MP coy on promotion prospects

Lees-Galloway's focus 'toppling Key'

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 16/09/2013
Iain Lees-Galloway
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ
LABOUR: Iain Lees-Galloway.

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Palmerston North's MP is staying mum about his prospects after the selection of David Cunliffe as the Labour Party's leader.

Iain Lees-Galloway had publicly backed Mr Cunliffe and has been tipped as a possible chief whip under the new regime, but he steered clear of such talk yesterday.

Both Mr Lees-Galloway and his electorate committee chairman Liam Rutherford preferred instead to present Mr Cunliffe as New Zealand's next prime minister.

They were looking forward to the party's success in the 2014 election, with eyes set firmly forward within minutes of yesterday's announcement of Mr Cunliffe's leadership win.

Mr Lees-Galloway was among those in Auckland for the leadership announcement.

He said any talk of his own promotion within the party was pure speculation, at least until Tuesday's caucus meeting.

The party would unite behind its new leader, he said.

"The party has overwhelmingly spoken and chosen.

"It's now encumbent on all of us to focus on toppling the John Key National Government in 2014."

Mr Lees-Galloway said Labour had chosen a leader who would ensure it was ready for next year's election, whenever that might be called.

Mr Cunliffe was the right person to ensure a Labour victory, he said, and that would be good for all of New Zealand, including Palmerston North.

Labour's policies for boosting investment in science and technology and enhancing regional development were two matters that were hugely important for the economy, especially for Manawatu.

Mr Rutherford said the process for electing Labour's leader had been robust and clean.

The roadshow campaign taking the candidates around the country had shown the strength of the party at grass roots.

It would also be good for the electorate if Mr Lees-Galloway was promoted within the caucus as a result of the change, Mr Rutherford said.

Manawatu National MP Ian McKelvie said Mr Cunliffe's selection was no surprise, as he had always had the inside running.

"Whoever they picked was going to be a formidable foe, and will test us at the next election.

"We can only do our best, and continue to instigate the policies we have had for some time, and the public will decide in 15 months' time."

Labour's general secretary Tim Barnett said Mr Cunliffe was elected by a majority in the first round of the three-way electoral college and said this gave the race clarity.

Mr Cunliffe had received 51.15 per cent of the vote, followed by Grant Robertson on 32.97 per cent and Shane Jones on 15.88.

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As expected, Mr Robertson had the most caucus support, with 47.06 per cent, followed by Mr Cunliffe on 32.35 per cent. Mr Jones had 20.59 per cent support.

Mr Cunliffe drew the most support from the wider party, at just over 60 per cent, followed by Mr Robertson at just under 27 per cent and Mr Jones on 13 per cent.

Mr Cunliffe was the overwhelming union favourite, taking almost 71 per cent of their vote.

Mr Robertson said he would resign as deputy leader.

Mr Jones has pledged his "unstinting support" to Mr Cunliffe.

Cunliffe has his work cut out, pages 5, 8

- Manawatu Standard

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