Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Labour underdog is 'quietly optimistic'

David Cunliffe. Photo / NZPA
David Cunliffe. Photo / NZPA

The underdog in the Labour leadership contest, David Cunliffe, says he is "quietly optimistic" about the leadership vote at Tuesday's caucus.

He also believed that the contest had re-energised members and that they could request a constitutional review following the members meetings being held to seek some input into future leadership contests.

He and rival David Shearer will tomorrow afternoon hold an Auckland meeting with Labour membership.

The venue has shifted from the old Otahuhu Town Hall to the huge lecture theatre that seats 600 at the Owen Glenn Business School at Auckland University.

Such crowds are usually reserved for party conferences.

But Mr Cunliffe told the Weekend Herald that such has been the turnout in the other centres that a bigger venue was needed.

"People have been queuing at the door to join so they can get in," he said.

"The numbers at each of the centres we've been at have been the largest meetings of Labour members that I have seen in my time in the party, other than nationwide conferences."

Many people have been renewing membership or joining in order to see the two candidates in action.

The final election result today has the potential to affect who will form the caucus and be able to vote in Tuesday's ballot to replace outgoing leader Phil Goff.

But it is understood that it would not affect the leadership numbers, perse.

The two candidates who could become constituency MPs, Carmel Sepuloni in Waitakere and Brendon Burns in Christchurch Central, are thought to support Mr Cunliffe. They would replace list MPs Raymond Huo and Rajen Prasad who are also thought to support Mr Cunliffe.

On the Herald's count, Mr Shearer is only one votes short of the 18 required for a victory.

But heading into the Dunedin members' meeting last night, Mr Cunliffe was conceding nothing.

"While we take nothing for granted and we respect the wisdom of the caucus, we are quietly optimistic," he said.

No indicative votes are being taken at the meetings.

Mr Cunliffe said the contest has been very clean and the relationship between the candidates was positive.

"We've all going to put the party first at the end of the day.

The membership had been energised by having a say in the outcome but some had wanted a more formal role in the process.

"There will be calls after this for a constitutional review so that the question can be examined about whether some weighting should be given in future to a direct membership vote."

In Britain the Labour leadership was decided a third by caucus, a third by the members and a third by the unions.

"I'm not saying that is what it should be but those questions have been asked."

- NZ Herald

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