Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party

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Leader of the Labour Party
Chris Hipkins NZ Labour (cropped).jpg
Chris Hipkins
since 22 January 2023
Term length No fixed term1
Inaugural holder Alfred Hindmarsh
Formation7 July 1916
Deputy Deputy Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party
Website Labour Party profile
1. The leader must be endorsed by the party caucus following a general election, usually every three years, but this does not automatically trigger a new leadership election.

The leader of the Labour Party is the highest-ranked political position within the New Zealand Labour Party, who serves as the parliamentary leader and leading spokesperson of the party. The current leader is Chris Hipkins, after Jacinda Ardern resigned.



The post of leader of the Labour Party was officially created upon the party's inception in 1916, though the title "leader" was often substituted and/or complemented with the title "chairman". [1] At the 1935 election, Michael Joseph Savage led the Labour Party to victory, becoming the first Labour prime minister. In 1963, Arnold Nordmeyer became the first New Zealand-born leader of the party; three previous leaders had been born in Australia and one each in England and Scotland. The most electorally successful Labour leader to date is Helen Clark, who won three elections, in 1999, 2002 and 2005. Clark is also the party's longest-serving leader, having served for 14 years, 346 days between 1993 and 2008. [2] Peter Fraser is the longest-serving Labour prime minister, serving 9 years, 261 days between 1940 and 1949.


A leadership candidate must be a member of parliament (MP). A new leader is elected whenever a vacancy arises, whether due to resignation, incapacitation, or following a motion of no confidence by the parliamentary caucus. [3]

The current election rules were adopted in 2021, replacing earlier rules adopted in 2012. [4] Candidates need 10% of the caucus to nominate. The caucus votes via exhaustive ballot (absent MPs can vote by proxy), and a candidate requires the support of two-thirds of the caucus to be elected. If no one can get two-thirds the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. [5] If there are two candidates left and neither got two-thirds, there may be multiple rounds of voting to identify a consensus candidate. If one cannot be found then the leadership is determined by an electoral college comprising the caucus (40% of the total vote), party members (40%) and affiliated trade unions (20%). [4]

No later than three months following a general election, there must be a caucus vote to endorse the leader. If they fail to receive endorsement then the position of party leader is vacated and an election is triggered. [3]


When the Labour Party forms the Parliamentary Opposition, the leader of the party usually acts as the leader of the Opposition, and chairs a Shadow Cabinet. Likewise, when the party is in Government, as it currently is, the leader typically becomes the prime minister.

Unique to Labour, the party's caucus possesses the right to elect MPs to Cabinet, rather than the leader choosing them. The practice began following the 1940 leadership election. [6] Michael Joseph Savage was the only leader to solely appoint his own cabinet following the election victories in 1935 and 1938.

List of leaders

The following is a complete list of Labour Party leaders (including acting leaders):

  Labour   Reform    United    National
PM: Prime Minister
LO: Leader of the Opposition
†: Died in office

PortraitElectorateTerm BeganTerm EndedTime in OfficePositionPrime Minister
1 Alfred Hindmarsh
Alfred Hindmarsh.jpg Wellington South 7 July 191613 November 1918†2 years, 129 days Massey
2 Harry Holland
Harry Holland (1925).jpg Grey (1918–19)
Buller (1919–33)
27 August 19198 October 1933†14 years, 42 days
LO1926–1928 Coates
Junior coalition partner
LO1931–1933 Forbes
3 Michael Joseph Savage
Michael Joseph Savage Portrait (cropped).jpg Auckland West 12 October 193327 March 1940†6 years, 167 daysLO1933–1935
4 Peter Fraser
Peter Fraser.jpg Wellington Central (1918–46)
Brooklyn (1946–50)
1 April 194012 December 1950†10 years, 255 daysPM1940–1949himself
LO1949–1950 Holland
5 Walter Nash
Walter Nash (ca 1940s).jpg Hutt 17 January 195131 March 196312 years, 73 daysLO1951–1957
LO1960–1963 Holyoake
6 Arnold Nordmeyer
Arnold Nordmeyer (1950).jpg Island Bay 1 April 196316 December 19652 years, 259 daysLO1963–1965
7 Norman Kirk
Norman Kirk, crop.jpg Lyttelton (1957–69)
Sydenham (1969–74)
16 December 196531 August 1974†8 years, 258 daysLO1965–1972
Hugh Watt [note 1]
Hugh Watt, 1951 (1).jpg Onehunga 31 August 19746 September 19747 daysPM1974himself
8 Bill Rowling
Bill Rowling, 1962.jpg Tasman 6 September 19743 February 19838 years, 150 daysPM1974–1975himself
LO1975–1983 Muldoon
9 David Lange
David Lange (1992).jpg Mangere 3 February 19838 August 19896 years, 186 daysLO1983–1984
10 Geoffrey Palmer
(born 1942)
Geoffrey Palmer.jpg Christchurch Central 8 August 19894 September 19901 year, 27 daysPM1989–1990himself
11 Mike Moore
Mike Moore, 1992 (crop).jpg Christchurch North 4 September 19901 December 19933 years, 88 daysPM1990himself
LO1990–1993 Bolger
12 Helen Clark
(born 1950)
Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg Mount Albert 1 December 199311 November 200814 years, 346 daysLO1993–1999
13 Phil Goff
(born 1953)
Phil Goff.jpg Mount Roskill 11 November 200813 December 20113 years, 32 daysLO2008–2011 Key
14 David Shearer
(born 1957)
David Shearer.jpg Mount Albert 13 December 201115 September 20131 year, 276 daysLO2011–2013
15 David Cunliffe
(born 1963)
David Cunliffe, 2008.jpg New Lynn 15 September 201330 September 20141 year, 15 daysLO2013–2014
David Parker [note 1]
(born 1960)
David Parker NZ.jpg List MP 30 September 201418 November 201449 daysLO2014
16 Andrew Little
(born 1965)
Andrew Little, 2017.jpg List MP 18 November 20141 August 20172 years, 256 daysLO2014–2017
17 Jacinda Ardern
(born 1980)
Jacinda Ardern 2020.jpg Mount Albert 1 August 201722 January 20235 years, 181 daysLO2017
18 Chris Hipkins
(born 1978)
Chris Hipkins NZ Labour (cropped).jpg Remutaka 22 January 2023present7 daysPM
  1. 1 2 Deputy leader who assumed the role of party leader temporarily because of the death or resignation of the incumbent, serving until the election of a new leader.
Chris HipkinsJacinda ArdernAndrew LittleDavid CunliffeDavid ShearerPhil GoffHelen ClarkMike Moore (New Zealand politician)Geoffrey Palmer (politician)David LangeBill RowlingNorman KirkArnold NordmeyerWalter NashPeter FraserMichael Joseph SavageHarry HollandAlfred HindmarshLeader of the New Zealand Labour Party

See also

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  1. Paul, John Thomas (1946). Humanism in Politics; New Zealand Labour Party Retrospect. The University of Michigan. pp. 64–65. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  2. Audrey Young (12 February 2008). "Clark beats record of longest-serving Labour leader – probably". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  3. 1 2 "Constitution and Rules" (PDF). New Zealand Labour Party. 2019. pp. 63–64. Retrieved 19 January 2020 via New Zealand Electoral Commission.
  4. 1 2 Malpass, Luke (6 November 2021). "Labour Party changes rules to elect leader, hands first call back to caucus". Stuff. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  5. "How the Labour Party vote will work – and why we might know the next PM by Saturday". RNZ. 20 January 2023. Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  6. Beaglehole, Tim. "Fraser, Peter". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 11 December 2011.