Shearer confirmed as Labour Party leader

ANDREA VANCE, DANYA LEVY, JOHN HARTEVELT, VERNON SMALL
Last updated 13:20 13/12/2011
Marcus Wild

David Shearer was voted leader at a meeting this morning, with his deputy to be Grant Robertson.

David Shearer
Oh the irony. David Shearer brandishes two dead fish in Parliament this week.
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Labour's new leader David Shearer says Labour lost its way but he will review, rebuild and reconnect the party.

''Today is a new start,'' he told media at Parliament shortly after he was elected by secret ballot of MPs.

Shearer saw off rival David Cunliffe to take the helm this morning, with Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson elected as his deputy.

''I stand for a connection to New Zealand and New Zealanders,'' said the 54-year-old former United Nations worker who has only been in Parliament two-and-a-half-years.

''I stand for a person who will get behind this party and make it be the hopes and aspirations of New Zealanders.''

Flanked by Robertson and party president Moira Coatsworth, Shearer immediately put his hand out to other opposition parties, saying he wanted reach across to help New Zealanders.

''I came in with an attitude of working with people and I would like to work closely with the other opposition parties.''

The MP for M Albert said he wanted to create a ''clean, green clever'' New Zealand.

He called on Prime Minister John Key to extend a new poverty committee to all parties, saying ''there is no excuse for poverty in New Zealand''. The committee is to be set up as part of National-Maori party coalition deal.

Coatsworth was carrying out a review of the party and Shearer said he would assist her.

''What I'd like the Labour Party to become is a party of ideas. I think it's got a little bit old fashioned in its outlook.

''The Labour Party must grow the membership and it must grow its relevance and we must, must make the Labour Party a big tent, not a small tent.''

Shearer said he was ''very happy'' with Labour's policies during the campaign but they would be looked at over the coming months.

''I think we had a perhaps the most progressive set of policies in a generation. But right now I have no particular desire to look at them in any detail or change them.''

Shearer said he had not made any promises about positions to any MPs during his lobbying for leadership.

He hadn't yet spoken to Cunliffe about what role he wanted to play in the party.

''But I would see him in a very senior position as I recognise his talent and experience.''

Shearer also couldn't say whether David Parker, who pulled out of the leadership battle in the first week, would get the role of finance spokesman.

CUNLIFFE PLEDGES SUPPORT

Cunliffe said he thought today's vote was close. Shearer was a ''fine man'' and would make a very good leader.
He had his ''unconditional support''.

Cunliffe said his next role in Labour was a question for another day and he declined to comment on whether he wanted to stay on as finance spokesman.

He said he did not plan to quit Parliament.

''Of course there is an element of considerable disappointment,'' he conceded.

''I am pledging complete and total support to the leader of the Labour Party, I have no leadership ambitions at this point.''

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Deputy leadership hopeful Nanaia Mahuta said she too would ''get behind'' the new team.

She and Cunliffe had put up a ticket that moved on from the ''old guard approach'' but the caucus decided on someone else.

Mahuta said she stayed in the race for deputy even after Cunliffe lost. "My hand was up."

Parker said he would be as loyal to Shearer as he was to Phil Goff but he would not be drawn on whether he would take the finance job.

GOFF TO REMAIN IN PARLIAMENT

Former leader Goff declined to confirm whether he had voted for Shearer but said he had ''strong character'' and ''strong vision''.

Goff said he would leave the decision on his next role to the new leader.

''I've got a little experience and a lot of energy to give to whatever I undertake and I intend to do that through this term in office and maybe beyond.''

Goff said he still had ''no thought at all'' of forcing a by-election by standing down from his Mt Roskill seat.

''And my current intention would be to run again for Parliament in 2014. I'm a young man.''

Labour's new whips are Chris Hipkins and Darien Fenton.

Shearer said Labour was stronger as a result of the leadership battle.

Asked if he trusted Cunliffe, Shearer said: ''absolutely, he's a Labour man''.

Asked what Robertson, who is also only a second term MP, brought to the deputy leadership he said: ''good looks''.

''He brings a lot of experience working in the party and the prime minister's offices, working here in opposition.

''In many ways he complements the things I bring.''

The only path for Labour was to the 2014 election,

''I'm coming in here to make a difference, that's what I've been doing all my life. Being the Labour leader is the best way to make a difference for New Zealanders. Being prime minister is a better way, obviously.''

- Stuff

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