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Cunliffe seems to be streaking ahead

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Latest Political News | Sunday September 8 2013 6:57

Cunliffe seems to be streaking ahead

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Winning words from David Cunliffe in front of a packed Labour crowd in Wellington last night as the leadership battle draws to a close.

The three leadership contenders head to Dunedin today.

Nearly 700 people turned out to hear, with Grant Robertson on home turf the clear favourite, receiving loud applause for a promise to unify the party and lead it to victory next year.

All three men spoke of the need to return to Labour's roots, and get John Key out of office.

But with unions now backing Mr Cunliffe, he seems to be the frontrunner in the race - he says he knows what the party needs to do to win.

"Urgency, unity and strategy.

"Urgency, we've just got to get the numbers. We've got less than a year, they are going to spend billions in next year's Budget and try and surf off the back of that to go early."

Jones thinks Cunliffe has it in the bag

Even fellow leadership contender Shane Jones thinks Cunliffe has it in the bag, and doesn't see Grant Robertson making a comeback.

"I know he has supporters amongst very senior people.

"But I also know that there's a lot of people, including my own Maori people, many of them have said to me that their second preferences have gone to David Cunliffe."

Mr Cunliffe says his rival Mr Jones is directing second preferences in the vote to him.

"Quite a number of his friends will be likely to go my way on seconds, but that is not something that I have asked for of him.

"That is something that he has said to me."

Robertson remaining positive

Mr Robertson is remaining positive, and believes he has some solid union backing too.

"We had a superb turn out here from the Service Workers Union, who I've been working closely with over the years.

"So I'm feeling really good about the vote I'm going to get from the affiliated unions."

He was popular on the night - but there are still questions about whether Mr Robertson has the goods to lead the Labour Party.

The trio were in Mr Robertson's electorate last night and he's clearly popular, although some voters say they're backing Mr Cunliffe.

Mr Robertson told the crowd he's the candidate who can unify the party.

"And mark my words, if we are not united we will not win.

"And I have given a message to the caucus already. The time for talking about ourselves is over."

Mr Cunliffe is playing down the importance of the union support.

"Very gratifying, but we are taking nothing for granted and we will be campaigning hard right until the close of the vote."

Jones unapologetic

Meanwhile, Shane Jones is offering no apology for his risque comment about the Prime Minister.

During a Labour leadership gathering in Hamilton this week he spoke about a plan to string John Key up by a bungy cord.

As the roadshow reached Wellington Central last night, there was no sign Shane Jones is repentant.

"He took it in the spirit in which it was intended.

"I mean, let's not be squeamish. It was John Key who visited upon the nation some sort of news about his vasectomy.

"So come on, he understood that I was just stringing him along."

Photo: David Cunliffe, Shane Jones, Grant Robertson (Getty Images)

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