Labour's leadership hopefuls will take to the roads over the next fortnight to make their pitches to party members in a far more open process than the party has followed in the past.

David Cunliffe, David Parker and David Shearer have all put their names forward to be the next leader. The position will be chosen by caucus in a secret ballot on December 13.

Although only caucus can vote on the leadership, the candidates will travel around the country to a series of meetings with party members in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and possibly Dunedin to set out their case.

The party has opted for a more open process than in the past, partly because of criticism about the swift handover to outgoing leader Phil Goff after Helen Clark resigned.


Party president Moira Coatsworth said some Labour parties overseas involved party members in the formal process of selecting new leaders.

She had suggested to caucus on Tuesday that the party here pick up elements of that by organising the roadshow to allow members to talk to the candidates and give feedback to their local Labour MPs.

The contenders yesterday welcomed the idea, saying it would allow members to get to know them and hear how they planned to reconnect with voters.

Most MPs were staying quiet yesterday on whom they would back in the contest. However, the field is still wide open - Mr Shearer's last-minute entry could take some support away from Mr Parker, who appeared to have the numbers over Mr Cunliffe earlier. Mr Cunliffe said he was still working on his numbers "and so is everybody else".

West Coast MP Damien O'Connor is rumoured to be one of Mr Shearer's organisers but yesterday refused to confirm that, saying he was "an objective observer".

"I'd say David's got a good chance, though." When asked which David, he said he could not say, but "I'm sure a David will win".

Manukau East MP Ross Robertson said he was undecided and would wait to see the candidates at the Auckland meeting before he made his choice.

Mangere MP Su'a William Sio said he had "some leanings" but had not made a final decision.

Discussions were also ongoing yesterday about the deputy leader's job. List MP Shane Jones is expected to run. Although Mr Cunliffe is running on a ticket with Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta and Mr Parker has said he would like Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson as his deputy leader, Mr Jones would give Mr Parker another option and Mr Shearer has not yet indicated who his preferred deputy is.

Asked if he would take the post of deputy if he did not get the leadership, Mr Parker said he was not seeking the deputy's role.

However, he was loyal to the Labour Party "and I won't throw my toys out of the cot if I don't win".

Mr Shearer also said he had not thought about taking on the deputy position if he lost. All three candidates have downplayed concerns that the contest risks causing a rift in the caucus.

Mr Shearer and Mr Parker are friends who flat together in Wellington, and Mr Cunliffe yesterday said the three got on well and knew they had to unite for the future of Labour.