If Jacinda Ardern thought she wouldn’t have to contend with Nikki Kay again after she moved to the Mt Albert electorate – they competed for Auckland Central for the last two elections – she was mistaken.
Today in Parliament Kaye took a major swipe at Ardern in the General Debate.
I think the phrase that I would give New Zealanders is: you have got one party of substance, of significant initiatives delivering for New Zealand, compared with a superficial cosmetic facelift. I want to talk about the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.
We lost Annette King. I want to acknowledge Annette King. She has been a brilliant member of Parliament. She is someone who has huge respect across the House. And we got Jacinda Ardern.
Now, I have been based in Auckland Central for 8 years. I struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done.
What I can say is that a great example is when Kevin Hague and I developed an adoption law reform bill. We spent a year on that bill; we put it in the ballot.
Jacinda Ardern did a one-line bill telling the Law Commission to write the law for her.
On her first day in the job as deputy leader, on one of the biggest issues confronting our generation, Generation X and Generation Y—on the issue of superannuation affordability—where was she?
She had made a whole lot of statements previously about the importance of raising the age, and Jacinda Ardern was nowhere to be seen. She had cut and run on the biggest issue facing our generation, and that is another example of what is a whole lot of photo ops—yes, she will be across every billboard, but she absolutely failed our generation on her first day on the job.
It looks like National have decided to try and unsettle Ardern, who may have thought everything was smoothly going to plan. Until today.
Kay continued later in her speech.
This is a Labour Party that thinks the only way that it can get into Government is to totally get rid of all of its policies and to make sure that has got some nice fancy new billboards and some photo ops—compared with a Government that is prepared to make the hard decisions, that is investing in infrastructure, and that is investing more than a third more in schools.
You have got significant investments happening across social housing, and you have got a Labour Party—the main Opposition—that thinks the way that it can win is to have no policy, to have a superficial facelift, and to have another person on the billboards.
I do want to acknowledge that this election will be fought on some of the big issues for Generation X and Generation Y, and in my view it is this side of the House that is confronting those issues, and that side that is failing.
Ardern wasn’t present but responded to media later.
Ardern was not in the debating chamber at the time, but said she saw the debate on television.
She said her and Kaye had made an agreement when they ran against each in Auckland Central to only talk about issues and not make personal attacks.
“I’ve stuck to that,” Ardern said.
Jacinda Ardern was surprised at the attack, and told Newshub “It’s certainly not a style of politics I’ve seen her use before”.
“Nikki and I have run against each other in Auckland Central for a number of years and usually pretty much stuck to the issues and avoided making it personal. I’m going to stick to that.”
“I’m going to stick with the way I like to do politics, and it’s making sure that you keep away from making it too personal. But each to their own.”
Electorate contests are more one to one and personal, especially when candidates campaign together as Ardern did with Green MY Julie Anne Genter in Mt Albert.
But Ardern should have been aware that by stepping up into a deputy leadership role, and promoting herself as the new face of the party, she was getting into a highly competitive high stakes level of politics.
Voters look for leaders who look like they can lead, not just look and be nice.
Kaye is stepping up to higher levels of responsibility as a Minister, and also as a party representative.
Ardern may need to toughen up and shape up.