Most people, especially younger people, don’t know very many politicians. I asked a 36 year old recently what they thought of Andrew Little and they hadn’t heard of him.
So Jacinda Ardern, having scooped up most of the paltry votes in Mt Albert, was promoted as the great game changer by media, and Labour had either fed them this message to repeat, or bought the message.
Ardern was supposed to be what Little wasn’t, attractive to voters.
So, instead of committing herself to becoming established in her new electorate Ardern has taken to the early campaign road with Little, to help draw attention to her leader.
It’s early days but it sounds like it hasn’t been a raging success, yet.
Labour’s new leadership team had their first ever public debut on Thursday – and it revealed Jacinda Ardern maybe isn’t as popular as everyone thinks.
Correction – Ardern isn’t as popular as some in Labour and some political churnalists think.
Even in the left-wing safe zone of Victoria University’s Kelburn campus, hardly any students knew who she was.
It was an eye opener for the new deputy leader, who’s been touted time and time again as bringing something to the table that Mr Little apparently lacked: popularity.
But not on Thursday among the hundreds of students celebrating Orientation Week.
Newshub randomly asked 17 students if they knew who Andrew Little was. Nine knew he was leader, five knew he was a Labour MP and three had never heard of him.
We did the same with Jacinda Ardern: 10 people didn’t know who she was, five knew she was deputy leader, one thought she was co-leader, and one knew she was an MP, but didn’t know about her promotion.
That doesn’t surprise me at all, especially in Wellington. Not many 20 year olds there are likely to read NZ Herald or Womens’ Weekly.
“Look, I wouldn’t expect everyone to know who I was,” Ms Ardern said. “Part of my campaign opportunity is to make sure I go out and get amongst all of the student groups.”
She calls it a ‘campaign opportunity’? Is that the sort of language that will gell with young voters?
Andrew Little was happy with his level of recognition. “It’s a very good sign and I’m very pleased,” he said.
But don’t get me wrong – from what I saw today, I believe the pair will be a force to be reckoned with when the campaign ramps up.
But Ms Ardern’s lack of recognition with students will be a little worrying for Labour’s hierarchy.
She’s meant to be the party’s shining star who can attract big crowds of young people, who overwhelm her with selfie requests.
She’s meant to be Labour’s golden girl who would instantly add popularity, charisma, humour and life to ‘Brand Little’.
Did Labour and media feed each other some bull and they believed each other?
Things could change as we get closer to the election, but really, media actually believed their own hype and can’t believe no one takes any notice of them any more, especially young people.
If she wants to be Labour’s vote magnet Ardern may have to try and be more than a platitude parrot.