Labour's President Moira Coatsworth has sent an email to all Labour Party members telling them to keep their behaviour in check during the upcoming leadership contest - an instruction already being described as "Orwellian" by one member.

The party's council decided on a timetable for the leadership contest at a meeting last night - the new leader will be announced on November 18.

The party's rules are require members and leadership candidates to abide by a code of conduct - and Ms Coatsworth was clearly keen to emphasise the importance of that after the lead up to the contest was marked by veiled criticisms of each other by David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson, and issues such as an anonymous Twitter account set up by Mr Cunliffe's wife Karen Price.

In an email to members, posted by Phil Quin on his blog at medium.com, Ms Coatsworth sets out "expectations for Party members."

Advertisement

"Robust exchanges about the merits of any candidate for leadership need to be based on performance and attributes which are relevant to their ability to be the Labour Leader. Members (including candidates for leadership) should not directly or indirectly refer to a candidate for leadership in a way which is denigrating or disrespectful.

"Members should be cautious to ensure that any statements they make are factually accurate and fair. They should ensure that any public comment on the candidates, the Party and the leadership election system uphold the status of the Party and its chances of election to Government, and do not bring it into disrepute."

Mr Quin took exception to the instructions, labelling them as "a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech." He wrote back to Ms Coatsworth asking who was charged with ruling on breaches of the rules and what the consequences were.

Mr Barnett said earlier today that the aim was to run a fair and democratic process and it was not unusual to try to stop damage by over zealous supporters when the candidates themselves were bound by a Code of Conduct.

Labour's acting leader David Parker said he had given a similar message to the MPs.