Shearer is safe - Street, O'Connor Labour MPs back Shearer

David Cunliffe doesn't have the numbers to roll Labour Party leader David Shearer, says Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street.

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

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

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

The vote to flush Mr 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.

Both Ms Street and West Coast-Tasman Labour MP Damien O'Connor were today firmly supporting Mr Shearer.

Ms Street, in Nelson today, said she had listened closely to Mr Cunliffe this morning, and she did not believe he would challenge for the leadership because he did not have the numbers.

Mr Shearer's performance yesterday at the party conference was masterful, she said.

"Anybody who had doubts about his ability can see he can deliver, and I have always said it was a matter of time and getting used to the job. The man has delivered."

She said it was destructive to have the party's leadership questioned.

"There's no point pretending it's not. We've good policy we need to articulate to New Zealand. We need to focus on doing that and not look as if we are in disarray."

She said the phones would be busy today.

Mr O'Connor said from the West Coast today: "David Shearer is the rightful leader, and the continued undermining of that should be dealt with swiftly.

"We have run out of patience about the undermining of the leadership that has hampered both Phil Goff and David Shearer."

Mr O'Connor, who has always been a Shearer supporter, said of the leader's critics: "If the message has not got through that David Shearer is the leader and deserves unity and we need to concentrate on getting rid of the National Party and replacing its policies, then those people need to reassess their position."

He said he would be quietly doing whatever he could to consolidate the party.

Rachel Boyack, of Nelson, who yesterday became Labour's region

five representative, representing 11 electorates on the party's New Zealand council, said today she was overjoyed with Mr Shearer's conference speech.

"It's everything we have been waiting for."

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

But this morning he continued the fighting talk.

Mr 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."

Mr Cunliffe said he had contacted Mr 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."

The party changed the way it votes on the leadership over the weekend. Mr Shearer said there was a lot of discussion about the changes, but they were what the party membership wanted.

"The main thing is, they decided, I live with it."

The changes mean the leader would have to get 60 per cent support at the February vote.

The Nelson Mail