Cunliffe vows to spare detractors

  • Breaking
  • 15/09/2013

Freshly minted Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says he won't be taking punitive action against caucus colleagues who voted for leadership rival Grant Robertson.  

Mr Cunliffe took the top job in the party yesterday, following a two-week primary which saw him face off against Mr Robertson and Shane Jones.

In the end Mr Cunliffe's victory was decisive, thanks to overwhelming support from party members and affiliated unions. He failed to win over a majority of MPs however, falling two votes behind Mr Robertson.

Mr Cunliffe says despite this, the Labour caucus is united behind him and focused on next year's general election.

"Whatever people's views were – and people are absolutely entitled to a range of views – that was then, this is now," he says on Firstline this morning.

"We are united team, we are going forward. We are going to beat National in next year's election and we are going to change this country to give everybody a fair go and a fair share. That's what this is about."

He says Labour is a "meritocracy", and a vote will be held for key positions such as deputy and chief whip tomorrow, with a full front bench reshuffle revealed by this time next week. Members of the so-called ABCs – 'Anyone But Cunliffe' – have nothing to fear.

This is going to be one set of rules for all. I want every single colleague on the train. The train is leaving the station and we get one shot at this."

Mr Robertson says he's "100 percent" behind his former rival, and is happy to put off any Prime Ministerial ambitions – for now.

"I'm 41 years old. Once David Cunliffe has done three or four terms as Prime Minister, you never know - it could be my turn then."

Before that can happen, Mr Cunliffe needs to lift Labour's poll ratings from the low 30s, where it remained stuck for much of predecessor David Shearer's reign. To achieve this, Mr Cunliffe says the party needs to keep the momentum it has gained from the highly publicised leadership vote into the new year.

We've had an amazing increase in party members. We've had enthusiasm, a rebirth of hope like you haven't seen in years, and the Labour Party's in better shape today than it's been at any time since the change of government."

Mr Cunliffe's first battle in the House as leader comes tomorrow. Prime Minister John Key apparently delayed a holiday so he could be in the House to take on the new Labour leader, which Mr Cunliffe said was "very kind", and he would do his best to make it worth his while.

"The problem that Mr Key has got is that I've spent plenty of time in the private sector, and he knows I have," says Mr Cunliffe. "I have also spent plenty of time with him as a backbencher running around Auckland, and he knows that I have his measure.

"So I don't think I'm the candidate he really wanted to face."

Mr Cunliffe will be the fourth Labour Party leader Mr Key has faced, after Helen Clark, Phil Goff and Mr Shearer.

3 News 

source: newshub archive