Election 2023: Questions turn to Chris Hipkins' leadership after Labour heartbreak

It was heartbreak city in the Hutt at Labour HQ on Saturday night as Chris Hipkins admitted defeat.

And in the light of day questions are now turning to what happens to Labour next.

There was a warm welcome for Hipkins that defied the cold shoulder New Zealand had given Labour. But the concession caught up with Chippy.

"To my family for everything you have done for me," he said, welling up.

The team picked their leader back up, chanting 'Chippy'. 

But that was at odds with a country that utterly rejected Labour.

"When the tide comes in big, it almost invariably out big," said Hipkins. 

Dressed in red sequins and red hats, at Labour HQ they watched it go out as almost every other party won but them.

"The 'time for a change' narrative is always very hard to fight," said Labour's Grant Robertson.

When the red clawed back a seat on the brink, there were cheers. But over the night there weren't many cheers, but a lot of wine to drown the sorrows of what was before the reality of what the next three years will be sinks in.

Hipkins said Labour would reflect and refresh before holding the new Government to account. 

Labour's off to lick its wounds.

"What went wrong is we didn't get enough votes," said campaign chair Megan Woods.

Then decide if and when it needs a new leader.

"I've indicated to my team, I've spoken to a few of them tonight, and they've indicated that we just need to take a little time," said Hipkins. 

"There is no question around Chris Hipkins' leadership," said Woods. 

Maybe not yet, but the questions will come.

"Any speculation around the leadership is purely theoretical and not something anyone is talking about," said Woods.

But there was something people were talking about, that in the midst of Labour's heartbreak, there was an announcement of a new love.

"To my partner Toni, being Prime Minister is not the only special thing that has happened to me this year and I want to thank you for being with me every step of the way," said Hipkins. 

His family will now get to see more of him.

"Thank you for the enormous privilege of serving as your Prime Minister," Hipkins said. 

With that it was over and out of office for Hipkins - and Labour.