After two caucus meetings on Tuesday, which collectively spanned three hours, Chris Hipkins remains the leader of the Labour Party.
At the first meeting, outgoing MPs were thanked for their work. During that gathering, longtime MP and former leader Andrew Little announced his resignation from politics.
The second meeting was “an opportunity for those who are returning or who are potentially returning to have a bit of a conversation about the next steps, to reflect a little bit on what’s happened”, Hipkins said. It ran nearly an hour longer than scheduled, but he said when he emerged that leadership had not been a topic of conversation.
In accordance with Labour Party rules, a leadership vote will be held within three months of the election loss. Hipkins indicated the party would need to wait until the final election results came in and the full shape of Labour’s caucus for the next Parliament was known before that vote was held.
“The leader is the leader until they’re not, and I’m certainly still the leader of the Labour Party,” Hipkins said. “I’m still committed to supporting the Labour Party in opposition and I’ve still got a bit of fight left in me.”
Hipkins also thanked Little for his service to the party.
“Andrew Little has shown on multiple occasions an enormous amount of humility, an enormous amount of team spirit and commitment to the wider cause that he is as passionate about as we all are. He has been an outstanding minister for six years, he led the Labour Party through a really difficult period after the 2014 election. I want to pay absolute tribute to the 12 years of enormous contribution that he has made as a member of our team.”
Little told reporters it was time for him to step aside to make room for new MPs to be hardened in opposition and prepare for their next shot at government.
“Labour has had an incredible intake or two incredible intakes – 2017 and 2020. There’s a huge depth of talent, some of whom won’t be part of the 54th Parliament but may well be interested in coming back after that,” he said.
“By me stepping aside, it’ll make room for at least one more, but I think it also expresses my view that the party now needs to think not just about what opposition looks like but what the next government looks like and identify the faces for that. I am not the face of the Seventh Labour Government.”
Little served as leader of the Labour Party after the 2014 election, stepping down just seven weeks before the 2017 vote to make room for Jacinda Ardern at the top of the ticket.
Over the past six years, Little has been the Minister of Justice, the minister responsible for the intelligence agencies and the Minister of Health. He shepherded through the health reforms, overseeing the aggregation of the 20 District Health Boards into Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora.
Alongside Ardern, he was one of the principle faces of the Government’s response to the Christchurch terror attack. As Justice Minister, he began work on hate speech law reform which was ultimately scrapped by Hipkins earlier this year. Little also held a special role overseeing the Government’s implementation of the 44 recommendations from the Royal Commission into the attack.
On current election results, Shanan Halbert, Labour’s candidate for the Northcote electorate, will now make it into Parliament off the list with Little stepping down.