N.Z. Opposition Labour Party Elects David Cunliffe as New Leader

New Zealand’s main opposition Labour Party elected David Cunliffe as its new leader to contest next year’s general election and try to prevent Prime Minister John Key from winning a third term.

Cunliffe, 50, won the vote among caucus colleagues, party members and affiliated unions, the Labour Party said in a statement in Wellington today. He beat deputy leader Grant Robertson and Maori Affairs spokesman Shane Jones to the job that was vacated by David Shearer last month.

Cunliffe must now unify the Labour Party and boost its public support if he is to stop Key from gaining another term at the next election, due in late 2014. Labour had 33 percent support in a Colmar Brunton poll of 1,006 voters for One News in late July, trailing Key’s National Party, which was on 46 percent.

“We must beat John Key in 2014 and we will only do that by mobilizing the entire party, the affiliates, the membership and the Caucus,” Cunliffe said in the statement. “If we can combine the best of all of us, the winners will be the people of New Zealand.”

Shearer, who scored 13 percent as preferred prime minister in the One News poll compared with 41 percent for Key, resigned on Aug. 22, saying he no longer enjoyed the confidence of all his caucus colleagues.

Cunliffe previously challenged Shearer for the party leadership and may have been viewed as more electable than Robertson and Jones because he represents an electorate in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city and home to a third of its population.

Robertson represents the Wellington Central electorate in the nation’s capital city and is not as well known as Cunliffe in Auckland.

Jones’s reputation was tarnished by revelations in 2010 that he used a taxpayer-funded credit card to pay for porn movies when he was a minister in the last Labour government.

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