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Jacinda Ardern tipped as new Labour deputy

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/02/2017

Jacinda Ardern looks set to become the next deputy leader of the Labour Party after the resignation of long-time MP Annette King.

Ms King made the announcement on Wednesday "after some reflection".

She will stand down as deputy next week and will retire from politics at the September 23 election, having previously decided not to re-contest her Rongotai electorate seat.

"I have been considering my position for some time and after discussing the matter with colleagues I feel now is the right time to pass the baton," she said.

Ms King shared her decision with Labour leader Andrew Little on Tuesday, and with Ms Ardern who she is backing as her successor.

Ms Ardern, who was officially nominated by Mr Little on Wednesday morning, said the phone call and support was "humbling".

"I've always said it's not a job I would ask for but if I was asked and the party and my team thought I was well placed to do the job I would happily take on the role," she said.

"I believe I have what it takes and we have a strong team who are ready to change the government."

Ms Ardern joined parliament nine years ago as a list MP and was on Saturday elected as MP for Mount Albert.

She described Ms King as a friend, mentor and "pseudo-Aunty" who she would turn to for advice if she is selected by caucus for the role.

Caucus will come together on Tuesday for a vote.

Mr Little said he wasn't aware of anyone interested in the role and anticipates Ms Ardern will have strong support.

"I am going to put a morning tea on if that helps," she added.

Mr Little has insisted Ms King's decision was entirely her own and not the result of pressure from himself or anyone within the party.

"She's been an absolute outstanding deputy," he said.

"Loyal, hardworking, full of incredible advice drawing on her vast experience and she has been an absolute tower of strength to me in the leader's role."

After being told of her decision to stand down as deputy, Mr Little asked Ms King to stay on as health spokeswoman, but said she preferred to pave the way for her retirement.

Prime Minister Bill English wished Ms King well but said he wasn't concerned about Ms Ardern, who is "untested" in a leadership position.

"I think they'll really miss her. Annette's been a long time, reasonable, stabilising influence and broadly respected across the Parliament," he said.

"It'll be a bit of a challenge for the Labour Party I think. We certainly wish Annette well ... there'll be a big gap in the Labour Party."

Ms King has been a Labour Party member for more than 30 years and has held the Rongotai electorate for 24 years.

As a government minister she has held portfolios including health, police, justice, transport, state services and immigration.

Most recently she has been Labour's health spokeswoman.

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