Jacinda Ardern says she is about to “run the campaign of our lives” as the newly elected Labour Party leader looks to resurrect the party’s flailing poll results.
Miss Ardern was today elected unopposed as Labour’s new leader after a caucus meeting following Andrew Little’s decision to step down.
Kelvin Davis has been elected as deputy leader and is believed to be the first Maori to hold that post in the Labour Party.
Miss Ardern said that while the circumstances were not as the party hoped, she felt “incredibly lucky” to be the new leader.
“We are about to run the campaign of our lives.”
Over the next few days, she and Mr Davis and the party would be reviewing every aspect of the party’s election campaign plans. Key issues such as health, mental health, housing and water quality would remain a focus.
She did not expect there to be many changes to the Labour caucus line-up and she looked forward to Mr Little being a minister in a Labour-led government after September.
Miss Ardern tweeted late this morning: “I feel privileged and honoured to have been elected leader of the Labour Party, and ready for the challenge! Bring on 23 September.”
She also said: “I want to thank Andrew for his huge work and his leadership, and giving me the chance to work alongside him.”
Miss Ardern’s coronation follows a turbulent week for Labour in which three polls put its support in the low 20s and Mr Little stepped down from the job, saying he had to take responsibility for the result.
Mr Little put Miss Ardern in as his deputy in a bid to help raise Labour’s fortunes, saying she appealed to the younger generation and was a valuable asset in Auckland.
However, Miss Ardern’s polling as preferred Prime Minister swiftly overtook Mr Little’s own. In the latest Newshub Reid Research poll she was on 8.7% to Mr Little’s 7.1%.
She featured in most of Labour’s campaign advertising. On Sunday, Mr Little had revealed he had raised the prospect of standing down with senior colleagues but they had urged him to stay. The fallout from that admission effectively resulted in his decision to go.
Mr Little made his announcement to stand down after a brief meeting this morning, saying the party would be “better served” by a new leader.
“I have just confirmed to the Labour caucus that I will step aside as leader of the Labour Party,” he told reporters at Parliament this morning.
“There is no question that the poll results that came out last week were disturbing and very, very disappointing. In the end, as leader, you have to take responsibility. And I have, and I do.”
Mr Little said he remained “utterly determined” to get Labour into power in the September election. He said he would stay on as an MP at least until then.
“But it became pretty clear that the story around those polls was building a narrative day after day that meant we have not been able to get our messages about the things that actually matter. I take responsibility for that and it is my judgment that the people and the party who we are campaigning for will be better served by a new leader who can bring a fresh face and a fresh voice to this vital campaign.”
New Zealand Herald
Further stories p3, 4.