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Cunliffe's Labour leadership bid looks set to fail

Published: 8:21AM Monday November 19, 2012 Source: ONE News

David Shearer is expected to get full endorsement from the Labour party tomorrow after calling an urgent caucus meeting to settle a leadership challenge.

The meeting was called following an announcement this morning that MP David Cunliffe is set to be demoted for effectively mounting a leadership challenge against Shearer after refusing to guarantee he would back the leader next February.

ONE News understands Shearer is likely to get 100% support from MPs in Wellington tomorrow afternoon, including Cunliffe who has now indicated he would back the leader.

"The endorsement I'm seeking will be in line with the decision made by Labour Party members at this weekend's conference that I must have at least 60% support of the caucus," Shearer said.

Several Labour MPs are calling for Cunliffe to put up or shut up, including the party's chief whip, Chris Hipkins.

"David Cunliffe has been working for some time now to destabilise the current leadership. He worked to destabilise the last leadership. And I think it's time to call him out on that," Hipkins told ONE News.

Cunliffe needs the support of 13 other MPs to force a vote and ONE News understands he does not have enough support at this stage.

Cunliffe was one of three in contention for the leadership when Phil Goff resigned after the National Party was re-elected to Government in November last year.

ONE News political editor Corin Dann said Cunliffe was likely to be demoted from the front bench and lose his economic development portfolio.

'Blood on the floor'

Leadership speculation overshadowed the Labour Party conference in Auckland at the weekend.

Political scientist Ryan Malone told TV ONE's Close Up disturbances within the party could make it stronger.

"Sometimes you need a bit of blood on the floor for a party to figure out what it's message actually is."

However, Malone also said Shearer would still need to bring his poll numbers up as the preferred Prime Minister to succeed.

"Until he can get those numbers up, his leadership's always in jeopardy."

Writer David Slack said he thought Shearer would still be leader in the 2014 election and was the right person to manage a coalition with the Green Party.

"You need someone who can hold a coalition together, and who better for that than somebody who's been able to bang heads together among Somalian war lords?"

Slack said the Green and Labour parties needed to find more common ground to form a successful coalition.