Michael Wood, Chris Hipkins and Kiri Allan: The Labour MPs being touted as potential future leaders

Three Labour MPs are being touted as the potential next Prime Minister after Jacinda Ardern announced her resignation. 

Jacinda Ardern told media on Thursday she will not be seeking re-election and will stand down by February 7. 

Her resignation came as a shock and has kicked the search for the next Prime Minister into gear. 

The Labour caucus will meet this Sunday to vote on its next leader and therefore Prime Minister. If a candidate has more than two-thirds of the caucus support they will be elected and Ardern will issue her resignation to the Governor-General. If no one can get this level of support, the contest will go to the wider membership.

So who could be the next Prime Minister? The most obvious choice, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, has already ruled himself out. 

Robertson told Newshub on Thursday: "I am not putting myself forward to be a candidate for a leader of the Labour Party".

"In 2014 when I failed to secure the leadership of the Party for the second time, I said I would not put myself forward again and my position has not changed," he added.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards told Newshub there's always a chance Robertson will reluctantly take on the role despite ruling himself out. 

But he said it's more likely senior MPs Michael Wood or Chris Hipkins will take over. 

"Grant Robertson has always been picked as the best person to take over from Ardern. He has worked so closely with Ardern and he has a huge amount of respect in the Party, on the left of the spectrum, but, of course, he says he's not going to stand.

"I guess there's always a chance that, reluctantly, he will agree to take up the challenge, but I think we're more likely to see Michael Wood and Chris Hipkins as the frontrunners," he said. 

Edwards said Hipkins has been positioning himself as the future leader and is the "obvious" choice after his work as the COVID-19 Response Minister during the pandemic. 

"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 and [Minister of] Education. There's no doubt he's very experienced."

But Edwards said Hipkins may be considered "too boring" for the top job and a newer MP might be given the role instead. 

"I guess there are critics, especially within the party, who see him as part of the old guard, part of the past, maybe a bit pale and stale. And maybe there'll be [some] interest in taking on someone completely new like Kiri Allan, the Justice Minister, who really 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 said. 

Who are the contenders? 

Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins is an experienced senior Labour MP who has taken on several high-profile portfolios over the past few years. 

After the 2017 election, Hipkins was given the Education portfolio. In the role, he oversaw several large changes including abolishing charter schools and merging the country's 16 polytechnics into a single entity. 

Ahead of the 2020 election, Hipkins was given the role of interim Health Minister after MP David Clark resigned. 

Hipkins also retained his Education portfolio and was appointed the COVID-19 Response Minister.

In June 2022 Hipkins was removed as COVID-19 Minister and replaced under fire Poto Williams as the Police Minister. 

After the reshuffle, Hipkins was forced to publicly apologise to Kiwi journalist Charlotte Bellis for comments he made regarding her MIQ application.

The stoush between Bellis and the Government came about when she sought an emergency MIQ spot after discovering she was pregnant while in Qatar - a country that doesn't allow sex outside of marriage.

Her application was ultimately rejected and she was forced to return to war-torn Afghanistan, where she and her partner held a visa.

But Hipkins was forced to apologise after he wrongly claimed emergency MIQ applications required someone to travel to New Zealand within 14 days.

Hipkins is currently the Minister of Education, Minister of Police, Minister for the Public Service and Leader of the House. He has been the MP for Remutaka since the 2008 election.

Michael Wood

Micahel Wood is the MP for Mt Roskill and the Minister of Immigration, Transport, and Workplace Relations & Safety. 

After the 2017 election Wood was appointed as the Parliamentary under-secretary for ethnic communities. 

In a June 2019 reshuffle, he was given the role of Chief Whip. 

After being reelected as the Mt Roskill MP in the 2020 election, Wood was promoted to Cabinet and given the role of  Minister of Transport, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, and Deputy Leader of the House.

In a 2022 reshuffle, Wood was replaced as Deputy Leader of the House and given the Immigration portfolio. 

He had to defend the Government's new Green List for skilled immigrants revealed under former Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. The move was branded as "sexist" because it prioritised male-dominated industries and left out female-dominated industries such as nursing, midwifery and teaching.

The Government defended its decision at the time but later in the year nurses and midwives were added to the list. 

Kiri Allan 

Kiri Allan is a relatively new face in politics. Allan made her political debut in 2017 when she ran for Labour in the East Coast electorate. Allan didn't win but made it into Parliament on the party list. 

Allan was a junior whip and member of various Select Committees including the Epidemic Response Committee. 

In the 2020 election, Allan ran again as Labour's East Coast candidate and won. Afterwards, she was promoted into Cabinet as the Minister for Conservation and Minister for Emergency Management.

She was also given the Associate Ministerial portfolios for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Environment.

In 2022 Allan was removed as the Minister for Conservation and promoted to Minister of Justice. 

Allan briefly took medical leave in 2021 after she was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer. In December 2021, the MP revealed she was cancer-free in an emotional social media post. 

Allan is currently the Minister of Justice and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage, the Environment, and Finance.