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Labour conference debates leadership

Published: 9:41AM Saturday November 17, 2012 Source: ONE News/ Newstalk ZB

Emotions are running high at the Labour Party conference where leadership processes have been hotly debated.

Labour's 96th conference, which kicked off in Auckland yesterday and ends tomorrow, is an opportunity for MPs and delegates to vote on broad and significant reforms to Labour's constitution.

Topics of debate have included the role of women in the party, how to select future leaders and what proportion of a caucus vote will be needed to trigger a leadership contest.

Opinions have diverged over how much power MPs should have to challenge the leadership when the leader's role is mandatorily on the table, such as the first caucus meeting in the second year of the electoral cycle.

A proposal to set the trigger at 40% has had some saying it'll give party members more say over the leadership, while others claim it'll destabilise the leadership, allowing a minority of MPs to have too much sway.

However, the motion has been passed, with Labour MP David Cunliffe giving his backing to the rule change that could make his path to the leadership easier.

Cunliffe confirms he voted in favour of the change, saying it's the right thing and in the best interests of the party, but also says he's given no thought to contesting the leadership when it comes up for consideration next February.

Following a debate this morning, Labour Party delegates have already voted in support of a change that will see at least half of electorate committee officers be female.

Party president Moira Coatsworth told the conference in Ellerslie it was "time to adapt" to be campaign ready, saying the organisation needed to do things differently.

Labour leader David Shearer last night promised party faithful a new direction, expressing confidence he would soon be running the country.

"This conference and the changes we are making to our organisation will help us get back into government in 2014 and make New zealand a better place.

"We are well on our way to victory in 2014."

Shearer will give his full speech tomorrow.