New Labour leader Andrew Little will head straight into the minefield of choosing his deputy and finance spokesman and is expected to send a message to the Cunliffe team by ignoring David Cunliffe and Nanaia Mahuta for the roles.
Mr Cunliffe endorsed Mr Little for the leadership and yesterday hinted he was keen on the finance portfolio again. Ms Mahuta, a Cunliffe supporter who also ran for leader but was first to drop out, indicated she was interested in the deputy role.
Mr Little will have his first caucus meeting as leader today and is aiming to announce his new lineup by next week. He said both Ms Mahuta and Mr Cunliffe could expect senior positions but he would not be drawn on what those would be.
However, it is understood Mr Little has ruled them out for deputy and finance and is looking at others instead. He indicated he would use the positions as a bridge to the Grant Robertson camp, given the close leadership outcome.
"The numbers are interesting and they are going to have to factor into my judgments about allocation of roles and responsibilities. This is a time for unity, so I have to make some very careful judgments."
Mr Little is likely to talk to Jacinda Ardern about whether she will be willing to take on the deputy role. Stuart Nash or David Clark are both options for finance. However, Mr Little may also try to persuade David Parker to stay on in the role in the interests of Labour.
The handling of those appointments will be a critical test for Mr Little, who was elected by a paper-thin margin over caucus favourite Mr Robertson.
Mr Robertson ruled out a further leadership tilt, saying that although he could not hide his disappointment, he had now tried and failed twice and it was time to give up.
Mr Little got the support of just five MPs in the first round of voting - fewer than any of the other three candidates. However, he subsequently picked up supporters of Ms Mahuta and Mr Parker under the preferential voting system, in which MPs provide a second choice for leader.
Mr Little ended with 14 MPs against Mr Robertson's 18 in the final round. If just one more MP had opted for Mr Robertson, he would now be leader.
Mr Cunliffe said he was happy to do whatever job he was given, but would not rule out being finance spokesman again as he was under Phil Goff. He said he believed Ms Mahuta would be a good deputy. He did not believe Mr Little's lack of support from caucus in the leadership contest would handicap him, saying caucus knew it had to buckle down.
One MP said if Mr Little did not appoint Mr Cunliffe in finance it would send a strong message. "If he did that, it would be a hole through David Cunliffe's head and at that point he might look at his future. It would really be the death knell."
There was a chance of caucus revolt if Mr Little tried to put Ms Mahuta in as deputy.
The deputy leader is elected by caucus and Mr Little does not yet have the numbers to rely on it to do his bidding.
There is also increasing speculation Mr Parker is looking at leaving Parliament altogether after he ruled out taking the deputy or finance role again soon after Mr Little was elected.
Mr Little has pushed for the party to drop the capital gains tax and retirement age policies Mr Parker has championed. Mr Parker said his decision was not a protest or vote of no confidence in Mr Little - he had told caucus before the leadership contest that he did not want either role.
Mr Little said yesterday no decision had yet been made on any policies and they would go through usual processes before final decisions were made. He said today's caucus was relatively informal and he would just give "a bit of an indication about what lies ahead".
He did not intend to panic about the polls until the "building blocks" were in place - something that could take up to two years to bed in.