Ardern’s mission to save Labour from rout

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Newly appointed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament yesterday.

Wellington
Jacinda Ardern is 37, she has been in Parliament for nine years, and she has just over seven weeks to save Labour from an election rout.
It is an awesome task for a relatively young MP who was deputy leader for just four months.
But she does not have to be a super star if she can lift Labour in the polls and avoid a catastrophic result she will have done the job her caucus colleagues want from her.
They were staring at disaster, and Andrew Little knew it.
At 24%, and trending downwards, he had to do something.
The only thing he could do was step aside.
Mr Little tried really hard, but he just did not cut if with voters.
Ms Ardern could pull it off.
She has got personality, she is friendly, easy to like, clever and politically streetwise.
It is whether she is tough enough to be Leader of the Opposition that will test her.
Ms Ardern is going to be under relentless pressure between now and the election.
She has to front Labour’s campaign, make the big speeches, and take on Prime Minister Bill English in a series of televised debates that could make or break her.
If her first press conference was anything to go by, those debates will make her.
She handled it better than Mr Little has done in all the media events he has fronted since becoming leader.
Ms Ardern was calm, confident, and quick on her feet.
But a press conference is one thing, a campaign is another.
National will dig holes for her to fall in, and will she have the experience to see them? It only takes one big blunder to make a politician look a fool and derail a campaign.
Labour’s caucus has made the best choice, because Ms Ardern will put bubbles into a campaign that looked like being a boring series of confrontations between a dour Bill English and an even more dour Andrew Little.
No fun there, but there will be with Ms Ardern on stage.
Putting Kelvin Davis in as her deputy was another smart move.
He is tough, takes on anything and anyone and does not leave any doubt about what he thinks.
He is also accident prone, but a deputy leader can get away with that far more easily than a leader.
Mr Davis will make waves during the campaign, he’s almost guaranteed to say or do something wrong between now and polling day.
But he has got the hard edge that Ardern has not yet shown, and they could evolve into a team that really works for Labour.
Despite his resignation from the leadership, Ms Ardern said Mr Little would remain a senior caucus member and minister in any government she leads.
She said she had been genuine in her repeated statements in the past that she was not interested in the job, but things were different now.
All eyes will now be on the next round of polls.
Two media polls this week put support for Labour at 24%, while Labour’s own pollsters, UMR, recorded 23%.
Mr Little said as leader, he took responsibility for those numbers.
NZN

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