Embattled David Cunliffe will formally step down as Labour leader today – amid a warning that the party’s socially conservative Pacific Island support base does not want him replaced by Grant Robertson.
Robertson has strong caucus support. But Cunliffe loyalists point to the backing he has from the Pacific Island community in South Auckland. Labour held the Mangere, Manukau East and Manurewa electorates at the election, although its share dropped by around 5 percentage points.
One community leader, who did not want to be named, said many in the community were uneasy about tactics used in the last week to force Cunliffe out. And Robertson’s homosexuality clashed with socially conservative attitudes of voters, who would turn instead to NZ First, he said.
‘‘If Labour want to go from 24 [per cent] to 14 and put NZ First from 10 to 19, that’s the way to go. He won’t unify the party. He will destroy the South Auckland power base, that three Ms.
‘‘It’s not so much Grant, it’s what aligns with their beliefs … it will probably be a tipping point.’’