New Zealand's Labour Party elects former union boss as leader

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2014 8:11 PM

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's opposition Labour Party elected former trade union head Andrew Little as its fourth leader in as many years on Tuesday as it looked to rebuild itself and end divisions after its heaviest election defeat in more than 90 years.

Little replaces David Cunliffe, who stepped down after the centre-left party slumped to its worst showing since 1922 with 25 percent of the vote in the Sept. 20 general election.

He beat out three opponents, including the current deputy and the finance spokesman, in a contest that gave the party's broader membership and affiliated trade unions a vote.

Little, 49, a former head of the biggest union and president of the party, has said Labour scared its traditional working class supporters and centrist voters with policies such as a capital gains tax and raising the age of pension eligibility.

Labour has struggled to counter the center right National Party, led by former foreign exchange manager John Key, which ousted a centre-left coalition led by Helen Clark in 2008.

It has had four leaders since then but has seen its share of the national vote slump as the easy-going Key has dominated the political scene with unparalleled popularity ratings.

The next election is due before the end of 2017.

(Writing by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Nick Macfie)