New Democratic leader gives Alliance solidarity assurances

New Democratic Party leader Grant Gillon says there's not likely to be any change in his organisation's position in the Alliance coalition, following his ascendancy to the helm of the political party.

"In fact I see it as just adding strength to the Alliance", he said.

Former Democratic Party supremo John Wright announced the leadership change at the party's conference in Christchurch yesterday.

The Democratic Party is a member of the Alliance coalition.

Mr Gillon is an Auckland-based list MP and the Alliance Party whip.

Also a list MP himself, Mr Wright said the recent dispute between Alliance leader Jim Anderton and President Matt McCarten was in no way responsible for his decision to step down.

"Its nothing to do with that at all. In fact that probably gave me reason to pause and consider whether I would go ahead and stand down ... I didn't want it to be seen as a destabilisation, I don't believe it is. It certainly shouldn't be seen that way."

Mr Wright is a Parliamentary undersecretary.

"It seemed an appropriate time (to step down). ... The party feels a need to grow.

In order to do that it needs someone who can produce a strong voice outside of the constraints that I'm under, as an undersecretary."

He said Mr Gillon, as a backbench MP and whip, was in a better position to be leader.

"He's going to have to juggle those roles... But he's younger than me - and better looking."

Mr Wright said he would stand at the next election.

Mr Wright and Mr Gillon were among six Alliance MPs who Mr Anderton convinced to stop making fortnightly payments to a party account which partly pays Mr McCarten's salary.

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