Clark mum on Labour leadership rumblings
Wednesday 14 Nov 2012 5:30 a.m.
By Laura McQuillan
Former Labour leader Helen Clark is keeping mum on rumblings about a potential leadership challenge within the party ahead of its conference this weekend.
Ms Clark, who now heads the United Nations Development Programme, delivered a lecture at Victoria University's School of Government last night.
Afterwards, she faced inevitable questions from media over the party's direction, as current leader David Shearer faces the threat of a coup if he fails to deliver in a major speech to party faithful.
He will address several hundred Labour members at their annual conference in Auckland on Sunday, where he is expected to announce new policy moves.
It will be his chance to convince members that after 11 months in the job and little progress in opinion polls, he is the man to lead Labour into the 2014 election.
Ms Clark was tight-lipped on how Labour was faring, saying the party has been "left to a new generation".
However, she confirmed she is still a member of the party, adding she "always will be".
Mr Shearer was hand-picked by Ms Clark to stand in her former Mt Albert electorate in 2009, and is regarded as her favourite for the leadership job.
His challenger for the leadership last July, David Cunliffe, arrived late to Ms Clark's speech but strode in to take a front-row seat next to Ms Clark's seat, while deputy Labour leader Grant Robertson and senior MPs Trevor Mallard and Lianne Dalziel also turned out to see their former leader.
Earlier yesterday, Mr Shearer scoffed at the suggestion he might face a leadership challenge.
"We've halved the gap between National and Labour in about 11 months. We're closer together than we have been in the last five years, so that's a pretty good record. I'm very happy with where we're going."
Other MPs toed the party line, including Mr Cunliffe, who said Mr Shearer was "doing a good job and he's working really hard".