Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Disappointed Cunliffe ponders party future

David Cunliffe, Labour Party MP. Photo / Mark Mitchell
David Cunliffe, Labour Party MP. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Defeated Labour leadership contender David Cunliffe says he and running mate Nanaia Mahuta were not surprised by the result of this morning's secret ballot that installed David Shearer as leader and Grant Robertson as his deputy.

"We had consultations with people over the last few hours and I think it was very tight and I think we had a bit of an idea going into there that we might be coming on the wrong side of even," Mr Cunliffe told reporters.

Ms Mahuta she was unsurprised by the defeat.

"We understood that this was a big challenge because we represented a new and different approach, a break away from old guard thinking, old ways of doing things."

Mr Cunliffe said he had been heartened by the support he received during his bid.

"Of course there's an element of personal disappointment, in part because I know there have been many people who have supported what Nanaia and I stood for here, and you can't but help feel in some way you've let them down."

Asked if this was likely to prove his only shot at the leadership, Mr Cunliffe said he had "a whole lot of summer barbecues and more than one or two cold beers ahead of me before I even approach that kind of question."

"I am pledging complete and total support to the new leader of the Labour Party. I have no leadership ambitions at this point."

Asked whether he wanted a spot on Labour's front bench, Mr Cunliffe said that was a discussion for another day.

Ms Mahuta, who contested the deputy leader spot even after the result of the leadership contest was known, denied her defeat was a slap in the face for Maori voters.

"The Labour Party understands that we have to tread carefully with our core vote which is our Maori and Pacific constituencies."

Both Mr Cunliffe and Ms Mahuta said their defeat did not affect their commitment to serve the new leadership team and their electorate constituents.

"I'm not planning to go anywhere," said Mr Cunliffe.

Both said they were glad to have contested the leadership, with Mr Cunliffe saying the process of holding a US style primary contest for the roles had made history in New Zealand and set a precedent for future leadership changes within the party.

"I think the genie's out of the bottle in the Labour Party. I don't think the Labour membership will want back room deals again they will want to have a say in future and I think they should."

- NZ Herald

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