Matt McCarten devises plan to turn caucus room into large space where key staff can plot election strategy.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has ejected MPs from the caucus room to turn it into a war room, moving all key political staff into a vast open-plan office.

The new strategy office is the brain-child of chief of staff Matt McCarten and is aimed at making sure the party is co-ordinated and quick on its feet. Labour MPs will now be sent downstairs to a smaller room for their weekly meetings.

The traditional Opposition caucus room on the third floor of Parliament House is now the office space for about 18 staff from the Labour leader's office, including its research unit and its communications and media teams. There are also "hot desks" for the directors of those units to work from when needed.

A spokesman for Mr Cunliffe said it was to make communication easier and ensure Labour could react swiftly to unfolding political situations, as well as giving MPs a one-stop place to go to discuss issues.


Labour and Mr Cunliffe are both still struggling to make any gains in the polls, but party president Moira Coatsworth said there had been a surge of interest at a grassroots level.

Party membership had doubled last year, during which Labour held the first leadership election in which members could vote. She said there were also more hopeful candidates seeking selection, even in unwinnable seats.

The party has completed selections for all but seven electorates, including Tamaki Makaurau. The closing date for Tamaki Makaurau nominations has been extended again to the end of this month to wait for a TVNZ inquiry into former Maori programming head Shane Taurima, who is a possible candidate. Mr Taurima had to resign from TVNZ after it was found he had attended Labour Party meetings within TVNZ and had failed to tell his bosses he was still involved with the party.

Shane Jones has withdrawn from the selection for the Northland electorate, clearing the way for lawyer and district councillor Willow Jean Prime. It is a safe National seat and Mr Jones said he was happy to run on the list alone.

He denied he was being kept in reserve in case he was needed to stand in Tamaki Makaurau if Mr Taurima did not stand. Ms Coatsworth said it was still possible Mr Jones would stand in an electorate.

Labour campaign director David Talbot has launched a volunteer recruitment tool called "I'm In" on Labour's website which has so far collected at least 2000 names.

Angry heckler gatecrashes leader's interview

Labour leader David Cunliffe was given a taste of the heckling political leaders can face during election campaigns while speaking to the media outside his New Lynn electorate office yesterday.

Mr Cunliffe was responding to Prime Minister John Key's pre-Budget speech when a man in a small blue car pulled alongside, beeping his horn and yelling "f*** you, f*** Labour, f*** unemployment."

With a finger held aloft, he added that National was no better and "unemployment is not working".

"We may as well have a coalition of the f***wits. F*** you all."

Mr Cunliffe's press secretary wound up the interview and the man drove away. Mr Cunliffe quipped that the "local National Party is alive and well" before a jibe about Conservative Party leader Colin Craig: "I hope that isn't the candidate for East Coast Bays."