Shearer to put leadership on line

GAME CHANGE: Labour Leader David Shearer at the Labour Party conference in Auckland.
GAME CHANGE: Labour Leader David Shearer at the Labour Party conference in Auckland.

Labour leader David Shearer is confident he has the numbers to ward off a leadership challenge which could happen as early as tomorrow.

Months of speculation about Shearer's future came to a head at the party's annual conference in Auckland over the weekend.

He effectively put rival David Cunliffe on notice to either "put up or shut up".

The vote to flush Cunliffe out seems likely to be called tomorrow or at next week's caucus meeting at the latest.

It was due to be held in February.

Shearer yesterday refused to discuss a possible vote except to say: "I'm the leader. I will take those decisions when I need to."

However, this morning Shearer told TVNZ's Breakfast he "absolutely" had the numbers to win the looming leadership vote.

"What we want to be able to do is to put all of this behind us. It's been rumbling on every now and then; it needs to be stopped, finished and we focus on what people want us to focus on.

"That's what we'll do in the coming days, I'm not going to say when."

Cunliffe said he had contacted Shearer last night to offer his support.

However he refused to extend that commitment to the February vote.

"I don't see any need for an earlier vote but if there is one he'll have my support and I wouldn't be surprised if it's unanimous."

He said he was impressed with Shearer's speech at the weekend and agreed with the policy direction announced.

"I've given David Shearer an assurance of my support," he told Radio New Zealand.

"I can't give you a commitment for a future vote that hasn't yet occurred," he said of the February vote.

In his speech yesterday, Shearer outlined promised reforms to economic policy, including a capital gains tax and changes to allow the Reserve Bank to target a lower exchange rate, and plans to launch the biggest house-building programme in 50 years.

It would put 100,000 families into new, affordable homes within 10 years.

Landlords would be forced to bring properties up to minimum standards of insulation and efficient heating and Labour would make it easier to get consents for lower-cost houses.

"I won't stand by and watch families, and particularly children, live in cold, damp and mouldy homes where their health and future suffers," he said.

The Kiwibuild programme would add 10,000 houses a year by the end of Labour's first term in office, generating an estimated $2 billion in annual economic growth and provide 2000 apprenticeships.

A kickstart of up to $1.5b, funded by borrowing, would be rolled over as houses were sold to first-home buyers. Because it was funded from capital expenditure, it would not affect the path back to surplus, Shearer said.


The party changed the way it votes on the leadership over the weekend.

Under the new rules a leadership run-off is triggered if 40 per cent of the caucus do not vote for current leader  Shearer.

That means Cunliffe needs his vote and 13 others out of the 34 Labour MPs.

If he gets those 14 votes the leadership is then decided by a vote of the whole party where 40 per cent of the votes are cast by MPs, 40 per cent by members and 20 per cent by affiliated unions.

How the numbers stack up:

The Shearer camp believes it has 23 votes sewn up, but in a leadership race it is notoriously difficult to be sure. If they are right the challenge will be easily repulsed.

Those thought to be firmly in camp Cunliffe are: David Cunliffe, Lianne Dalziel, Charles Chauvel, Louisa Wall, Moana Mackey, Sue Moroney, Nanaia Mahuta, Rajan Prasad. Other possible supporters are Shane Jones, Su'a William Sio and Rino Tirikatene.