Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Labour MPs to plot election strategy: 'We know we have work ahead of us'

Labour leader Andrew Little said John Key's shock resignation has changed the "dynamic" of the election contest. Photo / Mark Mitchel
Labour leader Andrew Little said John Key's shock resignation has changed the "dynamic" of the election contest. Photo / Mark Mitchel

Labour MPs will gather next week to plot strategy for an election contest dramatically changed by John Key's resignation.

The party's MPs will return after a summer holiday for a New Year caucus in Martinborough on Monday and Tuesday - aware a successful campaign could put them in power later this year.

Prime Minister Bill English, currently in Europe, is yet to call a date for the election.
Key's shock resignation has changed the "dynamic" of the election contest, Labour leader Andrew Little said.

"There is a different personality leading the National Party, so that will make a difference. But, equally, we don't take anything for granted. No one is heaving a big sigh of relief saying, 'that's it, we've got it in the bag'. We know we have work ahead of us.

"We are constantly looking at what we do, what we need to be doing better, and what we need to change.

"And [Martinborough] is also a bit of a chance to recap on that, and as we make our commitments to each other about how we conduct ourselves in the year ahead. It is agreeing what the priorities are, that we stick to those and the messages."

Those messages will be focused on a handful of areas - housing affordability, more police to address rising crime rates, and improving education and health services.

In a recent caucus reshuffle Little took on a newly-created "New Economy" portfolio. He said another election year focus would be on what measures were needed to grow the economy.

"This is about the long-term thinking about the sorts of things we need to be doing - the kinds of investments and infrastructure, the kind of measures we need to take - to attract private investment in the areas that are going to be wealth-generating and job-generating in the future.

"The productivity question is the one we have to get our heads around ... the basis on which we can lift wages materially and consistently, and it is all wrapped up of course in environmental sustainability framework as well."

After a holiday that included cycling the Otago Rail Trail with his son, Little is now back home in Wellington and getting back into work, including working on his State of the Nation speech to be delivered on January 29.

He said another focus of next week's caucus retreat was looking at electorate strategy - those already held, and those that could be won.

Included in the latter category will be Wellington's Ohariu electorate. United Future leader Peter Dunne won with a slim majority of 710 in 2014, and will run again.

Former Police Association president Greg O'Connor is rumoured to be interested in becoming Labour's candidate. He has not responded to a request for comment this week.

"I'm familiar with the rumours, I can't really comment beyond that," Little said. "I think, you know, 'watch this space'."

- NZ Herald

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