Shearer unfazed by Cunliffe demotion complaint

By Kate Shuttleworth, Adam Bennett

Labour MP David Cunliffe. Photo / David White
Labour MP David Cunliffe. Photo / David White

Labour Leader David Shearer says he is focussing on leading the party toward victory in the 2014 election, rather than on any complaint that may be laid by his leadership rival David Cunliffe's electorate committee.

Mr Cunliffe's New Lynn electorate committee is considering laying a complaint to the party's ruling body over their member's demotion.

Electorate secretary Greg Presland said the committee would meet tonight to decide if a complaint would be laid and what the nature of that complaint would be.

"We are concerned about the ways in which it was dealt with over the past few days."

Speaking to reporters early this afternoon in Wellington, Mr Shearer said the committee was free to do that but the complaint was unlikely to cause further divisions within the party.

The "overwhelming message" he and his caucus colleagues had received from the party was to draw a line under the events of the last few days, "move on, focus on what's important for New Zealand and make sure Labour is an effective Opposition and an effective voice".

Mr Shearer was unanimously endorsed by the party's 34 MPs yesterday after he called an urgent vote to put to rest speculation of a leadership challenge.

Mr Shearer demoted Cunliffe to the back bench, stripping him of his economic development portfolio, for undermining him during last weekend's party conference and refusing to back him as leader.

Mr Shearer said finance spokesman David Parker would assume the economic development portfolio for the time being with assistance from Clayton Cosgrove.

The Herald understands the New Lynn electorate committee's complaint relates to the comments about Mr Cunliffe made by MPs other than Mr Shearer in recent days.

Mr Presland said he sat with Mr Cunliffe throughout the weekend's conference and did not see anything wrong with his behaviour and there was an element of "sabotage" in the way Mr Cunliffe had been treated.

Mr Presland said it was unreasonable to expect Mr Cunliffe to say how he would vote over the leadership on February 13 next year, when other MPs within the Labour Party also refused to say how they would vote.

Mr Shearer said he wasn't concerned by Mr Cunliffe's refusal to rule out a February challenge to his leadership.

"We've had our discussion in caucus yesterday, that's as far as I'm concerned ruled off.

"We had a robust discussion in the caucus room, that's the end of it. We move on from here. As far as we're concerned this issue is behind us we want to move on and focus on what's important not on our own internal squabbles."

- APNZ

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