Nominations for the vacancy of Labour leader, and therefore presumptive prime minister to succeed Jacinda Ardern, close tomorrow morning at 9am. If there is just one nominee, which according to sources is more likely than not, that person will be formally endorsed as leader by caucus on Sunday.
Critically, nominations will require more than 10% of the caucus, which equates to at least seven of 64 MPs, not including the nominee. If there is more than one nomination, caucus will vote at Sunday’s meeting. If there are three or more candidates, they’ll be whittled down to two in rounds. At this point, if one candidate gets the backing of more than two-thirds, or 42 MPs, that individual wins. If not, then it proceeds the the electoral college, which means a vote split 40% caucus, 40% party membership and 20% union affiliates.
The full statement, from Labour chief whip Duncan Webb, who is returning officer for the contest, reads as follows:
“Nominations for the position of Labour Party Leader must be received by 9am on Saturday 21 January. Nominations require support from at least 10% of the caucus which with 64 MPs is seven MPs, not including the nominee. Caucus has agreed to meet on Sunday 22 January at 1pm. If there is only one nominee an endorsement by caucus is required. Members unable to attend in person can vote by proxy.
“If a vote is required the vote will be by exhaustive ballot. That means it will be by rounds and the lowest polling candidate will be removed at the end of each round. This will continue until either one candidate has two thirds of the vote or more, or there are two candidates and neither can secure two thirds of the vote. There are no limits on the number of votes to be taken. Caucus had seven days from the date of resignation to reach a decision. Accordingly Caucus can continue to meet to seek to obtain 66% support for a leader up until that time.”
We’ve made it to the end of what turned out to be an extraordinarily busy news week – and it’s not over yet. This Sunday will see Labour’s caucus attempt to elect a new leader (and new prime minister). We’ll have coverage on the day, don’t you worry.
Jacinda Ardern has no regrets over her shock decision to step aside.
The prime minister briefly spoke to media at Hawke’s Bay airport today and, as the Herald reported, said she had slept well last night “for the first time in a long time”.
She added: “But still a range of emotions, I of course feel sad but also I do have a sense of relief.”
Calling for a snap election was never on the table, said Ardern. “Elections are incredibly disruptive. There was no need for one in this case.”
Meanwhile, one of the most likely successors, Chris Hipkins was spotted while on a morning stroll by Newshub. He did not rule out throwing his hat in the ring for the top job, but equally did not confirm his intentions.
“I am really optimistic about the conversations my colleagues are having about making this decision really thoughtfully and constructively and with a good degree of consensus. I think my colleagues are taking the responsibility here very, very seriously,” he said.
“I think if we can reach a consensus and then really unite as a team behind a new leader that’s going to be far better for New Zealand.”
Former prime minister Helen Clark has spoken of the sadness she felt upon learning of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation.
A long time supporter and confidante of Ardern, Clark wrote on Instagram that she was in Europe when she learnt of the news. “Her legacy is very significant, and my overwhelming feeling is one of both sadness and gratitude for all she has done for our country,” she wrote.
In her first New Zealand interview, Clark told Today FM’s Tova O’Brien that there was a “misogynistic way” that Ardern was attacked while in office. “They were so personalised, I don’t think decent people should be driven out of politics by vitriol and hate,” she said. “I don’t think Jacinda would back away from a fight,” she said.
Clarks final message to Ardern was simply “big hugs” and a thank you for the Covid-19 response.
There’s one thread that’s filtered through a lot of coverage of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation over the past 24 hours and that has been regarding the level of vitriol and abuse faced by the prime minister during her tenure. The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly exacerbated that, with the protest at parliament last year being a clear example.
Former prime minister Helen Clark said it was clear that “vitriol and hate” had driven Ardern out of politics, telling Today FM: “There has been a misogynistic element in the way that Jacinda has been attacked.”
RNZ has dedicated a lot of its coverage today to dissecting some of that vitriol. Firstly, there’s this piece by Anusha Bradley looking at the disinformation that’s circled Ardern and the reaction within certain alternative circles to her resignation news.
Questions were also asked of major party leaders regarding the threats and abuse faced by politicians. National’s Christopher Luxon said he believed he, too, was subject to similar abuse to the prime minister. “I know I am – but the reality for me is I choose to handle it in a way where I don’t live on Twitter. I know what’s going on, I know what the feedback is… but for me it’s staying really focused on why I’m doing the job and the task that’s ahead of me,” he said. Politics was a robust environment, said Luxon, and there were people on all sides. “But my identity isn’t tied up in what other people are thinking about.”
Asked whether female politicians suffered worse, Luxon said he wasn’t sure about that. “You’ve seen other countries around the world where you actually get this deep polarisation of political views and you can’t just walk across the room and actually have a conversation with someone who has a different set of politics views and I think that’s a very sad thing for democracy.”
In contrast, Green Party co-leader James Shaw said that while abuse was not exclusive to the prime minister, it was worse for women. “Female politicians get significantly greater levels of threat than male politicians and also people of colour.”
Shaw acknowledged he had stepped back from social media, despite being a former active Twitter user, due to its unpleasant nature. “I put up a post yesterday acknowledging the prime minister’s leadership. Last time I checked there were something like 85 comments and I blocked all but six of them because it was just vile,” he said. “I think the social media companies need to take some responsibility for that. One of the comments that really did stick with me was someone who had said Jacinda was guilty of genocide, stated as fact. And I’m like… really? Who? What are you basing that comment on?”
While someone like Luxon may not live live his life on Twitter, Shaw said the problem is that a lot of people do. “It’s becoming this sort of cesspit.”
It’s hard to imagine the Labour party wanting anything but a very clean transition. They remain the disciplined caucus of the last five and a half years. Given the party’s current polling, a protracted and public battle would not help matters. But a new leader must be found and this is still someone’s opportunity for a shot at the job. A vote will be taken on Sunday and if two thirds of the caucus agree, it’s a done deal. If that doesn’t happen, it will go to the wider party membership.
The Herald’s Audrey Young (paywalled) thinks Grant Robertson should reconsider his decision to not stand as leader. For what it’s worth, Robertson categorically ruled that out a while ago, as detailed in Madeleine Chapman’s 2021 profile for North and South. Failing that, Young thinks Chris Hipkins is the next logical successor.
Unofficial official odds have Hipkins out in front. Kiritapu Allan also is being talked about, perhaps with the support of Labour’s Māori caucus and Michael Wood, mentioned in the past as a potential leader, would have good union support if the vote went beyond caucus and to the wider membership and affiliated organisations.
Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.
If you’ve somehow woken up, clicked on The Spinoff and realised the prime minister resigned yesterday – here are the top lines from an extraordinary 24 hours in politics.
Jacinda Ardern will step down as prime minister in the coming days.
A vote for a new Labour Party leader will take place on Sunday within caucus. If that vote proves unsuccessful, it will open up to wider party membership. The process will be wrapped up by February 7 at the latest.
Grant Robertson has ruled out seeking the leadership.