The Labour Party caucus has rarely witnessed a reshuffle of rankings and shadow portfolio re-allocations as extensive and as bruising as the one conducted by the party's new leader, Andrew Little.

Ignore for a moment the installation of veteran MP Annette King as deputy-leader. That is ostensibly a temporary move designed to avoid Little being bogged down in Wellington and freeing him up to get around the country to sell the revised Labour message he is promising to deliver.

But it also gives Little time to see who on the party's new front bench performs with panache and substance to deserve promotion. It also leaves a difficult decision to another day.

With the elevation of Kelvin Davis and Carmel Sepuloni and to the frontbench, Little is not only responding to Labour tradition that Maori and now Pacific Island community-based MPs be so represented.


Their presence alongside Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Jacinda Ardern, plus the promotion of fast-rising David Clark, marks a long-overdue generational change which brings a much fresher face to Labour.

The casualty list is consequently equally long. Claytgon Cosgrove suffers the ignominy of going from No 8 in the ranks to the obscurity of the pool of unranked MPs.

Also off the front bench are David Parker, who spat the dummy after being well-beaten in the election of the new leader, and David Cunliffe - perhaps the least surprising of Little's decisions.

Along with Phil Goff and David Shearer, the pair now sit in second row purgatory which sees them in reserve and possibly returning to the front bench at some point or - more likely in Goff's or Cunliffe's case - being their last stop before leaving Parliament .

Other noteworthy losers include Sue Moroney , who previously held the shadow Social Development portfolio, and gay marriage law change advocate Louisa Wall.

The reshuffle is very risky. Labour's new front bench has never looked quite so inexperienced.

It could be tough going in the House for some time as the new faces bed themselves in. Grant Robertson's appointment to the crucial role of finance spokesman perhaps sums that up.

Little's reshuffle also leaves everybody knowing where they stand - and whether they have a political future under his leadership.


One of King's jobs as deputy leader will be to rebuild caucus unity. She may well have her work cut out achieving that goal.