Labour is expected to give party members an equal or even greater say than the party's MPs in electing its leader in the future - but it is understood to have backed away from the British Labour Party model which gives one third of the vote to trade unions.

Labour's caucus discussed the proposed changes to the way the leadership is decided at a caucus retreat yesterday before the party's New Zealand Council meets on Saturday to finalise its recommendations.

At present, only caucus votes on the leadership.

Labour leader David Shearer said yesterday there was general consensus within the caucus that it was time for the membership to share in that vote - something the members made clear during last year's leadership contest. He said the details were yet to be worked out, including the exact split of the vote.


It is understood the party is debating options including giving slightly more weight to the vote of party members than to the vote of the caucus or at least giving them an equal vote.

Senior members said there was some concern that giving too much weight to the membership vote over the caucus vote could result in a leader being chosen who was deeply unpopular within the caucus - a result which could be unworkable in practical terms.

However, there is also a desire to ensure the members' vote was not purely tokenism and to give them a real influence. Debate was also under way about whether the caucus portion of the vote would be a bloc vote and how affiliated unions should be treated.

The National Council can make decisions without the consent of caucus, although it does have considerable sway and it is unlikely the council would adopt changes caucus was strongly opposed to.