Labour’s depleted caucus meets after election loss

It’s Tuesday, October 17 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. 

Get in touch with me on

The agenda


Labour’s depleted caucus meets after election loss

It’s Tuesday, October 17 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. 

Get in touch with me on

The agenda

Oct 17 2023

Chris Hipkins remains Labour leader: ‘I’ve still got a bit of fight left’

Chris Hipkins at the Labour Party campaign launch, Aotea Centre, Auckland. Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty

Labour’s leader is still Chris Hipkins and Kelvin Davis is still the deputy.

Emerging from an extended caucus meeting this afternoon, Hipkins told reporters it had been a difficult day.

“It’s very difficult to farewell a number of your caucus,” he said.

“I’m still committed to supporting the Labour Party in opposition. I’ve still got a bit of fight left in me. We have a job that we will need to do in opposition.”

Hipkins confirmed there was not a leadership vote this afternoon, but that the party will have one within three months of the special votes being tallied (as required by the Labour constitution).

Regarding speculation there could be other leadership contenders in his caucus, Hipkins said he was happy leading a team that had many possible future leaders.

Asked why he had decided not to step aside, Hipkins said the Labour Party needed some stability and continuity. “I want to take some time to reflect – and take some time to reflect with the team – what the best way forward is for the Labour Party,” he said.

Hipkins said he had received a message from Jacinda Ardern on election night wishing him “lots of love”.

Labour’s caucus goes overtime

Labour’s caucus meeting is now an hour overtime, which could mean something or absolutely nothing. We’ve heard word of laughter from inside the room – but that’s about it.

In the meantime, here’s a clip of Labour’s Damien O’Connor telling Newshub to “fuck off”.


Michael Wood breaks silence after election loss

Michael Wood has resigned all his ministerial warrants. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images

Outgoing Labour MP Michael Wood has acknowledged the “terrible” result for his party on election night and says it’s now time to rebuild.

Based on preliminary results, Wood has been ousted from the Labour fortress of Mount Roskill by National’s candidate Carlos Cheung. It brings an end to Wood’s political career, who was far too low on Labour’s list to make it back without a win in Mount Roskill.

On Facebook, Wood said Labour’s job was now to hold National to account, saying gains made by Labour would need to be “defended against an incoming government with the most regressive disposition we have seen since the early 1990s”.

“While it is appropriate to wish any new government well and to work constructively where possible, there should be no backwards steps taken by Labour in fighting for the people we represent over the next three years and building an agenda and policy base that can once again inspire people and win back government,” he said.

Auckland Theatre Company launches biggest programme since Covid-19

Auckland Theatre Company announced the eight plays that make up their 2024 season, featuring “star-studded creatives” and “high-flying collabs”.

The eight shows include five works by New Zealand playwrights (four of which are premieres), alongside West End hits, a climate change epic and a big-scale retelling of one of the most popular children’s stories of all time. It also represents the largest amount of collaborations in the company’s history, including co-productions with Te Pou Theatre, Nightsong, Silo Theatre, I Ken So Productions, Auckland Arts Festival and Agaram Productions.

Artistic director & CEO Jonathan Bielski said: “After a great year for our 30th anniversary in 2023, we are excited to offer Aucklanders a 2024 season of outstanding theatre filled with stars, local heroes and extraordinary storytellers.”

The eight shows are, in order: Hyperspace by Albert Belz (a 90s set comedy around the NZ Aerobics Competition), O le Pepelo, le Gaoi, ma la Pala’ai (a Samoan family drama that premiered in Kia Mau Festival earlier this year), The Effect by Lucy Prebble (which is currently running to rave reviews on the West End), Red, White and Brass (a theatrical adaptation of the film of the same name), Scenes from the Climate Era (ATC’s first collaboration with Silo Theatre), Girls and Boys (another West End hit that starred Carey Mulligan), Peter Pan (a retelling of the classic courtesy of Nightsong), and a mixtape for maladies (a collaboration with Agaram Productions that is a musical love letter to Sri Lanka).

A little bit of analysis from me here: Not only is this the company’s biggest programme in years, it’s also their most exciting – and it’s great to see ATC committing not just to local playwrights, but developing those stronger connections with companies across the country. It’s hard to recommend something straight off the back, but if you’re looking for one show of the eight to book tickets to, I’d go for “a mixtape for maladies”, which had an absolute gangbusters development showing at Auckland Arts Festival earlier this year.

Andrew Little retiring from politics

Labour’s Andrew Little has confirmed he will not take up his list seat for the 54th Parliament and will retire from politics.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities my country and party have given me to serve the community,”  Little said in a statement.

