Labour's caucus meeting today will be the first MP Trevor Mallard has attended since he was demoted by new leader David Cunliffe - and Mr Mallard said fears he will go rogue are unfounded, but nor will he disappear in 2014 and he still hopes to be made the Speaker if Labour wins the next election.
Mr Mallard was stripped of his responsibilities as shadow Leader of the House and dumped down the rankings by David Cunliffe soon after Mr Cunliffe was elected leader. The demotion was seen by some as a signal to Mr Mallard that he should look at retiring from politics in 2014.
Mr Mallard said he did intend to stand in his Hutt South electorate again in 2014 and had received no indication from Mr Cunliffe that he should step down.
He still wanted to be Speaker and and Mr Cunliffe was open to that. "Absolutely. There's no problem in that area."
Mr Cunliffe said he had not told Mr Mallard he could still be Speaker under a future Labour Government.
"No decisions have been made about that, but I'm well aware of his strong interest in it." Asked if it was a sign he expected Mr Mallard to step down in 2014, he said he was not yet going through the process of holding retirement conversations with MPs.
"That will happen with colleagues closer to the election. Trevor makes a good contribution and there is no sense he is being pushed."
Mr Mallard said he had no grudge against Mr Cunliffe. "Not at all. I've been demoted by Lange, by Clark, by Goff and by Shearer. I've been promoted by three of the four of them as well. It happens and you get on with your job." He had not attended Labour's caucus retreat in Dunedin last week because the party's whip, Sue Moroney, had asked him to speak at an animal welfare conference instead.
He said he had expected to lose his role as shadow leader of the House. "Clearly there was a view among some members of the caucus that it was time for a change in that area. That had been expressed to me before."
Mr Mallard said he would focus on building his electorate and on his portfolio areas of Internal Affairs, Sport and Recreation, the America's Cup and in the wider finance team. Mr Cunliffe will face his first real test against Prime Minister John Key this week - Mr Key's overseas travel has meant the pair have only had one Question Time together soon after Mr Cunliffe was elected leader.
Mr Cunliffe said he was looking forward to it. "In general terms, my approach will be to focus on the issues, not play the guy, and to draw attention to areas where Government policy is not meeting public expectations." He would not say what areas he would specifically focus on. However, the release of census information this week is likely to be the source of some ammunition for Mr Cunliffe, who said yesterday he expected it to show that workers were being forced to move out of provincial New Zealand to find jobs.