Labour leader David Shearer's position is on precarious ground and his rival David Cunliffe is refusing to endorse him after a change to Labour's rules which will mean a challenger will need only 14 caucus votes to mount a challenge next February.
In changes to Labour's rules at its conference today, the delegates made a surprise decision to allow 40 per cent of caucus to force a vote on the leadership in what is to be a regular confidence vote in the three months after an election. At other times, a majority vote is needed.
Mr Shearer will face his confidence vote on February 13 next year and the change means that only 14 of Labour's 34 caucus members can force a full vote on the leadership.
That would mean Labour's members and union affiliates voted - which could be enough to give the leadership to Mr Cunliffe.
Yesterday after the amendment was passed, Mr Cunliffe refused to rule out a challenge and would not say if he would support Mr Shearer next February.
Mr Cunliffe - who supported the amendment - said the leader did have his support but would not commit to endorsing him next February.
"I have not many any comment or decisions about what might happen next February because we don't know what's going to happen next year. We don't know what the future holds.".
Mr Shearer said he was confident he could get the 60 per cent of caucus support to retain the leadership. He would not rule out disciplining Mr Cunliffe for any disloyalty, but said Mr Cunliffe had committed to him last week "I can only take him at his word, on what he said last week."
Asked if he believed Mr Cunliffe was being disloyal, he repeated his claim that he would be leader in 2014.
He would not discuss whether he would discipline Mr Cunliffe if he was openly disloyal.
Mr Shearer said he did not believe his position was more precarious and was confident he would pass the confidence vote in February.
This is an extraordinary drama playing out very publicly, and the playing field has tilted markedly in Cunliffe's favour, provided he can get 13 other members of Labour's caucus to support him. Cunliffe seems to have the support of the party rank and file, and judging by comments on the blogs over the last wee while, he will be the union preference as well. As long as he can get minority support in caucus at 40%, the leadership is his for the taking.
The big question now is how hard David Shearer will fight to retain the leadership. He will need the support of 61% of Labour's caucus, but the pressure is sure to go on individual members of caucus now, especially those with union affiliations. That may well be the tipping point, and Mr Shearer might simply decide to walk away, even though he is bullish at the moment.
Whatever happens though, eighteen months out from an election Labour's caucus will be deeply divided. Can either of the Davids unite the troops? We certainly wouldn't put our hard-earned dosh on it.
FOOTNOTE: Barring a sudden resignation, this will be the last Labour Party conference post today.