Chris Hipkins will continue as Labour leader after being endorsed by the party’s caucus.
Kelvin Davis will not continue as the deputy leader and Carmel Sepuloni will take over in the position.
Labour’s caucus met in Upper Hutt today to discuss many topics including the party’s leadership following a dismal 2023 election result.
The leadership vote was a secret ballot so he didn’t know whether there were any dissenting votes in the leadership vote. There were no other candidates for the leadership.
On the messages to the caucus on unity in Opposition, Hipkins said he felt he didn’t need to give that message and said it was obvious.
Hipkins said Davis had not stated he would retire from politics altogether, but had earlier told Hipkins that he wanted to step down from the role of deputy party leader.
Hipkins said it was his intention he would be Labour leader for the 2026 election campaign. He said he was confident he would be leader then.
He said Labour would have a “refreshed policy platform” going into the 2026 campaign.
“We start effectively with a blank page ... we start again,” Hipkins said of Labour’s policies.
“We need to take stock, we need to refresh. We start again with a blank page.”
He said there had been a brief conversation on tax at today’s meeting but nothing specific.
Hipkins formerly ruled out a wealth tax under his leadership, but is indicating that could change in the run-up to 2026.
He didn’t believe tax was the issue that defined the election result. He wouldn’t answer whether ruling out a wealth or capital gains tax was a mistake, repeating that Labour started with a blank page.
Hipkins believed a lot of vote splitting occurred in the Māori seats, which led to Te Pāti Māori winning six of the seven Māori electorates.
Hipkins nominated Sepuloni to be the next deputy leader of the party and she was unanimously supported by the caucus.
He didn’t agree that he was still leader because no one else wanted the job.
Sepuloni said Davis had indicated he wanted to step down and therefore there was no need for negotiations over the position.
Sepuloni said she had no aspiration to be the Labour leader.
She said Auckland was a problem for Labour, as evidenced by the election, so the party had to “think broadly” about why it fell short in the city.
The deputy leader job was about relationships within caucus, the party and stakeholders, Sepuloni said.
The first part of Labour’s Opposition was reflecting on what it did right and what it did wrong over its six years in government and the election. It will also involve “very vigorously” holding the next Government to account.
Labour’s whips have remained Tangi Utikere and Camilla Belich. Hipkins would wait until after the Government had formed to select shadow positions.
Hipkins said he’d had a conversation with David Parker yesterday, amid reports the senior Labour MP was keen on the leadership. Hipkins said Parker had assured him that he hadn’t been seeking support through the caucus.
Hipkins accepted it was a possibility other senior MPs would join Andrew Little in retiring from politics, whether that be before or after the summer break.
He hoped Christopher Luxon would have the good sense to oppose Act’s policy to hold a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi principles. Hipkins accepted respectful conversations could be had on the matter, but he didn’t believe that would be achieved through the referendum.
Hipkins said he had almost “lost count” of how many weeks it had been since October 14 and hoped Luxon and his coalition partners could form the next Government quickly.
“I think everyone was in a constructive frame of mind,” Hipkins said of today’s caucus meeting.
“We need to go back to the drawing board,” Hipkins said of Labour’s policy platform.
He described the party’s finances as “pretty good”.
As MPs filed into their meeting room this morning, several said they were supporting Chris Hipkins ahead of the leadership vote.
Senior Labour MP David Parker refused to say whether he will endorse Hipkins but did rule out contesting the leadership.
“The question of endorsement will come up, it’s a matter between me and the caucus,” he told reporters.
Phil Twyford, who won back Te Atatū after special votes were counted, believed Hipkins had the “experience and the skills” to lead Labour but wouldn’t say whether he’d support him as leader.
“Those are things we discuss in the caucus room, not outside.”
He did admit he’d be surprised if Hipkins wasn’t leader after today’s vote.
Peeni Henare confirmed his support for Hipkins.
He also stated the party would officially request a recount of the result in his electorate of Tāmaki Makaurau, which he lost by just four votes to Te Pāti Māori’s Takutai Tarsh Kemp.
“Four votes is too close to call, so we’re going to ask for a recount.”
Education spokeswoman Jan Tinetti was tight-lipped on who she’d support, but did say Hipkins had been a good leader.
Finance spokesman Grant Roberston was adamant in his backing of Hipkins and was absolutely sure Hipkins would be leader come the 2026 election.
Asked whether he expected any challengers, Robertson said the caucus was about to meet but, “no, Chris is our leader”.
Ginny Andersen, the former MP for Hutt South, which neighbours Hipkins’ Remutaka electorate, said Hipkins would always have her support and backed him to lead Labour in the next election if he wanted to.
“I think Chris is the right guy for the job and I’m backing him.”
Neither Mt Albert MP Helen White nor former Rangitata MP Jo Luxton would reveal who they would support in the leadership vote. Health spokeswoman Dr Ayesha Verrall said leadership discussions were for caucus only.
Former Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene, Manurewa MP Arena Williams, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Cushla Tangaere-Manuel and Christchurch East MP Reuben Davidson all said they would vote for Hipkins.