1954 New Zealand Labour Party leadership election
The New Zealand Labour Party leadership election, 1954 was held on 23 June 1954 to determine the future leadership of the New Zealand Labour Party. The election was won by Hutt MP Walter Nash, the incumbent leader.
Nash's initial handling of the leadership of the Labour party was seen as rather mediocre. He had difficult obstacles, chiefly the waterfront dispute. Nash attempted to take a moderate position in the dispute, stating "we are not for the waterside workers, and we are not against them". Labour's neutral position merely ended up displeasing both sides, however, and Nash was widely accused of indecision and lack of courage. Labour was defeated heavily in the 1951 snap election.
In May 1953, Rex Mason informed Nash that several members were complaining to him about the party's leadership to him and that he thought that the majority wanted a new leader to take over. Later, in February 1954, MP Angus McLagan referred to a newspaper article questioning Nash's leadership which resulted in a unanimous call for a date to be set for new leadership selection.
Nash had been Labour's leader since 1951. While his leadership was questioned by caucus colleagues, Nash had overwhelming support from the Trade Unions, who backed the party financially. Likewise, party branches from all over the country passed resolutions confirming their support for Nash, sending a message to prospective challengers. Nash was nominated by Michael Moohan for the leadership.
Nordmeyer had been an MP since 1935, though briefly out of parliament from 1949-51. He was the then President of the party and it was speculated he may have been involved with leaking the media report quoted by McLagan. Nordmeyer was nominated by Warren Freer for the leadership.
Under pressure from the grass roots members and trade unions, the majority of Labour's caucus voted for Nash. Some, such as Michael Moohan, switched sides and voted for Nash in recognition of the increasing unpopularity of a leadership change. According to Nash himself, only nine votes were cast against him. The four Maori MPs abstained from the vote.
How each MP voted
A list of each MP's vote.
|Charles Henry Chapman||Nash|
|Tapihana Paraire Paikea||Abstain|
The affair was messy and won little support from either public or party. As a result, Nordmeyer, Bill Anderton and Phil Connolly were called before Labour's National Executive. Nash himself was shocked at Nordmeyer's level of support. Nash would remain leader until 1963, when he retired. Nordmeyer took his place as leader, though was only to hold the post for two years. Jerry Skinner remained as deputy-leader, he was re-elected unopposed for the position.
- Franks, Peter; McAloon, Jim (2016). Labour: The New Zealand Labour Party 1916-2016. Wellington: Victoria University Press. ISBN 978-1-77656-074-5.
- Sinclair, Keith (1976). Walter Nash. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford.
- Logan, Mary (2008). Nordy, Arnold Nordmeyer a political biography. Wellington: Steele Roberts Publishers. ISBN 978-1-877448-33-1.