Audrey Young 's Opinion

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

Audrey Young: Caucus can yet clinch contest for Robertson

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Grant Robertson. Photo / Natalie Slade
Grant Robertson. Photo / Natalie Slade

Grant Robertson could still win the Labour leadership on Sunday, despite public polling showing David Cunliffe is well in front.

The scenarios (left) show Mr Robertson could still win because of his dominance in the caucus vote.

Likewise, Mr Cunliffe could win with 10 of the 34 MPs supporting him, less than a third of the caucus.

Big concessions and sacrifices will have to be made by the winner. Each has been promising big policies and big roles for the other two.

That is much easier said than done but it must be done, especially if it is close, and if Shane Jones' supporters eventually decide the winner on second preferences.

Not to do so would risk squandering the energy and goodwill the election process has produced within the party.

While the campaign meetings finished last night, the next few days will see candidates lobbying caucus colleagues.

With the membership and union vote not known until Sunday, there is no point in Mr Robertson and Mr Cunliffe making deals in the event of the other winning.

It is hard to see either wanting to serve as the other's deputy, despite the talk of unity. Mr Jones, however, has done enough to earn himself a spot as either's deputy.

As leader, Mr Robertson would have to consider reinstating Mr Cunliffe for finance. While David Parker may be more able in the role, he is not cutting it with voters in the way Mr Cunliffe can.

He could give former leader David Shearer foreign affairs but that would mean disappointing Phil Goff, but he may stoically take one for the team.

Mr Cunliffe's management challenges as leader would be even greater. He would have to sack someone from the front bench to reinstate himself, and two if he wanted to give Mr Shearer a place.

The curse, and perhaps blessing, for a Cunliffe leadership is that the votes for each of the three sections will be declared publicly. His support among the rank and file members would be laid bare but so too would his fragile support in caucus.

- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

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

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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