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Lee tipped to face another challenge

By AUDREY YOUNG political reporter

Laila Harre is being tipped to stand as deputy leader of the Alliance as a sequel to Sandra Lee's ousting as Mana Motuhake leader.

And another Alliance MP, John Wright, says he may stand as deputy if Sandra Lee is challenged by another MP.

Ms Lee, the present deputy leader of the Alliance, was deposed as Mana Motuhake leader, 109 votes to 35, by fellow MP Willie Jackson at the party conference last weekend.

There is no constitutional reason why she could not be re-elected deputy by the Alliance annual conference in September. But the party is also beginning to think about grooming someone to succeed 62-year-old leader Jim Anderton in a few years.

Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harre is a favourite of the Alliance leftists, formerly of NewLabour, which wound up last year.

And the Sandra Lee dumping provides Harre supporters with an opportunity to elevate her.

Laila Harre told the Herald yesterday, through a spokeswoman, that she had no plans to stand and had not even thought about it.

But others in the Alliance, both supporters and detractors, yesterday tipped her as a likely contender.

Mr Wright, leader of the Democratic Party in the Alliance, said yesterday that he would not challenge Ms Lee for the deputy's job, but if she stepped down he would seriously consider putting his name forward.

And he would also do so if someone else challenged Ms Lee, after first talking to her and his party.

Mr Wright said he was not definitely thinking about the leadership.

"Deputy leaders don't necessarily make the leadership ... A good deputy doesn't necessarily make a good leader, and vice versa."

Mr Anderton said on Tuesday that Ms Lee had his "full personal support as my deputy."

The loss of the Mana Motuhake leadership had no effect on her posts as deputy and a cabinet minister, he said.

Ms Lee is Minister of Conservation, Local Government and an Associate Minister of Maori Affairs.

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