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Cunliffe to face Labour caucus over leadership

Monday 19 Nov 2012 4:58 p.m.

By Political Editor Duncan Garner

D-day is coming for David Cunliffe. His colleagues are lining up to nail him.

Labour Party chief whip Chris Hipkins says people have “had enough”.

“He's been undermining the leader, he's been undermining the whole team's effort – I think people are frustrated,” says Mr Hipkins.

Mr Cunliffe had every chance to rule out challenging David Shearer for the party leadership over the weekend – but instead he effectively said "bring it on".

When asked whether he would endorse Mr Shearer for the leadership, Mr Cunliffe was initially evasive.

"I’m not going to speculate on my position or the position of any of my colleagues, that is a matter for the caucus,” he said, “It doesn't matter how many times you ask me that question... I am going to give you the very same answer."

Mr Hipkins says his intentions were clear.

“I think Cunliffe made it clear in the weekend he is challenging for the leadership. Now is the time for him to put up or shut up.”

Mr Cunliffe's tough talk whimpered out this morning. He 'shut up' after realising he didn't have the numbers, and said he would endorse Mr Shearer after all.

“David Shearer has my vote in any early confidence vote, I expect he will be confirmed in February.”

But his colleagues have decided to throw him under a bus anyway. Mr Cunliffe now faces demotion to the backbenches and a public flogging from Mr Shearer and the caucus tomorrow.

Mr Shearer will also seek a caucus vote on his leadership, and he's expected to win.

“I think David Shearer has a clear majority in the caucus – he has very firm support,” says Mr Hipkins.

Mr Cunliffe needs 14 votes to force a party-wide vote on the leadership, but 3 News has him with just 11 votes, and some of those are dropping off fast.

Mr Shearer's people say he has 23 confirmed supporters – enough to keep him in his job – and he may actually have quite a few more.

“I think David Cunliffe has made it very difficult for the Labour Party caucus to work with him, he has undermined the leader just as he undermined the last leader,” says Mr Hipkins. “That's not good enough, it's time for that to come to an end.”

So Mr Cunliffe is no longer smiling – he has over-reached, and Mr Shearer is about to sack him – but he's proved time and time again, he's not one to sit in the wilderness quietly.

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