Labour MPs united behind Chris Hipkins as sources suggest momentum for Carmel Sepuloni as deputy

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand will be Chris Hipkins.

The Labour MP said he's "humbled and honoured" that his was the only name put forward for the job.

Hipkins said he'd like to be known for believing in hard work and he left us in no doubt that he intends to bring humour to the job, saying it's about time we had "a ginger at the top".

Hipkins, or as he is affectionately known around Parliament, Chippy, is about to take on the biggest job in the country. 

"It's a big day for a boy from the Hutt," he said.

Hipkins was the sole nominee to become Labour's next leader, and therefore the 41st Prime Minister of New Zealand. 

"It is an enormous privilege, it's also an enormous responsibility. The weight of that responsibility is still sinking in." 

After Jacinda Ardern's shock resignation, he never publicly declared a run. He refused to discuss it with reporters on Thursday or Friday.

But behind the scenes, he got the numbers. He gained the support of his caucus. 

The pinch-me moment were the crucial texts landing as he boarded a plane. He said he sat on the plane from Napier and reflected on becoming the Prime Minister.

"It's been an interesting couple of days," he said. 

His team completely backs him.

"He has my support and he has clearly the support of the caucus," said Labour MP Peeni Henare.

"Chris Hipkins was absolutely the right choice. Very supportive of my mate Chippy," said Carmel Sepuloni. 

"There were a lot of discussions in the background but ultimately the right decision has been made," said Meka Whaitiri. 

"We are united as a caucus," said Shanan Halbert.

"To see the caucus be absolutely united in their support for what will be a fantastic Prime Minister, I am delighted," said outgoing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

But while the team's united, Hipkins won't say what shape the team will take other than confirming Grant Roberston will stay on as Finance Minister.

"I don't want to speculate on positions."

That includes who will be his second-in-charge.

Kiri Allan has confirmed to Newshub she's not in the running.

Sources tell Newshub there is very strong momentum for Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and they'd be surprised if it wasn't her.

"I am not going to get into comments on any other positions today," Hipkins said when asked if Sepuloni would be his deputy.

Sepuloni was also tight-lipped on Saturday. 

"Those decisions haven't been made yet. So there will be a process tomorrow where our caucus gets to consider who might take up that role," she said.

"I don't want to talk too much to it as I think it's very important that we respect the integrity of the process."

Policy was scant too at Hipkins press conference.

But he knows one thing - he's in it to win it. 2023 just became the clash of the Chrises. 

Asked if he would commit to leading Labour to the 2026 election if he lost this year, he said he intends to win in 2023. 

But National leader Christopher Luxon says nothing changes for his party.

"I still lead with the way that I always lead," he said. 

The big day for the boy from the Hutt was a big day for the Hutt as well. A number of people Newshub spoke to in the area were excited about Hipkins' elevation.

It's the first time the Hutt Valley has had a Prime Minister since Labour legend Walter Nash.

There's another potential first too.

"I think it was about time we had a ginger at the top," Hipkins said. 

The proud ginger takes over from a global phenomenon.

Former American President Barack Obama on Saturday posted a tribute to Ardern on Instagram saying she led with foresight, integrity and empathy.

New Zealand is "better off for her remarkable leadership and the rest of us are too," he said. 

Hipkins has big shoes to fill, but Ardern said he doesn't need any words of wisdom. 

But he's determined to make this job his own. 

"I am who I am."

Chris Hipkins - Prime Minister Chippy - unapologetically him.

How Labour caucus reached consensus on leadership

The Labour Party has learned its lesson from the bad old days of bloody coups.

This was the swiftest, cleanest contest and the caucus was ironclad - it didn't leak.

Sources have told Newshub that Labour's Michael Wood did sound out some colleagues.

But it never got to the point of collecting votes because the decision was Hipkins is the right person for this moment.

What clinched it for him was his competency, his communication skills and importantly his profile - politics is a popularity contest and most people we asked on Saturday knew who he was. 

In terms of deputy, it seems to be firmed up for Carmel Sepuloni. She ticks every box and the caucus will be looking for diversity and someone Auckland-based.

Also, according to sources, Sepuloni is well-liked in the caucus. She has the right drive and confidence to be an effective MP and minister but comes without the naked ambition to be the leader that so many politicians possess. She's also trustworthy.

Hipkins sounded prime ministerial on Saturday but also showed those little quirks, the self-deprecation is here to stay - Hutt Valley or highest office in the land.