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Robertson's sexuality could hurt chances

Saturday 24 Aug 2013 4:34 p.m.

Former party president Mike Williams says Grant Robertson's sexuality may work against him becoming the next leader of the Labour Party.

Mr Robertson and David Cunliffe are the two frontrunners to take over following David Shearer's resignation.

But Mr Williams says Mr Robertson being gay might prove an issue with some party supporters, and a long-time party member agrees.

In one corner is 49-year-old Mr Cunliffe, known as a fighter but polarising. In the other is 41-year-old Mr Robertson, softer but more popular.

Today their political supporters, including former party president Mr Williams put their money on Mr Cunlilffe.

“I'm going to throw my lot behind Cunliffe because I want someone who can win and win now, who can beat John Key and be a leader in a Labour-led government,” says long-time Labour Party member Jenny Michie. “I believe Cunliffe is the man to do that.”

Mr Robertson is openly gay, which could prove a stumbling block. As Mr Williams pointed out, Labour does have a significant group of social conservatives.

“I think they would be unhappy with Grant Robertson,” says Mr Williams.

“I think we would be naive to imagine that there would be no resistance to a gay prime minister at this point,” says Ms Michie. “I think some people might have a problem with it. But I certainly wouldn't.”

Mr Robertson was out campaigning this afternoon, but declined an interview. So 3 News asked Labour supporters in the safe south Auckland seat of Manurewa if his sexuality mattered. Most didn’t have an issue with it.

One of the issues for Labour is voter turnout. In the last election the party had the lowest turnout on record. Mr Williams believes Mr Cunliffe is the man who could entice voters back.

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