Chris Hipkins has been endorsed as the Labour leader and will continue as party leader.
Kelvin Davis will not continue as the deputy leader and Carmel Sepuloni will take over in the position.
Labour’s caucus met in Upper Hutt today to discuss many topics including the party’s leadership following a dismal 2023 election result.
The leadership vote was a secret ballot so he didn’t know whether there were any dissenting votes in the leadership vote. There were no other candidates for the leadership.
On the messages to the caucus on unity in Opposition, Hipkins said he felt he didn’t need to give that message and said it was obvious.
Hipkins said Davis had not stated he would retire from politics altogether, but had earlier told Hipkins that he wanted to step down from the role of deputy party leader.
Hipkins said it was his intention he would be Labour leader for the 2026 election campaign. He said he was confident he would be leader then.
He said Labour would have a “refreshed policy platform” going into the 2026 campaign.
“We start effectively with a blank page ... we start again,” Hipkins said of Labour’s policies.
“We need to take stock, we need to refresh. We start again with a blank page.”
He said there had been a brief conversation on tax at today’s meeting but nothing specific.
Hipkins formerly ruled out a wealth tax under his leadership, but is indicating that could change in the run-up to 2026.
He didn’t believe tax was the issue that defined the election result. He wouldn’t answer whether ruling out a wealth or capital gains tax was a mistake, repeating that Labour started with a blank page.
Hipkins believed a lot of vote splitting occurred in the Māori seats, which led to Te Pāti Māori winning six of the seven Māori electorates.
Hipkins nominated Sepuloni to be the next deputy leader of the party and she was unanimously supported by the caucus.
He didn’t agree that he was still leader because no one else wanted the job.
Sepuloni said Davis had indicated he wanted to step down and therefore there was no need for negotiations over the position.
She said Auckland was a problem for Labour, as evidenced by the election, so the party had to “think broadly” about why it fell short in the city.
The deputy leader job was about relationships within caucus, the party and stakeholders, Sepuloni said.
The first part of Labour’s Opposition was reflecting on what it did right and what it did wrong over its six years in government and the election. It will also involve “very vigorously” holding the next government to account.
As MPs filed into their meeting room this morning, several said they were supporting Chris Hipkins ahead of the leadership vote.
Senior Labour MP David Parker refused to say whether he will endorse Hipkins but did rule out contesting the leadership.
“The question of endorsement will come up, it’s a matter between me and the caucus,” he told reporters.
Phil Twyford, who won back Te Atatū after special votes were counted, believed Hipkins had the “experience and the skills” to lead Labour but wouldn’t say whether he’d support him as leader.
“Those are things we discuss in the caucus room, not outside.”
He did admit he’d be surprised if Hipkins wasn’t leader after today’s vote.
Peeni Henare confirmed his support for Hipkins.
Senior Labour MP Peeni Henare. Photo / George Heard
He also stated the party would officially request a recount of the result in his electorate of Tāmaki Makaurau, which he lost by just four votes to Te Pāti Māori’s Takutai Tarsh Kemp.
“Four votes is too close to call, so we’re going to ask for a recount.”
Education spokesperson Jan Tinetti was tight-lipped on who she’d support, but did say Hipkins had been a good leader.
Finance spokesperson Grant Roberston was adamant in his backing of Hipkins and was absolutely sure Hipkins would be leader come the 2026 election.
Asked whether he expected any challengers, Robertson said the caucus was about to meet but, “no, Chris is our leader”.
Ginny Andersen, the former MP for Hutt South which neighbours Hipkins’ Remutaka electorate, said Hipkins would always have her support and backed him to lead Labour in the next election if he wanted to.
“I think Chris is the right guy for the job and I’m backing him.”
Neither Mt Albert MP Helen White nor former Rangitata MP Jo Luxton would reveal who they would support in the leadership vote. Health spokesperson Dr Ayesha Verrall said leadership discussions were for caucus only.
Former Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene, Manurewa MP Arena Williams, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Cushla Tangaere-Manuel and Christchurch East MP Reuben Davidson all said they would vote for Hipkins.
Manurewa MP Arena Williams is backing Chris Hipkins. Photo / Mark Mitchell
If Hipkins were to lose that vote, the caucus could try to elect another leader from its ranks, which would require two-thirds of MPs to agree on a candidate. Failing that, the question would trigger a leadership election using the party’s electoral college system, which gives members and unions a vote.
On Friday, Hipkins said he was “still in the fight” and he has received the explicit backing of multiple MPs since the election result.
Soon after the election, the likes of Willie Jackson and Megan Woods swung in behind Hipkins.
“We’ve gotta find out what Chippy wants to do, and hopefully he wants to stay,” Jackson said ahead of Labour’s first post-election caucus last month.
The party’s campaign chairwoman Megan Woods said she had “no doubt” Hipkins would win the confidence vote.
That support has continued to build.
Andersen told TVNZ’s Breakfast on Monday she was behind Hipkins “100 per cent”.
“I believe that Chris Hipkins is the best person to be leading us right now,” Andersen said.
Today’s caucus meeting is not going to take place in the party’s caucus room in Parliament. Instead, the party is decamping elsewhere in the Wellington region, where MPs can gather away from media who typically blockade the caucus room, turning even an innocent toilet break into an opportunity to gather insight on the party’s deliberations.
Instead of a typical meeting, which lasts roughly a couple of hours, this meeting will last most of the day.
The meeting will be the first since Labour MPs met in the week following the election to discuss the result. That first caucus meeting had a tense moment when MPs discussed whether it would be appropriate for them to explicitly endorse a leader prior to the vote.
There had been rumblings of a challenge by senior MP and former interim leader David Parker. This was mounted mainly by Auckland-based MPs frustrated at the party’s dire performance in the Super City this election, and other MPs frustrated at Hipkins’ decision to rule out a wealth tax, which Parker had designed in his role as Revenue Minister.
Parker does not appear to have the numbers to mount a challenge, or even to stop Hipkins from clearing the threshold required to confirm he has the confidence of his caucus. He would need just 14 votes to block the confidence motion. Without the numbers, it seems unlikely Parker would even put his hat in the ring.
Most people spoken to by the Herald think Hipkins is still the only person for the job, and is the party’s best bet for 2023. Others think the party needs to reckon with the fact that he led Labour to a historic defeat and Labour’s share of the party vote declined under Hipkins’ leadership.
The public should know the result of the vote after midday, when Labour’s leader, likely Hipkins, will do a media stand-up.
Labour’s caucus will continue to discuss the campaign and what went wrong. The party’s remaining Auckland MPs are likely to be particularly vocal, given the scale of the party’s defeat there.
The party’s rather thin 2023 manifesto is also likely to be a topic of conversation, with some MPs frustrated Labour did not put more incisive policy on the table after Hipkins’ 2020 pivot to the centre soon after he took the leadership.
Thomas Coughlan is Deputy Political Editor and covers politics from Parliament. He has worked for the Herald since 2021 and has worked in the press gallery since 2018.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you