Trade Minister Phil Goff is poised to take over as Labour leader, but the field is wide open for who will be his deputy.
Labour was left reeling yesterday after deputy leader Michael Cullen followed Helen Clark's lead and stood down. Both say they will stay on as MPs.
Party president Mike Williams is also expected to step down before his term ends next November, with union boss Andrew Little the frontrunner to replace him.
Mr Goff today indicated he would accept the leadership.
"I've always gone along with what caucus has wanted. I'm a loyal Labour Party person, it's my family, and they will make the decision," Mr Goff told the NZ Herald.
"Whatever decision they make, I will be supportive of."
Others touted to replace Miss Clark, including Transport Minister Annette King, ruled it out.
Asked if he would put his hat in the ring, Health Minister David Cunliffe told The Dominion Post, "not this time", though he remains in contention as a deputy and as finance spokesman.
Labour will probably seek a balance of left and right as well as taking gender, ethnicity and geography into account. That means Mr Goff and Mr Cunliffe - "white males from West Auckland", as one party source put it - may not provide the right mix. Others said a Goff-King ticket would be logical but would raise eyebrows because they were both from the Right "faction".
Insiders pointed to former Labour Party president Maryan Street, Climate Change Minister David Parker, Building Issues Minister Shane Jones or one of the left-leaning Christchurch MPs, Lianne Dalziel or Ruth Dyson, as other options. A "wild card" could be well-performed Tainui MP Nanaia Mahuta.
Dr Cullen, who has reigned as Labour's economic supremo for nine years, wished finance minister-elect Bill English well yesterday, and said it was time to move on as the party rebuilt.
Phil Goff: The only real contender at this stage and long seen as heir apparent. Loquacious. Ambitious. "Barbecue at Phil's place" has become Beehive shorthand for a planned leadership coup.
Annette King: A real contender if she wanted. Prospect for deputy, but with Goff could be seen as too right-wing.
David Cunliffe: Has also ruled it out – this time – and is more likely to be in line for the finance role.
Maryan Street: Has all the deputy qualifications, but for a short Cabinet career. Former president with party links, from the left, from the South Island and can represent the Rainbow wing.
Nanaia Mahuta: Diversity-plus. Good reputation as an effective minister. Could help Labour's fightback for the Maori vote.
Shane Jones: Ambitious. Powerful orator. Would also give the party a higher profile among Maori. Business-savvy and ambitious.
Lianne Dalziel: Not clear she would want the deputy job, but also ticks many of the right boxes; smart, from the Left and from the South Island, with the advantage of a union background.
David Parker: A bloke from the South. Centrist, likeable but not a great TV image. Good with detail. An option for the finance role.
- The Dominion Post