David Cunliffe has plunged from the mid-benches to the backbenches in a reshuffle of Labour 's caucus rankings, announced today.

Party leader Andrew Little has unveiled his shadow Cabinet of 22 MPs today.

Among the big names, Jacinda Ardern has been rewarded, moving from ninth up into fifth slot, Kelvin Davis nudges up from eighth to seventh and Phil Twyford moves from fifth to fourth. Megan Woods has been promoted to the front bench sitting at 10th.

However Mr Cunliffe has been moved down and is now outside the shadow Cabinet. He loses the main tertiary education portfolio which has been folded back into the main education portfolio but picks up a new role as undersecretary to Mr Little on superannuation. Mr Cunliffe will retain the research and development portfolio, as well as some responsibility for tertiary education as an associate.


Mr Little described the line-up as "the blueprint" for a future Labour government - and the demotion sends a clear signal Mr Cunliffe will not be a minister in that.

Asked if that was a hint Mr Cunliffe should reconsider his future, Mr Little said he would work closely with Mr Cunliffe on superannuation policy. "That's an expression of confidence in him."

David Cunliffe's demotion sends a clear signal he will not be a minister in the future Labour government. Photo / Supplied
David Cunliffe's demotion sends a clear signal he will not be a minister in the future Labour government. Photo / Supplied

Nanaia Mahuta moves from fourth to 12th, which would usually be the mid-benches. However Mr Little has opted to increase his technical front bench to 12 MPs. She also loses the Maori development portfolio to Kelvin Davis.

Mr Little acknowledged some people would be disappointed with the results of the reshuffle, but had spoken to Ms Mahuta who was happy with her portfolios of Treaty negotiations, whanau ora and conservation.

Other former Cunliffe loyalists were rewarded - Sue Moroney was nudged up and gets the transport portfolio while Iain Lees-Galloway takes on immigration as well as his labour portfolio. Among the 2014 intake of MPs, Meka Whaitiri, Jenny Salesa and Peeni Henare all moved into the shadow Cabinet.

Other promotions include David Parker, who moves back into the top 12 and picks up environment but loses trade to David Clark. Stuart Nash is also in the shadow Cabinet and picks up the police portfolio.

Mr Little said it was a mix of experience and fresh faces. He said Mr Davis' promotion was due to his work on the Serco scandals and treatment of detainees in Australia while Megan Woods' promotion was because of her work in Christchurch and on climate change.

He credited Sue Moroney's promotion to her hard work on paid parental leave.


Mr Little said Labour intended to put up Trevor Mallard as speaker and Ruth Dyson as deputy speaker if it was in government after 2017, so both were outside the shadow Cabinet.

No change

Andrew Little (1)

- leader, Security and Intelligence

Annette King (2)

- deputy leader, Health

Grant Robertson (3)

- Finance. Gets Employment.

Chris Hipkins (6)

- Education, senior whip. Adds tertiary education to portfolio.

Going up

Phil Twyford (4)

. Up from 5. Auckland Issues, Housing, gets Building and construction, loses Transport.

Jacinda Ardern (5)

. Up from 9. Keeps Justice, Children, Arts and Small Business.

Kelvin Davis (7)

. Up from 8. Picks up Maori Development, keeps Corrections, loses Police.

David Clark (9)

. Up from 10. Picks up Trade. Keeps Economic Development.

Megan Woods (10)

. Up from 13 to front bench. Canterbury Issues, Climate Change. Loses Environment.

David Parker (11)

. Up from 15. Picks up Environment, Water, SOEs and ICT as well as Regulatory Reform. Loses trade.

David Shearer (13)

. Up from 16. Keeps Foreign Affairs, associate Defence.

Sue Moroney (16)

. previously unranked. Picks up Transport, keeps ACC, loses Immigration.

Damien O'Connor (17)

- previously unranked. Primary Industries, Biosecurity.

Clayton Cosgrove (18)

- previously unranked. Commerce, Veterans' Affairs, Tourism. Loses Revenue, SOES, Building and Construction.

Stuart Nash (19)

- previously unranked. Picks up Police and Revenue, keeps Energy and Forestry. Loses Land Information.

Meka Whaitiri (20)

- previously unranked. Picks up Local Government. Loses Water.

Jenny Salesa (21)

- previously unranked. Skills and Training.

Peeni Henare (22)

- previously unranked. Urban Maori and Maori Broadcasting. Loses Tourism.

Going down

David Cunliffe (unranked)

. Down from 14. Disarmament, R&D, Science, Land Information. New role as Under Secretary to the Leader on Superannuation Issues.

Carmel Sepuloni (8)

: Down from 7. Keeps Social Development, junior whip.

Nanaia Mahuta (12)

: down from 4. Loses Maori Development, gets Conservation, Treaty Negotiations and Whanau Ora.

Iain Lees-Galloway (14)

: down from 12. Picks up Immigration, keeps Workplace Relations and Safety.

Su'a William Sio (15)

: down from 11. Pacific Island Affairs.

OUTSIDE SHADOW CABINET (unranked backbenchers)

Trevor Mallard

: tagged for Speaker, so not in Shadow Cabinet. Assistant Speaker, Sport, Animal Welfare.

Ruth Dyson

: tagged for Deputy Speaker. Senior Citizens, Women's Affairs, Statistics.

Clare Curran

: Broadcasting, Open Government, picks up Civil Defence, loses ICT.

Kris Faafoi

: State Services, Racing, picks up Consumer Affairs. Loses Commerce.

Rino Tirikatene

: Fisheries, Customs.

Poto Williams

: Community and Voluntary. Disability Issues.

Louisa Wall

: picks up Courts, keeps Youth Affairs.

Adrian Rurawhe

: picks up Internal Affairs, loses Civil Defence.

Phil Goff

(lowest ranked due to campaign for Auckland Mayoralty), loses Auckland issues but keeps Defence.