An embittered David Cunliffe is refusing to rule out quitting Parliament altogether as leader David Shearer moves to finalise his front bench.
It is understood Mr Cunliffe has been offered a front bench seat and a senior portfolio but has balked at his proposed ranking.
Labour has been allocated eight front bench seats in the new Parliament and it is likely Mr Cunliffe has been offered either the sixth, seventh or eighth slot.
The top places are likely to be taken by Mr Shearer, deputy Grant Robertson, Jacinda Ardern, finance spokesman David Parker, Shane Jones and Clayton Cosgrove with the remaining two slots open to Mr Cunliffe and his running mate, Nanaia Mahuta, or possibly Ruth Dyson or Maryan Street.
This isn’t a happy start to Shearer’s administration. He could be a great leader, and Grant Robertson could also be a formidable Deputy – but right now, Cunliffe is Labour’s most capable MP by a pretty huge margin. If the party is going to be re-unified and effective at holding the government to account then he needs a high profile roll. Trying to slot him below Shane Jones and Clayton Cosgrove – presumably with something like foreign affairs, to keep him out of the country for the next three years – is a real clumsy way for the new leadership team to kick things off.