“With the party going into opposition it’s important to give those who will form the Seventh Labour Government every opportunity to home their skills and cement a strong team.

Little was the 16th leader of the Labour Party until he stood down and nominated Jacinda Ardern to succeed him, which set the course for the party to form a government after the 2017 election.

As Little is a list MP, his resignation will not trigger a by-election. He will be replaced by the next eligible person on the 2023 Labour Party List.

Hipkins not commenting on future as Labour leader

PM Chris Hipkins in May 2023 (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Chris Hipkins arrived to the Labour Party caucus room at parliament in a symbolic fashion today, with a gaggle of senior MPs walking behind him in a show of support.

“I’m not done with politics,” he said, though he wouldn’t be drawn on whether he intended to stay on as leader. “I wanted the opportunity presented to the team before making any decisions about that, and we have the opportunity to do that today.”

He said his focus was on ensuring a smooth transition to the new government, and making sure Labour transition to be “a very formidable opposition as quickly as possible.

Grant Robertson once again denied he had leadership ambitions and said he was “incredibly supportive” of Hipkins.

“It’s a relatively recent phenomenon in New Zealand politics to believe that if someone loses an election, they need to go as a leader,” he said, pointing out that Labour’s result this year was similar to the party’s performance in 1996 under Helen Clark, who delivered the party to victory in 1999.

Labour’s new caucus will meet behind closed doors this afternoon and an update on any discussions – which could include resignations – is expected later today.

Annual inflation falls slightly to 5.6%

The government funds lots of accelerators, with the hope that it will create more successful businesses Illustration: Toby Morris

The annual inflation rate sits at 5.6% in the 12 months to the September 2023 quarter, according to figures released by Stats NZ today. That’s slightly lower than the 6% increase registered at the end of the June quarter and down from the 7.3% peak in the middle of last year.

“Prices are still increasing, but are increasing at rates lower than we have seen in the previous few quarters,” said Stats NZ’s Nicola Growden.

Food was the largest contributor to the annual inflation rate. “This was due to rising prices for ready-to-eat food; milk, cheese, and eggs; and bread and cereals,” said Stats NZ. “The next largest contributor to the annual increase was housing and household utilities, this was due to rising prices for construction and rents.”

Looking at quarterly inflation, the consumers price index was up by 1.8% over the three months ending September, influenced mainly by transport – including petrol – and housing.

Outgoing Labour MP mourns loss of Koru Club


Part of the theatre of election season is watching political journos corner outgoing and incoming MPs in airports, getting out of cars or on the street to bombard them with questions about what comes next.

We’re seeing it at the moment with Labour MPs new and old being asked mainly about the party’s leadership. But for those now out of a job, they’re often asked what they’ll miss most about being in parliament.

One such example appeared on Newshub’s 6pm bulletin last night and caught my attention. It was the now-former Labour list MP Dan Rosewarne who said the “biggest thing” for him was the loss of one specific work perk: the Koru Club.

“You know, going into the Koru Lounge and then the red lights of doom go off because your Koru Club has been cancelled. All about moving from champagne to lemonade,” Rosewarne said on Monday, possibly as a joke but also possibly not?

The day ahead

Don’t expect too much out of parliament until special votes are tallied up. That’s when we’ll start to learn the shape of the government, especially given incoming PM Christopher Luxon has made it clear he doesn’t want to negotiate via the media.

Nevertheless, there will be a little bit happening in Wellington today.

  • At 11am the Labour 2020 caucus will arrive and departing MPs will be farewelled. There will be a break at 12.30 and then the 2023 caucus will meet at 1pm. There will be a caucus run prior to this which will be a chance for the media to ask questions of outgoing and incoming Labour MPs – including Chris Hipkins.
  • National’s caucus will also be meeting today. While new MPs were inducted yesterday (you can read more about their first day at school on the Herald), today will be the first chance for the entire team of MPs, new and old, to sit down for the first time. National’s caucus has ballooned up to 50 based on the early vote tally.

Away from parliament: we’re expecting new inflation numbers shortly. The incoming government has promised to get the cost of living under control, so expect some sort of response from National on the new numbers. Annual inflation peaked at 7.3% in the middle of last year and has slowly fallen away since then. Early predictions suggest it will drop below 6% today.

Greens ‘not responsible’ for Labour’s lack of support in Mt Albert, says candidate

Former AAAP director Ricardo Menéndez March, pictured here at a rally organised by AAAP, left the organisation last year ater being elected to parliament. (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

The Green Party candidate for Mount Albert says the presumptive MP Helen White is “disrespecting MMP” for suggesting the vote was split the left.

