David Shearer quits politics, moves to United Nations

David Shearer delivering his valedictory speech (Newshub.)
David Shearer delivering his valedictory speech (Newshub.)

Labour MP David Shearer delivered his valedictory speech as he steps down from politics to take up a role with the United Nations.

David Shearer will head the UN's mission in South Sudan - a role considered to be at the same level as Helen Clark's position as head of the UN Development Programme.

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is the UN’s third largest peacekeeping mission with 17,000 uniformed and almost 2,000 civilian personnel.

It is charged with building peace and stability in the youngest country in the world.

During his speech to the house Mr Shearer spoke about seeing children eating stale food he had thrown over the side of a truck in South Sudan.

"It had a profound effect on me, it spured me into humanitarian work around the world…  So when I received a call a couple of weeks ago offering a position in the same region, I didn't hesitate."

He also thanked his colleagues from all of the parties for their comradery.

"For some, politics is the book of their life, for me it's been a chapter. At one point I had hoped it might have been multiple chapters. It's time for me to start a new chapter."

"Whoever wins next year, and no prizes for guessing who I will be backing, take care of my country for me and for God's sake be bold."

A by-election will be called for Mt Albert in the new year, with Labour's Jacinda Ardern considering putting her hand up revealing today she recently moved into the area.

Before entering Parliament, David Shearer worked at the UN for almost 20 years before taking over from Clark as the MP for Auckland's Mt Albert electorate.

Mr Shearer's departure will leave the defence and foreign affairs portfolio open.

 Filling those positions will be part of the new-look Labour front bench Andrew Little is set to unveil by the end of the week.

Mr Little says the shake-up isn't a ground up review of the party's top positions, but rather a consequence of ministerial departures.

"I've just got the final tweaking to do and I expect by the end of the week I'll say who's got what," he said on Tuesday.

"There might be a few bump portfolios ... because some big portfolios like foreign affairs and defence have to go to people we might have portfolios taken off them and those be reallocated."

He confirmed a number of MPs were safe with their current portfolios, including finance spokesman Grant Robertson, education spokesman Chris Hipkins and conservation and Treaty of Waitangi negotiations spokesman Nanaia Mahuta.