Chris Hipkins is set to become the prime minister of New Zealand.
He was the only nomination for the Labour leadership today.
In a statement, Labour’s whip Duncan Webb said caucus would meet at 1pm on Sunday to endorse the nomination and confirm Hipkins as party leader.
Hipkins will also become prime minister once PM Jacinda Ardern formally resigns the post – it is not yet clear exactly when that will happen, the New Zealand Herald reports.
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Jacinda Ardern’s decision to step down as New Zealand’s leader came out of nowhere.
She made the announcement on Thursday morning during a press conference, revealing she will remain in the role until February 7.
She said was resigning because she doesn’t have “enough in the tank”.
“I am leaving because with such a privileged job comes a big responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead – and also when you’re not,” she said.
“I know when I have enough left in the tank to do it justice.
“I am human. We give as much as we can for as long as we can and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.
“To Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school next year. And to Clarke, let’s get married.”
Speculation about leadership
There had been speculation about whether others – including Michael Wood – would put their names forward, but Labour was keen for tidy uncontested handover.
The early momentum went behind Hipkins – including snap polls showing the public also believed he was the front runner.
Hipkins is Police Minister and Education Minister, but became well known to many New Zealanders through his role as Covid-19 Minister. He was one of Ardern’s most trusted lieutenants.
The 44-year-old has been an MP since 2008 – through Labour’s rocky nine years in Opposition before getting into government in 2017. He is not expected to comment publicly until after caucus has endorsed him as its leader.
Attention will now turn to who Hipkins takes as his deputy. Grant Robertson is currently deputy Prime Minister, while Kelvin Davis is deputy leader of the Labour Party. That is likely to change with Kiri Allan or Carmel Sepuloni the tips to replace him.
The Police and Education Minister was able to convince his colleagues he had enough party support to take over the top job, making him an automatic selection to replace Jacinda Ardern.
This should allow Hipkins to be sworn in as new PM ahead of a busy few weeks in politics, including Labour’s pilgrimage to Rātana, and Waitangi Day commemorations. Parliament is not set to return until February 14.
Nominations for candidates closed at 9am this morning (New Zealand time).
Going into Saturday, Hipkins, Allan, and Wood’s names had all remained in the mix for a leadership or deputy position.
Another possible contender floated as deputy had been Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.
Senior Labour Ministers Grant Robertson, Kelvin Davis, and Megan Woods all earlier ruled themselves out.
A Taxpayers’ Union-Curia Poll, which ran on Thursday and Friday, found Hipkins to be the most popular choice to replace Jacinda Ardern, winning 30 per cent of support among the public.
He was followed by Kiritapu Allan, who polled 10 per cent, Nanaia Mahuta with 8 per cent and Michael Wood on 6 per cent.
But none of the candidates produced a convincing majority among people polled – the most common response was “unsure”, on 41 per cent.
Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams, who commissioned the poll, said “the only option is Chris Hipkins”.
Hipkins was supported by 30 per cent of National, 28 per cent of Act, and 20 per cent of “other” voters, suggesting widespread support.
Williams said this showed Hipkins was the only candidate who could appeal not just to rusted-on Labour and Greens supporters, but also among marginal voters Labour will need to win.
“Based on this snap poll, every other leadership contender would lose votes for Labour,” Williams said.
Hipkins is himself keeping mum about his intentions, neither ruling himself in nor out of the race.
Speaking at Wellington Airport yesterday, Hipkins said he was involved in “conversations” with colleagues “about making sure that we make a good, sound decision about who should be the leader of the party, that the party then unites behind that new leader and that we continue to provide the stability of leadership that New Zealanders have come to expect from us for the last five and a half years”.
“The conversations that I’ve had with my colleagues suggest that they take their responsibility very, very seriously, there is no fight going on here, everybody is just really constructively engaged in making sure we make a good decision,” he said.
This story was published by the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission.