Labour Party leadership.

In a five-hour caucus meeting today, Phil Goff announced his resignation as leader, and Annette King as deputy, to take effect on December 13. He then opened up the floor for people to declare their interest in taking over.

Among those to put up their hands for the leadership or deputy role were David Parker, David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Grant Robertson, and Nanaia Mahuta, although Mr Goff said he could not rule out other candidates.

The party will hold an election on December 13 at a special caucus meeting.

Mr Goff said his departure was the first step in rebuilding the flagging Labour Party fortunes.

"I believe the Labour Party can and will fight back,'' he said.

The incoming leadership hopefuls would be in discussions with their colleagues over the coming weeks in an effort to gain their support, Mr Goff said.

"It's on two people that can lead us forward into the future that are strong candidates to be prime minister and deputy prime minister.''

Mr Goff would not reveal who he was supporting in the leadership battle.

While he said he had no problem with potential Labour leaders using the media to talk up their strengths, the eventual vote on his replacement would be private.

"I'm going to listen very carefully to what the candidates have to say to me. But in the end it'll be like a ballot box.''

He was looking forward to working 60 hours a week, after putting in 80 to 100 hours as leader.

Mr Cunliffe intends to run for the leadership with Ms Mahuta as his deputy.

"We would represent a face for the Labour Party that would reach out across our communities, that would send a message of empowerment to Maori and Pasifica, to working Pakeha, to people of all ethnicities, that we're serious about taking New Zealand forward,'' Mr Cunliffe said

"I believe I have energy, vision and organisation abilities working with colleagues to deliver a win for Labour in 2014.''

Ms Mahuta acknowledged the work of the Goff and King team, and said she and Mr Cunliffe could bring something different to the table.

"David's been inclusive as a person in our caucus, he's able to see where we need to reach out to in the communities that we want to continue to engage with, but, more importantly, we have a heart for the core Labour vote that did turn out on Saturday night and we want to improve that,'' she said.

Mr Parker and Mr Robertson have been reported to be working as a team, but this afternoon Mr Parker did not name a deputy.

"I'm not running as a ticket with a one and two,'' he told media.

Mr Parker said that over time he would be able to compete with John Key's popularity. Asked how, he said "you'll have to wait and see''.

"I don't think that's the only factor. We have to look within ourselves in the Labour Party and see why it is that there are some people who used to be our allies who no longer support us. There are reasons for that.''

Behind the scenes in-party bickering has clearly begun, and Mr Cunliffe today acknowledged that he created some strong feelings amongst his colleagues.

"I'm a reasonably strong personality, and I call a spade a spade, and I can be upfront,'' Mr Cunliffe said.

"You won't find me backstabbing my colleagues because, at the end of the day, once the decision is made, we're all going to have to pack down together in the same scrum to take the team forward.''

Mr Parker also denied any backstabbing on his end, and said the leadership battle could be beneficial rather than detrimental, with the election being an open process.

Mr Goff's resignation follows the party's poor performance in Saturday's election. Receiving just 27 per cent of the vote, the result was the worst for Labour since the 1920s.

- APNZ

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