Wellington, March 27 NZPA - Labour's Darren Hughes wouldn't be drawn on possible replacements for Helen Clark when questioned today about a pending by-election in her Mt Albert seat.
Miss Clark was all but confirmed as the new head of the United Nations Development Programme this morning, meaning a by-election will need to be held in her Auckland seat when she resigns from Parliament.
Confirmation of her taking up the UN role needs to be ticked off by the UN General Assembly.
Labour list MP Phil Twyford has been identified as a front-runner for Miss Clark's safe seat but there has been speculation a candidate from outside Parliament might stand.
Former MP Judith Tizard is in the wings and while she could be eyeing a return, there is a sense she is considered to be "old guard".
Labour's problem is that former finance minister Michael Cullen is also planning to retire, probably before Miss Clark resigns.
Dr Cullen is a list MP and would be replaced by Damien O'Connor, the next candidate on Labour's list.
If Mr Twyford contested a by-election and won the Mt Albert seat he would cease to be a list MP and would be replaced by Ms Tizard.
But if an outsider won the seat Mr Twyford would stay as a list MP and there would not be a slot for Ms Tizard.
Mr Twyford has refused to comment about his plans.
Fronting media instead of Labour leader Phil Goff who is overseas, Mr Hughes wouldn't talk about individuals today. He said nominations would be opened, and any eligible Labour Party member would be able to put their name forward.
"The seat in Mt Albert doesn't come up very often -- there have only been two MPs since 1947 -- so it's a seat that has been very loyal to their local member, and the local member has always gone quite far..."
Warren Freer gave up the safe Mt Albert seat to Miss Clark in 1981 after having entered the New Zealand Parliament through a by-election in 1947 when he was 26.
He got to No 3 under the Norman Kirk-led government.
"Obviously it's a prized seat and people will want to represent Mt Albert. I think it will be a hotly contested selection," Mr Hughes said.
He said the Labour Party wouldn't take winning the seat in a by-election for granted.
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