Labor MP Martin Whitely.
Labor MP Martin Whitely.

Outspoken Labor Party MP Martin Whitely has announced he is quitting politics and has urged Eric Ripper to do the same in a fresh attack against the Opposition Leader's tenuous grip on his job.

Mr Whitely, who was elected to the safe Labor seat of Bassendean in 2001, said Mr Ripper had sold out to Labor's factional powerbrokers in a "forlorn quest" to become premier and it was time he stepped aside.

The MP's surprise resignation will take effect at the State election in March next year and comes in the middle of the latest leadership crisis fuelled by members of the party's powerful Left faction.

Mr Ripper has said nothing publicly about his position since Friday when his deputy Roger Cook, three members of his shadow cabinet and three other MPs withdrew their support for him.

"It's not sustainable," Mr Whitely said yesterday.

"What the Left has done changes the game." But in a separate development yesterday, senior Right faction powerbroker Michelle Roberts challenged anyone in the party who thought they had the numbers to defeat Mr Ripper to come forward.

"The fact of the matter is Eric has the majority support of our caucus and there is no challenger," she said.

"Without a challenger there is nothing to discuss and nothing to meet about."

She fired back at people inside and outside the parliamentary party who believe Mr Ripper has had his day as leader.

"I think some of the people rattling the cage should look to themselves and look to their behaviour over the past year or so rather than be focused on Eric," she said. "If there is somebody who wants to challenge Eric or if there are a group of people who feel they've got the majority it's up to them to bring it on."

The leadership question arose for the second time in a year after opinion polling put Mr Ripper 41 per cent behind Colin Barnett as preferred premier and high-profile Labor Party members called for change.

In an opinion piece in _The West Australian _ today, Mr Whitely says: "Despite his best efforts, Eric Ripper is on course to take WA Labor to a 2013 electoral wipe-out that will see Labor in such a poor position that victory in 2017 is virtually impossible.

"Eric's fundamental problem, and the WA public senses this, is that Eric is not a leader. Eric is a natural deputy, a number one follower.

"It's time for WA Labor to find our next Geoff Gallop."

Mr Whitely's decision will open up his seat of Bassendean for the current round of preselections.

"The main reason I can think of for fighting for my preselection and possibly beyond is to give the factional bullies who have tried to end my career on two previous occasions another blood nose," Mr Whitely wrote.

"However, spite is not a healthy motive either for me, my family, my party or the people of Bassendean."

The West Australian

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