After a flurry of press conferences throughout the morning and afternoon, every one of Labour’s 34 MPs has categorically ruled out standing for the leadership of the party.
Nominations are now open for Labour’s top job after current leader Dale Shearer resigned from his position yesterday afternoon, citing ongoing difficulties identifying which party he was supposed to be helping.
But now that Labour’s leadership hopefuls have been forced to show their hands, none of them appear willing to actually contest the position, apparently fearing that they may win.
At separate press conferences this morning, frontrunners Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe both said that – after discussing the situation with friends and family – they felt it would be a “very bad idea” for them to lead the party at this time.
“I think, after watching what David’s been through, and what I did to him, it would be very, very hard for someone to say that this is a job they’d like to do,” said Cunliffe. “For several years now, many people in my caucus and in the media have said that I aspired to the leadership of this party, and at times that may have been the case. But I tried that once, and in hindsight, having witnessed the events of the past two years, I’m glad I lost.”
Meanwhile, friends of Grant Robertson put his lack of desire to lead the Labour Party down to his long-time ambition to “be Prime Minister.”
Those two announcements forced Labour’s other 32 MPs to each hold their own press conference clarifying that they would not be seeking the position either. Even Mr. Shearer found himself holding a second afternoon press conference to rule himself out of the race.
The apparent lack of direction in Labour’s ranks seemed to reflect the uncertainty of their party’s voters. In a snap poll conducted by Fairfax overnight, Labour members and supporters were asked who they’d like to see as the next leader. 4% of respondents said they’d like to see Cunliffe as leader, while 1.5% said they’d like to see Grant Robertson. 24% of respondents said they’d like to see Jacinda Ardern, but not as leader, and another 38% said they’d prefer Prime Minister John Key. As leader.
Shearer’s resignation is set to become effective on September 15th, but if no one nominates to be leader by that date, a clause of the Labour Party rules that has not been amended since 1937 would force caucus to appoint a rusty screwdriver as their standard-bearer.
Spokesperson for Maori Affairs and Regional Development Shane Jones has suggested that he could elect to be leader to avoid this scenario, but colleagues have strongly discouraged him from doing this, saying they “could cope” with the screwdriver.