Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Leadership battle: Labour 'must be unified'

Labour Party leadership candidates David Cunliffe, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson agree that reconnecting with party members has been hugely encouraging. Photo / APN
Labour Party leadership candidates David Cunliffe, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson agree that reconnecting with party members has been hugely encouraging. Photo / APN

Today is the final day of campaigning for three Labour Party leader hopefuls and all candidates say the message they have been given is for the party to stop bickering.

Grant Robertson, Shane Jones and David Cunliffe have spent the last three weeks wooing thousands of Labour party members at 12 hustings meetings.

Tomorrow the result of their efforts will be known as votes are counted from members, affiliated unions and the caucus.

All candidates fronted today on TV3`s The Nation and said feedback they heard loud and clear was the party needed to be unified.

Mr Robertson said party members wanted a Labour team who could "take the fight to John Key, focus outwards and not inwards''.

He believed he represented a "new generation'' of leadership.

"I think it's perfectly possible to believe in equality and see that as people in South Auckland getting jobs they deserve as much as it is for people being able to live the life that they live.''

Mr Cunliffe said if he won the leadership battle he would ``work my guts out'' and work with colleagues to present a united front.

``Unity for victory, victory for our people.''

During the campaign the candidates got to know each other very well, he said.

``I believe I'm in the company of two very fine politicians here and if I'm entrusted with the leadership, my primary task will be to bring them on board with a new team and to ensure their talents are not wasted.''

The party needed to look to next year's general election and take on Mr Key, he said.

``We need to give New Zealand back to the people who have seen their democracy corroded, seen their economy sold off to his big business mates and seeing hope die in their eyes.''

Mr Jones said members wanted MPs to stop the "inside squabbling''.

He said he decided to fight for the party leadership for two reasons.

"I want to jolt our party beyond the fable of identity politics and into the narrative of building our nation.

"In addition to that, I wanted to show that unless we get the 800-odd thousand voters back into our waka, it's very difficult to see how we're going to govern again.''

Mr Jones used a yacht race metaphor to describe where the party needed to be.

"Next year we've got to tack a little to the right, a little to the left, because we're upwind.''

- NZ Herald

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