The Labour Party will set its party list on Sunday and most of the prime real estate on it is expected to go to women candidates as the party wrestles with its new requirement to have a caucus with at least 45 per cent women after the 2014 election.
All of the top 20 MPs in caucus have also been told to go on the list in a bid to stop any perception the male MPs are boycotting it because of that rule, which makes it harder for males to get good list slots.
The party's low polling makes the news worse for male candidates relying on the list. It is expecting to win at least 28 electorates, 5 more than at present. That will give it two more female electorate MPs than present - Carmel Sepuloni and Jenny Salesa are in safe seats.
However, if Labour gets 30 per cent at the election that leaves only 8 places for List MPs - and 6 of those would have to go to women if it is to meet the 45 per cent.
That would not be enough to get all of the current List MPs back. It could put the likes of Clayton Cosgrove, Andrew Little and Kelvin Davis at risk of missing out if more women are ranked above them to ensure the 45 per cent target was safely passed.
It is understood current MPs have been assured they will be ranked in the same sequential order as their caucus ranking as much as possible to avoid any pulling out at the last minute.
Damien O'Connor famously pulled out in 2011 rather than face a low ranking, claiming the list was decided by a "gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists."
He won his West Coast Tasman electorate back off National and it is understood he has agreed to return to the list.
However, some newcomers are likely to be slotted in between the current MPs and others such as Raymond Huo could also be ranked higher than his caucus ranking because of the need for ethnicity representation.
The departure of Rajen Prasad means Labour is also likely to place a new candidate of Indian descent high, likely to be a woman.
At the regional list ranking meetings there were also suspicions Mr Cunliffe was trying to stack the next caucus with as many of his supporters as possible.
After the election, he will have to go through a caucus confidence vote at which he must secure at least 60 per cent support from his caucus to avoid a contest.
It is understood the Auckland region has ranked Jerome Mika highly, and above Labour's Epsom candidate Michael Wood.
Sources said Mika's higher ranking followed backing from Cunliffe. Mr Cunliffe denied he had pushed for Mr Mika, saying it was not the role of leader to do so.
However, he later clarified that he had "expressed a view" on it, but had not lobbied for Mika.
Other newcomers understood to be relatively high on the list include the party's Northland candidate, Willow Jean Prime.
Some candidates have pulled out for strategic reasons, so their opponents can not say their list ranking means they do not need to win an electorate to get into Parliament.
They include former MP Stuart Nash who is hoping to win Napier.
Mr Nash said that was because he was hoping to take advantage of the departure of National's Chris Tremain to win the Napier seat back for Labour.
He had stood there twice before and said if Napier did not vote for him this time, then it was clearly not right for him to be in Parliament.
Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene and Ruth Dyson in Port Hills are also both not going on the list for similar reasons. Mr Tirikatene said he preferred to leave it to his constituents to decide if he had done a good enough job to return - a similar argument to Ms Dyson's.
Current List MPs and the party vote Labour needs to get them back in if they stay in caucus ranking order:
1. David Parker - 24%
2. Jacinda Ardern - 25%
3. Clayton Cosgrove - 26%
4. Sue Moroney - 27%
5. Andrew Little - 27.5%
6. Maryan Street - 28%
7. Moana Mackey - 29%
8. Kelvin Davis - 30%
9. Carol Beaumont - 31%
10. Raymond Huo - 32%
* Assumes Labour wins 28 electorates. Huo could be placed higher and women could be moved up to ensure the 45 per cent target is met.
* Likely highly ranked newcomers:
Women: Northland candidate Willow Jean Prime, Tauranga candidate Rachel Jones, Rangitikei candidate Deborah Russell
Men: Jerome Mika, Tamati Coffey and Michael Wood