Labour leader Andrew Little says he revealed his proposal to stand down because he wanted to be honest and take responsibility for Labour’s poor position.
He insisted today that he was not giving up on the election, and would be working twice as hard to get Labour into government.
In a surprise admission yesterday, Mr Little said he met with senior colleagues last week to discuss whether he should stand down.
His caucus colleagues told him to stay on. It came as a new One News Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour at 24%, its lowest recorded result. Mr Little said he publicly revealed his proposal to the Labour caucus because he wanted “to be honest about it”.
“It’s an inevitable question that comes up. I’m the type of guy who does take responsibility.”
He added: “I felt honour bound to raise that as a valid option.”
Now that he had his caucus’s backing, he said he would “stepping up” his campaign and “spending even more time” on the road over the next two months than initially planned.
“I’m in this fight. And I’m going at it hammer and tongs because there is too much at stake for far too many New Zealanders.”
Asked whether 24% was Labour’s low point, Mr Little said “it better be”.
“I’m not planning on an alternative, I’m getting absolutely stuck into the campaign that we’ve got.”
Prime Minister Bill English did not celebrate the new poll, saying that his party could still lose the election despite Mr Little and Labour’s woes.
“Even with the Labour Party doing badly, the Greens on their policy problems over welfare, and New Zealand First promising everything to everybody, they could form a government,” he said.
“On that poll last night, the Government could lose the election. So we’ve got a lot of hard work to do over the next two months because we have to get our support up.”
He warned National supporters against complacency, repeatedly saying that National needed to lift its vote if it wanted a “strong, stable government” which did not depend on NZ First.
Mr English rejected suggestions that NZ First could overtake Labour, saying that Labour remained a “strong brand”.
Mr Little’s leadership has come under intense scrutiny after he failed to get traction in the polls and Labour started slipping from the 30s. He has also faced comparisons with his deputy leader Jacinda Ardern, who quickly overtook him in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.
However, there has been little appetite to replace Mr Little so close to an election. Labour’s leadership rules allow caucus to elect a new leader itself rather than put it to the membership vote if the job comes up within three months of an election.
He would not reveal who the colleagues were, but it is likely they included Ms Ardern, Phil Twyford and Grant Robertson.
In other results, National was holding steady on 47% and NZ First was steady on 11%. The Opportunities Party had made further gains up one to 2% and the Maori Party was on 1%.
Mr Little referred to the party’s polling at the launch of Labour’s campaign for the Maori seats in Mangere today, telling supporters the polling had been “a bit rough”.
“And I get that. But I look at what the Labour Party stands for, what we’ve spent the last three years talking about our kaupapa. And it is a strong kaupapa.”
He urged supporters to keep that message uppermost in their minds and to campaign hard.
He saidhe was not giving up.
“The result is naturally disappointing. A tough fight just got tougher.”
He said the things Labour stood for could not happen unless the Government changed “and only party can guarantee that, and that’s Labour.” NZME