The famously red-blooded seat almost went blue on Saturday night, with Labour’s Helen White leading on the preliminary count by just 106 votes over National’s Melissa Lee.

White told The Spinoff that while she respected the Greens’ right to stand a candidate wherever they wanted, the two parties split the vote on election night.

But Ricardo Menendez March, who polled third on election night and trailed White and Lee by about 3,000 votes, said that “no party owns any seat”.

“Over the last several elections, Labour’s David Shearer and Jacinda Ardern won Mt Albert by a margin of between 10,656 to 21,246 votes. The Greens are not responsible for Labour’s lack of support in Mt Albert and surrounding electorates,” March told The Spinoff. “It is unfortunate that Helen White is disrespecting MMP and the will of voters, who may soon be her constituents.”

Voters were entitled to vote for whichever candidate they most wanted to represent them, said March. “Clearly, our grassroots people-powered campaign and progressive, fully costed policies resonated with local voters and across Aotearoa.”

March said the party would continue contesting electorates and he looked forward to “a three-way race in Mount Albert in 2026”.

The Bulletin: What happened to Labour in Auckland?

Labour looks to have lost seven Auckland electorates and now only holds six of the 21 electorates that comprise New Zealand’s largest city. A couple of seats remain in a holding pattern, waiting for special votes to be counted. Here are three pieces that I think weave a comprehensive story of what happened to Labour’s support in Auckland.

The first is Madeleine Chapman’s excellent analysis of the Pacific vote. While Labour has held South Auckland seats, in some instances, the number of votes for Labour candidates has halved on 2020 totals. That is a story of turnout, where as Chapman writes, “Sometimes a vote for change looks like not voting at all.”

The second is the Herald’s Simon Wilson on the changing face of Auckland (paywalled). Wilson concentrates on Mt Roskill, New Lynn, Te Atatū and Mt Albert. “All those electorates have large immigrant populations under pressure from fast-rising house prices and likely to be disgusted at Labour’s approach to crime. And in all of them, National put up a new New Zealander against Labour’s Pākehā incumbent,” he writes.

The third is Duncan Greive’s piece, where he argues the former Labour government underestimated the impact of the final, Auckland-specific lockdown on Aucklanders “at least, until Saturday”.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture. 

Labour reconvenes, licks its wounds and looks to the future

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 14: New Zealand Prime Minister and Labour leader Chris Hipkins holds back emotion while speaking during a Labour Party election night event at Lower Hutt Events Centre on October 14, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealanders cast their votes in the country’s first post-pandemic general election on Saturday, against the backdrop of multiple natural disasters, rising cost of living pressures and a wave of low-level crime that has gripped the country. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Labour Party will reconvene in Wellington today to lick its wounds, welcome the pair of incoming MPs and farewell those departing parliament.

The outgoing government has had its caucus slashed in half, with about 30 MPs now out of a job.

Members of the party’s 2020 caucus, which ballooned in the wake of Covid-19, will arrive at parliament at 11am this morning. This will be a chance to farewell heavyweights like Michael Wood and Nanaia Mahuta who lost their seats on Saturday.

Then, the new slimmed down caucus will meet a couple of hours later. The new members of Labour’s caucus are Reuben Davidson who won Christchurch East and Cushla Tangaere-Manuel who snatched Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.

We haven’t heard heard from the outgoing prime minister since Saturday night but he will likely be grabbed by reporters during a mid-morning caucus run at parliament. Chris Hipkins is also scheduled to hold his regular media round tomorrow morning.

Questions over Hipkins’ future hang over parliament this week. The party must have a vote on the leadership within three months, meaning we could know the outcome by Christmas.

On RNZ, deputy political editor Craig McCulloch said the first question was whether Hipkins personally feels he has any more fight in him. “It would be unsurprising if he has had enough,” he said. “He looked utterly defeated on Saturday night.”

The second question is whether the caucus wants him to hang around. Stuff’s Tova O’Brien has reported a general feeling within the party that Hipkins should hang around, at least for now, to prevent a leadership cycle as seen in the David Cunliffe era. “Hipkins is seen as the stabilising force,” O’Brien wrote. “No one would say if he’d definitely be the leader contesting the 2026 election – or if he even wants to – but he’s their guy for now.”

And there’s also the question of who could take over if Hipkins’ opts to leave. At this stage, there isn’t an instantly obvious succession plan.