The Labour Party is meeting to elect its government ministers for the next three years, with one frontrunner for Deputy Prime Minister taking himself out of contention
Labour MP Kelvin Davis has opted against putting his name forward for the role of deputy prime minister, opening the way for Grant Robertson to take on the job.
The Labour Party caucus is currently meeting to elect the next Cabinet, following the confirmation on Sunday of a “cooperation agreement” between Labour and the Greens.
Davis, Labour’s deputy leader and the Corrections Minister, was almost certain to become Deputy Prime Minister had he put his hand up, but he told media on Monday morning he had decided not to seek the role.
“From the outset the Prime Minister has said that it is my decision and my decision alone, but I came into politics for two reasons: one is to represent Te Tai Tokerau and the other to make a difference for Māori, and that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Davis said he wanted to remain as Labour’s deputy leader, taking an enhanced pastoral role with the expanded caucus and allowing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the new deputy PM to focus on their ministerial roles.
He would not comment on whether more Māori MPs had been elevated into Cabinet as a result of his decision, saying the public would learn shortly about who had been appointed to which roles.
“I think we’re very happy with the reshuffle…I just want to really be able to focus on my new roles and, you know, I’m very excited and looking forward to them, but I’ll leave the comments here until afterwards.”
Ardern said Davis had contacted her before the election and made it clear he was not interested in becoming Deputy Prime Minister, but she had asked him to wait until after the election to give the matter more thought and consideration.
“Obviously Kelvin’s made this decision, it is one he’s made – of course he still has my full support and my full confidence…and he will have my full support to remain as deputy leader of the Labour Party.”
She did not believe Māori voters who backed Labour would feel deceived by the news coming out after the election, and said Labour would use “the full breath of talent in our caucus, including from our Māori MPs” in appointing the new Cabinet.
Robertson is now the presumptive frontrunner to become Deputy Prime Minister, in addition to his existing finance portfolio, but he would not comment about whether he intended to seek the role ahead of the meeting.
“Those are matters that are going to be discussed in the caucus room now – I haven’t got anything to say about them.”
According to Labour’s internal rules, the caucus is meant to appoint the members of the new Cabinet, with the Prime Minister then handing out portfolios.
However, in practice Ardern is expected to present a list of her desired ministers and their prospective roles for the caucus to vote on.
The Prime Minister said she would work through every minister’s name with the caucus on a consensus-based approach, with anyone able to nominate other candidates on top of her own suggestions.
The new executive is set to be announced this afternoon, ahead of a swearing-in ceremony later in the week.