By Peter Wilson, NZN Political Writer
Labour leader David Shearer will on Tuesday seek an overwhelming vote of confidence from his MPs in a bid to extinguish the threat posed by his rival David Cunliffe.
There won't be a challenge from Mr Cunliffe because he has ruled that out - but what he hasn't ruled out is taking on Mr Shearer at the formal leadership review in February.
Mr Shearer and his supporters in the 34-member caucus don't want the leadership issue to drag on through the summer and they're determined to end Mr Cunliffe's aspirations.
Mr Cunliffe on Monday pledged his loyalty to Mr Shearer and said there was no need for a vote before the February caucus meeting.
"If there is an early vote in caucus in the next few weeks I will be voting for him," he said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it is unanimous."
That didn't silence his opponents.
"He wants time to get the numbers together to destabilise the current leadership over the summer break so he can mount a challenge in February," said chief whip Chris Hipkins.
"If he thinks he has the support, if he thinks he can be leader, bring it on."
The leadership crisis overshadowed Labour's annual conference at the weekend when media focused on it and sidelined important policy announcements.
Mr Cunliffe is believed to have overplayed his hand, and his supporters are understood to have dwindled to eight or nine.
Mr Shearer wants support on Tuesday from at least 60 percent of the caucus, and will almost certainly get it.
Under new rules adopted by the conference, a leader must submit to a challenge if less than 60 percent of MPs have confidence in him.
That would trigger a leadership vote with party members and affiliated unions taking part, as well as the caucus.