Pummelled on election night and torn apart by infighting, the Labour Party is hovering at rock bottom. Cherie Howie asked politicians — including the two confirmed leadership hopefuls — what the party must do to save itself.

Grant Robertson, Labour leadership contender

Labour needs to lead a new way of doing politics that makes us relevant. This means being part of our communities, not just at election time but being involved in the issues that matter to people and living our values rather than just talking about them. We have to rebuild our movement. We need to talk less about ourselves and more about our future as a country and the lives of the people we want to represent.

To rebuild and reconnect we have to be clear about Labour's purpose. To me, that purpose is creating economic opportunity for everyone, breaking down the barriers that stop people achieving their potential and embracing bold and progressive change. We have to offer clear, direct and coherent policy that puts this into practice, and we have to show that we can lead an alternative government by being competent, consistent, unified and organised.

And all that needs a generational change to modernise our movement for the challenges and opportunities of this century.

David Cunliffe, Labour leadership contender

Labour now needs to listen and learn from what New Zealanders have told us. The voters are always right. Our values of fairness and opportunity for all won't change, but our party must if we are going to be part of the future.


There is much more to do to make Labour relevant and rebuild for 2017:

How we do politics in a new way - with New Zealanders, not just for them.

How we embrace our traditional supporters, and reach out into every region and community.

How we show Kiwi families that a Labour-led government is better for them in their daily lives.

How we build prosperity for all, based on a clean, smart 21st-century economy.

How we become winners in, not victims of, our changing world.

We must hold true to the aspiration of everyone to a decent life, home and job. And to do that we must be more modern and connected; fit to fight for a better future for all New Zealanders.

Rodney Hide, former Act Party leader

Look forward, not back. Dump your election review. You lost. Get over it. It's what you do now that counts. Be positive, about us and yourselves. You are still the number two party.


Remind yourselves what a great country we have. You have the wonderful opportunity to make it even better.

Dump your stupid primary. It's divisive and off-putting. Caucus should choose your leader. Get it over with in a morning. Move on. Pick Stuart Nash. He appeals to those who vote National. He's a winner. That's what you need.

Richard Prebble, former Labour Cabinet minister and Act Party leader

Labour can never be a majority party again without winning a significant white male party vote.

Labour is so politically correct I doubt if the party review will even consider the question. I doubt if the review will ask; "Why did Shane Jones decide he had no future in Labour?" "Why did Stuart Nash and Trevor Mallard just stand for the electorate?"

In Labour, middle-aged males who are not gay are an endangered species. Labour has a whole lot of other problems. But just figuring out how to get working white men to vote Labour again will force Labour to face many of those issues.

The party will immediately realise that neither of the two announced leadership candidates is the answer.

Michelle Boag, former National Party President

Labour's 10-point plan to rebuild, in this order:

• Stop fighting each other.

Research: Find out what the voters think and stop trying to fit voters to your policies.

Fundraising: Find your most loyal business supporters and ask them to bankroll the plan.

Brand strategy: Using the research, get independent people to develop new branding, consider "New Labour".

Leadership - Parliament: Elect an interim leader for 12 months to carry out the rejuvenation process. Hold a "campaign" leadership election after contenders have spent a year proving themselves.

Leadership - party: Elect a president for their organisational skills, business networks and ability to build relationships in and outside the party.

Resourcing: Look beyond tribal supporters when appointing key roles to get independent perspectives.

Communications: Develop a plan to engage internal audiences first, then focus on consumers.

Recruitment: Don't give out contracts to new staff for more than 12 months. Do the rebuild before you appoint key staff to be involved in a two-year election campaign. Use talent rather than ideology to assess new candidates.

Timing: Don't try to win the election in the next 12 months.

Willie Jackson, former Alliance MP

Labour needs someone with X Factor and charisma and none of the current contenders have what's required, although Grant Robertson is clearly the best equipped and skilled of the current crop. But Grant, as we know, is gay and that's apparently too much for Labour Party stalwarts to handle.

I reckon the answer is with the Maori members. Not the new default Maori seats but two former retreads, Shane Jones and John Tamihere. Imagine if those two were invited back into the fold. No worries about their sexuality!

Both have been victims of the factions and political correctness within Labour and both have mass appeal among ordinary Kiwis. They would turn Labour's fortunes around instantly - but unfortunately there is no one in Labour who would have the courage to make this happen.

Dover Samuels, former Labour Cabinet minister

Ask the Labour people who turned their backs on the party on election night for the answer. The party has to realise that even if every unionist had voted Labour, and every special interest group - whether they're gay or Maori - they still would have lost.

The review has to be done by the grassroots because that's where Labour lost its support.

The issue of leadership is only one thing. You can't overhaul a waka by renewing two or three of the paddlers. The captain has to take responsibility, those who contributed have to tell the truth about it.

Middle New Zealand will decide who the Government is going to be, not the unions. The party has to recognise that.