Labour MP David Shearer has ruled out a tilt at the leadership after weeks of speculation he would try to get his old job back.
Mr Shearer told the Herald tonight that he had decided not to put his name in for Labour's leadership contest in advance of nominations closing tomorrow.
His decision followed David Cunliffe's decision to pull out of the contest and instead endorse Andrew Little. Mr Shearer said that was not related to his own decision.
However, he said it would have been better for the new leader if Mr Cunliffe had stayed in the contest and been beaten. He said that would have meant a "cleaner break" rather than having questions about whether Mr Cunliffe could have won hanging over the new leader.
Mr Shearer said he did not know whether he could have won but believed he had enough public support to have at least lifted Labour back up in the polls.
"It was a hard decision because a year ago I was forced to stand down, and we'd crawled back up to 34 per cent. I believe I had the capacity to get back to that and beyond, but there would have to be a fundamental shakeup to address why people aren't viewing Labour as the party that speaks to them."
"There are things that need to be done and I don't think there is acceptance of that amongst much of the party."
He said that was because the party was already absorbed in the leadership contest rather than waiting for the review and analysis that might have helped decide which leader was the best choice for the change needed. "I don't want to be one of those personalities when I don't think tweaking the person alone will address the problems."
He would not say who he planned to back himself, but said he would support whoever won. "When you're down and trying to climb up it's a really tough job. So I have some sympathy for David [Cunliffe] in that respect. He ran a credible campaign."
He said he would stay on in Parliament. "I have no plans of leaving. I want to help in rebuilding. It is the party I belong to and I share its values."
Mr Shearer said his family had said they would support him in whatever he decided to do, although they knew the job was draining. He said there were at least two or three major problems that needed addressing - including fixing the Labour Party brand so it wasn't seen as simply a collection of special interests.
He said the current calls for a female or Maori deputy leader to balance out the white, middle-aged men running as leader was one sign of that obsession. "People are saying we'll have a white bloke for a leader so we need a woman or Maori as deputy. No. We need the most competent person whether that's woman or a man. That speaks a lot about the party."
He said it had lost middle New Zealand. "What happened to the tradies, and the self-employed, the people in offices who just don't see us looking like them anymore?"
Nominations for Labour's leadership close at 5pm on Tuesday - there are now three candidates: David Parker, Andrew Little and Grant Robertson.