Eddie at The Standard says that the results of the last leadership ballot was:
Shearer – 17
Cunliffe – 13
This may not be precise, but it shows that if Cunliffe can merely keep all his votes from last time, that may be enough. It is not clear if he needs 13 or 14 votes to force a part ballot. Tumeke thinks it may be just 13.
“We have 23 solid for Shearer,” an MP doing the numbers said.
That means 11 for Cunliffe. He needs 13 or 14 to force a ballot. Can he pick two off?
Some wavering MPs also indicated they were put off by Mr Cunliffe over-playing his hand by refusing to rule out a challenge in February.
Yes, his refusal was too blatant. What he could have done is say “My expectation is that caucus will unanimously back David Shearer to remain Leader”. That implies he will vote for Shearer but leaves him wriggle room to challenge by saying expectations change. One of the skills in politics is the wording you use to pledge loyalty to the leader but leave you wriggle room so that you are not a liar if you do challenge. Cunliffe did stuff up somewhat by being so overt.
UPDATE2: The Herald reports:
David Cunliffe has given David Shearer an assurance he has his “absolute support” and would back the Labour Party leader should an early leadership vote be held.
However Mr Cunliffe could not pledge he would support Mr Shearer in February when the leader faces a formal confidence vote.
This is a smarter tactic from Cunliffe. If all of Camp Cunliffe vote for Shearer next week, then everyone knows it is not the real vote. No one actually believes he has unanimous support. Then if Shearer makes any mistakes between now and February, they can say things have changed and try and get the votes then.
There is no doubt Shearer will win an early vote. The question is will he demote Cunliffe, and if so what will the reaction of the Auckland activists be if he does?
UPDATE3: Patrick Gower has asked every MP how they are voting. He has:
- Will not endorse Shearer publicly – 12
- Saying they endorse Shearer – 20
- Ambiguous – 2
Some of those who will not endorse Shearer publicly may go with the flow, Gower says. But if they can pick up Ross Robertson and Shane Jones, then that is 14 votes and all they need. Arguably they only need 13.
However Camp Shearer claim they have 23 votes. I suspect they are right, but I have found out the hard way that you can have the numbers the day before a vote, and lose the vote on the day. MPs do vote by secret ballot.