Election 2023: Chris Hipkins 'obvious' choice for new Labour leader - political commentator Bryce Edwards

A political commentator predicts Labour's Chris Hipkins will be the frontrunner as the party's new leader and New Zealand's Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday she won't be seeking re-election and would stand down by February 7. 

The Labour caucus will now ascertain whether any candidate has more than two-thirds of the caucus's support. The caucus will vote on January 22 and, if a leader is successfully elected, Ardern will issue her resignation to Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro. 

If no one can get this level of support, the contest will go to the wider membership.

Deputy Prime Minster Grant Robertson will not put himself forward for the leadership, he said following Ardern's resignation announcement. He added he won't be making any further comment on the leadership until the process has concluded.

Speaking to Newshub, political commentator Bryce Edwards said Robertson has always been picked as the "best person" to take over from Ardern. But, having ruled himself out, Edwards believes Hipkins, who is the Minister of Education, Police and Public Service, and Michael Wood, who is the Minister of Transport, Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety, are the two frontrunners.

"They're people that have been positioning themselves as future leaders and I think Chris Hipkins is the obvious one here," Edwards said.

"He's been a very strong minister under this Government, he's widely respected across the political spectrum - especially for his work on COVID, as Minister of Police, [Minister of] Education. There's no doubt he's very experienced.

"Of course, he might just be too boring. I guess there are critics, especially within the party, who will see him as part of the old guard, part of the past, maybe a bit pale and stale."

It's, for this reason, Edwards also believes there's a chance Labour will take on someone "completely new", such as Allan, the Minister of Justice.

"[She] has been rising up the Labour ranks and she has a lot of things about her that I think will excite those in the Labour Party," Edwards told Newshub.

Allan hasn't ruled out standing for the leadership, she told Newshub following Ardern's resignation announcement, and believes Labour can still win the next election.

Bryce Edwards.
Bryce Edwards. Photo credit: Newshub.

Edwards said Ardern's resignation is a "game-changer" and few people were expecting her announcement.

"With her gone, it does change the dynamic but it does allow Labour to refresh themselves and rejuvenate themselves, and I think they did need that."

Depending on who Labour chooses as the leader, Edwards said it could make National's chances of winning the election "even easier".

"It looked like [National's] for the taking for quite a few months now and it looked like they were sleepwalking to victory. They haven't really tried too hard, they haven't had to put out much policy, [or] given much sense of direction about what they want to do with power if they get it.

"So this now makes it even easier for them, depending on who Labour pick. As we saw back in 2017, Jacinda Ardern almost came from nowhere and she turned the election around and took Labour from being in the low 20s to winning the election. 

"I guess we still should realise that things could work for Labour by this resignation."

The 2023 election will be held on October 14.