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Hipkins poised to stay on as NZ Labour leader

Outgoing New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has resurfaced after Labour’s resounding election loss, hinting he may wish to stay on as party leader.

“I’m not done with politics,” he said, returning to parliament on Tuesday after two days off.

Labour’s six years in government came to an end after National’s resounding victory in Saturday’s poll.

All parties assembled in Wellington on Tuesday, holding caucus meetings as they began preparations for the next parliament.

For Labour, that involved two partyroom gatherings: The first, with the 62 Labour MPs that made up the previous caucus.

The second, after lunch, will have just 34 MPs in the room: Those that survived the “blue-nami” election.

“It’s been a pretty brutal weekend,” Hipkins said.

Under Labour rules, a confidence vote must be held within three months of an election to test the leader’s support.

If a leader – in this case Hipkins – failed to reach 60 per cent support, it would trigger an election with MPs, the wider party membership and affiliates such as unions all having a say.

Hipkins said he would test the mood of his team in those caucus meetings.

“I indicated on Saturday night 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.

“My real focus at the moment is two things: One, making sure that we ensure a smooth transition to the new government. I think we owe that to New Zealand.

“The second is to make sure that Labour transitions into being a very formidable opposition as quickly as possible.

“I’m committed to playing whatever role necessary to ensure that both of those things.”

Outgoing Finance Minister Grant Robertson suggested Mr Hipkins would find support from his colleagues.

“I’m incredibly supportive of Chris, I think he has done a really good job,” he said.

Labour campaign chair Megan Woods said on Sunday that Hipkins “absolutely” would have the support from colleagues should he choose to stay on.

– AAP

Topics: New Zealand
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