Less than an hour after his victory was declared, Labour's new leader had already turned his focus to next year's election, vowing to take the fight to Prime Minister John Key and the National Government.
David Cunliffe has emerged as the new Leader of the Opposition after winning the clear backing of the public and unions, but not of his Labour Party caucus.
With Labour facing an uphill battle to win next year's election, Cunliffe has wasted little time switching his attention from securing the leadership to an even greater task, speaking of the need for the Party to put its squabbling behind it and focus on getting into Government.
"We must beat John Key in 2014 and we will only do that by mobilising the entire party, the affiliates, the membership and the Caucus," Cunliffe said.
"If we can combine the best of all of us, the winners will be the people of New Zealand.''
Cunliffe's first big challenge as leader will be uniting the caucus, but his next will be facing off against Key on Tuesday at Parliament's 2pm question time.
Asked what to expect Cunliffe said it would be a "solid performance" from the whole Labour team.
"I'm not expecting to have [Key's] trousers around his ankles on the first meeting.
"But I'm expecting to show we will be credible and very determined exposing the many policy lapses of this government."
Cunliffe also thanked his fellow candidates for the way they had contested the election, praising their campaigns which he said remained positive and championed Labour's cause.
"Now is the time for all of us to unite in a common purpose, to defeat the Key Government and to restore democracy, prosperity and fairness so New Zealanders can have their country back," said David Cunliffe.
Under his leadership, a Labour Government would "champion full employment and a fair go for all New Zealanders," he said.
"Every Kiwi kid deserves the chance for a good start and to make the best of their life.
"Jobs mean more than money, they represent dignity and a stake in the future. Jobs like money do not grow on trees. To be credible and responsible as well as visionary, the Labour Government I lead will have a solid programme of economic development."
Labour's general secretary Tim Barnett said Cunliffe was elected by a majority in the first round of the three-way electoral college and said this gave the race clarity.
Cunliffe had received 51.15 per cent of the vote, followed Robertson on 32.97 per cent and Shane Jones on 15.88.
As expected, Robertson pulled the majority of caucus support with 47.06 per cent followed by Cunliffe on 32.35 per cent. Jones had 20.59 per cent support.
Cunliffe drew the most support from the wider party, at just over 60 per cent followed by Robertson at just under 27 per cent and Jones on 13 per cent.
Cunliffe was the overwhelming union favourite, taking almost 71 per cent of their vote.
LABOUR IS 'STRONGER'
The election process had been an "outstanding success" in terms of revitalising the party, Barnett said from Fraser House in Wellington where the announcement was made at 2.50pm.
"With this leadership election the Labour Party he embarked on and delivered a new and exciting and democratic process,'' he said.
''In terms of party and public and party engagement it has been an outstanding success, it has unified the Labour Party and energised our grass routes.''
Barnett said there had been a high turnout from Labour members throughout and "Labour is stronger as a result".
PRAISE FOR CUNLIFFE
At David Cunliffe's electorate office a huge cheer erupted as it was announced the MP had won the Labour leadership race.
Cunliffe had just arrived with wife Karen Price to address the crowd after the news was announced.
MPs Iain Lees-Galloway, Rajen Prasad, Sue Moroney, Carol Beaumont and Moana Mackey were at Cunliffe's New Lynn electorate office to hear the announcement, along with dozens of supporters.
Party President Moira Coatsworth told the crowd Cunliffe had won with a clear majority to more cheers.
"David has been elected by a robust and democratic process and won on the first round with a clear majority. This gives him a strong mandate as leader and he has the full support of the Labour Party."
Cunliffe had the leadership skills and vision "to win the trust of New Zealanders and take Labour to victori in 2014," she said.
She introduced Cunliffe to his supporters as the next prime minister of New Zealand.
"I have no doubt he will go on to become a great Labour prime minister who builds a stronger, fairer and more sustainable New Zealand."
Defeated contender Grant Robertson has congratulated Cunliffe and said he would be a great leader and "an outstanding prime minster next year".
Robertson had received the lion's share of the MPs' vote with 47 per cent and was sad to have lost.
"Naturally I was disappointed," he said.
He also thanked contender Shane Jones today, saying he hoped he was given a senior position.
Robertson said Cunliffe had his 100 per cent loyalty.
He said the caucus had signed up to the process and despite more than half not voting for Cunliffe he was confident MPs would back him.
"I am certain that caucus will be 100 per cent behind him," he said.
Robertson said it was essential for the party to draw a line under everything that had happened in the last couple of years.
JONES BACKS CUNLIFFE
Shane Jones' tilt for the Labour Party leadership ended in failure this afternoon, but he was keen to accentuate the triumphs achieved through his campaign.
He described it as "an invigorating race" and called for the party's caucus and voters to get behind Cunliffe.
"The winner, David Cunliffe, will have my unstinting support. There's not a doubt in my mind that unless we unify, we run the risk of losing the momentum built up through this race," Jones said.
He rejected the idea of a push for the role of deputy and said instead it would be the right time to give it to one of the female MPs.
Jones was unsure who that would be, but expected "feverish discussions in Wellington" to be taking place.
Throughout the leadership roadshow, Jones said he had taken note of the widespread support for Cunliffe and this afternoon confirmed he had given his second vote to the new leader.
A couple of dozen Jones supporters sat in the restaurant of the large RSA for the announcement, but there were just as many in the bar paying attention to Counties' Ranfurly Shield clash with Taranaki.
After finally hearing the results, Jones was keen to join them.
"OK, drinks on the bar," he said, bringing the press conference to an end.
Green Party Co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman congratulated Cunliffe on his success and praised the election process.
"We have had constructive working relationships with previous Labour leader David Shearer and look forward to developing a good relationship with David Cunliffe too."
Labour's public show of new-found unity could be just skin deep with some fearing blood on the floor within days of the new leader taking office.
Cunliffe could have an uphill battle winning over a hostile caucus after Robertson was confirmed as having the most support there.
One MP earlier warned that Cunliffe's first days in the job would be crucial: "I reckon we will know in the first week or so how it's going to go. If he can't bring the group together then he's shot."
Camp Cunliffe insiders expected he would extend an immediate olive branch to rivals, retaining Robertson in the crucial deputy's position if he wanted it. A source within Cunliffe's team also expected there to be a number of Robertson supporters retained in senior portfolios.
This suggested Cunliffe would adopt a similar strategy to Prime Minister John Key when he was appointed leader of the Opposition. In a day-long strategy session at his Parnell home with leadership rival Bill English, Key divvied up front-bench positions and caucus rankings in a deal that secured unity.
This was also the successful strategy used by former Labour leader Helen Clark to unite warring factions after she promoted the leaders of an uprising against her.
But any attempt at brokering unity could come unstuck if Cunliffe attempts to appoint a whip over the incumbent Chris Hipkins, who publicly tore strips off Cunliffe after Labour's divisive annual conference last year.
The whip's position is usually only held by someone who has the full trust and confidence of the leader and there are rumours Cunliffe has promised the position to Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway.
But the position can only be changed by the caucus, leading to a potentially bloody battle between Robertson supporters and Cunliffe if Hipkins refuses to stand down.
There could also be acrimony if Cunliffe demotes the so-called "old guard" - Annette King, Trevor Mallard, Phil Goff and Ruth Dyson - whom Camp Cunliffe accused of running the campaign against him during the last leadership spill.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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